If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about. You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of…
If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about. You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of walking, make an itinerary, and figure out your travel logistics. Before you start all of that, however, you may be a little anxious about how much it’s all going to cost. Traveling in the United Kingdom has the reputation for being very expensive, and that’s generally true, but it is still very possible to have an amazing West Highland Way trek without selling your firstborn child to be able to afford it. One of the best parts about the West Highland Way for walkers on a tighter budget is that there are camping options on every stage of the trek, a few of them even being free. True, some of the campgrounds charge a rather steep fee for the ability to pitch your tent on their midgy, bumpy plot of grass, but relative to other accommodation options, camping is by far the best option and will allow you to keep your overall costs quite low. And, to be fair, the campgrounds are quite lovely; many offer hot showers, nice restaurants, wifi, drying rooms, and other amenities. If camping, you can also stay within a small budget by cooking most of your meals. If sleeping indoors in a bed is more your style, the West Highland Way offers a wide range of accommodation for budgets of all sizes. The same goes for food and other services.
Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2018 West Highland Way adventure. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that a trip like the WHW is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!
We chose to camp every night of the West Highland Way and highly recommend it for a number of reasons. Many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We preferred the privacy of our tent over the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of bunkhouses and hostels. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! Depending on how your itinerary shakes out, there are also several bothies that provide a free and authentic WHW accommodation option. Finally, we stayed in Airbnb’s the night before we started our hike and the night we finished. If it works with your budget, you’ll greatly appreciate these little slices of luxury on the bookends of your hike.
Average Campsite Price: £8 (per person)
AirBnB in Edinburgh before the hike: £100 per night
AirBnB in Fort William: £80 – £100 per night
Lodging options abound on the West Highland Way
It’s a quick and easy trip to get from Glasgow to the start of the walk in Milngavie. We traveled to the hike from Edinburgh, which was also very efficient. Upon finishing in Fort William, if you’d like to return to Glasgow, you can either take a bus or a train. The bus is cheaper, but the train is very scenic, as it follows the West Highland Way for much of the way. If you choose to splurge on the train, make sure to buy your tickets well in advance. The price increases significantly as you get closer to your departure date.
Train from Edinburgh to Milngavie: £12 (per person)
Train from Fort William to Glasgow:£13.90 (per person, 90 days in advance)
Airline Taxes and Fees (roundtrip): $189.36 (for two people)
Food and Drink
Instead of spending a small fortune on restaurant dinners or fancy freeze-dried backpacker meals, we preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the West Highland Way. We tended to eat ramen noodles, mac’n’cheese, or instant curry pots for most dinners. The shops we encountered along the trail had excellent cheap, fresh sandwiches, which were a welcome treat when we were able to get our hands on them. For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins that we stocked up on whenever we found them at a reasonable price along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee. Occasionally, we’d pick up some fruit from a local shop, and we also enjoyed our fair share of post-hike french fries. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than the space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!
On average, we spent about £9-13 per person, per day on our food and drink.
Of course, we allowed ourselves frequent treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay on average for the following indulgences:
Pint of Beer:£6 – £7
Meal at local pub: £13
Many of the campsites have lovely bar/restaurants
Stove Fuel: £6
Laundry: £2 (for wash and dry)
Ready to keep planning your West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!
When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are…
When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are a few key things you can control that will make all the difference. Perhaps even more important than planning out the logistics, knowing how to navigate, and packing the right gear, is making sure you are prepared both physically and mentally for this major undertaking. Because of its relatively low elevation and minimal technicality, the WHW is a very approachable long-distance trek for the casual hiker. That being said, it’s still a serious feat of endurance that will push you to new limits. You will enjoy your trip infinitely more if you train ahead of time. This is even more true if you plan on camping (and carrying the heavier backpack that goes with it). If you don’t know where to start when it comes to training, don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. Read on for straightforward advice on how to feel your best and enjoy your West Highland Way experience to the fullest.
Six Months Before Your Trip: Build the Base
Obviously, everyone will approach the WHW with varying levels of fitness, past injuries, and overall health needs. You’ll know your individual situation best, but you should generally focus on building your aerobic endurance in the months leading up to your trip. While most of your days on the Way won’t be particularly steep, they will be quite long. On our 8-day trek we averaged around 12 miles (19.25 km) per day, with our longest day being 15 miles (24 km). These distances are no joke, especially when carrying a heavy pack and hiking day after day with little rest in between. For this part of the training, if you’re already a runner/walker/cyclist/etc, just keep doing your thing! If you don’t regularly do any sort of “cardio” exercise, or you mainly focus on yoga and strength training, start trying to incorporate longer bouts of walking or running into your regular routine in order to build an endurance base. This will lay your fitness foundation for more challenging training in the future.
Three Months Before Your Trip: Focus on Strong Legs
Relative to other popular long-distance hikes, the topography of the West Highland Way is on the gentler side. You won’t be required to traverse over high mountain passes each day or spend hours navigating insanely steep ascents and descents. Don’t let these facts fool you into thinking this hike will be easy though- it won’t be! You’ll still be covering long stretches of undulating terrain with a variety of underfoot conditions. In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to build your aerobic endurance and train your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline, or spend some time on the step machine at your gym. Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to. Additionally, try to incorporate a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Highland-ready legs: 10 goblet squats (with medium weight), 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase challenge), and 10 step-ups on each leg (weight optional). Complete three sets of each exercise.
Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack
Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible. Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack. If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight. For me, the biggest adjustment was learning to deal with the extra strain on my hips and knees when hiking downhill. Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! You might be wondering how to add weight to your pack without completely packing for your trip. Our advice? Look around your home and throw anything-literally anything- heavy into your bag. When we were training, we threw five-pound weights, jars of oats, bottles of water, blankets, and textbooks into our bags. Then we headed over to our local trail. Did some fellow hikers look at us like we were crazy with our giant backpacks? Yes. But did we strike up some awesome conversations AND get our bodies in shape for the WHW in the process? You better believe it.
Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections!
One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)
This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods. If you aren’t planning on camping along the Way, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking. This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking for consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.
Special Considerations for the West Highland Way:
There are many sections of the WHW that present walkers with less than desirable “underfoot conditions.” When I read that term in my guidebook before starting the trek, I kept thinking to myself, What does that even mean? Well, let me enlighten you. It means it’s going to be really, really rocky. Like, walking for several miles along an old drover road that seems to be entirely comprised of baseball-sized stones kind of rocky. We didn’t find this troublesome to the point where a specific training regimen was warranted, but it is worth mentioning for a few reasons. First, even though the trail might be pretty flat, challenging underfoot conditions can mean that you are expending extra energy (both mental and physical) and using additional leg and core muscles to navigate the trail. This is where your training will really pay off! You might also consider taking an added break and/or slowing your pace on these sections to prevent fatigue. Finally, make sure you have trekking poles and sturdy boots too minimize the chance of twisting an ankle or straining a muscle.
Get Your Head in the Game
This article mainly discussed how to train your body for the West Highland Way, but of equal (if not greater) importance is the mental side of things. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that we can train our brains to improve mental toughness. It is inevitable that you will face challenges during your hike from fatigue, long days, discomfort, poor weather, or swarms of midges. Hopefully the long training hikes you took in preparation for the WHW will have helped you to build the confidence you need to remind yourself that you can push through the less-than-wonderful moments and savor the amazing experience you’re having. If you focus on building your mental endurance prior to your trek, it will not only pay off on the hike, but also in your life off the trail.
Chafing and Blisters, Oh My!
So far we’ve talked about training your body and your mind, but unfortunately it’s a little harder to train your skin for the long miles you’ll be covering on the WHW. However, a little advance preparation can go a long way towards making your West Highland Way experience much more enjoyable. It’s amazing how even a small blister or a little bit of nasty chafing can derail a beautiful day of hiking! This is the most common ailment we see fellow hikers struggle with when we’re out on the trail. Due to the variable and moist conditions (think pouring rain one day and hot and sunny the next) coupled with those lovely underfoot conditions, the West Highland Way presents a huge risk for chafing and blisters. Don’t let those pesky buggers ruin your trek! The best way to prevent blisters is to break in your boots in advance. Make sure to use the same socks on your training hikes as you plan to use on the WHW. Good quality socks and sock liners can really make a difference. Additionally, if you are especially blister-prone, more breathable trail runners are worth looking into. In terms of chafing, pay attention to any hot spots that arise when you’re training. Try to train in a variety of temperatures, weather conditions, and clothing combinations to anticipate any potential issues. Products like BodyGlide can help prevent chafing and blisters, too. Finally, make sure to bring some good-quality blister pads in case all else fails!
Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels
The West Highland Way is very accessible for hikers of all ability levels. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:
If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
Consider using a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack.
Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum, and Glencoe Village all make great options. See our West Highland Way Logistics article for more information about luggage transfer and rest days.
Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet. Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Highland scenery from the road.
The Bottom Line:
Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the WHW, and I hope our experience can help you have your best possible trip.
Enjoyed reading our training tips and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!
The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be…
The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be a trip we never forget. We camped along our West Highland Way adventure and highly recommend that you do as well. We’ve also published our packing list for those curious as to what they may need to bring to ensure they are equipped for this adventure. But what other recommendations do we have for those considering tackling the awesome experience that is the WHW? Here are our 10 essentials for hiking the West Highland Way.
1. Bring good rain gear
This will come as a surprise to no one, but it can rain a lot in Scotland. Those green pastures and hills are green for a reason. While the rainy weather is a quintessential part of the West Highland Way experience, you’ll want to be prepared for long days of hiking in wet weather. We highly recommend bringing a top notch rain jacket as well as rain pants to keep yourself dry on those inevitable days when you encounter a downpour. Additionally, a good fitting pack cover is essential for keeping your belongings dry when you’re walking through the elements. Inside your pack, we recommend keeping your clothes and sleeping bag in a dry bag (or large trash bags work well, too). This will ensure that if any water does get into your pack you’ll at least have dry clothes to put on when you’re damp and cold at the end of a long day of walking. Finally, you’ll want to be sure your tent’s rain fly is in tip-top shape as there is nothing worse than a leaky tent!
Wet weather is quintessentially Scottish, but you’ll want to be prepared!
2. Take the train
As you’ve probably read in our West Highland Way Logistics post, you’ll have the option of taking either the bus or the West Highland train line for your return journey from Fort William to Glasgow. While the bus tends to be cheaper and faster, we’re here to tell you that taking the train is an experience not to be missed!
The line retraces much of the West Highland Way, and you’ll marvel at the distance you’ve walked while peering out at the stunning landscape from a cozy train car. Just be sure you book your tickets well in advance to avoid a sold out coach or expensive last-minute fares.
You’ll recognize much of the scenery on the train journey from Fort William to Glasgow.
3. Take the midges seriously
Midges-the tiny biting insects that have a mythical reputation in the Highlands-are not to be underestimated. Prior to our walk, we knew that they could be an unpleasant annoyance on our walk, but we didn’t know just how bad they can be. This isn’t to say that you should abandon all hope of camping or enjoying a cold beer outside in the evenings. It’s just that you’ll want to be sure you are fully prepared for their presence. The first piece of advice we offer all prospective walkers is to invest in a midge hat, and bring clothes that provide full coverage of your skin. Ideally these will be lightly colored as midges are more attracted to darker colors. Additionally, we found Ben’s Insect Repellent bug spray to be a very effective repellent. Finally, the midges are at their worst at dawn, dusk, and whenever the weather is overcast and the wind is still. Any substantial breeze or sunshine will eliminate them completely, which is pretty awesome. However, make sure to have your midge hat and spray ready when the sun starts to set because they really do set in quickly! Following these steps should ensure that the midges don’t ruin your trip!
You’ll enjoy the beautiful Highland’s scenery much more without midges eating you alive!
4. Be open to changing plans
If you’re anything like us, you’ll spend hours before a trip planning out all the details of where you’ll stay, what you’ll do, and how you’ll get to every place you want to see. This type of planning is invaluable and will certainly set you up for success, but you also have to be open to changing those plans, especially on the West Highland Way. Weather, the way you’re feeling on a particular day, and even the time you start can all influence a changing itinerary when you’re out hiking the WHW. Because it has so many accommodation options along the way, changing plans is relatively easy. Got a late start and the B&B is full? No worries if you’ve got your tent and the ability to find the nearest campground. Feeling especially good today? Why not put in a few extra hours of hiking to make your next day a little more leisurely? The point is that being open to different possibilities will make handling the unexpected much easier, and allow to you enjoy your adventure to the fullest.
5. Be prepared for blisters
The West Highland Way contains a variety of underfoot conditions, from the neatly placed stones along former drover’s roads to the large boulders, intertwining tree roots, and muddy banks of Loch Lomond. This wide variety of trail types makes for perfect blister conditions. Just when your feet have toughened up to a particular condition, the trail changes, your boots rub differently, and those callouses you’ve built up over the past few days are of no use.
To counter this, there are a few steps you can take prior to setting out to give your feet the best chance to withstand the West Highland Way. The first is to pack a broken-in pair of boots. There is nothing worse than unboxing your new pair of boots on the first day of a long hike. This will almost guarantee blister,s as they won’t be broken in enough to truly fit to your foot over the long hours of walking. Next, bringing several good pairs of merino wool hiking socks (our favorite are Darn Tough) will help to limit the moisture in your boots while also preventing odor and unnecessary chafing. Finally, a good first-aid kit complete with blister specific pads will help you be prepared when the inevitable first blister does show up. Stop and treat even the smallest hot spots right away to ensure that they don’t derail your next several days of walking!
6. Brush up on your navigation skills
While the West Highland Way is a very well-marked trail, you’d be wise to brush up on your navigation skills prior to starting your walk. We’re partial to using GPS to navigate along the trail, but you’ll want to be sure you’ve brought your compass and a paper map as a backup. Spend some time before the walk familiarizing yourself with the map, the route, and how to use your compass. You’re unlikely to encounter any issues, but if you do you’ll sure be glad you were prepared!
It’s important to know how to find you way on the trail!
7. Have a (realistic) understanding of how fast you hike
If you’ve brought the Trailblazer’s Guidebook along (and we highly recommend that you do), you’ll quickly notice that the description of each stage includes an approximate time for hiking. This is very valuable information because it will give you a sense of what your days will look like. This affords you the ability to plan ahead for things like arrival times, how early you need to start in the morning, and how long of a lunch break you can enjoy. The problem arises when you realize that the times quoted in the book can vary significantly from your actual experience. You may be hours ahead or you may be well behind the times provided by our friends at Trailblazer. There is nothing wrong with being faster or slower, but you must be able to understand your pace and then estimate the distances you’ll realistically cover in a given timeframe. It’s a good idea to note your timing when you’re out on your training hikes, but you’ll want to pay especially close attention on your first day or two hiking of on the West Highland Way. A little ahead of the pace? You’ll be able to adjust your plans accordingly (and maybe snag an extra hour of sleep!) A little behind the pace? You’ll know to leave a bit earlier, or at least plan on slightly longer days on the trail. You may also want to pay attention to how steep inclines and declines impact your pace, and use the guidebook’s elevation profile to plan accordingly. The important thing is to know yourself, and be able to accurately estimate the time it will take to cover a given distance. This will help you stay relaxed and happy throughout each day on the trail.
8. Make new friends
As you progress along the West Highland Way, you’re likely to start to recognize some familiar faces along the trail and in your campgrounds. Take advantage of this and make some new friends! You’ll surely meet people from all over the world and develop a sense of camaraderie over your shared experience on the WHW. Compare notes from the trail and plans for the next day over a pint or two with a new friend, and you’ll certainly find the experience of walking the West Highland Way more enriching.
Enjoy the lively atmosphere at many of the stops along the West Highland Way.
9. Enjoy one night out of your tent
The West Highland Way is a great walk for those looking to camp along the way. Campsites are abundant, reasonably priced, and have great facilities. You can easily walk the entire route camping each night, just like we did. However, we would also highly recommend spending at least one night out of your tent. You can save this for the last night in Fort William (what we did), or save it for that torrential rain storm that sneaks up on you. Either way, there are incredibly hospitable guesthouses, fantastic Airbnbs, and lovely hotels along the route and it would be a shame not to experience at least one of these on your walk.
10. Leave no trace
The West Highland Way is one of the most popular long-distance walks in the UK and the world. Thousands of hikers descend on the Highlands each year to enjoy the spectacular views, friendly people, and lovely lochs that Scotland has to offer. Given the popularity of the walk it is essential that walkers do their part to practice Leave No Trace principles when hiking and camping. Simply being aware of your impact on this great trail will do wonders to ensure it;s around for future generations of walkers!
Be sure and leave the trail as pristine as you found it.
Enjoyed reading our 10 Essentials and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!
Many of the small details of planning your West Highland Way walk can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that climbing the Devil’s Staircase will be difficult,…
Many of the small details of planning your West Highland Way walk can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that climbing the Devil’s Staircase will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the finish in Fort William to your hotel in Glasgow. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own West Highland Way adventure. Enjoy!
Getting to Milngavie from Glasgow
Milngavie and the start of the West Highland Way are easily reached from Glasgow. Most international travelers will arrive at the Glasgow Airport prior to starting their walk, while those from the UK will likely arrive at the Glasgow Queen Street Station or Glasgow Central Station (the two main train stations). For those arriving at the airport there is frequent and convenient bus service from the Glasgow Airport to central Glasgow via the Glasgow Airport Express. The service runs 24 hours per day and takes approximately 25 minutes to get from the airport to central Glasgow. If you have a contactless credit/debit card, you can pay your fare right on the bus. Otherwise, you can pay with cash on the bus or purchase a ticket online beforehand. If you’re spending the night in central Glasgow after your flight or planning to head to Milngavie from Queen Street Station, you’ll want to get off the bus at the ‘Dundas Street’ stop.
There is frequent train service to Milngavie from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. The ride takes approximately 25 minutes and will drop you at the Milngavie train station, located just a short walk from the start of the West Highland Way. There is also frequent service to Milngavie from Glasgow Central Station. The ScotRail website contains schedule information and allows you to purchase tickets ahead of time.
To get to the official start of the West Highland Way from the train station, walk through the pedestrian underpass and onto Station Road. Keep straight on Station Road until you reach the pedestrian-only town square in Milngavie. The obelisk marks the start of your West Highland Way adventure!
The start of the West Highland Way is a short walk from the train station.
Getting to Milngavie from Edinburgh
Many walkers may not think of Edinburgh as an option prior to starting the West Highland Way, but we’re here to tell you that it makes a great stop before starting your walk! We flew into Edinburgh and enjoyed a few days in this beautiful city. We can tell you firsthand that it’s a breeze to get to Milngavie from Edinburgh.
There are several daily trains from the Edinburgh Waverley Station (the main train station) to Milngavie. The faster option bypasses many of the small towns in between the two cities but involves a transfer at Glasgow Queen Street Station. There is also a direct train between Edinburgh and Milngavie that takes slightly longer, due to making many stops along the way. The benefit of this train is that you won’t have to worry about switching trains with your heavy bags. Tickets are easily purchased for either option at the Edinburgh Waverley Station. We opted for the longer, direct option leaving Edinburgh around 8:30am and arriving in Milngavie by 10am – plenty of time for the first day’s walk to Drymen!
Edinburgh is a great city to visit prior to walking the West Highland Way.
Where to Stay Before and After the West Highland Way
There are several options for where to stay before starting the West Highland Way. Many walkers choose to stay in Glasgow or Milngavie given the proximity to the start of the West Highland Way. However, Edinburgh offers easy train connections to Milngavie, and therefore also makes a great option prior to starting the walk. Here are our top picks for where to stay in each town before beginning the WHW:
Milngavie is certainly the most convenient place to spend the night prior to starting the WHW. However, it has the smallest number of accommodation options. Here are your best bets for where to stay in Milngavie:
West Highland Way Apartments – The aptly named West Highland Way Apartments provide an extremely convenient and highly reviewed place to rest up before starting your walk.
Premier Inn Milngavie – The Premier Inn is a great budget hotel in Milngavie. You’ll be close to the start of the walk and can fuel up for your first day with their free breakfast.
Glasgow is the most popular place to spend the night before and after the West Highland Way, and for good reason. Glasgow provides easy transportation access to Milngavie, and is also a great city to experience on its own. Glasgow has plenty of grocery stores and outdoor supply stores to stock up on any last-minute items needed for your trek. Our lodging recommendations for Glasgow are below:
Point A Glasgow – We stayed at the Point A after hiking the West Highland Way and would highly recommend it. This is a great budget option with well-designed rooms and a price that can’t be beat! We’d recommend opting for a room with a window.
Motel One Glagow – The Motel One Glasgow gets great reviews for its central location, comfortable beds, and friendly service.
You can check out all the places to stay in Glasgow here:
As mentioned above, Edinburgh makes for a great city to stay in both before and after the West Highland Way. Steeped in history and beautiful architecture, Edinburgh was our favorite city in Scotland. Here are our recommendations for lodging:
The Lane Hotel – Located just over a mile from the city center, the Lane Hotel gets great reviews for its cleanliness and comfort.
The Inn Place – For those looking to stay in Edinburgh’s charming Old Town, the Inn Place is a great option. It’s known for its great breakfast and location near to the Royal Mile.
Fort William makes for a nice final destination on the West Highland Way. Despite its slightly touristy and commercial facade, Fort William is a lovely town with an exciting vibe given all the walkers who finish the West Highland Way here. Here are our lodging recommendations:
Nevis Bank Inn – You’ll find the Nevis Bank Inn at the entrance to Fort William. This 4-star hotel is known for the friendly staff and excellent breakfast.
Fort William Backpackers – Fort William’s best hostel is located near the train station and has a variety of room options. The best budget choice in town.
Shelbeck Bed & Breakfast – For those looking for the traditional Scottish bed and breakfast experience look no further than the Shelbeck. Very helpful owners in addition to the full English breakfast.
You can check out all the options in Fort William here:
There are many different accommodation options available in Milngavie, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Fort William on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious row-houses to rooms in a shared house. Airbnb’s often provide a kitchen and laundry facilities, which can be a welcome feature after hiking in the same two smelly outfits and eating instant ramen for the past 8 days! You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.
Getting from Fort William to Glasgow
The West Highland Way finishes in the town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. Fort William makes for a nice spot to spend the night after completing your walk, and the pedestrian-only main street has plenty of restaurants and pubs where you can celebrate your accomplishment. However, come the next morning you’ll most likely be ready to head back to Glasgow and conclude your West Highland Way walk. Luckily, there are several options for transport back to Glasgow.
The most scenic and most popular option is to take the West Highland Railway line which links Fort William with Glasgow’s Queen Street Station in just under 4 hours. This route is popular with tourists and locals alike, so we recommend booking your tickets on the ScotRail website as far in advance as you can. There are several trains per day, allowing for lots of flexibility in your departure and arrival times. The train ride is especially enjoyable for West Highland Way walkers as you will retrace much of the route you’ve just walked. It was quite enjoyable to look out the windows of the train and see walkers and familiar stops from the journey!
The other option for your return transport is to take the Scottish Citylink bus service between Fort William and Glasgow’s Buchanan Bus Station. This is the faster (just over 3 hours) and more budget friendly of the two options. While you won’t enjoy the same atmosphere of a Highlands train journey, the bus is efficient and still takes in much of the stunning scenery of the region.
You’ll recognize much of the scenery on the train journey from Fort William to Glasgow.
Luggage Storage and Transfer
Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might like to carry for 8 days on the West Highland Way. If that’s the case for you, you’ll find several options for luggage storage or luggage transfer on your trip. The best place to store your luggage is Glasgow. Both Queen Street Station and Central Station have luggage storage facilities and there are also private companies who will gladly keep your bags safe and secure while you’re on your walk. The Excess Baggage Company is one of the more popular and allows you to reserve your left luggage online ahead of time.
If, instead of simply having your luggage waiting for you when you’ve completed your walk, you’d rather have it transferred to each of your nightly destinations, there are plenty of companies who will help. These companies will pick up your bags in the morning and then deliver them to your destination each evening, ensuring that you’ll only ever need to carry a daypack along the Way. Travel-Lite and AMS Scotland are two of the most reputable baggage transfer providers.
The West Highland Way can be easily walked without taking a rest day. However, if you’ve got some extra time there are several lovely stops that make for a great day off. Here are your best options:
Tyndrum – Stopping for a day in Tyndrum will allow you to rest up before some of the best Highland walking of the West Highland Way. Tyndrum has a touristy feel, but it has plenty of restaurants and accommodation options to keep you entertained while you’re there. This will also be early enough in your walk that you’ll still have energy to explore some of the surrounding area.
Bridge of Orchy – A rest day at Bridge of Orchy will suit those who are truly looking to stay off their feet for the day. While there won’t be much to do, the beautiful hotel and grounds provide for a relaxing atmosphere before continuing your walk. The hotel bar is a great place for a couple of pints!
Glencoe Village (side trip) – Glencoe, one of the best known Highland towns, makes for a great rest day stop. If you take this detour, you’ll get the unique chance to experience a quintessential Scottish mountaineering town. However, given that it’s 9 miles from Kingshouse, you’ll have to to get their by either catching the Citylink bus, hiring a taxi, or arranging for a pick-up with your accommodation.
But wait…there’s more!
Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!
If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way in conjunction with our guide on how to navigate on the West Highland Way you’re well on your way…
If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way in conjunction with our guide on how to navigate on the West Highland Way you’re well on your way to a fantastic WHW adventure! You’ll have your itinerary mapped out, with knowledge of where you’ll stop each day and you’ll be expertly using your smartphone’s GPS to stay on track. However, how will you know just how far you are from your next stop? Many of the campgrounds aren’t well marked on the GPS base maps and you’ll certainly want to know how much longer you have until you can drop your pack. As a resource for our West Highland Way series we thought it would be useful to provide downloadable GPS waypoints for all of the campgrounds included in our guide that work seamlessly with the Gaia GPS app! Keep reading to learn how to download this data and use it with our guide to navigating on the West Highland Way.
Step One – Download the location data
We’ve created a single file that contains location data for all of the campgrounds in our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way. Readers who purchase our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way (for under $5!) will get access to the location data for all of the campgrounds included in our guide. You’ll also get tons of useful information for planning your WHW adventure! Click here to purchase:
Included in the Guide is a link to a Dropbox.com file and you’ll select ‘Download’, then ‘Direct Download’.
Step Two – Import the location data into Gaia GPS
Now that you’ve downloaded the .gpx file containing the location data, you’ll need to import it into the Gaia GPS app. To do this, follow the instructions below:
First, you’ll open the Gaia GPS app and select the ‘Create’ button in the top right corner. From here you’ll select ‘Import file’. Next you’ll need to navigate to your ‘Downloads’ folder, or whichever location you saved the .gpx file to. This was a bit tricky to locate for me, but I was able to find it in the ‘sdcard’ folder. From here, Gaia GPS will recognize any files that are compatible, including the West Highland Way Campground locations file. Select the file and the Gaia GPS app will import the location data.
Now when you’re out on the trail, you can see exactly how far you have to go until your next stop, and be able to easily find your campgrounds at the end of the day.
What about iOS?
The instructions above give you a step-by-step guide for importing the West Highland Way campground location data into Gaia GPS on Android. We happen to both use (and love) Android phones, but know that many readers will have iPhones and want to know how to import the file to their phones. Rest easy because the process is even easier on iOS!
The best way is to select the ‘Direct download’ option (shown in Step One) when you click on the Dropbox file download link. After the download is complete you should be prompted with a button that says ‘Open in Gaia GPS’. Simply select this and the file will automatically import into your Gaia GPS app!
The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond,…
The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond, and take in incredible Highland vistas. While this incredible variety of landscapes undoubtedly has you excited for your adventure, it might also make you wonder how you’ll ever navigate the West Highland Way. Should you bring a map? Is the trail well marked? How will you find all the campgrounds you’re staying at?
This post will explain how we navigated on the West Highland Way, including which maps to bring, the tools we used, and even some custom resources for those using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way. Let’s get started.
Should I bring a map?
This is one of the questions we get most often from readers who are getting ready to head out on the West Highland Way. They’ve heard that the trail is very well marked, well maintained, and that hikers are rarely far from a road of town (all of which are true). However, our answer is always a resounding YES- you should bring a map with you on the West Highland Way!
As you’ll read below we relied heavily on our smartphone’s GPS features and a handy app that allows you to navigate even without cell phone service. It’s a great system and one we highly recommend, but we would have been out of luck if our battery died or a torrential downpour rendered our phones useless. In some situations, there is nothing more useful than an old fashioned paper map to help you find your way and ensure that you have a great West Highland Way experience. We recommend the Cicerone West Highland Way map booklet, a convenient booklet that includes the entire WHW in a pocket-sized book, or the West Highland Way Footprint Map, a more traditional folding map.
Now that you’ve got your maps safely tucked away in your pack in case of emergency, let’s get started learning how to harness the power of your smartphone to navigate your way to a successful West Highland Way walk!
Readers who purchase our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way (for under $5!) will get access to the location data for all of the campgrounds included in our guide, as well as printable step-by-step directions for how to navigate using smartphone GPS. You’ll also get tons of useful information for planning your WHW adventure! Click here to purchase:
Using your smartphone as a GPS
If you’re anything like us, you use your smartphone’s mapping capabilities on a daily basis. Whether it’s checking how bad the traffic is, consulting the bus schedule, or looking up the best bike route, apps like Google Maps provide tremendous value for navigating our world. These apps work by using the GPS location data that your phone provides, combined with a base map that shows you the surrounding context. You need both of these features (the GPS location + the base map) in order for the mapping app to be useful. Normally, your phone is able to source the base map information by utilizing an internet connection or cellular data. This works great in most situations, but won’t help you when you’re hiking along the shores of Loch Lomond without cell phone service. In that case, all Google Maps will be able to show you is this:
Not a very effective way to navigate
In order to use the incredibly useful GPS functions on our phones to navigate in more remote areas (like the West Highland Way) we have to solve the base map problem. The solution? GPS navigation apps that allow us to download base maps ahead of time. These apps allow you to select the area you’ll need to access and download the base map directly to your phone. Then, when you’re without cell phone service, the app will pull up the downloaded base map and be able to show you exactly where you are on the trail! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. In the next section I’ll show you exactly how to set up your phone to navigate on the West Highland Way.
Setting up your app for offline navigation
We used the Gaia GPS app, which is available on both Android and iOS phones. You’ll have to pay for a premium membership ($19.99/year) in order to be able to download and save maps, but this is well worth it for the ability to know exactly where you are on the trail. Here are the step-by-step instructions for downloading the West Highland Way base maps in Gaia GPS:
Step One: Choose your map source
When using Gaia GPS you’ll have your choice of many different map sources. Some show detailed city maps, others show cycling routes, and still others include long-distance walks such as the West Highland Way. For our purposes I’ve found the ‘Outdoors’ layer to be the absolute best for the West Highland Way. To select the Outdoors map layer simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and select ‘Outdoors’.
Step Two: Navigate to the West Highland Way and download your background map
The next step once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map is to download the area that encompasses the West Highland Way. This will ensure that you’ll have access to your base map once you lose cell phone service. To do this, you’ll want to zoom into the area between Milngavie and Fort William, and select that area to download. One of the great things about the “Outdoor” base map is that it already has the entire West Highland Way route shown, making your navigating that much easier! To download the base map data, follow these steps:
7. Wait for your map to download and then you’re done! As you can see here, the route for the West Highland Way is clearly shown for easy navigation!
Navigating on the trail
The final step for navigating like a pro on the West Highland Way is knowing how to use the Gaia GPS app out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and if you have a fairly clear view of the sky, within a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow. You may need to move a few yards along the trail to ensure that the GPS system can locate you, but we didn’t have any major issues on our trip. Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way. NOTE: The yellow arrow will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!
A note on battery life
One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.
The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any should do.
Check out our downloadable West Highland Way Campground locations!
We completed Scotland’s iconic West Highland Way with a couple of friends in July of 2018. The trail is 96 miles (154 km) long and took us eight days to…
We completed Scotland’s iconic West Highland Way with a couple of friends in July of 2018. The trail is 96 miles (154 km) long and took us eight days to complete. The West Highland Way is an ideal trek for campers, as there’s a wealth of lovely places to pitch a tent along the route. Be sure to check out our Camping Guide for detailed maps, facility descriptions, booking information and more. In the meantime, we wrote this post to share about the less technical and more personal aspects of our journey in hopes that it will get you excited to embark your own WHW adventure. Read on for inspiration, advice, photos, and insider’s tips.
Day One: Milngavie to Drymen (5 hours)
As mentioned above, we hiked the West Highland Way with another couple. Since we were each traveling separately prior to starting the hike, we had made a plan in advance to meet at the official WHW starting point on the morning of Day One. Seeing our friends (who we hadn’t seen in nearly a year) in another country at the trailhead was about as good as it gets. Feeling totally jazzed, we set off on the flat and shady path towards Drymen. We enjoyed warm, sunny weather the entire day as we walked through rolling hills and bucolic farmland.
Easy walking from Milngavie to Drymen.
Having read our Trailblazer guidebook (highly recommended, by the way), we knew to look for the Glengoyne Distillery as we neared Drymen. Without hesitation, we took the slight detour from the trail to check it out. We were expecting a quaint, hiker-friendly tasting room in which we could unload our dusty packs for a wee dram before continuing on our way. Instead, we found ourselves in something that felt a little more Disneyland than Scotland. The woman at the visitor’s center informed us that there was in fact no tasting room, and we would have to pay royally for an hour-long tour if we wanted to taste their whisky. Perhaps she saw the disappointment on our sweaty faces or maybe she just wanted to find a way to keep us from going on the tour, because she then proceeded to offer another option. She suggested that we buy some shooter bottles in the gift shop as an alternative.
Glengoyne Distillery is just off The Way.
So a few minutes later we found ourselves back along the trail, picnicking in the sunshine while sipping on some fine whisky. Not a bad lunch break! The final hours of the day were challenging due to the long, hot stretches of road walking and the newness of having a heavy pack on our backs. We arrived at Drymen Camping early enough to secure a nice pitch, grab a hot shower, and savor some slow hours spent looking out across the green hills.
Day Two: Drymen to Sallochy (7 hours)
We awoke to gray skies, but the rain was kind enough to hold off until we’d packed up camp. After a relaxed breakfast of coffee and muesli, we hit the road. Knowing that we needed to stock up on provisions, we made an early detour into the town of Drymen. As we were picking up the customary instant noodles and granola bars, we made an important discovery in the bakery aisle: fresh, warm chocolate croissants! If there’s something better than a hot pastry on a damp and chilly morning, we haven’t found it yet.
Back on the trail, we headed towards Conic Hill, the first real ascent of the trek. As we climbed upwards, the rain grew steadier and the landscape became more rugged. The steely weather made the scenery even more beautiful. After cresting Conic Hill, we descended steeply towards Balmaha and caught our first glimpses of Loch Lomond.
Approaching the top of Conic Hill.
Shoreline walking on Day Two.
We made a quick, impulsive stop in Balmaha to pick up a bottle of wine for the evening (it was vacation after all), and then continued along the shores of the loch towards our campsite. Arriving at Sallochy, we had our pick of gorgeous lochside campsites, each with private beach access. We quickly made camp as the rain picked up again. Once it let up, we enjoyed a damp but fabulous dinner while watching the evening light play across the expansive loch.
A lovely lochside pitch at Sallochy Campground.
Day Three: Sallochy to Beinglas Farm (9 hours)
We’re still scratching our heads as to how this happened, but on Day Three we didn’t start walking until about 10:00am. Knowing this was our longest and most difficult day, this was especially idiotic. The first part of the hike started innocently enough, ambling along gentle dirt roads. A few hours in, we stopped at the adorable Cherry Tree Cafe for a slice of lemon cake and some fresh fruit, patting ourselves on the back for making it to the “halfway point.” Little did we know, we really had another five hours of hiking ahead of us!
The Cherry Tree Cafe makes for a great lunch break along Loch Lomond.
As we continued along the trail, it grew more and more challenging. Hugging the shoreline, the path afforded some spectacular views of the lake, but also presented us with steep, undulating hills, technical rocky sections, and lots of ducking over and around tree branches. It was slow going, especially with heavy packs on. Bearing in mind that we had to get past the end of the loch, it was a bit torturous to keep looking out at the long lake and viewing just how far we still had to go.
Leaving Inversnaid, the trail continues to follow Loch Lomond for a few more miles.
The steep ascent away from Loch Lomond.
When we finally reached the end of Loch Lomond, we still had a long climb and another hour or so of walking before we reached Beinglas Farm campground. Learn from our mistake and don’t underestimate this stage of the hike! We finally arrived at Beinglas weary but very happy. After a hot shower in the luxurious facilities, we opted to forgo stove cooking and treat ourselves to curry and beer in the restaurant. It was a splurge, but totally worth it. As we wandered back to our tent rather delirious from the exhaustion and a few pints, we didn’t realize that the campsite had transformed into a full blown midge-fest once the sun had set. Before we knew it, we were absolutely covered in the little buggers. Up until this point, we’d experienced a few midges, but we now understood what all the hype was about. Luckily, we escaped into the shelter of our tent and immediately fell into a deep sleep.
Beinglas Farm camping.
Day Four: Beinglas Farm to Strathfillan (6 hours)
Day Four brought a much easier day of walking, and we didn’t mind at all. About halfway into the day, we took the twenty-minute detour into Crianlarich. There, we stopped at the supermarket for a lunchtime feast of cheese sandwiches, bananas, and cookies- a real upgrade to our typical backpacking lunch which consists of handfuls of peanuts and not much else. Throughout the day, we did a lot of gentle climbing and passed several sheep farms.
Gentle walking through beautiful scenery.
Highland cattle grazing at Strathfillan.
Our day ended in a gorgeous valley, surrounded by green hills in every direction. We arrived at the quirky Strathfillan Wigwams just as the sun began to peek through the clouds. Although the place was a little strange (think Native American motifs and a slightly sad petting zoo), the actual campsite was downright stunning. The valley offered peaceful, wide open views punctuated only by the occasional sound of sheep bleating. We forked over the extra fees for hot showers and laundry, and then we enjoyed a fabulous (midge-free) dinner at a picnic table near our tents. It was one of those perfect evenings: great weather, good times with friends, and a totally relaxed atmosphere.
Beautiful sunset at the Strathfillan Wigwams.
Day Five: Strathfillan to Bridge of Orchy (4 hours)
Due to the great conversation, easy walking, and gorgeous weather, this day flew by and we were at Bridge of Orchy before we knew it! The path followed the highway for quite a long stretch which didn’t make for the most ideal walking conditions, but the scenery was still pretty fabulous. Upon reaching Bridge of Orchy, we set up camp, soaked our feet in the river, and then headed up to the hotel for some afternoon beers. Expert tip: the stout at the hotel bar is really excellent. The evening proved to be relatively midge-free, so we were able to enjoy our time outside long into the evening.
Beinn Dorain dominates the walk to Bridge of Orchy.
Lovely camping at Bridge of Orchy.
Bridge of Orchy frames the Highlands beyond.
Day Six: Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain Resort (4 3/4 hours)
We awoke at Bridge of Orchy to another spectacularly sunny day. This stage of the trail was the most remote of the entire trek, winding through wide open moors and breathtaking highlands scenery. As we skirted past Rannoch Moor, fifty square miles of uninhabited wilderness, we remarked on the goodness of such wild land in an increasingly developed world.
Rannoch Moor, 50 square miles of uninhabited wilderness.
We tackled a few good climbs on this section, which was a nice change of pace from the mostly flat walking of the previous few days. After another short day, we arrived at the campground at Glencoe Mountain Resort. We’d heard that there was free camping further along the trail at Kingshouse Hotel, but since it was under construction we didn’t know what the conditions would be like. Deciding to play it safe, we opted to stop at Glencoe instead. Embracing the developed, ski-resorty vibe, we enjoyed a few pints in the lodge.
Buachaille Etive Mòr comes into view approaching Glencoe Moutain Resort.
Despite its location next to a large car park, our campsite had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Upon retiring to our tents after hanging out at the lodge, we discovered that the campground was being used by some enterprising kids as a mountain biking course. We watched as they repeatedly caught air, landing within a foot or two of the surrounding tents. It was pretty impressive and rather funny, but didn’t lend itself well to an early bedtime. Eventually, as the sun set and the rain began, the kids packed it up for the evening and we did the same.
Great views from our campsite at Glencoe Mountain Resort.
Day Seven: Glencoe Mountain Resort to Kinlochleven (5 hours)
We started Day Seven in very wet, cold conditions. After cooking breakfast under the covered porch of the lodge building, we forced ourselves to step out into the rain. As is typical of these types of things, the rain wasn’t as bad as it looked. Even better, it soon eased up into a more gentle mist. As we walked towards the infamous “Devil’s Staircase,” we spotted several red deer set amidst the breathtaking valley views.
The walk towards the Devil’s Staircase.
Hiking into the clouds on the Devil’s Staircase.
Views from the top.
As for the dreaded staircase, it was a steep ascent, but nothing too terrible. Plus, the views just kept getting better as we climbed! After a lunch break at the top, we began the winding descent to Kinlochleven. If your knees are anything like mine, you’ll agree that the downhill portion of this day is way harder than the climb up Devil’s Staircase! In any case, we eventually made it down to our final campground of the trip. The Trailblazer guide describes Kinlochleven as “an ugly, modern village,” but we found it to be quite charming. It has an industrial vibe, but one that’s balanced out by friendly people, quaint pubs, and a beautiful natural setting.
Picnicking at the MacDonald Hotel.
We camped at the MacDonald Hotel, which was situated in a quiet location right on the edge of Loch Leven. Since the rain had cleared up, we decided to have one final picnic in this lovely setting. After picking up wine, cheese, olives, and an assortment of other goodies in town, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner on the banks of the loch.
Day Eight: Kinlochleven to Fort William (7 hours)
Knowing we had another long day ahead, we applied the lessons learned on Day Three and made sure we were up and out a bit earlier this time. The day began with a fairly steep climb out of Kinlochleven, then passed through the wild expanse of the Lairigmor. We took our time on this final day, savoring our last hours of fresh air, simpler routines, and great companionship.
The winding path through the Larigmor.
As we neared Fort William, Ben Nevis came into view. This massive mountain is completely captivating, and we made frequent stops to admire it and snap more photos than were probably necessary. For the final stretch into Fort William, we took an alternate route in order to avoid another long stretch of road walking. We followed the Cow Hill trail, which involved one last climb up to some great views of the town below. Upon arriving in Fort William, walkers are required to traverse the entire length of the main commercial district before arriving at the official end of the Way. While it was a bit of a shock to the system to be back in the hustle and bustle of the town, the final stretch was fun and festive.
Catching a glimpse of Ben Nevis on our final day of walking!
We celebrated our achievement with a delicious pub dinner at the Grog and Gruel, followed by an ice cream cone and a stroll through town. In the morning, we rode the train back to Glasgow. As we sipped coffee, we gazed out at the green wilderness, recounting stories from the previous week, and soaking in the lifelong memories we had made on this amazing experience.
Enjoyed reading our trip report and ready to get to work planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!
Below you’ll find a detailed packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs. However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own West Highland Way adventure!
You can also pick-up our printable West Highland Way packing list as part of our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for under $5! You’ll also get access to tons of useful information for planning your WHW adventure!
After camping along the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel. After researching many options…
After camping along the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel. After researching many options for our next adventure, we finally settled on the West Highland Way, a 96-mile (154 km) trek that begins just outside of Glasgow, winds past the iconic Loch Lomond towards rugged moors and emerald hillsides, and ends in the stunning highlands at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
In addition to its dramatic beauty, the West Highland Way offers some other great perks: both ends of the hike are easily accessed by public transportation, it can be completed in just over a week, and it is possible to camp every night (many long-distance treks require at least one or two expensive hut stays). If you haven’t considered camping, we are here to tell you that you should! Camping along the West Highland Way allowed us to meet so many great people from all over the world, sleep in stunning locations, keep our trip expenses very low, and earn the satisfaction of carrying everything we needed on our backs. Below you’ll find tons of practical information, tried and true tips, and handy maps.
A few notes: This guide is based on a moderately-paced 8-day itinerary that begins in Milngavie and ends in Fort William. There are a few sections that would be relatively easy to modify, and those have been noted in the guide. Reservations are not necessary for the campsites, unless explicitly stated. Prices listed are per person. Wild camping is possible on some sections of the walk, but keep in mind that would be very difficult on the first night due to the lack of public land, it is unlawful along Loch Lomond, and has the potential to be very midgey (but certainly doable) in other sections. In general, we found the comfort and convenience of the campgrounds to be well worth the small fees we paid to stay there.
For those who want the best information all in one place, you can purchase our printable Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for under $5! The Guide includes everything you’ll need to have an awesome experience on the WHW. Save yourself the time of endless searching to find the information you need to plan your trip and pick up our guide below!
Purchase your digital Guide for under $5 here (securely processed via PayPal):
Be sure to check out all of our West Highland Way posts below:
This small campground is surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque farmland. You’ll see it on the lefthand side of the road about a mile and a half before reaching the town of Drymen. The modest nightly fee includes access to a covered cooking area, toilets (bring your own TP!), hot showers, outlets, a dishwashing sink, and potable water.
Nearby: Not much. The town of Drymen is another 1.5 miles up the road, so it is unlikely you’ll want to make the trek into town after a long day of walking. However, it does make for a nice stop in the morning of your second day, as you can pick up any forgotten supplies and maybe even a freshly baked treat to start your day. Moreover, Drymen is your last opportunity to visit a full grocery store along the trail until you reach Tyndrum.
Drymen Camping is located in a peaceful, pastoral setting.
Day Two – Drymen to Loch Lomond
Camping Availability: Milarrochy Bay Campsite, Cashel Caravan and Campsite, & Sallochy Campsite.
The second stage of the West Highland Way presents many options for camping. As you walk north along Loch Lomond, you’ll reach Milarrochy Bay Campsite first, then you’ll see Cashel about a mile further, and if you keep going for another mile or so, you will reach Sallochy. Remember, wild camping is not permitted on this section of the WHW.
Milarrochy Bay Campsite: This large campground has hot showers, a cooking room, toilets, wifi (for an added fee), and a small shop.
Sallochy Campsite: We chose to stay at Sallochy and highly recommend that you do the same for a number of reasons. First, the lochside campsites are secluded, peaceful, and totally gorgeous. While this is the most basic of the three camping options, the lack of major facilities means that you get an experience that feels more connected to the amazing natural surroundings of the Loch Lomond area. Additionally, Stage 3 of the WHW is the longest and most strenuous day of the entire trek, so make it all the way to Sallochy on Stage 2 and you’ll have a head start for the day ahead. Sallochy offers simple, clean composting toilets, drinking water, and sinks for washing up. Fire pit rentals and firewood bundles are available from the camp warden for £5 each. You must make reservations in advance for this campsite (the website makes it quick and easy). Make sure to book a lochside site, as the main camping area can get noisy and crowded. As you approach the campground, you’ll see the higher numbered lochside pitches first. The higher the number, the further away from the toilets and water tap you’ll be, but you’ll also be further from the noise of the main campground.
Beinglas Farm: We loved camping at Beinglas Farm! Perhaps it was because of the cold beers they sold us after nine hours of hiking, or the excellent and clean hot showers, or the friendly staff. Regardless of the exact reason, this is a great campground that offers flat pitches, free wifi in the bar/restaurant, a well-stocked shop, a cooking room, laundry facilities, and drinking water. This was the most midgy place we camped, however, so be prepared to get out your net and bug spray as soon as the sun starts to set. We were very grateful for the indoor cooking area and restaurant, as these provided a welcome escape from the bugs.
Nearby: It’s about a 10-minute walk from Beinglas Farm to the village of Inverarnan. There you’ll find a few hotels, a pub, and access to public transportation. Additionally, you can detour to Crianlarich (15 minutes from the trail each way) halfway through your walk tomorrow (Stage 4). This detour is highly recommended if you’d like to resupply at a proper supermarket.
Alternative Option: To break up the 15-mile stretch from Sallochy to Inverarnan into two easier days, you can camp at the Rowchoish Bothy, which is about five miles past Sallochy. It is located along the lower alternative route, but can be accessed by doubling back a short distance from where the upper and lower routes meet. This is a simple, free shelter with a fireplace.
For a shorter day, stop at the spectacular Doune Bothy.
Day Four – Inverarnan to Tyndrum
Camping Availability: Strathfillan Wigwams, By the Way Hostel and Campsite & Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping
Strathfillan Wigwams: You’ll see this camping option about 2 miles short of the town of Tyndrum. This was one of the quirkiest places we camped on the Way, but also one of the most beautiful. Set in a dramatic valley, this spacious campground is next to an idyllic sheep farm and a lovely river. The campground itself boasts some strangely painted “wigwams” and a slightly sad petting zoo. The facilities are excellent though. There is a lovely indoor kitchen and sitting area with laundry (wash and dry are £1 each), outlets, and wifi (for an extra fee), sinks, and drinking water. The showers are hot and clean, and cost £1 for eight minutes. The shop offers some kitschy souvenirs alongside snacks and treats.
Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping: This huge campground hosts large families in RVs, minimalist backpackers, and everyone in between. There are showers, toilets, drinking water, a shop, laundry, and wifi available. Situated next to the road, this campground is certainly less scenic than Strathfillan, but offers convenient proximity to the town of Tyndrum.
By The Way Hostel & Campground: This hostel and campground is located near the lower Tyndrum train station. Note that they will only accept one or two-person tents and they may not accept any campers if there has been a significant amount of rain, due to the ground being too water-logged. The Way passes right by this hostel (as the name implies) and offers showers, laundry, wifi, a heated drying room and an indoor pot washing room.
Nearby: Make sure to check out the ruins of St. Fillian’s Priory and the adjacent graveyard for some fascinating history! You’ll see these just before approaching the Strathfillian campground. In Tyndrum, there’s an outdoor goods store, a supermarket, a post office, ATM’s, and two train stations. Make sure to stock up on food and supplies while in Tyndrum, as you won’t have another chance until you reach Kinlochleven on the final night of the WHW.
Quintessential Highlands camping at Strathfillan.
Day Five – Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy
Camping Availability: Free camping behind the hotel.
When you arrive at Bridge of Orchy, continue past the hotel and across the bridge to the free camping area. There are no facilities here, but there is a potable water tap next to the main entrance of the hotel. In terms of your bathroom options, there’s a wooded area directly behind the campsite. Unfortunately, you won’t be the first person to use these natural facilities, and they were a bit polluted with human waste when we were there. Bring your trowel and a positive attitude, and you’ll be fine. Alternatively, you can use the hotel restroom if you purchase something at the bar/restaurant or if you leave a donation on the tray by the bar. If the weather is nice, make sure to soak your tired feet in the river while you take in the views of the quaint stone bridge and the green hills beyond.
Nearby: The Bridge of Orchy Hotel serves food all day long, and it’s also a great place to enjoy a well-deserved post hike beer. You won’t find a real town along the trail until Kinlochleven. The Inverornan Hotel is three miles past Bridge of Orchy, and it offers free camping, a water tap, and a restaurant.
Soak your tired feet under the Bridge of Orchy before enjoying your free campsite.
Day Six – Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe/Kingshouse
Camping Availability: Glencoe Ski Center/Mountain Resort & Kingshouse Hotel
Glencoe Ski Center/Mountain Resort: A very slight detour off the main trail leads to this campground. This ski area offers nice, flat pitches, hot showers (£1 for 5 minutes), outlets, washing sinks, drinking water, and a bar/restaurant with free wifi. While it can get crowded, Glencoe has a fun atmosphere and is the best option for this segment of your trek.
Kingshouse Hotel: At the time of writing (August 2018), the hotel was under construction. However, free camping is still possible. Walk past the hotel, cross the bridge, and you’ll see a field on your right. The hotel’s water tap appeared to be functioning during construction.
Nearby: Nothing. From the A82, you can catch a bus or hitch a ride to Glencoe Village (9 miles away). There you’ll find a grocery store, ATM, and a medical center.
Beautiful views of Buachaille Etive Mòr from the Glencoe Moutain Resort.
Day Seven – Glencoe/Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Camping Availability: MacDonald Hotel & Blackwater Hostel
MacDonald Hotel: This campground is at the far end of town, and can feel quite tedious to get to after a long day of hiking. It’s worth the extra walking though! The staff is very friendly, the views of the loch are magical, and you’ll start right next to the trail in the morning. There are toilets, free hot showers, an indoor cooking and washing hut, a heated drying room, wifi, a restaurant, and a casual walkers’ bar. Reservations recommended.
Blackwater Hostel: You’ll see this campground immediately upon entering Kinlochleven. It is located on a lovely spot alongside the river. There are toilets, showers, a drying room, and an indoor cooking area.
Nearby: The town of Kinlochleven has a post office, ATM, supermarket, outdoor equipment store, and a handful of pubs and restaurants. These can all be reached within a 10-minute walk from either campground.
The MacDonald Hotel campground is located on the idyllic shores of Loch Leven.
Day Eight – Kinlochleven to Fort William/Glen Nevis
Camping Availability: Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park
Upon completing the West Highland Way, many hikers choose to treat themselves to accommodation that includes four walls and a real bed, but there is an option for the hardcore campers out there. While the hike officially ends in the town of Fort William, you can stop a couple miles earlier in the town of Glen Nevis and pitch your tent at the Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park. This massive campground has laundry, toilets, and a shop.
Nearby: There is a visitor center and a few restaurants in the village of Glen Nevis. This location also provides easy access to the trail that leads to the summit of Ben Nevis.
Catch a glimpse of Ben Nevis on your final day of walking!
If you’ve completed steps described above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience camping on the West Highland Way. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!