The Great Glen Way is a classic Scottish walk connecting Fort William in the south with Inverness in the north. The route is a natural extension of the West Highland Way, which finishes in Fort William. However, the Great Glen Way features much more loch-side walking, including along the famous Loch Ness, Loch Lochy, and Loch Oich. Traditionally, the walk is completed in 5 – 8 days, with six days seeming to be most common.
Although the Great Glen Way visits some of the more remote parts of northern Scotland, it is still well served by a variety of small towns and accommodation options. These include quaint B&Bs, hostels, small hotels, and several campgrounds. This post will introduce the Great Glen Way through a series of maps, navigational resources, and more.
Let’s get started.
In this Post
- Where is the Great Glen Way?
- Interactive Great Glen Way map
- How long is the Great Glen Way?
- Great Glen Way Elevation Profile
- Which maps should I carry on the Great Glen Way?
- Apps and Offline Mapping
- Stage-by-stage maps for the Great Glen Way
Where is the Great Glen Way?
The Great Glen Way is located in northern Scotland and connects the port town of Fort William in the south with Highlands capital of Inverness in the north. Along the way the route passes several idyllic lochs as it traces what is known as the Great Glen fault line. The walk is almost exclusively completed from south to north, although it can certainly be walked in the opposite directions as well.
The route is well served by a variety of small towns filled with friendly locals to compliment the stunning scenery this part of Scotland is known for.
The Great Glen Way is surprisingly easy to get to from the rest of Scotland and the UK, with plenty of rail connections available. Fort William is easily reached from Glasgow via the spectacular West Highland line while Inverness has good rail service to both Edinburgh and Glasgow. From the rest of the UK you can reach both Glasgow and Edinburgh by coach, train, or plane!
Between Fort William and Inverness the Great Glen Way provides some of the best walking in Scotland and is also much less crowded than other popular routes in the area. Highlights of the walk include tracing the length of the Caledonian Canal, walking along the famous Loch Ness, and finishing at the famous Inverness Castle. You’ll walk the length of three different lochs, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness on the Great Glen Way.
The route is traditionally completed in six days walking, although it is possible to shorten or extend your walk to suit your own personal timeframe. It is possible to camp along the Great Glen Way as there are both developed campgrounds as well as some excellent wild camping spots along the route. For those that prefer sleeping indoors, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options at each stop along the way.
Below is the standard route for the Great Glen Way:
- Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy
- Stage 2: Gairlochy to Laggan
- Stage 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus
- Stage 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston
- Stage 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
- Stage 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness
In addition to the standard route outlined above, there is also the option to take two high-route alternates between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit. These alternate routes leave the lochside trail to climb into the hills adjacent to Loch Ness. These alternates provide exceptional views of the Loch and also provide a bit of variety to the walk and we recommend that most walkers seriously consider taking them.
The high routes are split over two days, with the first option leaving the main trail on stage 4 shortly after leaving Fort Augustus. The route then keeps walkers in the hills before descending back to the main trail just before reaching Invermoriston.
The next day, on stage 5, the second high-level route begins just after leaving Invermoriston and rejoins the main trail about half-way through the stage to Drumnadrochit.
Take a look at the map below for more detail on the Great Glen Way high-level alternate routes.
Interactive Great Glen Way map
The interactive Great Glen Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.
How long is the Great Glen Way?
The official Scotland Great Trails website lists the Great Glen Way as 125-kilometers long. While this is certainly an accurate estimate, we measure (via GPS) the Great Glen Way to be 118.8-kilometers or 73.8 miles long from Fort William to Inverness.
If you plan on taking either or both of the high-routes described above you’ll want to plan on covering a bit more distance.
However, the exact measurement of the trail will have little practical value to the average walker. The nature of long-distance walks provides that you will certainly walk further than any official trail length. Evening walks to stretch your legs, short detours to visit the local pub, and even the occasional side trip to a nearby attraction will all add up.
However, it is still helpful for trip planning purposes to have a sense of the total length as well as individual segment lengths on the Great Glen Way. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances for the standard six stage itinerary shown in kilometers.
Note that these distances do not include the high-level routes and should only be used to get a general idea of distance.
Great Glen Way Elevation Profile
The Great Glen Way is certainly not the most challenging walk in the Scottish Highlands, although it still has a not insignificant amount of elevation change.
Much of this is due to the undulating nature of the shorelines of the three Lochs that the route follows. The Great Glen Way has approximately 1,600 meters or 5,250 feet of elevation gain over its 119 kilometers. That averages out to approximately 267 meters of elevation gain per stage, although as you’ll see below it is not so evenly distributed.
The vast majority of the elevation gain occurs on the walk’s final two stages, with the final day being the most difficult in terms of both distance covered as well as elevation gained. The high point of the walk is reached on the final stage just after leaving the shores of Loch Ness and climbing to approximately 370 meters above sea-level.
However, don’t be deceived by the loch-side sections of the walk, as there is still significant elevation to be gained/lost here!
The elevation profile below will give you an overview of what each stage of the Great Glen Way entails in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional six-stage walk, with the stop names shown at the top.
The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. For instance, you can see that the stage from Drumnadrochit to Inverness is rather long in distance, while the stage from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit has a lot of elevation gain.
Keep in mind that the profile below does not include either of the two high-route options, so count on some additional climbing if you plan to take those alternates.
When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Great Glen Way be sure to reference this elevation profile. It will give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.
Which maps should I carry on the Great Glen Way?
The Great Glen Way is generally a very well marked trail. You’ll find the Scotland Great Trails symbol on signposts and at trail junction along the route, making navigation fairly simple. This is especially helpful where different trails intersect with the Great Glen Way, giving the walker clear direction on where to go.
However, it is still quite easy to get turned around or otherwise off-track on the Great Glen Way due largely to the number of trail junctions encountered. For this reason, we recommend all walkers carry a few Great Glen Way maps to ensure they don’t spend an afternoon walking the wrong direction!
Our preference is generally to rely on GPS maps on our smartphones when out on a multi-day walk, and we can highly recommend this method for most walkers. All you’ll need is a GPX file for the route and a GPS app. We like Gaia GPS, although there are many great options available.
In addition to digital navigation methods, we also recommend you bring a paper map or map booklet of the Great Glen Way along on your walk. There is simply no replacement for a physical map, afterall you never know when you may find yourself with a dead battery rendering your GPS app useless!
There are several excellent physical maps available for the Great Glen Way, outlined below:
The Great Glen Way Guide & Map Booklet – Cicerone Guides
In our opinion, your best bet will be to pack this excellent resource from Cicerone Guides. Their Great Glen Way guidebook comes complete with a map booklet that contains helpful maps for the entire route, neatly organized into a small and portable booklet.
Harvey Maps Great Glen Way Map
Another convenient and highly recommended option is the Great Glen Way map published by Harvey Maps. This map consists of the entire Great Glen Way route, although it does not include much outside of the trail. It is also a bit larger and easier to read when compared to the Cicerone Map Booklet, which many walkers will prefer.
Ordnance Survey Explorer – Great Glen Way maps
Finally, no article on maps for the Great Glen Way would be complete without referencing Ordnance Survey maps. These detailed maps provide an excellent resource for the walk, although you’ll need to carry three OS maps to cover the entire route:
In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.
In addition to the paper map(s) you choose to carry, we recommend using the Hiiker app to navigate on the trail. The app features downloadable, printable, and interactive maps with tons of helpful information, such as elevation profiles, accommodation, and amenities. This is a great tool to have on your trek.
Apps and offline mapping
We highly recommend utilizing offline downloadable GPS maps on your smartphone to navigate while walking the Great Glen Way. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you may not have) to display the map.
Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the Great Glen Way.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a simpler way to utilize offline GPS/GPX data, the Hiiker App does all of the work for you. The app allows you to download maps and trail information to your phone so that you can use it without the need for a cell signal or data.
Stage-by-Stage Great Glen Way Maps
The Great Glen Way is most commonly walked in six stages, with a wide variety of accommodation options available at each point along the walk. The stage maps below provide a general outline for each of these six stages and we’ve also included the distance and elevation change for each day below.
Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy
Distance: 17.43 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +159 m / -132 m
Stage 2: Gairlochy to Laggan
Distance: 18.73 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +413 m / -407 m
Stage 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus
Distance: 17.24 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +238 m / -250 m
Stage 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston
Distance: 11.72 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +507 m / -487 m
Stage 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
Distance: 23.32 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +701 m / -713 m
Stage 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness
Distance: 30.32 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +653 m / -665 m
Have an excellent Great Glen Way adventure!
We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Great Glen Way. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!