The West Highland Way meanders its way through the best of the Scottish Highlands. The route is typically completed in 8 stages, beginning in the town of Milngavie and finishing in Fort William. Covering 94 miles, the West Highland Way is a truly can’t miss experience in Scotland!
This post will provide all of the West Highland Way map and navigation resources you will need to familiarize yourself with the route, location, and all things map-related so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle this epic adventure!
In this post
- Where is the West Highland Way?
- Interactive West Highland Way map
- How long is the West Highland Way?
- What is the elevation profile of the West Highland Way?
- Which maps should I carry on the West Highland Way?
- West Highland Way GPS
- Apps and offline navigation for the West Highland Way
Where is the West Highland Way?
The West Highland Way winds from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, all the way to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. The route covers 94 miles and passes countless green pastures, serene lochs, and dramatic Highland scenery and is typically completed in 8 stages. Starting just outside of Glasgow makes getting to and from the trek a breeze. You can learn more about getting to/from the West Highland Way in our logistics article here.
The West Highland Way is traditionally walked from south to north, although it is certainly possible to hike it from north to south. Following the traditional route, you’ll pass the iconic Loch Lomond, watch the landscape transform as you enter the Highlands, pass though the stunning Glencoe region, and finish near the base of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. The stages for the traditional south to north route are as follows:
- Stage 1: Milngavie to Drymen
- Stage 2: Drymen to Loch Lomond (Rowardennan)
- Stage 3: Loch Lomond to Inverarnan
- Stage 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum
- Stage 5: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy
- Stage 6: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse
- Stage 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
- Stage 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William
Did you know we offer West Highland Way trip planning support? Check out how we can help you below!
Interactive West Highland Way Map
The interactive West Highland Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the West Highland Way. You can click on each stage to see its total length, listed in both kilometres and miles.
How long is the West Highland Way?
The West Highland Way is approximately 94 miles or 151 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route from Milngavie to Fort William and not taking any of the possible alternates. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take side trips or shortcuts, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen.
The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometres, giving you a sense of the distances encountered on each section of the West Highland Way. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!
What is the elevation profile of the West Highland Way?
Over the 94 miles it takes to complete the West Highland Way, you’ll traverse nearly 13,000 feet or 3,960 meters of elevation change! Given that most trekkers will take 8 days to complete the trek, you’ll average around 1,625 feet or 500 meters of elevation change per stage.
Looking for a custom itinerary for the West Highland Way? We can help!
Of course, the elevation gain and loss isn’t spread out evenly from stage to stage. You’ll have days with a tremendous amount of climbing and you’ll also have days with much less (although always some!). Surprisingly, the section of trail along Loch Lomond has some of the most elevation change of the entire trek, as the shoreline is constantly climbing or descending.
Given that the West Highland Way is a point to point trail (meaning it does not start and finish in the same location) you’ll lose a tad more elevation that you’ll gain over the course of the entire route.
The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the West Highland Way is like 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 8-stage West Highland Way route, with the stop name 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 the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy is rather short in distance, while the stage from Kingshouse to Kinlochleven has a lot of elevation change.
When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the West Highland Way be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine. Don’t forget, we can also help create a custom itinerary for your trip!
Which maps should I carry on the West Highland Way?
On the whole, the West Highland Way is very well marked and relatively easy to navigate. There are signposts bearing the trail icon at frequent intervals and at most junctions. However, it can still be easy to get turned around, mixed up, and generally off the main trail in some capacity. You may find yourself walking in a steady rain, struggling to look up to find the trail, or simply have taken a wrong turn at the last trail junction. For this reason we highly recommend that all trekkers have some form of wayfinding for the West Highland Way.
When we hiked the West Highland Way we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along sections of the West Highland Way, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.
With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery or you drop it in a puddle along the West Highland Way you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.
There are several options available to ensure you have the entire West Highland way route covered via paper maps.
We recommend the Cicerone West Highland Way map booklet, a convenient booklet that includes the entire West Highland Way in a pocket-sized book, or the West Highland Way Footprint Map, a more traditional folding map.
For those who have trekked in the United Kingdom before you’ll likely have used Ordnance Survey maps. These detailed maps provide an excellent level of detail for the West Highland Way, although you’ll need to carry six maps to cover the entire route:
Alternatively, the Ordnance Survey also offers a package of all six maps for a significant discount here.
In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.
Want custom GPS maps for your West Highland Way adventure? Learn more here!
West Highland Way GPS/GPX
If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our West Highland Way GPS files for only $4.99. When you download the GPS files, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the West Highland Way as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.
You’ll be able to load the GPS file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!
West Highland Way map app/offline mapping
As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the West Highland Way. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also isn’t reliant on a cell phone signal to display the map.
Our How to Navigate on the West Highland Way post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your West Highland Way map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.
Want more West Highland Way content?
Be sure to check out all of our great West Highland Way content including packing lists, camping guides, and much more. We also have a FREE West Highland Way Starter Kit and comprehensive West Highland Way planning service that we know you’ll love!
- West Highland Way Packing List – Be sure you’ve got everything you need!
- West Highland Way Logistics – Don’t forget the small details!
- 10 Essentials for the West Highland Way – The quick and dirty basics
- West Highland Way Photo Gallery – Get inspired!
- West Highland Way Trip Report – Know what to expect!
- How to Navigate on the West Highland Way – Turn your smartphone into a GPS!
- How to Find All of Your Campgrounds on the West Highland Way- Free downloadable GPS waypoints!
- How to Train for the West Highland Way – Get in shape for the WHW!
- How Much it Cost us to Hike the West Highland Way – All the budget info you’ll need!