The West Highland Way is a famous Scottish long distance walk from Milngavie (just outside Glasgow) to Fort William in the Highlands. The trail was the first officially designated long distance path in Scotland. It was approved for development in 1974 and was completed and opened on 6th October 1980.
The West Highland Way is a challenging walking route which in places crosses wild expanses of remote country where the going can be strenuous. It extends for some 96 miles from Milngavie, near Glasgow to Fort William and offers about a weeks walking according to age and experience.
The West Highland Way follows the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland's largest freshwater loch, along the foot of Ben Lomond and it passes from the lowlands across the Highland Boundary Fault and into the Scottish Highlands.
The weather in the Scottish mountains can change rapidly at any time of the year, whilst conditions in the winter months can be arctic. Walkers should not attempt the route unless they have the fitness, experience and equipment necessary for walking in all weathers.
When you go:
• Take windproof and woollens
• Take a compass and know how to use it
• Carry spare food and a torch
• Know the weather signs and local forecast
• Plan within your abilities
• Know simple first aid and the symptoms of exposure
• Wear climbing boots or stout walking boots
Milngavie to Drymen
Drymen to Rowardennan
Rowardennan to Inverarnan
Inverarnan to Tyndrum
Tyndrum to Inveroran
Inveroran to Kingshouse
Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Kinlochleven to Fort William
MILNGAVIE TO CARBETH
5 MILES - 3 TO 4 HOURS
Refreshments: Milngavie; Mugdock Country Park; Blanefield
Toilets: Milngavie, Mugdock Country Park; Blanefield
Places of Interest: Mugdock Country Park
The official start of the West Highland Way is from the granite obelisk in Douglas Street on Milngavie precinct. It is a few minutes walk from the train station. You will see a large sign above a couple of benches. Go down the stairs and look for your first waymarker. You will leave the route of the former railway to follow the Allander Water through Drumclog Moor and into Mugdock Country Park. Continuing past Craigallian Loch and Carbeth Loch, the Way meets the B821 shortly after passing the Carbeth Loch. The route passes lochs and woodland before dropping into Strathblane in the shadow of the Campsie Fells.
CARBETH TO DRYMEN
7 MILES - 3 TO 4 HOURS
Accommodation: Easter Drumquhassle, Drymen
Refreshments: Dumgoyne; Drymen
Places of Interest: Standing stones; Duntreath Castle; Glengoyne Distillery
Here the Way rises to another stile on the skyline with a view of the Campsie Fells. Turn left to follow a disused railway line, this is the track bed of the old Blane Valley Railway. To your left, a well enclosed aqueduct carries water from Loch Lomond to Glasgow. The next major landmark is Glengoyne Distillery.
The Way continues parallel to the A81 for about 1.5 miles passing the site of the former Killearn Hospital on the opposite side of the road. Just after the hospital, the Way passes under the B834 and, after a further 1 km, re-crosses the A81. Shortly after crossing the A81, the Way leaves the old railway and climbs up by a bridge to turn left onto the minor road from Killearn to Drymen, a short distance from Gartness.
At the crossroads, continue straight on along the minor road following to Easter Drumquhassle where can be found the first of a chain of wooden wigwam shelters From the crest of the hill, the islands of Loch Lomond can be seen to the West. At this point the Way crosses the A811, turns right and follows the road for a short distance before it turns left through a gate toward Balmaha. If your destination is Drymen, turn left at the A811 and, almost immediately, turn right and follow the B858 into the village.
The stage from Milngavie to Drymen is probably the easiest section as it is very flat.
DRYMEN TO BALMAHA
8 MILES - 4 TO 5 HOURS
Places of Interest: Boat trips from Balmaha to Inchcailloch; Visitors' Centre at Balmaha car Park, Tom Weir Statue
The walk out of Drymen leads to a forest route that takes you into Garadbhan forest. The going is fairly steep uphill and then you reach Conic Hill. Although relatively small in height Conic is quite difficult because of the length of the climb. It is worth the effort to see the line of islands following the Highland Boundary Fault across Loch Lomond. On a clear day, it is possible to see Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran, 50 miles (8 km) to the south west. Further south, you can see the rounded outline of Ailsa Craig in the Clyde Estuary.
The downhill is much steeper through a corrie between two ridges, where a built up stone staircase (can be slippy when wet!) brings you down to more conifer forest. The forest path leads to the car park at Balmaha, a small village nestling in a protected bay on the shores Loch Lomond.
Note: Dogs are not allowed in the two enclosed fields on the east approach to Conic Hill during the lambing season, even on a lead. The season normally lasts for around three weeks at the end of April and early May. Temporary signage will be in place.
While you are in Balmaha, why not visit the Tom Weir Statue, honouring the TV celebrity hillwalker.
BALMAHA TO ROWARDENNAN
7 MILES - 3 TO 4 HOURS
Accommodation: Milarrochy; Sallochy; Rowardennan
Places of Interest: Ben Lomond
The walk from Balmaha is a beautiful but deceptively tough section. The walk out of Balmaha is fairly steep and the path alternates between the loch shore, natural forest with occasional short sections on the road. You pass Millarrochy and Cashel campsites. There are numerous short steep climbs before you reach Rowardennan!
Rowardennan is the start point for the ascent of Ben Lomond, Scotland's most climbed mountain and, which at 3195 feet, it is the most southerly Munro (a name given to mountains over 3000 feet). (Well worth a climb!)
ROWARDENNAN TO INVERSNAID
7 MILES - 4 TO 5 HOURS
Places of Interest: Rob Roy’s Prison; RSPB reserve.
Leaving Rowardennan, the West Highland Way follows forestry roads and gently climbs high up above Loch Lomond, Beyond Ptarmigan Lodge, the lower path reaches Rob Roy’s Prison; a large crag with a natural cell where Rob Roy is reputed to have held hostages.
At times you are very close to the edge of the loch. The pathway is undulating and tree roots make it hard going underfoot in places. You will enjoy fantastic views of Loch Lomond and the mountains to the north. As you arrive at Inversnaid you will pass over a spectacular bridge and waterfall leading to the Hotel. Nearby is the bird reserve operated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) - well worth a visit.
INVERSNAID TO INVERARNAN
7 MILES - 4 TO 5 HOURS
Accommodation: Ardlui; Inverarnan; Crianlarich
Places of Interest: Rob Roy’s Cave
This is by far the roughest section of the Way, where the path makes a tortuous route along the side of Loch Lomond with many ups and downs. A hard walk but the scenery is superb.
Continue along the Way, cross in front of the Inversnaid Hotel, past its boathouse and continue north for about 1 km to reach Rob Roy’s Cave.
To the north you can see the three peaks of Ben Lui, Ben Oss and Ben Dubhcraig. Reach Inverarnan. The historic, and somewhat eccentric, Drovers’ Inn is a great favourite with walkers with its range of good value meals and selection of beers and whiskies. It is well worth a visit, if only to see the collection of stuffed animals and birds (even a shark!). There is a campsite with a small shop and a wigwam shelter at Beinglas Farm.
INVERARNAN TO CRIANLARICH
6 MILES - 3 TO 4 HOURS
Accommodation: Beinglas Farm
Places of Interest: Grey Mare's Tail (waterfall); The Falls of Falloch
Rejoin the West Highland Way from Inverarnan
CRIANLARICH TO TYNDRUM
6 MILES - 3 TO 4 HOURS
Accommodation: Strathfillan; Tyndrum,
Places of Interest: St Fillans Chapel (remains)
Outstanding mountain scenery. The Way crosses Kirkton Bridge over the wide flowing Fillan River. Among the trees by Kirkton Farm are the ruins of St Fillan’s Chapel and its graveyard. The chapel was raised to a Priory by Robert the Bruce in 1318 and thereafter enjoyed some measure of privilege and protection from the kings of Scotland.
Keep left, contouring the hillside until you reach Auchtertyre Farm with wigwams and campsite.
TYNDRUM TO BRIDGE OF ORCHY
7 MILES - 3 TO 4 HOURS
The Way follows an old military road down to the river across the stone bridge and left over the stile. Looking up the glens to your right, you will see two viaducts, fine examples of the railway engineers' skills, constructed to carry the West Highland Line north towards Fort William.
BRIDGE OF ORCHY TO INVERORAN
2 MILES - 2 TO 3 HOURS
An introduction to the wilderness of Rannoch Moor.
INVERORAN TO KINGSHOUSE
10 MILES - 4 TO 5 HOURS
Accommodation: Kingshouse, Glen Coe Village; Ballachulish; Kinlochleven
Refreshments: Kingshouse; Glencoe Ski Centre
Places of Interest: Glencoe Ski Centre
The surface is mainly good underfoot but on Rannoch Moor you are highly exposed in bad weather. There is no shelter of any kind available until you reach the White Corries Ski Centre at Glencoe (12 km). The scenery is spectacular but if conditions are poor, this can be a very tough stage of the Way.
You are now about to cross over one of Britain’s largest and wildest moors. When conditions are calm this is a deceptively easy walk, the Way is extremely exposed with no shelter.
KINGSHOUSE TO KINLOCHLEVEN
9 MILES - 4 TO 5 HOURS
Places of Interest: The Devil's Staircase (1850ft) - the highest point on the Way; The Ice Factor (National ice climbing centre), Kinlochleven
The Way runs by Altnafeadh where the a stiff climb starts out of Glen Coe up a track known as The Devils Staircase, good surface underneath and starts to zig-zag increasing in size. The summit is marked by a cairn (pile of stones). Once passed the shoulder of the hill, look to your right for views of Blackwater Reservoir.
KINLOCHLEVEN TO FORT WILLIAM
14 MILES - 7 TO 8 HOURS
Places of Interest: The way goes through Lairigmor, this section of the walk boasts 11 Munros (mountains over 3000 feet)
To keep to the Way, bear right through the woods then over a high stile and head toward Glen Nevis (two miles along). The final stretch of the way is a bit of rough walking through forestry plantations with occasional breaks and you see to your north the huge bulk of Ben Nevis.
Just under three miles further on, look to your right and you will see Dun Deardail which has an Iron Age fort. Go through the wooden gate, turn left at the narrow road alongside the River Nevis, follow for one and a half miles to reach your destination, passing a massive boulder on your left called Clach Comhairle (The Stone of Counsel).