West Highland Way

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West Highland Way
WHW Rannoch-Moor.jpg
Rannoch Moor on the West Highland Way, between Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse
Length 154.5 km (96 mi)
Location Scotland
Designation Scottish LDR
Use Hiking
Highest point Devil's Staircase near Kingshouse 56°40′35″N 4°54′49″W / 56.6764°N 4.9135°W / 56.6764; -4.9135, 550 m (1,800 ft)
Lowest point sea level
Hiking details
Season All year
Hazards Weather

The West Highland Way (Scottish Gaelic: Slighe na Gàidhealtachd an Iar) is a linear long distance footpath in Scotland, with the official status of Long Distance Route. It is 154.5 km (96.0 miles) long, running from Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, with an element of hill walking in the route.

It is managed by the West Highland Way Management Group (WHWMG) consisting of West Dunbartonshire Council, Stirling Council, Argyll and Bute Council, Highland Council and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority. About 80,000 people use the path every year, of whom over 15,000 walk the entire route.[1]


The trail, conceived by the late Tom Hunter from Glasgow, was approved for development in 1974 and was completed and opened on 6 October 1980 by Lord Mansfield so becoming the first officially designated long-distance footpath in Scotland.[2] (Similar routes, such as the North Highland Way, have yet to achieve this status.). Significant in the development of the Way was geographer Fiona Rose who surveyed the route over a year in the early 1970s, covering some 1,000 miles on foot.[3]

In June 2010, the West Highland Way was co-designated as part of the International Appalachian Trail.[4]

The route[edit]

WHW route marker

The path uses many ancient roads, including drovers' roads, military roads and old coaching routes, and is traditionally walked from south to north. As well as increasing the sense of adventure, taking the route in this direction keeps the sun from one's eyes.

The route is commonly walked in seven to eight days, although many fitter and more experienced walkers do it in five or six. The route can be covered in considerably less time than this, but a less hurried progress is the choice of the majority of walkers, allowing for appreciation of the countryside along the Way. Enjoyment of the natural surroundings of the walk is the primary motivating factor for many people following the route.

The path officially starts in Milngavie town centre, where a granite obelisk is located. Most walkers arrive at Milngavie railway station (around 25 minutes by train from Glasgow Central railway station) located close by. Milngavie is a town located on the northern fringe of the conurbation of Glasgow, and the path quickly enters open countryside. It proceeds by way of country roads, an abandoned railway, the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and scenic Conic Hill on the Highland Boundary Fault, to reach Balmaha on Loch Lomond. From here, the route follows the isolated, wooded, eastern shores of the loch via Rowardennan and Inversnaid to Inverarnan. Rowardennan is the furthest north road access which is available on the east shore of the loch from the south. There is road access to Inversnaid from the east, via Aberfoyle.

The Way follows Glen Falloch northward to Crianlarich then northwest along Strathfillan to Tyndrum. North of Tyndrum the Way enters Glen Orchy before crossing the desolate yet beautiful Rannoch Moor and descending into Glen Coe. From here, the route climbs the Devil's Staircase before a great descent to sea level at Kinlochleven. The final stage skirts the Mamore Mountains on an old military road and descends into Glen Nevis before finishing in Fort William.

The last stage passes the foot of Ben Nevis and many walkers crown their achievement of walking the Way by climbing it, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom.

Due to the large number of walkers being constrained to a single track, some parts of the Way have become badly eroded. However, a considerable amount of work is undertaken to maintain the route. Walkers seeking solitude should consider starting their journey away from the weekends.

When deciding the time of year to attempt the Way, it is good to know that midges and mosquitoes begin swarming in May and last well into August, some years even September. Also, because Scottish weather can be particularly variable, and often unforgiving, it must be respected with proper forecasting and gear.

A walk along the Way is often broken up into sections or stages, each of which will typically be walked in a day. One pattern of sections, travelling from south to north, is as follows:[2]

Milngavie to Drymen[edit]

The path officially starts in Milngavie town centre, where a granite obelisk is located. Most walkers arrive at the nearby railway station. Milngavie is a town on the northern fringe of the conurbation of Glasgow. The path passes Mugdock Castle and Mugdock Country Park before emerging into open countryside, and the Campsie Fells can be seen. By the west side of Craigallian loch the path passes a small monument to commemorate The Craigallian Fire, an important historical symbol for outdoor activities in Scotland. As the Way approaches the Campsies by the piece of ground known as Tinkers Loan, there is an opportunity to explore adjacent hills such as Dumgoyne (grid reference NS541837; 427 m or 1,401 ft) or the small but heavily wooded Dumgoyach (NS531810; 108 m or 354 ft). Finally the Way reaches the village of Drymen.

This section is about 19 km (12 miles) long:[2]

Drymen to Balmaha[edit]

After leaving Drymen the path enters Garadhban Forest before reaching the first major summit of the route, Conic Hill (a site of special scientific interest[5]) at 361 m (1,184 ft), though the route does not require you to ascend to the summit. The village of Balmaha on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond is the next settlement reached.

Balmaha to Rowardennan[edit]

The path heads north along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, passing through Rowardennan Forest before reaching the village of Rowardennan.

Rowardennan to Crianlarich[edit]

The path leaves Rowardennan and continues north, along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. The route follows the lower slopes of Ben Lomond before returning to the waterside at Inversnaid. From Inversnaid the route passes a cavern known as Rob Roy's cave, before reaching the village of Crianlarich.

This section is about 32 km (20 miles) long:

Crianlarich to Tyndrum[edit]

The way skirts the hills just west of Crianlarich alongside Bogle Glen. At the deer gate an additional path leads to Crianlarich. Meanwhile the route continues up through the dense woodland to one of the high points of the Way before descending to cross the A82 and pass through Auchtertyre Farm and gently up to Tyndrum.

Tyndrum to Glencoe[edit]

This is one of the more remote sections of the route, with little in the way of settlements. Walkers are advised to be well-provisioned for these sections. The route passes over the drovers' road between Bridge of Orchy and Inveroran with large panoramic views, and not much sign of civilisation.

This section is about 30 km (19 miles) long:

Glencoe to Kinlochleven[edit]

Glen Coe (Scottish Gaelic: Gleann Comhann) is often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland, and is a part of the designated National Scenic Area of Ben Nevis and Glencoe. The narrow glen shows a dramatically grim grandeur, shut in on both sides by wild and precipitous mountains. Towards Invercoe the landscape acquires a softer beauty.

Kinlochleven to Fort William[edit]

Starting with a steep climb out of Kinlochleven, the route follows the contour of the valley, which offers little respite from the weather — both sun and rain can be a problem — until the forest is reached outside Fort William. The last section of the route can be visually disappointing due to the use of forestry tracks, before finally reaching the pavements leading into the traditional finish line in Fort William.

Ultramarathons on the West Highland Way[edit]

Jez Bragg setting a new West Highland Way Race record of 15 h 44 m 50 s on 24 June 2006

There are several ultramarathons held on the West Highland Way. The Highland Fling Race is an annual 85 km (53 mi) race from Milngavie to Tyndrum.[6] The Devil o' the Highlands Footrace is 69 km (43 mi) from Tyndrum to Fort William, along the northern section of the way.[7] The West Highland Way Race is an annual 153 km (95 mi) race along the full south–north distance of the West Highland Way. The West Highland Way Challenge Race is a younger, alternative race which also covers the full route.

West Highland Way Race[edit]

The race has been run in its current form since 1991. The race starts at 1 am on the Saturday nearest to the Summer Solstice.[8]

Bobby Shields (Clydesdale Harriers) and Duncan Watson (Lochaber) initiated the idea of racing over Scotland's most popular long distance footpath.

On 22 June 1985 the two set out from Milngavie. Their route differed in many ways from the route of today: it was shorter, at 150 km (93 mi), and had 13 km (8 mi) more on tarmac, with around 150 m (500 ft) less of climbing. After around 100 km (60 mi), as they started over Rannoch Moor, they decided to cease competing against each other and ran together. They set a time of 17 hours 48 minutes 30 seconds.

In 1986 Shields and Watson opened up an invitation to some fellow runners to race in the opposite direction, Fort William – Milngavie. 1987 saw a return to the established direction of running, South – North. Of eleven starters seven arrived in Fort William. Jim Stewart took over the organisation of the event in 1991, as the footpath was now complete, the course was changed, increasing the distance to 153 km (95 mi) with only 15 km (9 mi) on road and more climbing was introduced. With this increased difficulty runners were likely to be out longer and now a bigger percentage are out for a second night.

Dario Melaragni, who had completed the race himself three times, took over as race director in 1999.[9] He developed the format of the race by involving local mountain rescue teams who provided emergency response during the event. He also inaugurated and developed the race website,[10] which has become a prime source of information for runners wishing to attempt the race. The race has gained status in recent years and entries open in the November preceding each race – for the 2013 a ballot process was used for the first time to allow 250 entries.

In July 2009, whilst out running with friends, Melaragni suffered a suspected heart attack and died near the summit of Lochnagar in the Cairngorms.[11] His funeral was attended by many people wearing West Highland Way Race clothing.

122 runners finished in 2009 and 109 finished in 2010. 966 have now completed the challenge. Jim Drummond holds the highest number of male finishes with 15 and Fiona Rennie has the highest number of female finishes with 11. The race record holder is Rob Sinclair with a time of 13 h 41 m 8 s, set in June 2017. The female record holder is Lucy Colquhoun of Aviemore with a time of 17 h 16 m 20 s, set in 2007.[12]

The West Highland Way Race is part of the Scottish Ultramarathon Series.[13]

Towns, villages or hotels along the Way[edit]

Listed south to north, with approximate distances from Milngavie, the West Highland Way passes the following towns, villages or hotels:


  1. ^ "West Highland Way Terminus: Report by Director of Planning and Development". The Highland Council, Lochaber Area Committee. 9 October 2006. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Marsh, Terry (2003). The West Highland Way: Milngavie to Fort William Scottish Long Distance Route. Cicerone Press. ISBN 1-85284-369-1. 
  3. ^ "The West Highland Way". 28 September 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018. 
  4. ^ "Hiking The Appalachian Trail – To Morocco". 27 June 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  5. ^ "SNH SiteLink". Retrieved 3 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "Highland Fling Race". 
  7. ^ Devil o' the Highlands Footrace
  8. ^ Race web site
  9. ^ "Dario Melaragni". The Herald. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  10. ^ West Highland Way Race
  11. ^ "'Race Daddy' drops dead on hills". The Herald. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  12. ^ "West Highland Way Race web site". contains full official details of course records and participant counts. Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  13. ^ "Scottish Ultra Marathon Series". Scottish Ultra Marathon Series. 29 November 2017. Retrieved 29 November 2017. 


  • Scottish Natural Heritage; Aitken, Bob (2004). Smith, Roger, ed. The West Highland Way Official Guide. Mercat Press. ISBN 1-84183-066-6. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Google

KML is from Wikidata
Approach to Glen Coe