Running the West Highland Way (How to Plan your Trip + Kit List)

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Could I run the West Highland Way trail? 

There was only one way to find out, pick a date and book that trip! 

At the end of June, I planned my mini adventure to run the West Highland Way trail. I’d hiked it in 2019, on my big 950-mile hike across Britain and I knew it would be a great route to trail run.

I sat down with a map and notebook to plan my adventure. I split the trail over 3.5 days, starting by running 20 km/12 miles, then two 50 km/31-mile days and I finished with a 40 km/25-mile day.

Here I will share my itinerary for running the West Highland Way, how I split the route into manageable running chunks, where I stayed, what I ate, plus refuel stops and what I packed and carried for the trip. This is a detailed guide and includes everything you need to plan your trip, so grab a notebook and a drink and dive right in (or bookmark this page for later when you have some free time!)

Pop me any questions in the comments or you can also message me via Instagram @beckythetraveller

Running the West Highland Way

Beautiful Foxglove wildflowers along the trail

About the trail

Before I get started, here’s the lowdown on the West Highland Way trail. The route begins in Milngavie (pronounced Mil-guy) and heads north via Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park then Glen Coe, finishing in Fort William. The West Highland Way is 95 miles or 153 km and with a total ascent of 4,211 m/13,815 ft (that’s roughly the height of three times up and down Ben Nevis).

It is a relatively new trail, opening in 1980, but it’s a popular first long-distance hike for many walkers. And running the trail quickly followed. In 1985, one of the oldest Ultra Trail runs began along the route too.

Why is it so popular? A few reasons, (in my opinion):

  • It’s achievable to complete the trail in less than a week (for most people).
  • It’s less than 100 miles (so it sounds less scary than 100+ mile trails.
  • The way-marking for the trail is excellent, for those less confident in map reading.
  • There is plenty of accommodation for all budgets on the route (camping, hostels, hotels).
  • There are also many places to get food on the way, from pubs, cafes, and shops to honesty boxes.
  • Because of all this, the word-of-mouth and recommendations from people who do the trail are high.
Loch Lomond at Balmaha

West Highland Way Travel Plans

Here is how I travelled to the start point in Milngavie.

I opted to run the route in the traditional way from south to north, starting in Milngavie and finishing in Fort William. Both of these places have train stations so you can travel by public transport. Milngavie is not a big station, however, Glasgow isn’t too far so that’s the best option for connecting trains from further afield.

I was working in Fort William, after my run, leading a group of ladies up Ben Nevis and since I live in Nottingham the best option for me was to drive to Fort William, park my van then catch the train to the start in Milngavie.

Train times

There are three trains from Fort William to Milngavie, one at 07.44, arriving at 12.01 a second one at 11.40, arriving at 16.02 and the final option is 17.37, arriving at 22.06.

I took the earlier train since I wanted to start my run that day and allow time for chilling/eating in the evening. The 07.44 has two changes but for most of the journey, you can relax (and eat food). The first train from Fort William to Dalmuir is 3 hours 24 mins, then you have a 10-minute ride to Westerton and one final 12-minute train to Milngavie. In total, the journey takes 4 hours and 17 minutes. Cost £37.10 (single ticket).

Where to park?

If you do opt to drive to Fort William there are options for parking via the ‘Your Parking Space’ App. In Fort William, the best places were Morrisons car park or Premier Inn hotel car parks. Both of these are less than 10-minute walk to the train station. You book everything through the App and they are ANPR so there’s no ticket required. For my 4-day trip the parking cost me £20 + £2.49 fee = £22.49

My West Highland Way Itinerary

The start of the West Highland Way in Milngavie

Day 1 – Milngavie to Drymen

  • Total distance – 20.66km
  • Total ascent – 255 m
  • Moving time – 2 hrs 56 mins
  • Total time – 3 hrs 19 mins

Day 2 – Drymen to Inverarnan (via Conic Hill)

  • Total distance – 50.27 km
  • Total ascent – 1,510 m
  • Moving time – 10 hrs 7 mins (data wrong as I did stop!)
  • Total time – 10 hrs 7 mins
Views of Loch Lomond whilst hiking up Conic Hill

Day 3 – Invernarnan to Glencoe

  • Total distance – 19.58 km + 30.83 km
  • Total ascent – 506 m + 778 m
  • Moving time – 8 hrs 46 mins
  • Total time – 9 hrs 34 mins
A beautiful rainbow as I left Kingshouse on my final day

Day 4 – Glencoe to Fort William

  • Total distance – 40.63 km
  • Total ascent – 1,162 m
  • Moving time – 7 hrs 3 mins
  • Total time – 7 hrs 44 mins

Overall stats

  • Total distance – 162 km/100 miles
  • Total ascent – 4,211 m/13,815 ft
  • Moving time – 28 hrs 54 mins
  • Total time – 30 hrs 46 mins

Running the West Highland Way – Map + GPX 

West Highland Way map

Here you can find the links via OS maps or the GPX file, whichever you prefer for each day of my run. 

Full West Highland Way route here – Click for the OS map link or GPX file

Where to stay on the West Highland Way?

Inside bell tent, showing two single beds
My bell tent at Beinglas Campsite in Inverarnan

For my trip, I booked accommodation (with beds), instead of camping. This meant for my first long-distance run I could carry less in my backpack. I booked it late which limited options in some places and this did dictate the way I split the trail up.

Night 1 – Drymen

Buchanan Arms Hotel – Double room with breakfast included. This was a lovely hotel, and a bonus of a bath too, handy for an ice bath (if that’s your thing), after a first short day, it wasn’t necessary. But I did it anyway!

Cost £83.50

Night 2 – Inverarnan

Beinglas Campsite – Bell tent with two single beds. This was rather indulgent since I’m used to sleeping in a one-person tent on adventures (my MSR Hubba NX). The bell tent was huge, but it did mean I had one bed for kit and one bed to sleep in. Plus they provided a towel, one less thing for me to carry. No breakfast included but you could add it on.

Cost £80

Night 3 – Glencoe

Kingshouse Bunkhouse – 2-bed dorm room. Again, I’d normally pick a cheaper (and larger) dorm room but this is all that was left at the time I booked. The dorm was basic, but it also included bedding and towels which was my priority. Breakfast was included too.

Cost £54

Kingshouse Hotel (the bunkhouse was the building next door).

If you are interested in camping or wild camping along the trail then check out my 5-day hiking guide, which I wild camped, when I did the route in 2019.

West Highland Way – Kit List

All my kit ready to be packed for the run

I packed all my clothes and running kit in my Salomon XA backpack, which fits like a running vest with pockets for water soft flasks, snacks and my phone in the front.

What clothes did I take/wear?

For the run, I wore the same shorts and t-shirt every day, then switched to my clean t-shirt and shorts in the evening, once I’d had a shower. I took a thin pair of leggings as a warmer option if I needed to switch to something warmer in the evenings (or to stop getting midge bites).

Salomon Ultra Glide 2 shoes (with extra cushioning)
  • Running shoes (Salomon Ultra Glide 2) 
  • Waterproof jacket (Salomon Bonatti Trail)
  • Windproof jacket (Salomon Bonatti Cross Wind)
  • Waterproof trousers (Salomon Bonatti)
  • Shorts x 2 (Cross Run 5″ + Cross 5″)
  • T-shirt x 2 (Salomon Outline)
  • Sports bra (Salomon)
  • Socks x 4 (Salomon, Injiti + Decathlon)
  • Underwear x 4 (Decathlon)
  • Warm synthetic jacket (Haglofs)
  • Lightweight fleece (Omm)
  • Thin leggings
  • Running cap (Vaga)
  • Headband + neck gaiter
  • Beanie (Salomon)
  • Gloves x 2 (Liner gloves + waterproof mittens)
  • Sunglasses (Sinner)

From the kit I packed, I didn’t wear my warm jacket, leggings, beanie or liner gloves, however, I would still pack them if I did the trip again.

What other kit did I pack?

Kit packed in my 25-litre Salomon XA backpack
  • Running poles (Black Diamond)
  • Soft flasks x 2 (Salomon)
  • Water bladder + filter (Platypus)
  • Survival bag
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Head torch + cable
  • Power bank, cable + plug
  • Watch + charger (Garmin Instinct 2)
  • Bank card + cash
  • Toilet tissues + waste bags
  • Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste tablets, shampoo, brush + hair ties
  • Spork
  • Ear plugs
  • Skin So Soft (natural midge repellant)
  • Midge net
  • Sun cream SPF 50 (Premax)
  • Talcumn powder (in zip lock bag)
  • Chaffing cream (Premax)
  • Heat cream
  • Trench foot cream
  • Mirror
The Trench Foot cream and Vaseline combo meant zero foot issues!

From my list of kit, I didn’t use my water filter, toilet tissues/waste bags, midge net, survival bag, whistle and my first aid kit. Although, I would have packed all these items again.

What food did I pack?

This did mean my backpack was heavier at the start but I wanted to stick with some tried and tested snacks as well as the other food I’d eat on the run.

  • Voom bars (Raspberry, lemon and lime flavours) x 9
  • Graze bars x 6
  • Pepperami bars x 4
  • Crisps x 5 (Spicy Nik Naks)
  • Torq gels x 9 (Mix of flavours and caffeine gels)
  • Recovery shake powder (Voom)
  • Kendal mint cake x 6
  • Electrolyte Fastchews x 16 (Salt Stick)
  • Electrolite drink sachet x 6 (Active Root)
Running food that I packed for the trail

West Highland Way – Other Useful Information

How runnable is the trail?

Lovely runnable section after Tyndrum

The reason I picked the West Highland Way long-distance trail to run is that I’d previously hiked it in 2019 and I’d remember that the trail was relatively good. Maybe this sowed a seed for my future self that one day I would run the trail.

In terms of footpaths, they were mostly brilliant for running on, both on the flat sections and some glorious downhills which I thoroughly enjoyed. The beginning of the West Highland Way trail only has about 252 m of ascent, over 20 km, so this is a great section you can comfortably run most of and a great way to get started on the trail.

The Loch Lomond path:

The elephant in the room is the section along Loch Lomond, it is known for being tough, but if I’m honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The path is undulating so one minute you’re hiking a steep but short uphill then there’s a matching short downhill. On this day I did 1,410 m of ascent, approximately 600 m were are the beginning of the day, hiking up to Conic Hill but the remaining 800 m were along the Loch Lomond section.

The worst section was the final 5 km of the loch. You’re close enough to Inverarnan to feel like you are nearly there but the terrain gets tougher on this part, and I’d say it’s impossible to run. There are short scramble, rocky and muddy sections, along with some steps and a wooden ladder as a bonus extra! However, the rest of the trail makes up for this tricky section.

The hardest part is the fact you’re running towards the end of the day, so tired legs on tricky terrain make it harder.

One of the rocky sections along Loch Lomond

Favourite runnable sections

My favourite runnable sections were the descent into Glencoe, after a long track gradually ascending for miles I welcomed the final 4 km with 200 m of descent, especially because you can see the Kingshouse Hotel from this point of descent!

In addition, I loved the descent and long winding trail after the Devil’s Staircase climb into Kinlochleven, due to the time I was on the trail it was empty, a bonus for some faster running. And by fast, I’m talking Becky fast, so for most people that’s slow, haha, but it felt quick to me.

What other food did I eat on the run?

Breakfast on the run!

I selected the option to add breakfast to my accommodation (at Buchanan Arms and Kingshouse Bunkhouse). They had a breakfast buffet, a mix of hot and cold options. At Beinglas Campsite, it wasn’t included but you could have breakfast there, I had a breakfast roll and a hash brown!

One thing to consider is the timings, on my first day breakfast wasn’t served until 07.30, whereas in the other two places, it was 07.00. I’d have preferred to eat earlier, allowing some time for food to digest, but instead, I had a smaller breakfast and took food with me that I could eat on the way. For example, I took a banana and made a jam sandwich to have as a later breakfast while on my run.

Lunch on the run

Hod dog and Irn-bru at Leven Bites in Kinlochleven

I didn’t have big plans for lunch on my run, I had a good amount of snacks, plus the additional items I took from the breakfast buffets. On the first day (20 km), I had eaten plenty for breakfast and on the train, I did stop at The Beech Tree pub/cafe but I only had a drink there, since it was a very humid day.

On the second day (Drymen to Inverarnan), I didn’t stop for extra food, eating my snacks, plus jam sandwiches (from breakfast). However, after Conic Hill and before Rowardennan there are plenty of options (campsite shops and a couple of pubs) where you could stop for lunch if you needed it.

On the third day (Inverarnan to Glencoe), I planned to stop at the Green Welly Cafe in Tyndrum, at 20 km point. I had a hot dog and a can of Irn Bru which was a perfect combo. I also struggled on this day so I made a second stop, after another 10 km at the pub at Bridge of Orchy, but this was a glass of coke stop (then I ate my crisps shortly after leaving).

The final day, I again had a plan to stop at Kinlochleven for a late second breakfast/early lunch. I stopped at my favourite place Leven Bites, turning up soaked I ordered a hot dog and had a can of Irn bru whilst standing next to the counter (it’s a takeaway place).


Here’s where I made the most of refuelling and adding calories for the next day! I had a filling main meal, with either a starter or dessert depending on what I fancied!

  • Drymen – Drymen Inn
  • Inverarnan – Beinglas Campsite bar (The Stagger Inn)
  • Glencoe – Kingshouse Hotel restaurant
The Drymen Inn did a great meal for dinner

What shops are there on the route?

Throughout the route, there are several shops that you can resupply; however, I’d packed a good amount of snacks for my trip so I didn’t end up buying anything on the way. For last-minute items, there is a Tesco, Spar and Marks and Spencer in Milngavie.

For my run, on the first day, there was a small selection of items at The Beech Tree, and then the best option was the Spar shop in Drymen on night one. On the second day from Drymen to Inverarnan, there is a small village shop in Balmaha, but then nothing until you reach the campsite, here there’s a small shop with drinks and snacks. On the third day, there is a mini market (Green Welly Stop) in Tyndrum, approximately 20 km into the day, then on the final day, there is a Co-op in Kinlochleven to top up on any final supplies for the last 25 km into Fort William.

Where can you get water on the West Highland Way?

I carried between 1-2 littes of water each day, then topped up when I found places, as well as buying a few drinks. I had packed my water filter but luckily the temperature didn’t creep too high and I had enough water each day.

On my first day, running 20 km to Drymen, I stopped at The Beech Tree Pub, for a pint of lime and soda, one of the most refreshing drinks to have when I’m hot. In addition, they also had a drinking water tap outside their premises.

Water tap at The Beech Tree

Between Drymen and Inverarnan, approximately 50 km, there were two water stations, one at Balmaha and a second at Rowardennan, where there is a visitor centre (this is the start of the trail for Ben Lomond). After you leave Rowardennan there are no drinking water stations, however, if you had a filter you could get water from one of the many streams that go into Loch Lomond.

My second 50 km day between Inverarnan to Glencoe the day was split with the shops/pubs on route which is where I filled my water and bought drinks on this day. There was a shops/cafe in Tyndrum (20 km), Bridge of Orchy (10 km later) then the final drink was at the finish in Glencoe.

And on my final 40 km day between Glencoe and Fort William, I bought a drink and topped my water up in Kinlochleven at Leven’s Bites. There are no other drinking water sources in this section, however, you could take a water filter as there are plenty of flowing water sources.

Are there toilets on the trail?

If you can first train your body to deal with going to the toilet before you set off on your run this is a huge bonus. I can normally manage this by having a beer the night before or starting the day with a coffee, both have the same effect and ensure I don’t have to go digging holes mid-run!

I used cafes/pubs on the trail but I spotted a few public toilets as well. At the start of Loch Lomond, there are toilets at Balmaha, Sallochy and Rowardennan. From Inverarnan the first public toilets are at Crianlarich (about 700 m off trail), the next are at Tyndrum, and that’s it unless you pop in the pub at Bridge of Orchy.

From Glencoe to Fort William, there are public toilets in Kinlochleven, but these are the only ones the entire day.

How much did it cost me to run the West Highland Way?

Here are my costs for running the West Highland Way trail:

  • Parking at Fort William – £22.49
  • Train ticket – £37.10
  • Accommodation (3 nights)  – £217.50
  • Food and drinks on the trail (including lunch, dinner x 3 and breakfast, plus my finishing meal and drink in Fort William) – £149

Total costs: £426.09

In addition, you might need to factor in fuel costs or transport to Fort William, however, because I was there initially for work I’ve not included these.

West Highland Way FAQs

Here are a few common questions about running the West Highland Way, but of course, feel free to message me via my Instagram @beckythetraveller or pop a comment here and I will answer.

How long does it take to run the West Highland Way?

My running adventure took me 3.5 days, I’d initially planned to do it in 3 days but this option worked better with the travel and accommodation.

However, there is a race where people run this trail in one attempt, ie no sleeping on the route. This year’s event took place the weekend before I ran the trail, with competitors taking between 14 to 34 hours. Yes, you read that right, the winner this year finished in 14 hours and 17 minutes (Jarlath McKenna – massive congratulations).

Do you need poles for running the West Highland Way?

I packed my poles and initially planned not to use them on day one, it turns out though with a 7 kg backpack they were handy to keep my posture upright, and they also prevented the dreaded fat fingers, a common side effect when hiking and running.

How bad were the midges?

I encountered the worst of the midges along the Loch Lomond path when I dared to stop for a wee and water break. Within 1 minute I was surrounded and since I’d not put my ‘Skin So Soft’ spray on I ended up with multiple bites, I learned to apply it in the morning after then!

What was the weather like?

Wearing shorts a T-shirt for running on most days

I ran the rain in June and had a mix of weather, initially, it was very humid but a light shower cooled the temperature, my third day was lovely and cool and then the final day it rained for a good chunk of the day. 

During my first few days, I was warm enough in shorts and a T-shirt but by the last day, I was wearing both my windproof and waterproof jackets to keep warm and dry.

More questions?

I hope you’ve found that guide to running the West Highland Way helpful. If you are thinking about running a long-distance trail then I’d highly recommend this one to try out. 

Feel free to pop any other questions about the trail in the comments below.

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