Walking the West Highland Way Tips (From Awesome Hikers)

Loch Lomond on the West Highland Way

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Hiking the West Highland Way is a fantastic long-distance trail in Scotland. Maybe it’s one on your list to do?

As with any long-distance walk, it takes planning and training so why not start researching now. Wouldn’t it be handy to find out the essential West Highland Way tips from hikers that have walked the trail?

Hmm, yes! Well, guess what, here it is!

From solo hikers, couples, friends and even family members, here’s a selection of awesome adventurers who have walked the 96-mile trail from Milngavie to Fort William in Scotland.

They share their best tips for hiking this national trail, as well as including their highlights and least favourite bits so you’ll be fully equipped to do the walk.

 

Eddie hiking West Highland Way past Loch Lomond
Eddie’s highlight hiking West Highland Way (scroll to read more). Photo credit Eddie Fitz

Hiking the West Highland Way 

Starting in the town of Milngavie the West Highland Way heads north, a total of 96 miles through Loch Lomond & the Trossachs and beyond until you reach the very outdoorsy town of Fort William, in the west of Scotland

The walk can be done between 5-9 days, with most hikers completing in 7 days. 

Remember, it’s your hike, you make the rules, whether you opt for 5 days or 9 days, camping or hotels, carrying a full backpack or using the baggage carrying services, there’s no right or wrong way. 

In July 2019, I hiked the West Highland Way as part of my E2W Challenge. I walked the trail in 5 days with my hiking buddy Ian, also known as Barefoot Backpacker!

I carried all my gear in a 65-litre backpack and mostly wild camped over the four nights along the trail. 

As well as fellow hikers tips here is my own useful advice on how to enjoy this wonderful walk.

Hiking Conic Hill on the West Highland Way
Hiking up Conic Hill on the West Highland Way

Becky’s top tips for hiking the West Highland Way

  • Include hiking Conic Hill on your walk, there’s a lower route option, but the views are stunning from the top and worth the extra ascent.
  • Make sure you keep your energy levels up, snack regularly, you’ll enjoy the walk more if you aren’t thinking of food constantly.
  • If you’re hiking during midge season, don’t forget your Smidge – best midge repellant ever!
  • Plan the hike to your own fitness levels, whether you hike it in 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 days, you’ll be happier if you don’t put pressure on yourself.
  • Don’t forget to train for your hike, the fitter you are the more you’ll enjoy the walk

For my full guide on my 5-day hike on the West Highland Way, you can read my detailed post (coming soon) which includes where I camped, restocked on food supplies plus my West Highland Way route.

Read my full guide here on hiking and camping the West Highland Way in 5 days.

Top tips from West Highland Way hikers

Jamie Neill

Jamie Neill on West Highland Way day 2
Day 2 at Rowandenn on the West Highland Way

About Jamie’s hike

Jamie hiked the West Highland Way in May 2019, over 5 days. He started with a 65-litre backpack but swapped to a 35-litre one after the first two nights. He stayed in a mix of accommodation, two nights in bunkhouses & two nights camping.

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • Meeting my Mum & Gran (who has climbed 189 Munros) on day 4 at Kingshouse Hotel, Glencoe, gave me a boost as my Grampa had passed away the year before and having them there was cool. 

What was your least favourite part? 

  • From Kinlochleven to Fort William, it was the least scenic part of the walk & fatigue was there, Fort William felt like an eternity, although reaching Glen Nevis gave me a second wind for the finish. 

Jamie’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

On day 2, hiking 20 miles along the entire length of Loch Lomond was a challenge, especially, at 6.30 pm when I still had 6 miles to go. My campsite phoned to say that I still had a lot of very difficult terrain ahead of me, which meant I arrived in darkness.

My top tip is to start early on each day, so you’re not hurrying at the end of each day to get to your accommodation. Leaving earlier & having more time to settle at night is worth it.

Favourite place to stay: West Highland Way Sleeper (Bridge of Orchy Bunkhouse) – a bunkhouse on the train station platform

Favourite place to eat: Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha

Follow Jamie’s hiking adventures on Instagram @jamieneillscotland

Phillip Hall

Phil Hall on West Highland Way hike
Day 4 on the West Highland Way

About Phil’s hike

Phil hiked the West Highland Way in wet September over 5 days. He stayed in a mix of hostels, hotels and bed & breakfasts on the trail, all booked in advance but opted to carry his own gear instead of using the baggage service.

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • The views from the top of the devil’s staircase were breathtaking and it made you feel alive.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • The Loch Lomond part of the hike, long, arduous and felt like time stood still for 6 hours.

Phil’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

Carry your own gear, you’ll feel you’ve earned your accolade at the end

Also if you are thinking about doing over 5 days I would recommend adding an extra day to split up the Loch Lomond to Crianlarich part as it might break you!

Favourite place to stay: Tigh Na Cheo, Kinlochleven – A big room, comfortable bed and good hearty breakfast is all you need!

Favourite place to eat: Tyndrum Inn – Chicken Tyndrum (with extra haggis and an extra dram of whiskey over the top)

Follow Phil’s adventures on Instagram @phillip151073

Maxine Lock

Maxine Lock on West Highland Way
Looking out across Loch Lomond

About Maxine’s hike

Maxine walked the West Highland Way in November 2019, it was clear and sunny during the day but at night the temperature dropped below freezing a couple of times. 

She hiked the trail over 6 days (but starting in the afternoon on day 1 and finishing in Fort Wiliam on the morning of day 6). Maxine carried all her camping gear in an Osprey Tempest 30-litre, with her tent secured on top. Very impressive!

After booking her first and last accommodation, her plan was to walk about 20 miles a day and find accommodation at the end of each day, with an option to wild camp if necessary. She stayed in a bothy on the banks of Loch Lomond, a campsite in Auchtertyre and a bunkhouse at Kingshouse Hotel.

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • Sitting in the sunshine by the side of Loch Lomond was one of my favourites.
  • Also, the amazing views as I climbed ‘Devils Staircase’ and looked back towards Buachaille Etive Mor.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • Every expedition has it’s ups and downs, for me, these usually come towards the end of the day when I am tired and hungry but more open coffee shops would have made it better.

Maxine’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

I found that discovering little treats along the way kept me going, such as the coffee shop in Balmaha.

Also, take the time just to stop and enjoy the views, it’s all about the experience you have as you go.

Favourite place to stay: Kip in the Kirk, Drymen – a treat of a warm homemade scone and tea on arrival plus a lovely help yourself breakfast.

Favourite place to eat: St Mocha Coffee, Balmaha – a small cosy coffee shop with a log burner, comfy sofas and outdoor seating area for the summer months, a perfect place to stop for after Conic Hill.

Read more at Perita Adventures or follow on Instagram or Twitter @MaxineLock7

Charlotte & Sam

From Char Goes Exploring

Charlotte + Sam on West Highland Way
Charlotte + Sam on the trail

About Charlotte + Sam’s hike

Charlotte and Sam did the West Highland Way over Easter in April 2019, initially worrying it was going to be a much busier time but it wasn’t. They were lucky and had amazing weather, blue skies, very unlike the Scottish weather!

They took 6 days to hike the trail, carrying full packs with their tent, fuel, food etc. They wild camped for three nights, one campsite and a hotel.

On the last day, they walked from Kingshouse to the Fort William (21 miles) so opted to have their bags transferred.

Ben Nevis the day after, which took longer because they were so tired!

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • The section of Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy, following the train track was great fun.
  • Seeing Beinn Dorain in the distance with the blue sky behind it is something I will remember forever

Charlotte + Sam’s top tips for hiking the West Highland Way

Make sure you have the right kit. I work in an outdoor retailer and know the importance of good boots. My boyfriend didn’t take my advice and assured me his boots were fine.

Fast forward to the second day when he was hobbling and in excruciating pain from the soles coming off and no ankle support. Many blister plasters and cold water soaks later he was saved by the ‘Green Welly’ Shop in Tyndrum, £200 later we were back on our way!

Also, if you’re planning one night of luxury, stay at the Kingshouse hotel, there is a bath in every room.

Favourite place to stay: Wild camping on the shores of Loch Lomond, the water was calm and as we had never wild camped before it was a great place to start. (Read up on the camping permit zones beforehand).

Favourite place to eat: Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum – vegetarian haggis was amazing.

Read more at chargoesexploring.com or follow Charlotte on Instagram @chargoesexploring

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West Highland Way tips Scotland

Marion Joepera

From Institute of Wander

Marion hiking West Highland Way
Marion hiking on the West Highland Way

About Marion’s hike

Marion walked the West Highland Way together with her friend Kadri Korp at the end of September 2015. Unbelievably, on her 7-day hike, they had no rain for 7 days and beautiful autumnal sunshine every day.

They walked with their 35-litre backpacks, staying in hostels, camping pods and hotels, choosing the cheapest wherever possible.

Most of the accommodation was booked about 3-4 months in advance, with the exception of the Bridge of Orchy hotel that they booked two days before heading due to a booking mistake (see top tips!)

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • Our highlight was seeing the beautiful clouds over Glencoe and hiking across the A82 road towards Kingshouse Hotel.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • The descent into Kinlochleven.
  • Also, the first half of the second day, it was the feeling of “when will the real nature start”, as the first two days felt very civilised to me.

Marion’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

If this is your first big hike and you have not wild camped before, don’t bother with the camping option. Book your accommodation in advance and just hit the road!

Also, don’t book the wrong hotel if you’re booking in advance. There is a hotel in Kingshouse, Lochearnhead which is no-where near Kingshouse Hotel that is directly on the West Highland Way route. 

Favourite place to stay: Bridge of Orchy Hotel – gorgeous rooms, wonderful service. All thumbs up!

Favourite place to eat: Bridge of Orchy Hotel – the food is superb both for dinner and breakfast. I’ve been there 3 times now and the quality never falters.

Read more at instituteofwander.com or follow Marion on Instagram @instituteofwander

Miriam Roth

Miriam at the end of West Highland Way
Miriam and her mum at the end of West Highland Way

About Miriam’s hike

After Miriam’s first attempt in October 2015 ended short of the finish so she returned in April 2019 to complete the West Highland Way, with her mum, hiking over 7 days.

Miriam lucked out with weather both times, during her first attempt in October, the days were warm enough to hike in a t-shirt, although it was cooler at nighttime. During the second trip in April, she had one rainy day but it was generally sunny.

The first attempt she opted for camping but on the second time, she booked accommodation in advance.

Staying in a mix of hostels (Glasgow and Rowardennan), hotels (Drymen, Tyndrum, Inveroran and Fort William), Bungalow on Beinglas Farm campsite and a B&B in Kinlochleven.

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  •  The walk between Rowardennan and Inverarnan. It’s very up and down so you feel like a mountain goat but it has an utterly beautiful landscape.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • The hike uphill from Kinlochleven to the pass leading to Fort William is really exhausting. And the deforestation along the way makes it the least beautiful part of the way for me.

Miriam’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

Use a carrying service! If you have the money and have booked everything in advance, it’s the best thing to do.

We also booked Travel-lite for carrying our backpacks. That was really a good idea. I’m not that sporty and so we had one small backpack to carry between us, for water, food and waterproofs.

If you’re not super fit, the hike will be so much easier without carrying 12 kg of clothes and stuff. It was £45 well spent!

Favourite place to stay: Inveroran Hotel – the staff are super nice! Good beer, wildlife around…no wifi.

Favourite place to eat: Inveroran Hotel – really good and local food.

Follow Miriam on Instagram @minnemiraculix

Hannah Charters

Hannah Charters on West Highland Way
Hannah enjoying the sunshine

About Hannah’s’s hike

Hannah hiked the West Highland Way trail in June 2019, over 7 days, staying mostly in hostels but also a B&B in Kinlochleven, which felt heavenly towards the end.

To her surprise, it was ridiculously hot weather during the hike, although it did rain on her last day so she had a traditional Scottish send-off! 

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • Walking from Inveroran to Kingshouse is truly beautiful. I had a moment of, ‘this is why I’m doing this – I’m not bonkers!’
  • It’s also the first leg of the walk where you can see miles ahead of you, there’s nothing but you and the Scottish Highlands.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • Coming home! I had a serious case of post-West Highland Way blues. It’s really hard to suddenly be sitting in your living room in Chesterfield. Next time I’m going to make sure I have something exciting planned for when I get home!

Hannah’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

If you go during the summer months, Smidge is your best friend! I only had a couple of bites which was a miracle compared to the number of midges!

I’d also say take your time, the West Highland Way trail is so beautiful – make the most of the views.

Favourite place to stay: Kip in the Kirk, Drymen

Favourite place to eat: Highland Getaway, Kinlochleven

Follow Hannah on Instagram @hannahhikes1

Franziska

From Fraenzi Says

Fransiska on the West Highland Way
Franziska on the West Highland Way

About Franzika’s hike

Franziska hiked the West Highland Way in June 2018, like me she did as part of a longer hike – Land’s End to John o’Groats! She lucked out with the weather (remember summer 2018) with some of the warmest temperatures ever measured in Scotland.

Franziska hiked the trail in 6 days, staying at hostels and camping pods on the way, which she booked about four months before, but carrying all her own kit in her backpack. 

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • Swimming in Loch Lomond and the beautiful warm weather. I was so lucky to have such amazing views over the lake and the mountains.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • The military roads, I found them very annoying and hard to walk on.

Franziska’s top tips for hiking the West Highland Way

If the weather is nice and there are no midges take the time to stop and appreciate the amazing landscape. 

There is a great hostel at the train station at Bridge of Orchy, very simple, but it feels special if a train stops right in front of your hostel window.

Favourite places to stay: Youth Hostel in Rowardennan

Favourite places to eat: St Mocha Coffee Shop and the Village Shop in Balmaha.

Read more at Fraenzi Says or follow on Instagram @fraenzisays

Rufino + Lucy

From Rulu Adventures

Rufino and Lucy on the West Highland Way trial
Rufino and Lucy on the trial

About Rufino + Lucy’s hike

Rufino + Lucy took on the challenge of hiking the West Highland Way over 8 days in August 2018.

After a crazy heatwave for much of the summer, unfortunately, rain arrived in time for their hike, with a mix of light drizzle to heavy rain every day of the walk.

They stayed mostly at campsites on the trail, paying on arrival, treating themselves to a night at the YHA at Rowardennan for Lucy’s birthday. They also enjoyed wild camping near Inveroran hotel, where they let you use the facilities if you order food from them.

At the end of the trail, they treated themselves to a B&B in Fort William, which they had booked in advance.

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • The sense of achievement on completing the hike (especially because after day 3 we doubted whether we would be able to)

What was your least favourite part? 

  • The midges were definitely our least favourite part of the hike.

Rufino + Lucy’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

Good waterproof clothing, both a jacket and trousers plus bag cover for your backpack.

Favourite place to stay: Inveroran wild camping spot

Favourite place to eat: Oak Tree Inn, Balamha – a lovely pub serving great food, the brownie was particularly great! 

Read more at Rulu Adventures or follow them on Instagram @rulu.adventures

Ben Ward

Ben on the West Highland Way trial
Ben on the West Highland Way

About Ben’s hike

Ben has walked the West Highland Way a total of three times, most recently in May 2018 for charity.

He set himself a challenge to hike there (and back) completely unsupported whilst camping and carrying his own gear over 11 days, but ended up doing it in 10 days.

He stayed in a mix of different campsites on the trail, as well as fulfilling a dream of wild camping on Rannoch Moor, which was a magical experience for him. 

What was your West Highland Way highlight?

  • Rannoch moor, the section is incredible, fairly easy-going but gives you the most remote feeling on the walk. It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a vast wilderness that makes you feel small and grounded in a fantastic sense.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • Walking along Loch Lomond, this section is pretty hairy at some parts due to the narrowness of the path and the undulating nature of it, rocky parts and slippery too.

Ben’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

Travel as light as you can while still having the essentials.

Also, if you’re camping as I did, then have a dry bag to keep your spare clothes in. After a wet day, there’s nothing better than getting into lovely warm dry clothes.

My advice to anyone thinking about doing the West Highland Way would be to do it. For me, it was life-changing, the experience showed me what I was physically capable of even when I had doubts.

I found that all the people you meet on the walk is on the same wavelength, at campsites in the evening it’s an amazing atmosphere and everyone is so welcoming and kind.

It remains one of the highlights of my life and I now feel compelled to walk it again almost yearly.

Favourite place to stay: Beinglas – a lovely campsite with a brilliant little pub on-site and drying machines for your clothes.

Favourite place to eat: Beinglas campsite – the food is fantastic and so was the beer!

Follow on Instagram @benjaminward_ or Facebook Benjamin Ward Photography

Edward Fitzpatrick

Eddie hiking West Highland Way past Loch Lomond
Eddie hiking the Loch Lomond section

About Eddie’s WHW hike

Eddie has hiked the West Highland Way twice, he loved it that much, the first time in July 2015 and the second time in September 2017, both over 6 days.

On the first trip, he camped and carried his full backpack, which was more of a physical challenge. He found plenty of places to camp along the way but recommends planning your distance well between each campsite and also be mindful of the camping ban at Loch Lomond. 

The second time completing the West Highland Way he had his bags carried by GoHaggis. This made the walking ten times easier and allowed him more time each day for photos etc. 

What was your West Highland Way highlights?

  • Between Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe, the views open up after Loch Lomond stage (which is a slog) and you’re surrounded by vast mountains through Glencoe.
  • Completing the walk is definitely the number one highlight! It was no easy challenge so to get to the end was a big achievement.
  • Small things along the way make it memorable and everyone will have a different moment that they will remember forever. After many days of rain, we were blessed with sunshine and a rainbow over Buachaille Etive Mòr.

What was your least favourite part? 

  • Blisters – this can really destroy all enjoyment and even make you give up, this is why it is important to test your gear before you go, make sure your boots are broke in and not brand new! Also ensuring to pack light will help.

Eddie’s top tip for hiking the West Highland Way

Weight is everything, pack your bag then pack again – your bag might not feel all that heavy until after your first day you will realise that you could probably have packed lighter. Packing light could mean the difference between completing the West Highland Way or not.

Enjoy yourself – it is going to be a challenge and it is going to be tough but try not to rush it, make sure to take lots of photos and capture those memories along the way.

There are lots of places for food so you do not need to carry lots of supplies along the way (however be mindful of the expense in this targeted market)

Read more eddiefitz7.com at follow on Instagram @eddiefitz7

I hope that list of fantastic tips about the hike will help you to plan your adventure. Feel free to ask me any more West Highland Way questions in the comments below.

Happy hiking!

Check out my real West Highland Way hike experience

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West Highland Way tips Scotland
West Highland Way tips Scotland
 
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2 thoughts on “Walking the West Highland Way Tips (From Awesome Hikers)

  1. Frances says:

    Thanks to Maxine for the mention.
    I enjoyed reading all the info and tips! We and many businesses need a lot of awesome hikers to enable us to bounce back from this disaster. We are looking forward to welcoming you all.

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