Last April, I decided to celebrate spring with yet another long distance hike. One that I look back on with a huge smile on my face: the West Highland Way. I’ve been collecting all things preparation in this Wayfaring Guide to the West Highland Way. Meant for all those wanting to embark on this magical journey through the Scottish Highlands.
In the first part of the guide you can find all the basic information regarding the West Highland Way. Since you are reading this, I guess you’ve decided to embark on this adventure, yeey! Now it is time to get yourself sorted and plan the next steps of your journey.
Getting lost is rather hard as the entire West Highland Way is marked with the thistle sign. If you’re planning to go out and about in winter or early spring, snow might cover the trail. In this case, it obviously would be smart to carry another form of navigation with you.
I just stated it is very hard to get lost, I seem to be preprogrammed for it. In anticipation of this, I thus downloaded the gpx route for my phone, which came in super handy when I suddenly found myself off-trail in the midst of a forest!
You could plan out your route from start to finish, depending on the amount of days you want to walk. The Official West Highland Way website offer many different itineraries.
I estimated to walk for 6 days and decided on an itinerary. The first day I was so excited I decided to keep on walking and abandoned my initial route. Eventually, this is the route I ended up walking:
- Day 1: Milngavie to Milarrochy Bay (35km)
- Day 2: Milarrochy Bay to Inversnaid (19km)
- Day 3: Inversnaid to Auchtertyre (25km)
- Day 4: Auchtertyre to Kingshouse (35km)
- Day 5: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven (15km)
- Day 6: Kinlochleven to Fort William (25km)
Apart from the amount of days you want to walk, your route will depend mainly on how you will be spending the night.
(wild) camping or accommodation
You get up, you open the zip of your tent and look out over Loch Lomond. The West Highland Way was my first time wild camping, and I was sold: it’s the ultimate freedom experience!
That said, if you enjoy the idea and have the right gear, I’d advice you to go for it! When wild camping, you can be as flexible as you want, making it easier to adjust your journey to the needs of your body. If you like to have a shower now and then, they’re also a couple of campsites along the way. I’ve spend three nights on campsites and two in the wild. A good mix, although if I’d go again I would decide to do the entire thing wild camping.
A note on wildcamping: Although it is permitted, make sure to leave no trace or cause any problems. Also be aware that between March and September there are some camping bylaws in place within the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park areas that forbid you to camp or require you to have a permit. Make sure to check them out before you go.
If wild camping is not an option for you, I’d advice you to pick a route that fits you and book your accommodation accordingly. In peak season it can be rather busy, so I guess booking in advance would be a good thing. As I’ve been camping, I cannot offer any good suggestions. Definitely check out the West Highland Way website or give it a good google.
eating along the way
The most important thing besides sleeping is food (of course!). Carrying food equals carrying extra weight, but it also cheaper than buying lunch or dinner at a pub. I brought some the basics with me, and stocked up in Tyndrum. As far as I can remember I’ve walked past a pub or cafe every day, so plenty of possibilities to eat out. If you are a cheap skate like me, bring your own food (it will taste good anyways when you’re hungry) and enjoy the occasional cake, coffee or beer as a reward!
Your accommodation and food choices will eventually determine how much money you need to bring along. In case you are planning to eat out every day, make sure to keep account with that. I brought enough cash for the entire hike. It wasn’t a lot as I didn’t really need much. Although there are ATMs along the way, keep in mind you always run out of money at the wrong time.
You know what the fun part is… you can do this all by yourself! There are many people walking by themselves and the trail feels safe. If you’re up for a chat, there are lots of people around that you can connect with. I met some awesome people along the way, with which I shared some parts of the trail and camped with at night. Some days I didn’t feel like it and just walked by myself, or walk together in silence. It’s all possible and it’s your choice entirely!
That was part two of a Wayfaring Guide to the West Highland Way. Hope this will help you to further plan your journey. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have more questions. I’ll be happy to answer them. The third and last part of this guide will be all about the final preparations before you embark on your West Highland Way adventure!
See you soon!