West Highland Way

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Rannoch Moor, on the West Highland Way

The West Highland Way is a linear long distance footpath through the west of the Highlands. It is 96 miles long, running from Milngavie in Stirlingshire (55°56’28"N, 4°19’5"W), north of Glasgow, to Fort William in Inverness-shire (56°49’17"N, 5°5’39"W). There is a rather hefty amount of hill walking to be done on the route.

The highest point on the path is The Devils Staircase near Kingshouse in Perthshire (56°40’35"N, 4°54’49"W) which is at 1,804 feet. In all, it runs 96 miles, passing through five counties: Stirlingshire, Dunbartonshire, Perthshire, Argyllshire and Inverness-shire.

The path is managed by the 'West Highland Way Management Group', consisting of the relevant local councils and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority. About 85,000 people use the path every year, of whom over 30,000 walk the entire route.


The trail 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.[1] In June 2010, the West Highland Way was co-designated as part of the International Appalachian Trail.[2]

The route in general

WHW route marker

The path uses many ancient roads, including drovers' roads, military roads and old coaching roads, and is usually 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. Indeed, 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 (approx 25 minutes by train from Glasgow Central Station), where a granite obelisk is located. Most walkers arrive at the 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 by way of Rowardennan and Inversnaid to Inverarnan. Rowardennan is the northernmost road access; available on the east shore of the loch from the south. There is road access to Inversnaid from the east, by way of Aberfoyle.

The Devil's Staircase

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, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, and many walkers crown their achievement of walking the Way by climbing to the summit.

The path winds towards to Loch Lomond
Towards Ben Oss
North of Tyndrum
The King's House Hotel

The route in sections

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:[3]

County Colour code

Milngavie to Drymen (Stirlingshire, 12 miles)

The path officially starts in Milngavie town centre, where a granite obelisk stands. Most walkers arrive at the railway station located close by. Milngavie is a town located 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. This affords an opportunity to explore adjacents hills such as Dumgoyne 1,401 feet) or the small but heavily wooded Dumgoyach (354 feet). Finally the Way reaches the village of Drymen.

The southern end of the West Highland Way
Milngavie to Carbeth 5 miles
Carbeth to Drymen 7 miles

Drymen to Balmaha (Stirlingshire, 8 miles)

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'[4]) at 1,175 feet. The village of Balmaha on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond is the next habitation reached.

Drymen to Balmaha 8 miles

Balmaha to Rowardennan (Stirlingshire, 7 miles)

The path heads in a northerly direction alongside the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, passing through Rowardennan Forest before reaching the village Rowardennan.

Balmaha to Rowardennan 7 miles

Rowardennan to Crianlarich (Stirlingshire, Dunbartonshire & Perthshire, 20 miles)

The path leaves Rowardennan and heads in a northerly direction alongside the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, passing a cavern known as Rob Roy's cave, before reaching the village of Crianlarich.

Rowardennan to Inversnaid 7 miles
Inversnaid to Inverarnan 7 miles
Inverarnan to Crianlarich 6 miles

Crianlarich to Tyndrum (Perthshire, 6 miles)

Crianlarich to Tyndrum 6 miles

Tyndrum to Glencoe (Perthshire to Argyll, 19 miles)

Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy 7 miles
Bridge of Orchy to Inveroran 2 miles
Inveroran to Kingshouse 10 miles

Glencoe to Kinlochleven (Argyll, 9 miles)

Glen Coe is reckoned one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in the Highlands. 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.

Kingshouse to Kinlochleven 9 miles

This brings the path to the border of Inverness-shire at Loch Leven.

Kinlochleven to Fort William (Inverness-shire, 15 miles)

Approaching Fort William
Kinlochleven to Fort William 15 miles
The northern end of the West Highland Way
Ben Nevis from the way


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 Highland weather is particularly variable and often unforgiving, it must be respected with proper forecasting and gear.

Ultramarathons on the West Highland Way

Jez Bragg setting a new race record, 15:44:50, on 24 June 2006

There are several ultramarathons held on the West Highland Way. The Highland Fling Race is an annual 53-mile race from Milngavie to Tyndrum.[5] The Devil O' The Highlands Footrace is 43 miles from Tyndrum to Fort William, along the northern section of the way. The West Highland Way Race is an annual 95-mile race along the full south–north distance of the West Highland Way.

West Highland Way Race

The West Highland Way Race has been run in its current form since 1991. The race starts at 1 am on the Saturday nearest to the Summer Solstice.[6]

Bobby Shields (Clydesdale Harriers) and Duncan Watson (Lochaber) initiated the idea of racing over this 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 93 miles (not 95 miles), and had 8 miles more on tarmac, with around 500 feet less climbing. After around 60 miles, 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 95 miles with only 10 miles 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.[7] 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, 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.

122 runners finished in 2009 and 109 finished in 2010. 514 have now completed the challenge. Jim Drummond has 14 finishes. The race record holder is Paul Giblin of Paisley with a time of 15:07:29, set in June 2013. The female record holder is Lucy Colquhoun of Aviemore with a time of 17:16:20, set in 2007.

Towns, villages or hotels along the Way

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

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about West Highland Way)
Approach to Glen Coe


  • The West Highland Way Official Guide, Bob Aitken and Roger Smith, mercat press ISBN 1-84183-066-6
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