Great Treks: West Highland Way, Scotland

Varied terrain, pastoral landscapes, wildlife and sweeping vistas
By Justin Walker & Lauren Smith March 4, 2015 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

WENDING ITS WAY north from Milngavie, this was Scotland’s first designated long-distance trek, and is still one of the UK’s most popular. Passing from the lowlands into the highlands, much of the Way makes use of ancient routes to take you through some spectacular terrain.

Starting out on country roads and an old railway track, the way passes through Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and over Conic Hill before reaching the famous Loch Lomond. Circling the eastern shore of the loch, the terrain will grow more rugged as you head north. Along the way, you’ll pass through some small, picture-perfect towns that are ideal for restocking (and a quick ale), so you can carry a lighter pack.

One of the highlights of the walk is crossing Rannoch Moor – you’ll follow the line of the road across a seemingly endless heathery moor, with distant mountains on every side. You eventually approach Buachaille Etive Mor – one of the most iconic and photographed mountains of Scotland. Climb the zigzagging Devil’s Staircase to the summit and you’ll be greeted with views of the rough terrain ahead.

The final stage of the Way will get you through Kinlochleven down into Glen Nevis, and the town off Fort William. The Way doesn’t actually send you up Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, but does take you past the visitor’s centre at the bottom, leaving you a choice – tack on a quick 1344m ascent or head to the finish line.

Accommodation isn’t an issue – you can wild camp in small numbers without a permit, and there are also bothies, micro-lodges and campsites along the way. Of course, for anyone looking for a bit more comfort, there are countless B&Bs. A much greater concern is the weather – you’ll need to check forecasts as regularly as you can, and be ready for wet weather as well as warm, and also be prepared to battle with some boggy landscapes.