West Highland Way
When it comes to breathtaking scenery, The West Highland Way National Trail is hard to beat.
As such it's one of the most popular of the 18 National Trails in Britain.
Running from Milngavie (a northern suburb of Glasgow), past Loch Lomond (Britain's largest fresh water 'lake') and through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park it never fails to deliver.
Awesome munros such as Ben Nevis (Britain's highest mountain) and striking valleys such as the world famous Glencoe jostle with each other to leave you with the most memorable impression of the trail.
That said, there are tricky sections, and many, such as that over Rannoch Moor, are quite exposed.
Always go properly prepared and equipped, after checking the weather forecast and letting people know your planned itinerary.
From end to end, the West Highland Way National Trail is some 93 miles in length. Due to the varying abilities of walkers and the very changeable nature of the Scottish weather, the trail offers good flexibility as to start and end points for trail sections.
Due to the great popularity of the West Highland Way, and the remote, sparsely populated nature of the land you'll be walking through, it's advised to book your accommodation in advance, especially in the summer months. The most popular time to walk this trail is in May, so be extra sure to pre-book if planning a trip then.
Another factor to consider is midges - very small, flying, biting insects. The West of Scotland midges are apparently amongst the most enthusiastic in the world and, while not dangerous unless you have an extreme allergy, can be very annoying. So, be sure to take good insect / midge repellent.Seemingly, they tend to be less active in strong sunlight, which helps explain why you often see clouds of them hanging about on the periphery of wooded sections.
While we can't vouch for the validity of the assertion, it's conjectured that midges may be attracted to the colours light blue and yellow, so you might try not wearing those colours.
Midges aside, The West Highland Way National Trail has a great deal to offer - from jaw-dropping, rugged scenery steeped in history through wildlife ranging from red deer and golden eagles, to scenery offering beautiful dells, streams and waterfalls, with much to see and do along the way.
The West Highland Way National Trail Starts here. A suburb of Northern Glasgow, the Milngavie start is a great contrast to what lies ahead of you on the trail.
Milngavie - Drymen
Leaving Milngavie you quickly enter a natural habitat, even though the city lies beyond the pathway you're following. The going is easy as you follow the Allander Water through a number of parks, woods and heathland making towards Craigallian and Carbeth Lochs. Hereafter, you'll start to glimpse the landscape that lies ahead of you as the Campsie Fells and Ben Lomond hove into distant view.
There's still a good bit of lowland walking to be done though, before you find yourself amidst this mountainous scenery, your crossing of the Highland fault line not happening until the next section beyond your current destination of Drymen.
Drymen - Rowardennan
The scenery changes dramatically on this section of the West Highland Way National Trail, going from rolling farmland north of Drymen through forest and moorland before crossing into the Loch Lomond And The Trossachs National Park. Herein, you descend from Conic Hill to follow the shore of Loch Lomond towards Ben Lomond, your destination being Rowardennan and the end of this section.
Facilities in Rowardennan are limited and many walkers choose to make the ferry trip from there to Inverbeg on the other side of Loch Lomond, where more extensive facilities and travel links are on offer.
Rowardennan - Inverarnan
This is generally held to be the toughest section of the West Highland Way National Trail, mainly due to the requirement to negotiate some tricky terrain north of Inversnaid. Following the east shore of Loch Lomond, the trail takes you through quite dense woodland for most of the way, albeit interspersed with beautiful views over Loch Lomond and environs.
Highlights on this section of the West Highland Way National Trail include the Inversnaid falls and Rob Roy's Cave, though the cave can be difficult to get to. The terrain opens out once you reach Creag A Mhadaidh and carries on with easier walking all the way to Inverarnan.
Many people prefer to end this section at Ardlui which, though tiny, offers better transport links and a wider range of local services.
Inverarnan - Tyndrum
On this section, the route follows the river Falloch for much of the way, through Glen Falloch to Crianlarich, then on via Strath Fillan with its wider views and lightly forested sections. Tyndrum lies at the end of this leg and, though small, it’s a popular tourism hub, offering much in the way of local facilities.
Tyndrum - Bridge of Orchy
The shortest and easiest section on the West Highland Way National Trail. If you're not overnighting away from the trail, be sure to stock up on supplies before leaving Tyndrum as the next shopping centre is not until Kinlochleven two sections further on.
This section of the trail is characterised by imposing, 'quintessentially Highland' views of rugged hills mountains dwarfing heather strewn glens and valleys. The 2,956ft Beinn Odhar offers a striking backdrop early on, with the 3,530ft munro, Beinn Dorain looming large as you approach your destination point, Bridge of Orchy. There is a hotel here, as well as transport links via bus and train.
Bridge of Orchy - Kingshouse
This section is held by many to be the most engaging and scenic section of the West Highland Way National Trail. Exposed and remote in places, wooded and tranquil in others, this section past the BlackMount range towards Glencoe and Kingshouse serves up atmospheric scenes in abundance. Following the old Glencoe drove road a ways after Loch Tulla, you make an ascent through forest onto high moorland and the sights that make this section so highly regarded.
Daunting in bad weather, inspiring in good, Rannoch Moor offers an isolated counter to the munros of the Blackmount as you thread your way between the two heading for the enchantingly picturesque Ba Bridge.
After this, you head back into wide open scenery past the Glencoe chairlift, heading for White Corries and the Glencoe range. As you near White Corries, you are presented with the spectacular, atmospheric views into Glencoe, with Glen Etive beyond, its entrance guarded by the 3,350ft Buachille Etive Mor and 3,609ft Sron na Creise.
Thereafter you head over the A82 and on to the Kingshouse Hotel. There is a bus stop here if you're needing to make an onward journey or travel to overnight digs.
Kingshouse - Kinlochleven
Another striking section of the West Highland Way National Trail with stunning views over Glencoe and Blackmount, then the munros of the Mamores to be seen from the top of the Devil's Staircase. The section begins by following the old military road away from Kingshouse through spectacular scenery past Glen Etive and Glencoe to the ascent up the Devil's Staircase.
After travelling along the flatter path at the top of the staircase gaping at the views, the path beings its descent down towards the valley of Coire Mhoraire and on towards Kinlochleven.
Aluminium production has played a big part in Kinlochleven's make up, and there is an aluminium visitors' centre to visit which details it all.
Kinlochleven - Fort William
This final section of the West Highland Way National Trail sees you leaving Kinlochleven and making your way up onto the old military road heading for Fort William, the utilitarian capital of the Western Highlands. The route winds away from Loch Leven, past the Mamores and on towards Glen Nevis, with Ben Nevis towering above on the other side of the glen.
There's a real sense of remote emptiness on this section, especially so before you reach Lundavra and more forested ground. You then continue through a mix of moorland and wooded dells before you reach the Nevis Forest and start your descent down through Glen Nevis and on to your final destinatino, Fort William.
You can continue reading about other National Trails and Long Distance Walks using the links at the bottom of the page.