An intro to... The West Highland Way
Have you ever wanted to walk the West Highland Way? Here is a quick introduction to this mostly easy, low-level trail from Milngavie to Fort William in Scotland.
Where is it and how far is it?
Starting at Milngavie near the city of Glasgow, the West Highland Way makes its way to Fort William 95 miles or 153 kilometres away. It's not an easy route but nor is it outrageously demanding as it passes between the mountains rather than up and over them. Also, because the route is based on many old drove roads and military tracks, it is never that far from help - the only real sense of isolation comes with the crossing of Rannoch Moor. Terry Marsh recommends 6, 8 or 9 day itineraries in his guidebook to walking the West Highland Way so it can be easily done in a week off work with either or both weekends tacked on.
Why should you walk the West Highland Way?
The West Highland Way is mainly low-level and not a challenging or remote walk. Sometimes the noise of traffic will even intrude because of the relative proximity to modernity. However, as author Terry Marsh says, this "rarely impinges on the pleasure gained from the walk."
The Way is a walk of great quality and distinction that passes through a landscape that is second to none.Terry Marsh - author of The West Highland Way Cicerone guide
When should you go?
May to October is probably the better season for walking the West Highland Way - the evenings are longer, the facilities are likely to be open and the weather may be easier to deal with. The weather will always be a consideration when planning a long-distance trek. However, you must be prepared for the best and the worst that Scotland can throw at you. Terry remembers times walking in Scotland when he "encountered weather that... grilled my ears to an acute degree of tenderness and, at others, drenched me so thoroughly that it would have been simpler, but infinitely more embarrassing, to walk with nothing on at all!"
Apart from weather considerations it is worth bearing in mind that motorbike trials happen on parts of the Way in early May. Deer stalking also takes place between mid August and mid October although this should have a minimal impact, if any, on West Highland Way walkers.
Where should you stay?
There is a broad range of accommodation along the route ranging from guest houses and campsites to brilliant youth hostels, bothies and hotels. Cicerone Press provide an accommodation list which is updated regularly. There is also a basic listing in Terry Marsh's guidebook.
Between Balmaha and Drymen the route crosses a geological faultline and the differences between the northern and southern landscapes are striking.