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Scotland Travel Blog April 2023

”Walking the West Highland Way in 5 Days”

A different style of Blog this month as Aury is at the keyboard. I’m taking over the Blog for April because I’ve just finished hiking the West Highland Way, and wanted to share my experience of it.

Signpost at the original finishing line of the West Highland Way in Fort William

For those of you that don’t know, the West Highland Way (let’s call it the WHW from now on to save time) is the most famous Scottish long-distance hiking route.

It roughly follows the path that Cattle Drovers once took when walking their livestock from the West Highlands to markets in Glasgow.

As I found out, people from all over the world come to Scotland just to hike, run, or mountain bike its 96 miles (154 km) length from Milngavie (near Glasgow) to Fort William. Of course, some people do it in the other direction, but I went from South to North.

From chatting with other hikers along the route, it seemed that most people aim to do it in 7 or 8 days. A few scheduled it over 2 weeks so that they could enjoy a more leisurely pace, or to allow themselves time for “Detour Days” in order to climb Munros along the way.

I planned the hike with my two best friends. We all have hectic lives, so felt that 5 days was the maximum time we could afford away from family and work commitments. That meant taking on an average daily hike of 19 miles / 30.5 kms. Being fairly fit and healthy, we reckoned we could achieve that with a reasonable amount of training beforehand.


4 nights. 5 days. 19 miles per day on average. A trial with a backpack full of gear for 5 days quickly led us to the conclusion that we would not be camping, and lugging a heavy rucksack for miles on end each day wasn’t going to work, so we opted for baggage transfer.

Baggage transfer companies are all around the same price. To save money, we decided to share 1 large bag between the 3 of us as we were only traveling for 5 days, and they charge per bag. It’s an excellent service. Drop off in Milngavie before 9 am, walk, then find your bag at your destination’s accommodation. And repeat every day of the trek.

Knowing how busy things can get, we started to book our accommodation 7 months in advance. Booking accommodation this early meant we got the best choice. Some of the stopover points along the road are quite remote and don’t have many options, so my first piece of advice is to get organised with beds as early as possible.

If you want to get your first choice of accommodation, book early. I cannot stress this enough: BOOK EARLY. Like 9 months in advance if you are doing the hike in peak Summer season!

Our route was:

Day 1 - Milngavie (pronounced “mull-guy”) to Balmaha – 20 miles (fair choice of accommodation)

Day 2 - Balmaha to Inverarnan – 21 miles (a very limited range of options)

Day 3 - Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy – 19 miles (Only 2 accommodation options in Bridge of Orchy as it's not much more than a train stop. If you include the Inveroran Hotel, which is  2 miles away, there are 3 options.)

Day 4 - Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven – 21 miles (loads of options in Kinlochleven)

Day 5 - Kinlochleven to Fort William – 15 miles (Lots of accommodation options in Fort William as it is a major tourist town, but you still need to book early.)

We bought a map and that’s all. The official West Highland Way website has a wealth of information, and the West Highland Way Facebook Group is full of lovely people who are more than happy to help and answer any questions you might have.

To be honest, we didn’t even open the map once. The route is very well-marked. If you are ever in doubt, just follow the person in front of you as there’s nearly always someone in sight.

Following other hikers as they cross the Rannoch Moor


We like to think that we’re reasonably fit and fast walkers. For the last 3 years, we’ve been frequent hillwalking partners whilst “bagging” Munros or going on hikes. We’ve always managed to complete our hikes faster than the duration indicated in walking guides. So, for us, with a bit of preparation, 15-21 miles a day didn’t seem too daunting.

Hiking in the Galloway Hills to train for the West Highland Way

A tough Munro would take us around 5 hours, so we estimated that the longest day would be around 8 hours’ walk maximum. We calculated that a 9 am start would see us at our destination around 5-6 pm depending on how many breaks we took.

As I wrote earlier, most people do it in 7 or 8 days, we just couldn’t afford the time. We also know how fast we walk, still enjoying the scenery, so didn’t want to turn up at our destination at 3 pm because the distance wasn’t long enough. But for those of you who enjoy a leisurely pace with lots of breaks, a stop for morning coffee, nice lunch in a coffee shop, and a slice of cake in the afternoon, please plan it over 7 or 8 days, or more if you fancy. The West Highland Way website has a few duration options so pick what’s right for you, I’m only recounting my own experience and explaining why we decided to do it the way we did.

We prepared simply by going hillwalking or hiking most weekends between February and July. A mountain or a long-distance walk, building on the distance every week. The longest we did was 24 km, and this was 5 weeks prior to WHW. Unfortunately, despite having worn the same hiking boots and socks throughout the preparation, I developed horrendous blisters on 5 toes and both heels. So I decided to rest my feet and grow some skin up until the starting date.


Starting point of the West Highland Way in Milngavie

On a bright Sunday morning, we were dropped off in Milngavie, handed our big black bag over to the luggage transport guys and started The Way. It was a wonderful feeling, at last, to be doing something we love the three of us together. We even had t-shirts made with the map and all our stopover points!

West Highland Way T Shirt with map of our 5 day route legs

I’m not going to bore you with a day-by-day recount of the experience. What I will do is give pointers based on what I experienced.


In Scotland, it’s unpredictable. You have to plan for sunshine and rain in the same day, so wear layers that are breathable and pack waterproofs.

Sunshine on the West Highland Way

The heavens opened at the end of the first day, but our B&B owner met us at her front door with a laundry basket, and we stripped down as she offered to put everything in her tumble dryer. Proper Highland Hospitality, as the B&B owners along the WHW are used to greeting hikers and know how to cater for their needs.

Appropriate clothing for coping with wet weather on the West Highland Way


My Dad always said when I was growing up: “The little beast does not eat the big one”. That’s exactly what I think about midges. Yes, they’re annoying, but they won’t eat you. Keep moving. Slap on the Smidge or Skin So Soft, and get yourself some midge nets if you’re camping in late spring and summer.

For the evenings, I recommend Boots Soltan After Sun Lotion with Insect Repellent. Works a treat.

They can be a nuisance, but don’t be put off by them.


Drymen, Balmaha, Tyndrum, Crianlarich, Kinlochleven, and Fort William all have a decent variety of B&Bs, Inns, and Hotels so I would advise to book somewhere quite close to a restaurant. Remember, you’ll have walked miles each day, so you want the shortest distance to food after you’ve dumped your bags, had an invigorating shower, and put on some fresh clothes.

Don’t underestimate how weary you’ll be at the end of each day. The most hilarious quote from our WHW adventure was when one of my hiking friends asked the waitress at the Oak Tree Inn if the toilet was far from our table… We’d just walked 19 miles that day!!

From my own experience, I can recommend the following accommodation:

Inverarnan: Beinglass Campsite has pods that are great. They have good shower facilities and a great pub doing exactly the type of food you need after a long day’s walk. And great cold beers on tap!

Bridge of Orchy: The Railway Sleeper bunkhouse is basic but the staff and guests are super friendly. It sleeps 10-12 in a mixed dorm so it’s maybe not a place you’d want to stay if you’re a solo female.

Inveroran: If you go 2 miles further along the track from Bridge of Orchy, you come to the Inveroran Hotel. This was the best stay on the hike and I’m very glad I spent the little bit extra for this! Fantastic place, highly recommend it. Warm and helpful Nadia will do all she can to re-energise you for the next day.

First beer at the Inveroran Hotel

Nadia’s husband, Ewan, is a skilled chef who makes the best food on the WHW. Everyone says it, not just me. Breakfast was absolutely awesome.

Glorious breakfast at the Inveroran Hotel

I can’t comment on Glencoe Mountain Resort or Kingshouse Hotel as I’ve not stayed there. but they are popular stops between Bridge of Orchy and Kinlochleven.

Campsites are in most places, but you can also wild camp outside of the “no camping zone” along Loch Lomond. If you do camp, please take all your rubbish away with you. The WHW is notably free from litter, so let’s keep it that way.


If you have a choice of a room with a shower or a room with a bath, go for the bath. I normally opt for a shower rather than a bath. For me, a bath is a waste of time and water. But in my Kinlochleven B&B, after 18 miles with blisters and sore hips, I saw the bottle of Radox Muscle Soak and decided to try a long “Bath Soak”. I came out a new woman, it was incredible. Still had the blisters, but the hips were as good as new!

Radox Muscle Soak - works wonders after a hard hike on the West Highland Way

HILLS AND MUNROS YOU COULD ADD ON (if you have the energy)

There are many hills and munros that you can climb or bag along the way, so if this is something that you want to do, plan in advance. For example, schedule an extra hour or so to take the Conic Hill detour. Stay a couple of nights in Beinglas and do Ben Lomond. Consider a route where you stay in Glencoe Mountain Resort or Kingshouse so you can do the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor.

Buachaille Etive Mor mountain with hiking boots in foreground

Or wild camp, and you can do whatever you like, whenever you like!

These are just a few examples, there are many more along the way.

And of course, if you have the energy, there is mighty Ben Nevis once you reach Fort William!

Ben Nevis viewed from Corpach shore


There are lots of little cafes, honesty boxes and other refreshments options between Milngavie and Balmaha, but after that it becomes a bit more difficult to sustain oneself on café stops. B&Bs and hotels will offer packed lunches. Make sure you have a good breakfast wherever you stay.

Snacks/lunch: apart from 1 day, I lived of cup-a-soup (I brought 2 sachets per day that I would prepare each morning in my thermos flask), cereal bars and biltong for lunch. My friend Carlo from Braw Coo makes the best biltong in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s packed full of protein to give you that essential boost in the middle of the day, and it’s available online for delivery prior to your trip!

A typical lunch for me on the West Highland Way

Dinner: There are restaurants in the main villages along the route (e.g. Drymen / Balmaha / Crianlarich / Tyndrum / Bridge of Orchy / Kinlochleven). But these are small villages so make sure you book in advance, or you’ll need to be prepared to cook your own supper.

Some recommendations:

  • Balmaha: Oak Tree Inn – great variety of good, filling food, cold beers, friendly atmosphere.
  • Crianlarich / Tyndrum: Artisan Café – Located near the A82 a couple of miles east of Tyndrum, follow the signs on the path. It’s roughly halfway between Inverarnan and Inveroran.
  • Bridge of Orchy: Inveroran Hotel - I’ve mentioned it already, but it’s so good it has to be repeated! The menu changes regularly depending on what’s available and what they want to cook, but everything looked delicious and it was very hard to choose!
  • Glencoe Mountain Resort: I didn’t actually stop here as I had my cup-a-soup ready in my rucksack (and I can’t stand waste), but there is a café here that I’ve used on previous visits. This is roughly halfway between Bridge of Orchy/Inveroran and Kinlochleven so a great spot for lunch. Kingshouse Hotel is a mile or so further along (you can see it from very far ahead and it takes forever to reach!) but it’s much more expensive so good to know about the cheaper café option.
  • Kinlochleven: Tailrace Inn – Nothing exceptional about the food, but it filled me up nicely and I met lots of the other WHW hikers I had encountered throughout the day. And the beer was ace! A good pub for meeting like-minded folk to swap WHW stories.
  • Fort William: Highland Cinema Cafe - A great place to end the hike with a beer and delicious pizza. Something to look forward to on the last weary mile. 

Having a beer with my new WHW hiking buddies at teh Tailrace Inn at Kinlochleven


It's an obvious thing but fill up your bottle before you leave in the morning, and then if you run out, fill up in the streams. Don’t worry, we do this all the time on our hikes and I’ve never got sick from it.

Just make sure you fill up from a stream where the water is flowing fast, that the water’s clear, and ideally try to take it from a stream that is exposed to sunlight as UV kills most bugs.

Drinking from a stream in Scotland


If your feet allow it, I recommend going on some of the detours signposted along the route of the WHW. For example…

When you are in Kinlochleven you should try to fit in a visit to the Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall. The path to the base of the waterfall is clearly signposted and starts from the car park beside St Paul’s Church in the village. A walk of ~10 mins will bring you to the entrance to a narrow gorge that you can climb through using a series of metal poles and grab handles strategically placed along the gorge walls. It’s worth the effort as the waterfall cascades into a pool that looks like something from a Timotei shampoo advert. It would have been very inviting for a dip if I’d had a swimsuit.

Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall at Kinlochleven

And just before the descent into Glen Nevis on the last leg to Fort William, there is a sign for Dun Deardail Fort. My feet were already wrecked so a little detour wasn’t going to make a big difference! I am glad I decided to investigate, as it is one of the highlights of my trek. It only added 20 minutes to my day and I was rewarded by breath-taking views of a part of Glen Nevis I had never been to.

View from Dun Deardail Fort looking down on Glen Nevis


The internet is full of reports and advice but at the end of the day, you know what you can do better than anyone else.

The High Road or the Low Road along Loch Lomond: one of my friends took the Low Road, which is a scramble and very often requires use of hands, unsure footing, but is great fun. My other friend and I took the High Road as my feet were already pretty bad at that stage. It’s a nice scenic route, with a little bit of scramble. But I’m hoping to do the Low Road this summer, because I enjoy a scramble.

Devil’s Staircase after Kingshouse: How hard you find it will depend on your fitness, but it's not as hard as a lot of the Munros I’ve bagged. Certainly not as long: it took me 30 minutes to get to the top. However, the subsequent descent into Kinlochleven took 2 hours…

On the long descent from the Devils Staircase to Kinlochleven

Rannoch Moor: a lot of people comment that this was their favourite part. I didn’t particularly enjoy it myself as the path is a mix of stones and tarmac and it’s really hard underfoot. Plus, it rained that fine constant wet rain all day so I couldn’t see much scenery and my opinion is maybe tainted by that!


Until I did it myself, I couldn’t understand why people would want to do the WHW more than once. But I get it now. People keep coming back because of the little things that happen along the way which all combine to make it such a fantastic experience.

  • Being welcomed by a host holding a laundry basket, no questions asked, so your sodden clothes can get tumble-dried ready for the morning.
  • Reaching the iconic landmarks and going “oh, here it is!” like the circular sculpture at Rowardennan.

Sculpture at Rowardennan

  • Doing it with friends who help you when you struggle.
  • Posting your progress on WhatsApp, so your loved ones share the adventure, and then getting their messages of encouragement just when you need them.
  • Laughing at some of the funny signs planted here and there just to make you chuckle.
  • Meeting the same people everyday, overtaking each other several times a day depending on when you take breaks (if you do).
  • And then, having a pint with them in the evening and discovering about their lives.
  • A nice bath.
  • Reaching the top of the Devil’s Staircase and going “Oh, is that it?”.
  • Seeing your family waiting for you at the Ben Nevis Centre so you can finish the way with them at your side.
  • Knowing your limits. Don't worry if you need to quit on your first attempt. The Way will always be there. In fact, I might just book to do it again in 2024…

Watch this space!

Aurelia at the end of the West Highland Way at Gordon Square in Fort William

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