The West Highland (Half)Way: Overview

The West Highland Way is a beautiful and classic walk in the highlands of Scotland, and I would heartily recommend sections of it or the full 95 miles for a challenging and worthwhile trek. My friend and I walked the second (and arguably better) half of the West Highland Way in October 2018 over three and a half days. This is a little account of our adventure, which will hopefully offer some helpful information for other walkers.

This post is an overview of our itinerary, accommodations, and food. You can also find notes on & photos of each section of our walk: Crianlarich to Tyndrum (Day 1), Tyndrum to Glencoe (Day 2), Glencoe to Kinlochleven (Day 3), and Kinlochleven to Fort William (Day 4).

The itinerary (how far and how long)

It’s not too difficult to find a variety of suggested itineraries on the Internet with the official West Highland Way website and Walk Highlands site being good places to start.

I walked the better part of the West Highland Way in October 2011 on my own in two parts: Milngavie to Tyndrum (53 miles) over 4 days, and then Tyndrum to Kingshouse (19 miles) over 2 days. I remember a good portion of the southern section of the Way (mainly along Loch Lomond) being a bit of a slog with lots of climbing over tree roots. Although I was not very fit in 2011 and I had elected to carry what turned out to be way too many things, I have since heard others agree that the Loch Lomond portion of the Way is challenging. Remembering this and knowing we had limited days for our walk in 2018, we decided to do only the northern section. 

Below are mileage and hours walked for both my solo 2011 walk and the 2018 walk with my friend. I have been inconsistent with tracking when my hours count includes or excludes breaks. If we are just walking on relatively flat ground and not stopping to take photos and dawdling, we do about 3 miles per hour (which is exactly what the Naismith Rule, named for the Scottish mountaineer, tells us) but if we include breaks, lunch, photography, &c. then it’s about 2 miles per hour.

2011 Walk Itinerary

  • Day 1: Milngavie to Balmaha – 18 miles (8.5 hours)
  • Day 2: Balmaha to Inversnaid – 14.5 miles (8 hours)
  • Day 3: Inversnaid to Crianlarich – 13.5 miles (7 hours)
  • Day 4: Crianlarich to Tyndrum – 7 miles (3.25 hours)
  • Day 5: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy – 6.5 miles (2.5 hours)
  • Day 6: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse – 12.5 miles (4.5 hours)

2018 Walk Itinerary

Accommodation & Food

Although things have changed a bit since then, here’s where I stayed in 2011:

  • Inversnaid: a lovely hostel in a converted church with meals for a fee and a good drying room
  • Crianlarich: the mainstay Scottish Youth Hostel has good kitchen facilities and a short walk away: shops and the Rod & Reel Pub (good food & pints, visited in September 2018)
  • Bridge of Orchy: the affordable bunkhouse at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel is unfortunately no longer open; they have a restaurant with food for purchase
  • Kingshouse: the Kingshouse Hotel which is undergoing extensive renovations and will open again in 2019

In October 2018, we stayed at the following places (with some notes on amenities and food options):

  • Tyndrum: the cozy Kilbride Lodge B&B run by the lovely Kate
    • Hot breakfast included (with *real French press coffee*) and bagged lunch for £7
    • We ate dinner at the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum (many options; I had fish & chips and a bottle of beer)
    • Glengarry House B&B is also so lovely and offer a wonderful (seemingly bottomless) breakfast (stayed in September 2018)
  • Near Kingshouse: at Glencoe Mountain Resort in a “hobbit house”
    • Need to bring your own sleeping bag or rent one (we rented for a £5 fee.)
    • They have some pretty harsh TripAdvisor reviews, but don’t be deterred: think of this as slightly elevated camping and your expectations will be about right. Still, it will be good when Kingshouse Hotel is open again.
    • We ate an ok dinner at the Glencoe Mountain Resort Lodge (limited options; I had fish & chips and a bottle of beer)
    • For breakfast the next morning we had our own instant oatmeal cups that we carried with us (there is a kettle in the hobbit house); for lunch that day we ate oat cakes, cheese, fruit, bars, and chocolate that we carried with us.
  • Kinlochleven: the very walker-friendly Blackwater Hostel
    • Big kitchen, bedding included, good drying hut, towels for rent
    • We ate a delicious dinner at the Highland Getaway Inn (lots of options; I had salmon, mashed potatoes & veggies, glass of wine, and dram of whisky)
    • There’s a Co-op in town for groceries
  • Fort William: 6 Caberfeidh B&B
    • We booked here because the Fort William Backpackers Hostel was full.
    • Fine enough but not terribly walker-friendly (we were soaked when we arrived and they didn’t really know what to do with us.) I am sure there are better places to stay in Fort William, although this place had the advantage of being a short walk to the high street and to the train station. And it had a rain shower.
    • We had an excellent celebratory dinner at The Crofter on the high street. I can also recommend Cobb’s near the train station. Both friendly, warm, and cozy.

Walking map

I strongly recommend getting a paper walking guide to follow along and help with the planning process. I’ve used & found very helpful the West Highland Way Footprint map. (That link will take you to the UK-based book, map, and guide supplier Cordee because let’s avoid Amaz0n whenever possible with its appalling workers’ rights. Workers make poor wages while the CEO has become the richest person on earth. Income inequality is killing us.)

Notes from the walk

Now for the more detailed notes and photos from our October 2018 walk:

6 thoughts on “The West Highland (Half)Way: Overview

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