West Highland Way

Glasgow to Fort William through the Highlands · May 2019

Roughly a decade after first hiking through Scotland, I decided to tackle the WHW once more as a tiny preparation for the Haute Route Pyrenees later in summer.

I take the bus from Ghent to London and then board a nightbus to Glasgow rather than flying. My trip along the West Highland Way, everything included, cost under €150. I also spent more time in buses than hiking on the trail. Next time, I'll give trains a try.

I do have some time to kill before boarding the nightbus so I go for a hike through downtown London ending with watching the sun set in Hyde Park. I really enjoy sunsets.

West Highland Way campspots
Day 1: Milngavie > Milarrochy

After arriving in Glasgow early morning, a short train ride to Milngavie, the starting point of the West Highland Way. I sit down for a coffee in a sad attempt to recover from my nightly busride. Normally I never drink coffee, but this felt like a good moment to start. It takes a while to finish my soup bowl of double coffee and rearrange my pack but late morning I'm all ready to hike out towards Fort William. The sun is shining. This will be a great day of hiking.

Soon I catch up to the girl drinking a more modest coffee the table next to me. We start chatting and hike together the rest of the day. In stark contrast to last time, the climb over Conic Hill did offer some splendid views. After an ice cream break - need to restock those calories - we make it to the Milarrochy Bay campsite early evening where I set up my tent on the exact same spot as a decade ago. I'm eager to finish my noodles dinner and after some talking, get into my sleeping bag.

Day 2: Milarrochy > Crianlarich

Early morning wakeup something. I pack up around 6 and hike out soon after. And soon after that, it starts raining. Hello Scotland. I knew there was something missing the day before. Most of the day is spent along the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Didn't really take any breaks as the rain came down all day. A decent marathon into the day, I put up my tent on a flat spot along the trail. A bit after the sidetrail to Crianlarich.

Day 3: Crianlarich > Devil's Staircase

Still raining. I plan to make it at least to Kingshouse to ensure I'll get to Fort William in time for my transport back to Glasgow the next day. Halfway through the morning I pass Bridge of Orchy. I stop to have a little breakfast and a hot drink. I check the weather forecast. More rain. The hard part of taking breaks is you have to mentally prepare yourself to get going again. Even more so when all you see is rain looking out the window.

A small sidetrip to the Glencoe Mountain Resort as there was a big sign saying they had a dry room. Well there was a damp container filled with wet stuff. The bathroom however had a blow hand dryer which I used to at least somewhat dry my gear and warm myself. Only to get wet again later. Maybe safe myself the trouble next time.

Around 4 in the afternoon I make it to Kingshouse where I take another break enjoying a hot drink. Only to hike out in the rain again. I finally set up my tent halfway up the Devil's Staircase just before sunset. Not the best spot and gusts of wind made it challenging to pitch. Never been happier to switch to my dry sleeping clothes and get inside my sleeping bag.

Day 4: Devil's Staircase > Fort William

A bit before dawn, the wind and rain finally settled down. It's still cloudy, but I'll take it. The last stretch to Fort William is quite enjoyable up until the last kilometers roadwalking to the end sign. After some grocery shopping I decide to spend the afternoon idling in the park before taking the bus back to Glasgow. Nightbus to London. Flixbus to Ghent.

Planning

As I already had all the proper hiking gear and planned on camping out in the wild every night, not too much planning went into this trip. There is a frequent train from Glasgow to Milngavie station from where it's a short walk to the official starting point. At Fort William you can either take the train or bus back to Glasgow.

Nagivation. The entire trail is easy to follow and well waymarked. I did use the Guthook guide for the West Highland Way. After installing the app, you will find it under Trailblazer British Walking Guides. It has a good GPS track as well as lots of other info.

Trail info

West Highland Way

Countries
StartMilngavie outside Glasgow
FinishFort William
Length96 mi / 154 km
Elevation gain10.351 ft / 3.155 m
Best hiking seasonMay, June or September if you want to avoid the midges
Official websitehttps://www.westhighlandway.org/