The West Highland Way & Great Glen Way

Walked in August 2010


After this trip Darryl and I both decided we would never go backpacking ever again. Not that we wouldn’t go ‘hiking’ again, we just wouldn’t be carrying everything on our back like tent, sleeping bag etc. We would stay at hostels/B&Bs and perhaps use a baggage transfer service, so that all we would need to carry each day would be food, water and maps etc. We had done it the hard way, three times, so from now on it would be the comfortable, leisurely approach. The Pennine Way had been murder at times with the weight on our backs (as well as everything else), the Coast to Coast walk hadn’t been much better, and during this third trip in Scotland we finally decided to call it a day on the whole ‘carry everything with you’ philosophy. Good riddance. It has a definite effect on the whole experience and introduces a level of discomfort and pain that you know you could have avoided. It’s worth doing once, maybe twice for the experience and the adventure, but after three trips, it does start to feel a little pointless.

But despite the problems with the equipment we still had a fantastic time in Scotland. The star of the show, unsurprisingly, was the scenery. From the very beginning the views were awesome, simply beautiful. The rain did, on several occasions, make things miserable, but even that couldn’t spoil the trip.

The West Highland Way begins in Milngavie (a quiet suburb of Glasgow) and heads North through first a country park, then the open countryside, heading up to and around the shores of Loch Lomond, through the hills to the desolate Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe, before finishing at Ben Nevis and Fort William – a sight for sore feet.
The Great Glen Way is, in comparison, a gentler affair, more of a stroll along flatter canal paths and forest roads with some climbing but nothing too taxing. Beginning where the West Highland Way finishes in Fort William, it follows the Caledonian Canal alongside Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness before reaching the finish in the unexpectedly large city of Inverness.

I would say that either of these two walks would make a good first long-distance hike, but perhaps not both together. The Great Glen Way in particular would be a good route to cut your hiking teeth on. For most of it there is little in the way of civilisation, but you wont go hungry, and provided you have a tent with you, you wont be without shelter as you can wild camp more or less where you like, remembering to respect the countryside of course! It is advisable to undertake these walks in the warmer months as Scotland is famous for its unforgivably cold weather. We walked both routes in August and most of the nights were unexpectedly cold and we felt a little underprepared. Luckily the days (most of them at least) made up for it. Speaking of which. . .


Day Zero>>>