The West Highland Way
One of the greatest walking challenges you can experience in the UK is the 95 miles of the West Highland Way. This starts on the outskirts of Glasgow, at Milngavie (pronounced Millguy) and follows a now well established route utilising parks, disused railways, ancient drovers roads and forest tracks, finishing at Fort William.
There are numerous B&B's, guest houses, bunkhouses and official campsites along the route. Respectful wild camping is also allowed in certain areas along the Way. For most walkers the route will take around 7 days to complete, but a faster paced and experienced walker should be able to complete the route much quicker - but then this route should be savoured at a more relaxing pace. A baggage transfer service is available from around £5 per bag per transfer.
It is highly recommended that you walk the West Highland Way from south to north, if for no better reason than seeing the fantastic scenary open up in front of you as you head from the Lowlands of Loch Lomond into the Highlands. A walk based on 7 days could be organised as follows:
Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen - 12 miles
Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan - 15 miles
Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan - 14 miles
Day 4: Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy - 19 miles
Day 5: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse - 12 miles
Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven - 9 miles
Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort William - 14 miles
CYCLING THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY.
Scottish access rules mean that this route is also open to cyclists (although it is not designed with cycle access in mind, so expect some problems). A fit cyclist would enjoy the route over 2 or 3 days. Cycling the West Highland Way can be extended into a longer, circular tour by including the Great Glen Way (2 days) to Inverness, and Sustrans Route 7, Lochs and Glens North from Inverness to Fort William (3 to 4 days).
This webpage is just a small snipet of West Highland Way information - there are fully detailed websites to offer you lots of useful advice. However, if you are reading this, then you may be interested in our West Highland Way experiences.
We had decided to attempt the West Highland Way but were struggling to organise 7 days when everyone was available to walk it. In the end, we realised that the most time we could arrange together would be 4 days, and that cycling the route would be the best option. Checking cycle reports on the internet and forums suggested that some cyclists had completed the route in a single day..! On closer inspection, the riders had simply ridden 'next' to the route at various tricky areas. This included riding on some horrific sections of the A82.
We decided that we would stick religiously to the waymarked route, and cycle the entire route in the only 4 days we could arrange together, early March. We had a support vehicle and driver, in a Ford Tourneo with rear seats removed, which meant we could use accommodation some distance away from where we stopped cycling.
The first day included a 5 hour drive to Milngavie, in a heavy snowfall, and we did not start cycling until 3pm. However, despite the snow, the route was easy and we made good progress, finishing in Balmaha at 7.30pm in the dark. The biggest problem (a problem that haunted us for nearly the entire route) was the sharp, raised sides of drainage channels which crossed the path at regular intervals. These required a large controled bunny-hop every 5 metres or so, and failing to clear the jump meant a snakebite puncture, something we got to know quite well..!
Our transport took us back to our very nice B&B in Drymen, where we enjoyed a pint or three.
Returning to Balmaha next morning, we started along the trail. A small access road runs north alongside Loch Lomond, but the Way avoids using it. We were pushing the bikes up the steep hills, and carrying them down the descents for hours, just to realise we could have progressed along the road in 1/4 of the time with little effort. The route was very rewarding, but it explained to us how other cyclists sticking to the road completed the West Highland Way so quickly..!
We arrived at Rowardennan and stopped for a coffee in the Hotel. A ferry runs from here to Tarbet, but not at this time of year... We were surprised to meet a number of individuals and couples also attempting the West Highland Way - and were to keep seeing them over the next few days. Hope you all enjoyed the walk..!
Leaving the Hotel around 1pm, we embarked on what is considered as the most demanding section for cyclists, with many cyclists opting to take the ferry and continue on the main A82 instead. The track started as a gentle but sustained uphill forest ride, with slower progress but nothing too demanding. This soon changed to a very rocky and totally unridable path. Progress was extremely slow, with walkers we had met in the Hotel now overtaking us. Bikes had to be carried, and moral was low...
Still, I would recommend this struggle rather than the suicidal cycle along the A82. And anyway - the ferry was not running yet - so we had no choice :-)
We arrived at the Drovers Inn for a quick pint, then transfer to our posh hotel in Tyndrum. Weather reports for the next day predicted a heavy snowfall over the Highlands, something that worried us with the cycle over Rannoch Moor ahead. As it happened, the weather was fantastic the next day, and the snow completely missed us, but covered Aviemore instead.
The next section was from the Drovers at Ardlui to Bridge of Orchy. This was a fantastic section, with no real problems apart from some nasty short sections due to 'maintenance' paid for by the RBS Caledonian Challenge.