|Distance (km)||Ascent (metres)||Number of days|
|125||1835||5 - 7|
|Start: Fort William||Finish: Inverness|
Linked to other Scotland’s Great Trail(s):
Great Glen Canoe Trail West Highland Way
Linear, from Fort William to Inverness. The recommended direction is from south-west to north-east so that prevailing winds are behind you. This also makes for a gentle introduction, with the first couple of sections low-level and easy going, mainly on towpath.
The Way begins at the ruins of the Old Fort, Fort William and runs the entire length of Scotland’s longest glen, following the Caledonian Canal, forest tracks and drove roads. It passes beside three major lochs: Lochs Lochy, Oich and Ness. There is good access to accommodation and shops as it passes through villages along the Great Glen, with an alternative option that includes Invergarry. The route ends at Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, at Inverness Castle. Although primarily a walking route, it is suitable also for riders of mountain bikes, provided they show respect for other users.
- Neptune’s Staircase, and its views of Ben Nevis
- the Caledonian Canal – Thomas Telford’s historic work of engineering, including Neptune’s Staircase
- Achnacarry House (short detour) with its links to the Clan Cameron Museum and Commando training
- spectacular views over Loch Ness and the Great Glen from the High Route
- 17th century heritage in Fort William and Fort Augustus
- starts near the base of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK
- some stretches of minor road walking, mainly around Gairlochy, Kilfinnan, Drumnadrochit and Abriachan
- limited accommodation in Gairlochy and South Laggan: use Spean Bridge/Invergarry as alternatives
Starting from Fort William, the first few sections are undemanding, but after the mid-point (Fort Augustus) the route undulates, especially if you opt for the High Route. The overall ascent of 1835m/6020ft refers to the High Route which contains some steep sections, including a few very steep bits which are unsuitable for cyclists. (The overall ascent for the original route is much less, at 1230m/4035ft.) The highest point on the High Route is 422m (1385ft) between Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit. The section lengths varies between 9 and 20 miles (14-32 km) and most walkers will wish to split the 20-mile section between Drumnadrochit and Inverness, perhaps using transport to/from Blackfold or by camping at Abriachan. The terrain varies widely: canal towpath, forest track, old drove roads and former military roads, purpose-built path and urban pavement.
There is a range of accommodation options in the settlements along the route for walkers and cyclists, and for paddlers along the Great Glen Canoe Trail. You can find out more about these here or from the Visit Scotland website.
Wild camping is legally allowed in Scotland if practised responsibly under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
A number of companies offer support services ranging from baggage transfer, through bike or canoe hire/shuttle to full-service packages.
Train services link Glasgow with Fort William, and Edinburgh with Inverness. Scottish Citylink provides a bus service between Fort William and Inverness, which stops at settlements along the Great Glen. Inverness also has an airport.