|Distance (km)||Ascent (metres)||Number of days|
|154||3155||5 - 8|
|Start: Milngavie (Glasgow)||Finish: Fort William|
Linked to other Scotland’s Great Trail(s):
Great Glen Canoe Trail Great Glen Way John Muir Way Rob Roy Way Three Lochs Way
Linear: Milngavie to Fort William
Generally walked from south to north because prevailing winds are from the south-west, and because in the southern parts, the distances between overnight stops are shorter and the ascents lesser.
Scotland’s first long distance route opened in 1980, and it is still its most popular. Starting from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, it passes through its first National Park along the shore of its largest loch, Loch Lomond. Heading north through increasingly rugged scenery, it crosses the vast wilderness of Rannoch Moor, passes Glen Coe and reaches Fort William at the foot of the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
- superb views throughout, from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to Ben Nevis
- varied scenery, from the pastures of the Campsies and from Conic Hill to the grandeur of the Highland mountains
- side-trips to Inchcailloch, Glengoyne Distillery and the RSPB trail at Inversnaid
- views over Glen Coe from the Devil’s Staircase
- options to climb Ben Lomond and/or Ben Nevis (the UK’s highest mountain): navigational competence required, especially in poor visibility
- this is the busiest long-distance route in Scotland, so don’t expect it to be a wilderness experience
- Rannoch Moor is very exposed: in poor weather, it demands respect and good protection from wind and rain
The route is well waymarked, so map-and-compass skills, although always desirable, are not essential to follow the route. It could be a good choice for your first long-distance walk, as long as you take preparation seriously and allow enough time. The number of days you allow will determine how challenging it seems. First time around, we suggest at least 7 or 8 walking days. Even with 6 days, you face two long days (18.5 miles/30 km and 20.5 miles/32 km), and a 5-day option involves two days of 21 miles/35 km or more. These itineraries risk turning it into an endurance test rather than a pleasure: plan cautiously and have time to enjoy some of the side-trips. The Way includes sections that are easy to under-estimate, such as the east shore of Loch Lomond, in places over broken ground and among tree roots, although this section has been greatly improved in recent years.
The Way passes through attractive villages with welcoming B&Bs, and the route is so long-established that most villages have a range of accommodation choices including not only B&Bs but also (in places) bunkhouses, pods and wigwams. However, some are closed out of season, most are busy in season and advance booking is essential. The official website lists accommodation providers here.
There are many camping options, both at commercial and at free campsites (basic or no facilities). Wild camping is legally allowed in Scotland if practised responsibly under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. However, between March and October the National Park camping byelaws permit wild camping only in designated areas, and campers must book in advance.
Many companies offer accommodation booking and baggage transfer on this popular route:
Reaching Milngavie is simplest by train from Glasgow Queen St. Returning from Fort William is easy by express bus or train: it’s on the West Highland railway line to Glasgow Queen St, and Scottish Citylink offers a frequent bus service.
Local transport is mainly by bus along the A82 trunk road (buses from Glasgow stop at Ardlui, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy, Glencoe and Fort William). Also, Loch Lomond is well served by Waterbus services: in 2017 the Waterbus season was April to October. The railway links Glasgow Queen St with Tarbet, Ardlui, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy and Fort William.
Taxi firms normally charge mileage from their base, so check fares before booking.