Walking the West Highland Way? We salute you. Embrace the wild rolling hills, charming villages and craggy mountains as you embark on Scotland’s most famous long distance trek which affords stunning scenery for 96 miles. Walking the West Highland Way offers great solitude or provides the opportunity to socialise and meet new friends, as people tend to split the route into similar segments, meaning you will often encounter the same people on a daily basis. The terrain can be strenuous, the weather can be turbulent and motivation levels can fluctuate as tiredness kicks in. So make sure you’re fully prepared for it by following our top tips!
96 miles. 8 days. It’s a long distance. The exhaustion will hit you harder on different days but if you’ve done your research, planned out your route and prepared, then don’t be nervous! Take your time and enjoy it. Choose when you’re walking the WHW and set yourself mini goals on the lead up to the main event. Step by step, one walk at a time and you’ll be ready to go the distance.
Your training programme will differ dependent on your walking experience. If you’re an avid hillwalker then just keep practicing, whereas if you’re a novice, start small, walk for 30 minutes every day, then progress. Give yourself time to rest and recuperate, then up your walking time and terrain. The WHW includes flat landscapes, narrow and rocky paths and upward climbs. If you’re comfortable with walking long stretches on flat surfaces, then you need to challenge yourself and walk on an incline progressively. Our best piece of advice is to study the route and emulate this in your training. As your confidence grows, try a hill that’s more challenging, because if you don’t push yourself, you’re going to struggle and that will take the fun out of walking the WHW.
There are plenty of walking routes throughout Scotland that will help you prepare!
Walking Clothes & Shoes
Scotland’s weather can be relentless and can change in the blink of an eye. It’s critical that you pack clothes, footwear and kit suitable for all weather eventualities. According to the advice given on the West Highland Way website, you should follow a 3 layer clothing system: a base layer, middle layer and an outer layer for protection.
Waterproof or windproof trousers are a must, they’re lightweight and quick drying! We’d also recommend gym t-shirts or loose t-shirts as comfort is key and you’ll be wearing them all day. A cosy sweatshirt is also ideal for the trek as you might need an extra layer between your waterproof and t-shirt for added warmth. If you’re trekking in the winter, a cosy hat and pair of thick gloves will be your saviour and if you’re embarking on this trail in the warmer months we’d suggest a lighter set of gloves and skip-cap to protect the back of your neck if the sun decides to make an appearance.
With rough sometimes wet terrain, and rocky paths, a good sturdy pair of boots will be critical. It’s the most important item of equipment for this journey, you need to be comfortable and supported. Break in your boots well in advance and make sure they’re appropriate for every weather condition. You’ll also require some good quality socks to go with your boots. Thick walking socks in the winter with a thinner lining sock or slightly thinner but supportive socks for the summer. We’ve also heard that packing a pair of light flip-flops is a must especially in the evenings when your feet need some well-earned rest and air.
Other must-have accessories include a rucksack for your water and food, spare socks, midge net and repellent, sunscreen, headlamp, first aid kit and thermals!
Book Your Accommodation
There’s plenty of accommodation dotted throughout the trek but don’t leave booking your accommodation last minute as you don’t want to be disappointed especially in spring, summer and the autumnal seasons when the route is at its most popular. Whether you fancy combining camping with an overnight in a B&B, the choice is yours. If you’re worried about budget or simply want to immerse yourself in nature, there are plenty of campsites available to choose from. We’d suggest you familiarise yourself with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code if this is your choice of overnight. However, if you’d prefer something more comfortable, there are a plethora of hotels, local B&Bs, guesthouses and hostels to choose from. Beware, some villages including Rowardennan and Bridge of Orchy have limited options therefore you’ll need to book in advance to ensure your space. It’s all about organisation, if you book in advance, you’ll enjoy the comforts and charms of local villages which just adds to the overall experience of the WHW.
Make your life that little bit easier and give your back and shoulders a rest and book your baggage in for transfer at certain points throughout the trail. It’s 6-8 days of constant walking, constant pressure on your shoulders, let someone help you even if it’s just for a couple of days. Two benefits of luggage transfer are that you’ll only need to carry your day bag with food and water, and your extra clothes and socks will be dry and waiting for you at the end of the day. There are several companies on hand to transfer your luggage. Costs vary dependent on which company you choose but a list of recommended baggage transfer companies can be found here.
Take Your Camera
Scotland is home to breath-taking scenery and the WHW gives you a glimpse of all that our rugged landscapes have to offer. Each town or village offers a vibrant charm and picturesque setting. Why not take advantage of Scotland’s rich beauty and take a selfie or panoramic of the view.
Sometimes a photograph might not do the landscape justice but its a memory you can cherish and look back on. Each day will be different, document your journey, appreciate the scenery and take lots of photographs. By taking photos you’ll always be able to differentiate segments of the journey. It’s an essential accessory for your hike!
The West Highland Way is challenging but when you cross that finish line in Fort William, there’s no feeling like it. As long as you properly prepare, have the right walking gear, plan out your day-to-day mileage and book your accommodation in advance, you’ll have the time of your life and make memories you’ll never forget.