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Scotland’s West Highland Way Hike

Scotland’s classic long-distance route from Glasgow to Ben Nevis

Loch Lomond on the Way

Trip Details

  • Location: West Scotland
  • Length: 9 days
  • Grade: Strenuous and moderate
  • Accommodations: Inns, small hotels and B&Bs
  • Group size: 5 – 12
  • 2019 Date: June 30 – July 8, 2019
  • Land Cost: $3,775
  • Single supplement: $500

Hiking Trip Summary

Click for more detail The construction of The West Highland Way, one of Scotland’s classic long-distance foot paths, was finished in 1980. Taking almost 20 years to complete, it travels through some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery. Beginning near Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, and following alongside Britain’s largest body of inland water, Loch Lomond, the route ends in Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. The Scottish Highlands and Lowlands are separated by the Highland Boundary Fault, which runs through the middle of Loch Lomond, creating both a contrast in geology as well as human history of the two areas. Along this walk through Scotland, we will hike through a variety of landscapes, moorland and heath, river valleys and farmlands, mountains and woodlands.

Traveling on foot is a wonderful way to experience Western Scotland. Our Distant Journeys hike incorporates much of the classic West Highland Way route, along with a few variations of our own. We’ll stay at old inns, small hotels, and B&B’s. After a hearty Scottish breakfast each day, we will set off toward our next destination, either picnicking along the way or enjoying the hospitality of local pubs and restaurants. From village to village, from the central Lowlands to the heart of the Highlands, together we will explore this route, while at the same time enjoy the changing landscapes from day to day. We will have the opportunity to climb Ben Lomond (3,195 ft), one of Scotland’s notable Munro’s, a mountain over 3000 feet high. We will end in Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, the official finish of the “Way.”

Itinerary

Day 1: Rendezvous at Glasgow International Airport, transfer to Drymen
Rendezvous at 1:00pm at the Glasgow International Airport and transfer to our accommodation in Drymen, which is about a 45-minute drive. The village of Drymen, with its quaint village green, boasts one of the oldest registered pubs in Scotland, established in 1734. After settling into our accommodation, we will meet as a group for our welcome dinner and orientation. Dinner and breakfast included.

Day 2: Dryman to Balmaha
Leaving Dryman, we join the “Way” just outside the village. Walking on a wide track, we ascend gradually through the Garadhban Forest as we approach our first major climb of the route, Conic Hill (1,184′). From the top we’ll have great views of Loch Lomond and the mountainous Scottish countryside. After a steep descent, we arrive in the small village of Balmaha on the shore of Loch Lomond. Britain’s largest body of water, 23 miles long, Loch Lomond was formed by a glacier about 10,000 years ago. Breakfast and dinner included.

  • Optional side trip to the island of Inchcailloch: If there is interest and time allows, we may be able to take the short ferry trip from Balmaha to the island of Inchcailloch and explore. It is one of the five islands at the mouth of the Endrick River and managed as a nature reserve.

Day 3: Hike Ben Lomond
We’ll begin the day with a short transfer to Rowardennan, where we begin our hike of Ben Lomond. In 1891, Sir Hugo Munro published the first list of all Scotland’s peaks over 3,000 feet. Until then there had been much debate as to exactly how many 3,000-ft peaks there actually were in Scotland. Since then, these peaks have been referred to as “The Munros,” and there are 282 of them. Ben Lomond, (3,195′) is the most southerly of Scotland’s Munros. It stands high above Loch Lomond and is the first real mountain we will pass along the route of the West Highland Way. From the summit, we will have superb views of both the Highlands and the Lowlands.  Overnight in Rowardennan, breakfast and dinner included.

Day 4: Rowardennan to Bridge of Orchy
Leaving the Rowardennan, we continue our hike along Loch Lomond. This section is considered by many to be the most arduous section of the “Way.” The trail hugs the shore, crossing sections encumbered by boulders and tree roots. The scenery, however, is spectacular as we hike among an oak forest with views across the Loch, including the landmark of the “Cobbler,” a rugged mountain on the opposite side. Continuing alongside the lake, we will pass by Rob Roy’s Cave, the hideaway of the Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor, known as the Robin Hood of the Highlands. Near the end of the Loch we will take a short ferry ride across to Ardlui.

From Ardlui we will transfer to Bridge of Orchy. Passing through Glen Falloch and alongside the River Fallock, we will parallel the drover roads. These roads were created during the 17th and 18th centuries in order to get cattle to market in the Lowlands. Some villages along the “Way” saw almost 100,000 sheep and 10,000 heads of cattle pass through each year. We will enjoy the fine mountain scenery, which includes the picturesque cone of Beinn Odhar, and then the more imposing Beinn Dorian, before reaching the village of Bridge of Orchy and entering the Highlands proper. Breakfast and dinner included.

Day 5: Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven
We begin hiking, crossing the “Bridge” as we leave the village, and have a short climb with distant views of the Rannoch Moor, which we will be crossing later in the day. Overlooking Inveroran and Loch Tulla, the trail descends to Inveroran, where we can stop for a morning coffee before beginning our hike across the Black Mount. This is the most exposed and isolated section of the “Way.” A challenging day, but we will be rewarded with the beautiful landscape of the Highlands. The Black Mount is a high moorland plateau between the large mountains to the west and the Rannoch Moor to the east. We climb gradually to the summit at 1,500′ and then begin our long, gradual descent to the Kings House Hotel, built in the 17th century, and believed to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns. As the Inn is under renovation, we will have a short transfer to our lodging in Kinlochleven. Breakfast included, dinner on your own.

Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
In the morning, we have a short transfer back to the Way by Kings House Inn. We will have a shorter hike today, though still demanding, as we cross over the highest point of the “Way” at 1,850 feet. The climb begins with the “Devil’s Staircase.” Not as bad as the name may suggest, the route follows an old military road built in 1750 by roughly 450 soldiers. The nickname comes from the switchback section near the summit. As the long descent to Kinlochleven begins and the views of the Glen Coe Mountains are behind us, we’ll enjoy the new scenery that lies ahead; the ridges of the Mamores with the massif of Ben Nevis rising behind it. Breakfast and dinner included.

Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort Williams
The last day on the “Way” begins with a climb of 900 feet, arriving at the Lairigmor, the “great pass,” situated between high hills on the left and the even higher Mamores to our right. There are eleven Munros in this section of the West Highland Way. As we descend to Fort William, our destination, the route travels through the Nevis Forest, with distant views of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. One of Scotland’s main attractions at 4,406′, “The Ben”, with its rocky summit and 2,000-foot cliffs on the North Face, often has snow on its peak even in summer. With a great sense of accomplishment we arrive in Fort William and the end of this great journey! Breakfast included, dinner on your own.

Day 8: Fort William – Ben Nevis
Weather permitting, we will have an opportunity to hike Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain at 4,409′. Dominating the landscape around Fort William, Ben Nevis begins its rise directly from sea level. Another option is a day hike to Steall Falls in the Nevis Gorge. This is a shorter hike, but follows the dramatic Nevis Gorge to the beautiful Steall Falls, and is a wonderful alternative to the mighty “Ben.” Farewell dinner, breakfast and dinner included.

Day 9: Depart Fort William
Following one last Scottish breakfast, we transfer to the Glasgow International Airport. Our group departs Fort William at 7:30 am and arrives at the airport about 10:30. Please allow for travel time when making plans.

Additional Information

Included

All accommodations, with private baths when available, daily luggage transfer, all breakfasts (full Scottish), 6 dinners, group transfer from Glasgow Airport day 1 and to Glasgow Airport on the last day, all group transfers on buses and vans as described in the itinerary, guides, great hiking, lots of good memories.

Not Included

Air fare, optional/individual transfers between inns or individual excursions, 2 dinners, items not on set dinner menus, beverages, insurance, tips to guides, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, excess baggage charge, etc.).

Single Travelers

Singles: If you wish to have your own room there is a single supplement charge of $500. Please let us know if you would like a single at the time of registration. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If there is no one with whom you can share there is a forced single charge of $250.

Luggage

This hike has luggage transfer each day. You will need to carry a small daypack with only the clothing and accessories you will need for the day.

While this trip includes luggage transfer, it is not vehicle supported. Participants should be in physical condition appropriate to the strenuousness of this hike. It is, however, possible to skip a day of hiking and take a taxi to the next hotel. This extra cost is not included in the price of the trip.

Accommodations and Facilities

Most evenings will be spent in small towns or villages. For the most part, these are not typical tourist destinations and therefore have limited choices of accommodations. The accommodations on this route are comfortable but not fancy and will run the gamut from small, simple, bed and breakfasts to comfortable country inns and hotels. All reflect the local character and offer a friendly welcome. Please note: Most accommodations include rooms with private baths; however, there are two or three nights with shared bathrooms. Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels or a nearby restaurant or pub. Lunches are picnic style along the trail, with the occasional stop at a pub or tea room.

Travel

It is easiest to fly into Glasgow International Airport. However, it is possible to reach Glasgow from other points of entry into Scotland and Great Britain such as Edinburgh, Manchester, or possibly London.

Who would like this trip?

This is a wonderful route for hikers who look forward to challenging walks and hikes, and like the thought of staying in a variety of small hotels, B & B’s and Inns. The Way passes through different geological areas as well as significant historical ones; it is a rewarding way to experience the countryside of Scotland. We are happy to send you a list of past participants who will give you honest insight to their experiences.

Meeting point

The trip will start with a group pick up at the Glasgow International Airport on Day 1 at 1:00 pm (13:00) for transfer to our hotel in Dryman.

Ending Point

The trip will end with a group transfer to the Glasgow International Airport. We depart the hotel in Fort William at about 7:30 am and arrive at the Glasgow International Airport around 10:30. If you need an earlier departure, we are happy to help with taxi or shared van arrangements at an additional cost. Please plan your travel carefully.

For a more detailed itinerary that includes elevation gain, loss and distance, or to register please call.

Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.