At 96 Miles the West Highland Way is a challenge no matter how much time you choose to spend on it, however, the main thing is to tailor the challenge to suit you best.
Everyone has a different idea about how many days they want to take to complete this majestic walk, ranging from the ultra conservative to the utterly extreme, the trick is to find just how many days are going to suit your ability and aim to have time to actually enjoy the experience while you are at it.
Doing the West Highland Way in 5 days is a challenge, not a holiday. If you are looking to stroll along appreciating the beautiful scenery then this is not the length for you. When anyone books this trip through ourselves we try to gauge their long distance walking experience and level of fitness because for this trip you need a lot of both. Averaging about 20 miles per day, or 9-10 hours walking it is not something to attempt if you are just short of time, rather do half of the trip in longer sections and leave the 5 day trip to the hardened walkers.
This option has become more popular over the last couple of years, but still presents a good challenge to those without a good level of fitness. There are two reasons why this trip is more difficult and they are both around 20 miles long! The first part is arguably the most difficult stretch of the West Highland Way from Rowardennan to Crianlarich. The terrain underfoot on this section presents the greatest walking challenge on the route and the 6-day walk means that rather than walking to Inverarnan you are carrying on the extra 7 miles to Crianlarich.
The second section that makes this tough is the long 20-mile day from Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven. The terrain over much of this part of the trip is pretty good, taking you over the relatively flat Rannoch Moor, however, before getting to Kinlochleven you have to tackle the Devils Staircase which can be pretty tough on fresh legs, never mind tired ones. The Devils Staircase is the biggest climb that the whole walk has to offer and if you don’t think you are up for it after a long days walk, then I would recommend the 7 Day Itinerary.
The 7 Day itinerary is the classic walk and by far the most popular trip that we sell here at Macs Adventure. The walking is nicely broken up on this itinerary and although there is still a 20-mile day in there, it is between Tyndrum and Kingshouse which is a relatively flat section walking on time worn, solid paths. You will find that most people are walking this trip and you will start to find familiar faces as you walk during the day or visit the restaurants and pubs at night. It is a great trip for building up the outstanding camaraderie that long distance walking can offer.
With the 8 day itinerary, we are starting to get more into holiday territory. The 8-day adventure allows you a little more time to take in the sights and sounds of the West Highland Way. The main differences with this trip are that the day walking over the Rannoch Moor is split in two, so rather than having the 20-mile walk, which many people still find daunting, you have two 10 miles sections instead. For this itinerary, we would try and accommodate you between Crianlarich and Tyndrum rather than in Tyndrum itself, just to even out the walking days and make the trip more enjoyable over all.
This itinerary eases you in a bit more gently while allowing you to take more time on each section of the walk. The first few days are stretched out here to build up strength in your legs and let you get into the swing of things a little easier. The Drymen to Rowardennan section which is on day 2 of the walk is split down into two sections. So rather than doing a straight 15 miles on your second day, it will be shared over two days with an 8 mile and a 7-mile day with an overnight stop in the charming Balmaha. If you are not used to daily walking and are worried about how your legs will fare, then it may be an idea to choose this itinerary and break yourself into it.
The 10-day itinerary is the most drawn-out walk that we offer on the West Highland Way. The extra night here breaks up the tricky 14-mile section from Rowardennan to Inverarnan, instead, you walk to Inversnaid and we arrange a transfer to nearby accommodation, or alternatively, you may decide to take the boat to the west side of the loch (paid locally) to stay there. Our specialists can discuss this in full to work out the best itinerary for you.
Whatever itinerary you choose to walk on the West Highland Way it is assured that you will have a great time and see some of the most amazing scenery that Scotland has to offer. If any of the above itineraries take your fancy then simply get in touch with Macs Adventure and we can lay the foundation for a fantastic holiday.
Take a look at our complete guide to walking the West Highland Way for information on what to pack, how to get there, and lots more info.
This is an updated version of the post that first appeared in 2010.
A member of Macs Adventure’s amazing marketing team, my passion in life is Snowboarding (apart from my family of course, should they happen to read this!) and have taken up mountain biking to fill the seasonal gap and keep me fit enough to spend as much time on the slopes as I can, come winter.