- One of Scotland’s classic long-distance paths through the Highlands and along lochs
- Hike historic Caledonian Canal, connecting Scotland’s West and East Coasts, ending in Inverness
- 13th-century Urquhart Castle perched on the shores of Loch Ness
- A real sense of achievement from completing the Great Glen Way
- Sweeping views of Ben Nevis, highlands and lochs from the “High Route”
The Great Glen Way is a 79-mile hike through Scotland’s most famous Glen; crossing on foot from Fort William, via the famed shores of Loch Ness, to Inverness and connecting Scotland’s west and east coasts. The Great Glen Way takes you through beautiful forests, past peaceful working canals and alongside lochs. Macs Adventure offers a variety of durations for the walk, dependent on how much time you have and how far you'd like to hike each day.
You start your adventure in Fort William, at the base of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. You then follow the Caledonian Canal via Neptune’s Staircase to Gairlochy, before continuing up Loch Lochy to South Laggan, and on to Fort Augustus via Loch Oich and Kytra Lock. The Great Glen Way then follows the western shore of Loch Ness passing the highland towns of Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit, with quaint and welcoming pubs and inns, until you reach the historic town of Inverness. Nessie hunters can even take a cruise on Britain's largest loch (by volume of water), whilst Urquhart Castle is another must-see, with its commanding view of Loch Ness, as is Inverness Castle at the walk’s end.
Section 1: Fort William to Gairlochy, 10.5 miles, 17 km / 4 - 5 hours
Fort William is a bustling town and very popular among climbers and walkers as it sits at the base of Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest peak. Follow the river Lochy with short detours possible to Old Inverlochy Castle or Ben Nevis Distillery. After briefly following the banks of Loch Linnie, you reach Corpach where the Caledonian Canal meets the Atlantic (make sure you dip your feet!).
Follow the towpath northeast to Banavie and Neptune’s Staircase, a series of locks which raise the canal 80 feet in just 400. Continue along the canal towpath as it winds its way through stunning countryside above the River Lochy. Your overnight stop in Gairlochy* appears all too soon.
*There is very limited accommodation in Gairlochy and you may be staying in Spean Bridge, a pleasant 3-mile walk further up the valley (we will inform you if this is the case).
Section 2: Gairlochy to Laggan, 12 miles, 19 km / 5 - 6 hours
From Gairlochy you follow the shore of Loch Lochy on forest tracks through land owned by the Cameron clan. Achnacarry was also home to one of the toughest commando training camps, and the nearby museum highlights the remarkable conditions they endured. After Clunes, the road continues on fire tracks above Loch Lochy all the way to South Laggan and the locks.
There is a wonderful pub and seafood restaurant on a moored barge at Laggan Locks called the Eagle Inn; great for an afternoon pint or a fantastic evening meal. Your accommodation is generally a mile or so from the locks.
Section 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus, 10.5 miles, 17 km / 4 - 5 hours
Your day starts at Laggan Bridge, which is the highpoint of the Caledonian Canal at 106ft above sea level. Initially, you follow the eastern shore of Loch Oich, one of Scotland’s most beautiful and pristine natural woodlands, which is teeming with bird and wildlife. Once you reach the end of Loch Oich, at Oich Bridge, you follow the canal for a few miles along to Fort Augustus. This is a lovely section of canal, and Kytra Lock is one of the highlights of the entire walk.
Fort Augustus is a busy little town and is centred on a series of locks which are always a hive of activity. It is a great spot to spend a relaxed afternoon or evening.
Section 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston, 8 miles, 13 km / 4 - 5 hours
At Fort Augustus you leave the canal and begin our journey on the banks of Loch Ness. This section has some steep climbs and is mainly on fire roads and some good tracks. You have great views of Loch Ness throughout so make sure you keep those eyes peeled for the monster - you might be lucky. Invermoriston is your overnight stop and a very pretty little village.
Section 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit, 14.5 miles, 23 km / 7 - 8 hours
As you leave Invermoriston the path climbs steeply until you are high above Loch Ness, it then descends again to the loch side after three miles and climbs again, so you should expect a tougher day of walking today. Most of the section is spent on woodland paths and tracks on the steep sides of the Glen. A great day's walk ends in Drumnadrochit, famous for its proximity to Urquhart Castle and the popular Loch Ness Monster Experience. You should have enough time to explore at least one of these attractions.
Section 6: Drumnadrochit to Loch Laide, 7 miles, 11 km / 3 - 4 hours
From Drumnadrochit you endure a section on the busy A82 before climbing steadily through woodland and forestry. Eventually, the climbing comes to an end and you wave goodbye to Loch Ness. If you are splitting the walk to Inverness into two sections you will have a return transfer organised (detailed below) as there is no overnight accommodation at Loch Laide.
Transfer Info: If you are walking the trail over seven days or longer then we have arranged a morning transfer from Drumnadrochit to Loch Laide (you will walk this section in reverse from Loch Laide to Drumnadrochit). You will be transferred back to Loch Laide the following morning to continue your walk to Inverness.
Section 7: Loch Laide to Inverness, 12.5 miles, 20 km / 5 - 6 hours
Initially you follow a minor road for a few miles and then at Blackfold you branch off through the forest before beginning your descent down towards Inverness and the Moray Firth. A mile before the end of the Great Glen Way you once again meet the Caledonian Canal and it is possible to walk all the way to the end if you wish.
The way turns right instead and follows the River Ness into the centre of Inverness and Inverness Castle, which marks the end of your wonderful journey across Scotland. If you have walked all the way from Drumnadrochit you will be very pleased to reach the end of the day's walk!
The High Route
In Summer 2014, through a £1 million project, the Forestry Commission Scotland created over 10 miles (16km) of waymarked Great Glen ‘High Route’ above Loch Ness. These new options take you above the treeline and offer fantastic views, with some challenging gradients and a new summit at 422m (1385ft) on Creag Dhearg.
Overnight in B&B’s, small hotels and guesthouses, specifically chosen to ensure that you enjoy every minute of your stay. They all offer a warm welcome to walkers and traditional hospitality.
Solo Walkers & Single Rooms
The Great Glen Way is available and well suited to solo walkers as the route is popular and well marked. Single rooms are available but a single supplement is payable.
A hearty breakfast is included each morning. Lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Most of your accommodations will more than happy to provide a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and restaurants and your guide book will have details.
Guisachan House - Fort William
A warm welcome awaits you at Guisachan House, a family run private hotel offering bed and breakfast in Fort William. Situated in an elevated position only 10 minutes walk from Fort William town centre, railway station, bus stance, and tourist information centre.
Dalcomera B&B - Gairlochy
Overlooking Ben Nevis and the River Lochy Dalcomera makes for the perfect first nights stop on the Great Glen Way.
Distant Hills - Spean Bridge
Peter and Lesley McIntosh extend a warm welcome to you from their family run guest house. Distant Hills is a family run guest house, set in extensive grounds and located at the edge of a quiet Highland village.
Glen Albyn Lodge - Laggan
Glen Albyn Lodge is traditional on the outside and modern and eco-friendly on the inside. Dennis and Helen provide legendary hospitality and home cooking at their highly rated B&B.
The Bank House - Fort Augustus
The Bank House B&B sits in a beautiful position overlooking the Caledonian Canal in the centre of Fort Augustus. You are assured a warm welcome at this lovely property and you are also within walking distance of Pubs, Restaurants and shops.
Bracarina House - Invermoriston
Located in the centre of Invermoriston and a stones throw from the pub Bracarina is a beautiful guesthouse with little extras such as a sauna to revive tired legs.
Craik na Dav - Invermoriston
Sisters Lindsey and Manda would like to offer you a very warm welcome to their home in Invermoriston. A footspa and foot massager are available and they offer homemade cake with tea / coffee / herbal tea / fruit tea on arrival.
Kilmore Farmhouse - Drumnadrochit
Situated in the village of Drumnadrochit on the shores of Loch Ness, this peaceful haven gives you all the relaxation you need on your hiking holiday. With five individually designed bedrooms and one of the best locations in the highlands, you are sure to enjoy your stay.
Acorn House - Inverness
The ambiance throughout Acorn House is one of comfort and relaxation - you will discover a warmth and friendliness unrivaled in Inverness. Dugie and Fiona will look after you well in this award winning Guesthouse.
Important Diversion Note
Scottish Water are carrying out essential pipe laying works for the Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston water supplies. The works are expected to continue into June 2019. During this time the only route between Fort Augustus and Invermoriston will be on the Great Glen Way High Route as the Low Route will be closed due to the works. The High Route gives excellent views over the canal and surrounding hills - this diversion will be signposted but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us. If you would prefer to skip this section please speak to the team who can help you with arranging a transfer.
You can start your walk on the Great Glen Way on any day between March and October, subject to availability. The Great Glen Way is very popular so it is best to book as far in advance as you are able to.
Grade & Terrain
This holiday is graded easy to moderate overall, with the 7 and 8 day tours graded moderate, due to a couple of longer days. Daily walking distances very between 8 - 20
miles. Some days will be more challenging than others and the terrain
will be varied with some rough and rugged footpaths. There are ascents
and descents involved, so a good level of fitness will be required. For fitter walkers the High Route will appeal, which affords particularly spectacular views from the Great Glen Way.
The route is well way marked and easy to follow. We supply a detailed map and guidebook so you will easily manage to find your way.
Your bags will be collected from your accommodation each day and moved onto your overnight accommodation. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 18kg per person.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.
The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat, sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.
Getting to/from Fort William
By Air: Inverness and Glasgow Airports are the most convenient. From Inverness Airport catch the bus (2 hours) or arrange a private transfer to Fort William. From Glasgow Airport take the shuttle bus into Glasgow city centre and then the train (4 hours) or bus (3 hours) to Fort William.
By Train: Between 3 and 4 trains run daily from Glasgow to Fort William and the journey takes around 4 hours. Widely regarded as one of the world’s great rail journeys this is a great way to start your trip. Visit Scotrail's website for timetables and tickets.
By Bus: Scottish Citylink operates up to 8 departures per day from Glasgow to Fortwilliam (3 hours) and up to 8 buses per day from Inverness (2 hours) to Fort William. Visit Scottish Citylink's website for timetables and tickets.
By Car: Fort William is 100 miles (approx. 3 hours) north of Glasgow on the A82. Parking (not secure) is available in Fort William. You can sometimes leave your car at the properties we use in Fort William, but please request this at the time of booking.
Private Transfers: We can arrange private transfers from Glasgow, Inverness or Edinburgh to the start/end of your walk; just ask us for a quote. This is often the smoothest way to begin or conclude your adventure.
Journey Planning: If travelling by public transport the website www.travelinescotland.com has an excellent journey planner.
Getting from Inverness
Inverness has excellent transport links by road, rail and air to destinations throughout Scotland and the UK. Use the websites listed above for timetables and tickets.
- Hand picked bed and breakfast accommodation in en-suite rooms wherever possible.
- Door to door baggage transfer.
- A detailed info pack, guidebook and map for the group leader.
- 24/7 telephone support from our office
- Travel to the start or from the finish of the walk.
- Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks.
- Travel Insurance.
- Personal Equipment.
- Taxi transfers or public transport should you need to skip a stage.
- Single room supplement.
- Hotel and castle accommodations upgrades.
- Extra nights before, during or after your walk.
- Private transfer from Inverness to Fort William.
We are often asked the following questions and hope that you will find the answers useful. Please don’t hesitate to contact us or perhaps visit our walking forum for more advice from our clients and team.
How far in advance do I need to book?
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the Great Glen is extremely popular especially over April/May and July/August. You will find up to date availability on our website, and we will always try and accommodate your plans.
How fit do I need to be?
The Great Glen Way is a relatively easy walking trail, and if you are a regular walker or lead an active lifestyle, you will enjoy the trail. If you currently don’t enjoy that level of fitness, regular walking supplemented by cardiovascular exercise for at least six months before your walk is recommended. A good gym or personal trainer will be able to draw up a personalised training programme.
How do the baggage transfers work?
Your bags will be transferred from your accommodation as per your itinerary and moved on to your next overnight accommodation. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 18kg per person.
What personal equipment do I need?
You will need good walking shoes/boots (ideally waterproof), comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, a daypack and hats/gloves etc.
When is the best time of year?
Traditionally April/May has always been the most popular time of year because the theory goes that the weather is better and the midges have not yet appeared. Although having walked the way in every summer month, we believe any time between late March and October offers a wonderful experience.
How do we get to and from the trail?
Fort William is the gateway to the Highlands and is serviced by local train and bus services! With these services, you can connect easily to the start of the Great Glen Way trail with direct trains running from Glasgow city centre to Fort William (approx.. 4 hours). Getting back from Inverness is also easy, and there are again train and bus services onwards to Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres. Please check our local journey planner Traveline Scotland for more information.
What are the midges like?
Midges are small biting insects (much like North American gnats) which are prevalent in the summer months. They are particularly bad on still, overcast days but do not bother you if you are moving, the wind is blowing, the sun is shining, it’s raining, or you are inside. As long as you carry repellent for the odd occasion you may need it they shouldn’t have any impact on your experience.
Am I able to take my dog?
Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate walkers with dogs as many of the accommodation providers we use do not accept pets, and several sections of the way are closed to dogs as they are permissive paths through farmland.
What happens if I can't walk a stage?
You can use public transport or local taxis to continue to your next overnight stop.