The West Highland Way is one of the most renown long distance trek in Europe. It goes through the gorgeous Scottish Highlands, from Glasgow to Fort William, and makes you experience every kind of landscape you would expect to find in this country, and more.
You don’t need any prior experience to walk the West Highland Way, other than being in good health. I did it as a complete newbie and I managed. The trail is well-marked and there’s so many people doing this trek that, if you run into trouble while being alone, you would only have to wait for about 10 minutes before another hiker shows up. That’s how long I had to wait in September when I felt skittish about going alone through some Highland Cattle that blocked the trail.
If you go there in July-August, I heard there’s even more people on the trail. It would be a shame in my opinion, since some of my best memories there where when I was completely alone in the highlands, with no sign of human activity anywhere and just the endless trail in front of me. That’s an impressive sight.
How long does it take ? There’s several itinerary available. Usually, it takes between six to nine days to complete it. I chose the six days option. Most people I saw along the trail were doing it in six or seven days, but half of them decided to take a bit more time after the third day (the hardest one on the legs) !
Side note : every year in June is the West Highland Way Race, where people run the trail in less than 35 hours ! But these people are obviously crazy. Thinking back on some hard parts of the trail, it seems completely impossible to me to run instead of slowly dragging your feet while hyperventilating …
To end with the practical side of this post : there’s an amazing company called Travel lite that will take your backpack or suitcase and deposit it every night where you intend to sleep. No matter how many days it takes you to do the trail or how heavy your luggage is, it’s only 45£ by bag. Even for a budget traveller like me, it was well worth it rather than having to carry my tent and all of my stuff with me. You might not need it if you choose to stay in guesthouses and hotels rather than camp out, but I’m pretty sure it will cost you more in the end.
My one regret is that I had to miss out on the fourth day because of a knee injury (not related to the trail, I had a bad knee before). I walked through the pain the rest of the way, and I don’t regret it, but because of this I don’t think I’m done with the West Highland Way. I will come back one day and do it in full !
You only need one book to walk the West Highland Way, it’s the one by Charlie Loram. There’s hand drawn maps really easy to follow, indications of every accommodations and places to eat on the way and every thing else you might want to know about the trail.