What is The West Highland Way

by | 13 Jun 2015 | 0 comments

The West Highland Way is the most famous long-distance footpath in Scotland, going from Milngavie to Fort William.

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Opened in 1980, it begins in Milngavie, north of Glasgow, and ends in Fort William, the mountain sports capital of Scotland and the United Kingdom, covering the 154 km separating these two cities. The official guide divides it into 8 stages, about 20 kilometres each.

Its fame is due, above all, to the fact that the road crosses or borders some of Scotland’s most impressive natural sites, such as Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and Ben Nevis.

Loch Lommond

It is the largest lake in the United Kingdom, with an area of 70 square kilometers. It is one of the longest lakes in Scotland, 37 kilometers away from the north-south end. And also one of the deepest: south of Reverse, the lake is about 190 metres deep, 182 below sea level. In 2002, Loch Lommond and the Trossachs were established as a National Park, the first to be created in Scotland.

It is a border lake, where the Lowlands end and the Highlands begin. And it clearly reflects this: wide and full of islands to the south, narrow and deep to the north, the lake marks one before and one later in the West Highland Way, which follows the eastern shore of the lake for 30 km.

Loch Lomond from Connic Hill · The West Highland Way
Ben Vorlich peak, snowed, from the West Highland Way

Rannoch Moor

A moor is a barren, uninhabited and uncultivated area. Rannoch Moor is, perhaps, Scotland’s largest moor, with 130 square kilometers in length. I say perhaps because the boundaries are not clear, neither those of a general moor, nor those of Rannoch Moor in particular. But what everyone seems to agree with is that it is the most grandiose: it has the highest mountains, it is full of ridges and hills, and the valleys draw lakes and meandering rivers.

The absence of everything is the most prominent feature of the hikers when they pass: tranquility and absolute calm if time goes with it. If he doesn’t… Scots say in Rannoch Moor the hell isn’t hot.

Glencoe

Ben Nevis and Glencoe are part of a National Scenic Area. A glen is a narrow valley, and this is the great charm of Glencoe: mountains of a thousand meters creating a valley so narrow that you get it into a photograph. Of volcanic origin, Glencoe is considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful areas in Scotland.

Ben Nevis, on the other hand, is the highest peak in the United Kingdom, at 1344 metres in height. Located at Fort William, the summit receives about 100. 1,000 mountaineers a year, being one of the most popular destinations in adventure sports.

​The best time to do the West Highland Way

This is a very personal thing, but from November to March, if you’re not skilled mountaineers, forget to do the Way: you can find yourself in harsh weather conditions, needing the use of snow shoes again or crampons, especially in the final stages, or having to orient yourselves through map and compass, because the path has disappeared under a snow cover.

Although during these months there may be favourable weeks to make the way, especially during the milder winter, and in late March and early spring the weather may be pleasant, it can quickly change and turn a sunny day into an unpleasant and complicated day. During this time, you must be more aware than ever of the difficulties that may arise. The people of Walking Highlands inform you of the preparation needed to enter the Highlands during the winter.

May is the month with the least rain in this part of Scotland, and the day is long. I guess that’s why it’s the most popular time for the Scots to do the road. I did it in the first week of May, and as you can see in the photographs, the landscape doesn’t look like spring. June is the second least rainy month, and everything is already green. Spring and autumn is the time when the path is most beautiful (as in all places, btw), although perhaps climatologically spring begins there later, especially past Crianlarich.

If you want to climb a Munro, which is the mountain of more than 3000 feet (914 m), you will find some of the highest along the Way, such as Ben Lomond, Ben Nevis himself, or Ben More in Crianlarich (ben means mountain), it is likely that, during May, the highest part still contains snow. If the rain can be a great obstacle, the hardest thing is the wind. The wind that he was doing, for example, rising to Conic Hill (350 meters), was so strong that he was unbalanced.