Walking The West Highland Way – 5 Days Itinerary

Walking the West Highland Way in 5 days

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The West Highland Way is one of the best hikes in Scotland. Why? Revellers trek through the rolling hills and by calm lochs of the west coast, which is deemed one of the country’s most beautiful areas.

This 96-mile hike starts just outside Scotland’s friendliest city, Glasgow, at the town of Milngavie (pronounced Mill-guy) and ends at the outdoor capital, Fort William.

Walking the West Highland Way—5 days is the most popular time frame; however, many visitors like to take longer, covering fewer miles each day and spending more time in the towns, villages, or campsites of the West Coast.

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This guide includes

  • The West Highland Way route(s)
  • Advice on accommodation
  • West Highland Way packing gear list

West Highland Way – 5 days Route

The longest day of the 5-day route is 22.5 miles with the shortest being the last (15 miles).

Refreshment stops and a variety of types of accommodation can be found in most areas.

There is no strict way of planning your West Highland Way hike but all routes begin in Milngavie.

Kingshouse Hotel West Highland Way

Day 1: Milngavie To Balmaha (20 miles)

The first day is relatively easy.

The West Highland Way starting point takes places in Milngavie and is identified by a large cement monument on Douglas Street.

Next head through a small car park behind Milngavie’s town centre shops.  

The first stretch takes you along fields and farmland all the way to Dumgoyne where you can buy refreshments at The Beech Tree Inn and then on to Drymen for another refreshment or overnight stop.

The next stage is on to Conic Hill, which is a little trickier to find.

Conic Hill Balmaha in Loch Lomond path

Keep an eye out for the signposts (marked with the thistle) which take you through a forest then up and over Conic Hill with stunning views of Balmaha.

Alternatively, keep walking through the village to Rowardennan.

Personally, I found this leg relatively easy, hopes were high and the weather was dry!

Unfortunately, one member of our group could not go on at this stage and was picked up in Balmaha (she rejoined us at Bridge of Orchy).

We stayed at Bay Cottage and recommend it highly. There’s a hot tub and the breakfast is superb. 

Read more | Day 1 of the West Highland Way (blisters and Balmaha)

Conic Hill Balmaha Loch Lomond views

Day 2: Balmaha to Inverarnan (21.5 miles)

Leaving the beautiful town of Balmaha with Loch Lomond at your side, walk past the shores to Inversnaid with refreshments at Inversnaid Hotel.

Here a small passenger ferry runs to the opposite side of the loch for non-hikers.

Next, it’s on to Inverarnan, sleeping options are limited to a popular and pricey hotel so WHWers often opt for the town of Tyndrum which has more options such as Tyndrum Lodges or Beinglass campsite.

Read about WHW accommodation options in detail, here.

Read next | Day 2 boots, boats and automobiles

Balmaha West Highland Way Walk

Day 3: Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven (22.5 miles)

This is the longest day of the West Highland Way hike and if it is raining you really can suffer.

The first leg takes you through farmland and on to Strathfillan (refreshment stop/small shop) then easier terrain to Tyndrum for the famous touristic Green Welly Stop serves food and snacks.

Green Welly Tyndrum Scotland

Some Wayers may choose to stop here for the night to break the hike into 6 days.

Others may continue on to Bridge of Orchy which has one hotel and a couple of guest houses.

A bus from Glasgow runs to and from Bridge of Orchy. The village also has a train station.

Read more | The day of doom – Achilles pain ruins the day

Deer with one antler Kingshouse

Day 4: Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven (18.5 miles)

This day includes walking over Rannoch Moor, which can be brutal if the weather is poor (no coverage), and then on to visit the friendly deer at Kings House (refreshment stop).

Kingshouse Hotel is snug with pies and casual dining, indoor seating at its restaurant, and outdoor pods for food and drinks.

It is quite pricy, so save your pennies.

This is where our party stopped for the night as we completed the West Highland Way in 6 days.

However, if you choose to power through, head behind the King House Hotel to the Devil’s Staircase, which is not as scary as it sounds!

Again, the weather can be against you at this leg.

The descent leads you into Kinlochleven which has a handful of restaurants, accommodation and a Co-op shop.

It is cool getting to sleep in a valley for the night.

Read more | Our last day of the WHW

Rannoch Moor Scotland West Highland Way

Day 5: Kinlochleven to Fort Willian (15 miles)

The final day starts with a tough climb, which rewards you with views of the valley.

As you head towards Fort William, views of Ben Nevis become apparent. Will you get to see the tip? It’s often hidden!

Some Wayers rest for the night in Fort William, then tackle the UK’s highest mountain the next day. Will you?

End the Way with a picture of the man resting his feet.

Dine and have a celebratory drink at Tavern (try the skewers), The Volley Arms or The Crofter.

Pick up some pastries at Rain for breakfast the next day or snacks later.

West Highland Way Finish Fort William

Frequently Asked Questions About the West Highland Way

How long is the West Highland Way?

The hike is 96 miles starting at Milngavie and ends in Fort William.

What is the West Highland Way weather like?

You can expect four seasons in one day in Scotland. The west coast can be especially wet.

May tends to be one of the nicer months, April-October will be more pleasant that October-March.

Dark nights creep in around 4pm during winter.

Is the West Highland Way wild camping friendly?

Wild camping is legal in Scotland which is great for those looking to keep costs down.

Be sure to read the Scottish Outdoors Access Code for rules which include being respectful of locals and animals, picking your rubbish after you, not parking close to roads.

We talk extensively about this in our camping guide to the North Coast 500 (very popular road trip in Scotland).

Do I need to carry my own bag?

There are companies that help you transit with their West Highland Way baggage transfer options.

This means they collect in Milngavie and your bags arrive at your accommodation each day before you do (usually).

If you would prefer to carry your own bag, that’s perfectly fine.

Many hikers do. Just keep in mind that there is limited drying space in some of the accommodation and if you are camping there could be nothing available.

Invest in an Osprey bag cover US / UK to keep your belongings dry. 

Osprey Bag Cover

I’m a solo traveller, do I need to do the WHW myself?

We’re a social bunch in Scotland, why not join one of the many West Highland Way tours?

During the peak months, the route is like M9, busy!

There is a good chance you will meet fellow Wayers at each stop if you don’t want to commit to a tour.

Another option is to do a callout in one of the many Europe backpackers Facebook groups, a Scotland tips Facebook group or the specific West Highland Way support group.

These groups have developed into great wee communities for those looking for support and ideas.

How bad are the West Highland Way midges?

Argh, those blasted wee winged beasties can really ruin your holiday in Scotland.

From June – August we see the worst of the swarms. Purchase Avon Skin So Soft US / UK to ward them off.

What are your biggest West Highland Way tips?

Like all of my articles, I don’t hold back any information but in a nutshell, my biggest tips are

  • Break in your shoes/boots months before attempting the West Highland Way trail
  • Train – attempt as many 20-mile day hikes as you can. Aim for at least one two-day hike
  • Invest in a decent raincoat, I love my Marmot Precip US / UK
  • Pack flip-flops for the evenings to give your feet some breathing space
  • Biofreeze US / UK is excellent for aches and pains
  • Have fun but don’t be ashamed if you have to admit defeat at any stage. Bridge of Orchy is a good place to sit out as you can catch the bus to Kings House and start again

Here’s our lightweight hiking book comparison guide

Salomon Quest Ladies Boots

West Highland Way Accommodation

There is every type of accommodation along the West Highland Way, which makes the trek very inclusive for all budgets.

Wild camping keeps costs down, and campsites throughout the route offer basic facilities.

Hostels with drying rooms and kitchens can be booked at Balmaha, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy, Kingshouse and Kinlochleven.

Bed and breakfast guest houses are very popular in Scotland and found at each stop of the Way.

Most of these bed and breakfasts offer packed lunch service, too.

Staying in a B&B is a really pleasant way to do the WHW.

You get to meet locals and enjoy a hearty breakfast before you trek again.

Hotels are also available throughout.

Naturally, these are pricier than the alternatives mentioned here.

Read more | Where we stayed on the West Highland Way

Kingshouse Bunkhouse West Highland Way

West Highland Way: What to pack

Your packing list will depend on whether you carry your bags or use a transfer company. Essentials include

  • Well-worn-in walking boots. I wear Salomon Quest boots US / UK
  • Hiking socks
  • A good quality waterproof coat, I wear a Mountain Equipment Rupal jacket US / UK, which is thicker than my Marmot – great for dryer weather, small showers 
  • Icebreaker Merino wool base layer USA / UK
  • Waterproof overtrousers USA / UK
  • Day bag with snacks and water
  • Walking sticks (optional, saved me on day three)

You may also like | Our full WHW packing list

Hiking shoes | road trip packing essentials

Final Words

This West Highland Way route planner can be adapted to meet the needs of any hiker.

If you plan to bring your dog, remember to check where lambing season is taking place, as you won’t be able to walk through that area. Also, keep your pup on the lead, as they do double the number of miles that we do, which can blister their paws.

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The West Highland Way hiking guide that includes tips on routes, where to stay, what to pack and frequently asked questions about Scotland's most popular hiking trail.

Any questions? Ask in the comments below.

25 thoughts on “Walking The West Highland Way – 5 Days Itinerary

  1. Catherine says:

    This is intense! I would absolutely love to do something like this when my kids are older. I bet the freedom is exhilarating!

  2. Brian Baxter says:

    Just a few suggestions.
    We did a self supported (tenting) hike here 2 years ago. We very much enjoyed it …however…in 5 days you say!! Ouch!! We did it in 8 plus one day to hike Ben Nevis. I would not recommend anyone doing this in 5 days.

    Immediately after finishing the WHW we took the Jackobite (Harry Potter Steam Train) to Mallaig then ferry to Sky. Bussed to the top of Sky (stopping at Portree to stock up). Then spent another 8 days hiking the entire Sky Trail The WHW is beautiful but Sky is stunning!!

    Love your web site!

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      We did it in 6 [I do say that in the guide :)] 5 seems to be the most searched for term though, I think people are over ambitious. That sounds lovely! I’ve been on the same train and to Skye but on different trips. We’re actually heading to the Isle of Lewis and Harris next week – dream trip.

  3. Steve says:

    I’m thinking about doing this trip but want to scale back. I’d like to hike for 5 days but try and keep hiking to 15 miles a day. Any recommendations on certain legs that can be skipped by taking bus/train/boat? I’ve never been to Scotland so as much as I love to hike, if I am coming all the way from Los Angeles there are other places I want to visit. I just hiked a portion of the Haute Route in Switzerland picking and choosing only certain segments and it was ideal for me. Public transportation there made that very easy in Switzerland so thought I would check on options along this route.

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Morning Steve, yeah we don’t have the public transport up in the Highlands that Switzerland has! You can take the bus from Glasgow to Bridge of Orchy and start from there. That would you take you through Kingshouse/Glencoe and Kinlochleven to Fort William. Use the guide and supporting articles to work out how many miles you would want to do on each day. You would then get a train back to Glasgow or Edinburgh from Fort William.

  4. Skye Class says:

    This is perfect! I’m actually planning to hike the West Highland Way in five days this year. I tried a couple years ago but my hiking buddy bailed after three days and I had to go with. Thanks so much for this!

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