The Great Glen Way – 8 Trail Highlights

November 3, 2017 by
Alex hiking in Connemara
POSTED BY November 3, 2017

Would you like to get to know the Scottish Highlands and go hiking where Nessie lives? On the Great Glen Way you will experience the fantastic mountain landscapes of Scotland and walk along legendary lakes. In this post, we investigate The Great Glen Way’s highlights from Loch Ness to castles, museums and much more. 

The Great Glen Way is ideal for beginners who want to enjoy views of the mountain peaks from a path with a moderate ascent. However, it also offer more strenuous “High Route” options for those looking for more of a challenge.

It’s also quieter than the better-known West Highland Way and starts where the West Highland Way ends: in Fort William. So if you don’t want to leave the Highlands anytime soon, you can link these two famous National Trails together.

Great Glen Way: Fact File

  • Length: 117 kilometers (73 miles)
  • Start: Fort William
  • End: Inverness
  • Walking Direction: From southwest to northeast so you will normally be walking with the wind at your back.
  • Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
  • Duration: Around a week. Hillwalk Tours offers 4-9 day walking tours on the Great Glen Way.

Want to hike the Great Glen Way?

Check out our Great Glen Way walking tours!

1. The Jacobite Steam Train

The Jacobite Steam Train will be very familiar to Harry Potter fans as the Hogwarts Express. The scenery seen on the train in the movies is taken from the West Highland Railway line – the route taken by the Jacobite Steam Train.

The 135km round-trip takes you passed the highest mountain in Britain, the deepest freshwater loch in Britain and the deepest seawater loch in Europe. These are Ben Nevis, Loch Morar and Loch Nevis respectively.

It is possible to take a trip on this magical train and witness the majesty of Scotland’s countryside from inside the carriages that Harry and his friends sat in on their way to Hogwarts.

The Jacobite Steam Train on the West Highland Way

2. Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis stands at 1,344 metres at the beginning of the Great Glen Way. It is Britain’s highest mountain.

An ruins of an observatory lies at its summit. This was staffed between 1883 and 1904 and was used to collect important weather data.

On the north face of Ben Nevis are 700-metre high cliffs, making it a prime location for rock-climbers.

There is a route up Ben Nevis that is popular with hillwalkers. Those attempting the climb should be in good physical shape and have excellent navigational skills as the weather ca change quite quickly up the mountain.

Ben Nevis on the West Highland Way

3. The West Highland Museum

The West Highland Museum tells the story of the people that lived in the West Highlands.

It documents everything from political warfare to the effect on the area that tourism has had. One of its most renowned collection is that of the Jacobite cause and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The West Highland Museum is at the beginning of the Great Glen Way, in Fort William.

Among the collections on display are military and archaeology exhibitions too.

West Highland Museum at the start of the Great Glen Way

4. The Great Glen Fault

The Great Glen Fault gave the long distance trail its name and is one of the most important geological features in Britain. It was formed where tectonic plates met millions of years ago, connecting what is now Scotland with the rest of the island. The plate drift created a gigantic trough valley.

To this day, the area is seismically active and around three earthquakes still occur every year. 

Along this valley you hike on the Great Glen Way and, though you’d hardly guess it on a map, the path connects the west and east coast of Scotland making it a Coast to Coast hike.

The Great Glen Valley is home to three lakes: Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and the famous Loch Ness. After the industrial revolution, the plan arose to connect them. The resulting waterway is the Caledonian Canal. Its construction in the early 19th century was a masterpiece of engineering, but required a lot more time and money than originally planned. The Great Glen Way runs along its banks and offers enchanting views of glistening water and historic locks.

Walkers walking along the Great Glen Way

5. Loch Ness

It is fascinating how the myth of the intangible monster of Loch Ness has preoccupied people for centuries more than the lake itself. Loch Ness is a remarkable body of water and at 56 square kilometers and 228 meters deep the largest freshwater reservoir in Britain.

On the shores of Loch Ness are picturesque castle ruins and lonely lighthouses. Navigating a crossing is as challenging as navigating a sea, especially in bad weather.


6. Nessie

But let’s get to its famous, legendary resident. ‘Nessie’, the Loch Ness monster, was first mentioned in 656 AD when a man was saved from his clutches by the intervention of Saint Columba.

In 1933, the photo of a London surgeon allegedly showing Nessie caused a sensation. To date, over a thousand eyewitness accounts of encounters with the rare creature have puzzled researchers.

In the multimedia Loch Ness visitor center you can find out more about the biosphere around Loch Ness and all its inhabitants in seven exhibition rooms.

Loch Ness Monster on the Great Glen Way

7. Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle rests on the banks of Loch Ness, providing a perfect strategic lookout point for both enemies and the Loch Ness Monster.

The castle was under the control of many different people during its history, and witnessed several bloody battles.

The medieval fortress was an important location in the Scots’ struggle for independence.

A new visitor centre demonstrates the history of the place and details the families who held this castle.

Urquhart Castle along the Great Glen Way

8. Inverness Museum

Natural history, geology and archaeology exhibits from the Highlands are housed in the Inverness Museum. These show how this area is connected with the rest of the world.

It allows you to explore the types of wildlife that live here while also give you a taste of art from the Highlands.

You can discover history from the Jacobite rising and have a look at authentic Highland weapons and musical instruments such as the bagpipes.


Ready for a Great Glen Way hiking adventure?

Check out our Great Glen Way walking tours!

Views while hiking the Great Glen Way

We hope that you enjoyed this guide to The Great Glen Way – Trail Highlights. Check out our Walking Hiking Blog for more posts like this.