The West Highland Way is one of the most beautiful hikes in Europe and maybe even the world. The Scottish highlands attract hikers all year round with their unique beauty and breathtaking peaks. Every season has its own charm, but some months are better for hiking than others. So when is the best time of year to hike the West Highland Way and what is the weather like on the trail during these months?
The seasons in Scotland
Hours of sunshine, probability of rain, wind strength and temperature depend on the respective season in Scotland. However, due to the proximity to the coast and the mild, maritime climate, the weather in these seasons is not as wide ranging as in mainland Europe.
Spring – March, April, May
Summer – June, July, August
Autumn – September, October, November
Winter – December, January, February
Spring on the West Highland Way
The average temperature in spring depends strongly on your exact location on the route but is normally between 7 and 13 ° C.
In March and April snow can still fall and the peaks are often still covered with a white blanket.
May is the most popular month for walking the West Highland Way. This month often has the least rainfall and the most hours of sunshine. It is approaching the longest days of the year so there is daylight late into the evening leaving plenty of time for hiking. The gorse bushes also bloom in the highlands at this time of year while the small midges that can be quite the annoyance in the summer months still slumber as larvae in the moor.
Summer on the West Highland Way
July and August are usually the warmest months on the West Highland Way. The temperature is generally an average of 18 ° C in the north of Scotland during these months but cooler at higher altitudes. So it is advisable to have warm layers and rainwear with you even during these months.
The warm, humid climate also means that the midges are particularly active. Fortunately, Scotland is the windiest country in Europe and with just one good gust of wind, you can get rid of the little tormentors. Read more about how best to deal with these pesky creatures in our West Highland Way: Questions & Answers blog post.
The long summer nights also have a special magic. Did you know that Lerwick, in northern Scotland, has four hours more daylight than London?
Autumn on the West Highland Way
In autumn, the woods along Loch Lomond turn into a sea of blazing colors. The summer vacation is now over and it is getting quieter on the West Highland Way .
For hikers who love the silence and want to see animals at dawn, autumn hikes have their own magic. The temperature drops to an average of 8 – 14 ° C and the rainfall also increases. However, September also sees the end of the midge season.
There’s also nothing more cozy than sitting in front of a fire after a great day of hiking during the cooler Autumn evenings.
Winter on the West Highland Way
In winter, some parts of the highlands turn into a winter sports area with skiing and snowboarding becoming more popular than hiking. The ice ax is normally required in your luggage at this time of year and it is only recommended that very experienced hikers take on the West Highland Way at this time of year.
One reason for this is snowfall. Some mountain peaks have snow around 100 days a year. If the valleys and paths are also covered, one must be able to navigate well with a map and compass. Sections like “The Devil’s Staircase”, an ascent with a spectacular view, are sometimes completely buried and have to be closed.
Many of the normal accommodation and luggage transfer companies are also closed for the winter months after working 7 days a week for the main March to October season.
On clear autumn and winter nights, it is also sometimes possible to see the Northern Lights from the West Highland Way.
Where to get the best weather forecast information?
In many accommodations you will be informed about the weather situation, sometimes through notices or a chat. The weather is often the number one topic of conversation in Scotland, as it is in Ireland, so no one is better informed than the locals along the route.
Mountain Weather also has daily weather forecasts and useful information for hikers such as felt temperature and a clear view of mountain peaks.
A special tip is to listen to the news on BBC Scotland on the radio at 6pm . Experienced hikers swear by their reliability. And the Scottish accent is just lovely.