In this post, we take a look at some of the reasons why the West Highland Way is such an incredibly popular hiking route, with scenery, history and immersion in culture all playing big roles. Here are some West Highland Way highlights not to be missed.
The West Highland Way is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular hikes in Europe. The 155km (96 mile) long trail allows you to get acquainted with the Scottish highlands and its breathtaking beauty. Some of the sights will likely be familiar to you already: from the steam train from “Harry Potter” to the battlefield from “Braveheart”, as many locations along the trail have been used for famous film productions.
The West Highland Way is also one of the most popular long-distance trails in the world. Accommodation along the route is booked up quickly every year, often many months in advance. It’s therefore advised to book as early as possible to ensure availability.
Find out more about hiking the West Highland Way!
1. The View From Conic Hill
When you reach Conic Hill, you leave the flat plains around the starting sections in Milngavie and Drymen behind you for a first glimpse of the stunning Scottish highlands. No matter how enchanting the path has been so far, here is a foretaste of what lies ahead of you. You get the impression that you are entering a new majestic realm with the shimmering water of Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Scotland, in front of you.
2. Loch Lomond
The West Highland Way takes you along the east bank of Loch Lomond through lush forests and past rugged rock formations. Loch Lomond is known as the queen of the Scottish lakes and is the 3rd deepest in Scotland. It stretches for 35km from north to south (or vice versa..) and is known for its beauty, attracting hikers, holidaymakers and day-trippers.
Wildlife and fish are in abundance in and around the Loch with ospreys and eagles often spotted in the skies above. Loch Lomond is one of only 3 lakes were the powan – a type of fish – is found. 23 islands rest in the Loch, four of which are inhabited.
Here you can also immerse yourself in the history of Scotland and walk in the footsteps of an important historical figure. We’re talking about Rob Roy MacGregor . This “Scottish Robin Hood” was a legend even during his lifetime. A drover who messed with the aristocratic landowners and thus came into conflict with the law. Perhaps this will one day inspire you to walk the Rob Roy Way, another famous walking route further east of Scotland.
3. Rannoch moor
The mysterious moorland of Rannoch Moor, one of the UK’s largest moors, takes you deeper into the wild. It is an expanse of around 50 square miles of boggy moorland to the west of Loch Rannoch and extending to northerly Lochaber in Scotland. This unique area is comprised of blanket bog, lochans, rivers, and rocky outcrops which support a wide variety of flora and fauna. A wealth of plants, insect, bird and animal life can be seen here ranging from curlews and grouse to roe and red deer. Enjoy the rough charm of this pristine landscape.
4. The Glencoe Valley
Tall mountains tower on either side as you traverse the Glencoe Valley. From here, hikers can enjoy spectacular views of Meall a Buridh, the highest peak in the “Blackmount” mountain range. The remoteness of this valley and the mighty mountains create a special atmosphere: how small a person can feel when surrounded by such impressive beauty.
A symbol of cosiness is the Kings House Hotel, a secluded establishment from the 17th century that welcomes tired hikers. What could be more homely than a lighted window in the middle of nowhere that invites you to rest? The Kings House menu also offers meat-free options, which vegetarians should be particularly pleased with due to the lack of local alternatives.
5. Devils ‘ staircase
The “Devil’s Staircase” marks the highest point of the West Highland Way at 550 meters. The path to this pass winds up in a zigzag and is easy to manage despite the altitude. The highest point itself is marked by two pyramids made of piled stones. The climb is rewarded with a stunning view back over Glencoe and the Blackwater Reservoir.
6. Glen Nevis & Other Magical Valleys
The West Highland Way traverses an abundance of breathtakingly beautiful valleys. The word Glen always means a valley. From the gloomy Glencoe to Glen Nevis, you will also pass Glen Etive. James Bond even paid a visit to this special place and the carnivorous plant “sundew” is also at home here. But Glen Nevis stands out even among these magical valleys. In the north it is bounded by Ben Nevis. It is also home to the three highest waterfalls in Scotland. So it is not surprising that such famous films as “Braveheart”, “Highlander”, “Harry Potter” and “Rob Roy” used this valley as a filming location.
7. Ben Nevis
On the north side of the mountain there is a 700m high cliff face, making Ben Nevis one of the top locations for mountaineers and climbers.
The ruins of an old observatory lie at the top of Ben Nevis. This was operational between 1883 and 1904, with much of its data still used today to understand weather patterns in the Scottish mountains.
A popular route for hillwalkers begins at Torlundy, not far from Fort William at the end of the West Highland Way.
Attempting this climb means hikers must be in good physical shape and have excellent navigational skills in case of bad weather. It is recommended to only attempt this climb in favourable weather conditions.
What better way to end your fantastic hiking trip than with a hike up the impressive mountain?
8. The Jacobite Steam Train – The Hogwarts Express
The Jacobite Steam Train was made famous as the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter. This great rail journey takes you on a 135km round-trip (not to Hogwarts, unfortunately), passing some of Scotland’s most impressive scenery.
Beginning in Fort William at the end of the West Highland Way, you pass Ben Nevis before making your way towards Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater Loch in Britain. You then arrive in Mallaig at the deepest saltwater Loch in Europe, Loch Nevis.
Hop on board this famous steam train and watch the landscape fly by your window as you reminisce about your latest hike.