Christian and I got back a week ago from Scotland. We hiked along the West Highland Way, a long distance path that runs from Milngavie in the south to Fort William in the north. It is 96 miles (154 km) long and it took us seven days to complete.
Based on recommendations online & our guide book, we broke it down into the following:
Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen
Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan
Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan
Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum
Day 5: Tyndrum to Kingshouse
Day 6: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Day 7: Kinlochleven to Fort William
You could make it in 5, 6 or 8 days as well. I think most people aim to complete it in seven days.
There are a couple options of how you can hike this path. 1. Backpack the entire way (carry all your gear & camp every night). 2. Carry your clothes, some food & other necessities but stay in a cabin, B&B or other accommodation every night. 3. Carry only a day-pack with water, lunch & essentials and stay in a B&B or hotel every night & have your baggage moved from location to location by a transport company every day. We saw all three of these options on the trail. There were many middle-aged, older hikers on the path. They were usually just carrying their day packs and then sleeping in a B&B in the evening. One American was planning on celebrating his 60th birthday at the end of the hike in Fort William. We met a couple from Switzerland that were probably in their 30’s. They carried all their gear but also slept in a B&B every night. There were groups of younger (20’s) guys and/or girls that were backpacking. There was a group of 6 Germans who were also backpacking. It was a mix!
We decided to go with option 1 and carried all our gear with us and planned on camping every night in our tent. We ended up camping every night except one, where we stayed in a cabin on a campground. Based on the seven day hike, you end each day in a small town or a campground/B&B site, which would have a small food/supply shop. We carried enough freeze-dried meals to last us all our dinners and then we ended up buying some fresh items for lunch every couple of days, like cheese, salad or fruit. We had dried fruit and nuts that we packed with us from the beginning.
Our packs were heavy!! We each packed: sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, pillow, sleeping pad, head lamp, hiking poles, hiking clothes, sandals (to wear around camp), rain gear, water reservoir, eating utensils, and toiletries. We split between our two packs: tent, JetBoil, water purifier, first aid kit, camera, and food. I think Christian’s bag weighed around 15kg (33lb) at the airport and that was without water. My pack weighed a bit less than that.
This was honestly the hardest long distance hike I have ever done! It was extremely tiring. My hips were bruised and my shoulders were sore to the touch from my pack. Christian had blisters develop on his feet from day 1. I was lucky enough to only have one small blister. We weren’t climbing mountains every day but it was a lot of mileage and combined with a heavy pack, it made for a strenuous day. I usually had to break the day up into quarters to mentally and physically get through the day’s hike. We would stop for a mid-morning snack, then lunch, an afternoon snack and then arrive at our camping destination for dinner. Some days were easier than others and you felt better but overall we were tired at the end of each day. So our recommendation, unless you are super fit, strong hikers is to lighten your loads and stay in a B&B at the end of each day! We loved the experience and the scenery but I think we could have enjoyed it even more if we weren’t burdened by our packs. We even lucked out with weather. May is apparently the least rainy month of the year in Scotland. We had rain one afternoon that lasted until lunch the following day. Then we had rain in the afternoon on our last day. Overall, it was an amazing experience and I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing the hike, just to be prepared!
Stay tuned for pictures from our hike!