How to get there
Some hikers begin walking from Glasgow, but the actual start of the West Highland Way is in Milngavie, about 7 miles north of Glasgow. Take a train from the Queen Street Station (20 minute ride); the hike starts at a granite obelisk on Douglas Street in the center of the Milngavie pedestrian shopping zone.
What to do
Hike! To plan a West Highland Way adventure, several options are available. Hikers can a choose self-guided or guided (with a leader) trip; if selecting self-guided, hikers can make all their own arrangements, or book with a company that handles all the accommodation, luggage and itinerary planning. Mac’s Adventure (Unit 510, 355 Byres Road, Glasgow, www.macsadventure.com; 011 44 141945 4945) offers two packages: self-guided hikes from £195 to £485 ($375 to $933), depending on accommodation choice and duration of walk) or guided £325 to £435 ($625 to $837). The package includes accommodation (single travelers booking the B&B option are charged an extra £60 ($115) to £90 ($173) per trip), breakfast (if taking B&B option), daily door-to-door baggage transfer, guidance notes, maps and guidebooks. All Mac’s Adventure itineraries start in Milngavie on day one, end in Fort William and can be customized with extra days before, after or during the walk.
But many hikers make all the accommodation, meal, luggage transportation and navigation arrangements themselves, or even “rough it” by bringing tents and camping equipment. Because the Way builds from easy to harder terrain, south to north is Way’s traditional (but not required) direction. During quieter periods, booking accommodations in advance isn’t necessary; if bad weather or blisters get you down, you can call to change your lodging reservation, take a day off and rest your feet for the next day of hiking. AMS (www.ams-scotland.com) offers baggage transfer, accommodation booking, and return transportation from Fort William to Glasgow. A stunning way to return is by taking the West Highland Railway, which crosses the Way at various points (three and a half hours); Traveline Scotland (www.travelinescotland.com) provides bus, train and airfare options.
Either before or after the hike, you might consider staying on to explore for a few days on either end, Glasgow or Fort William. From Fort William, you can ascend Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, or continue hiking 70 more miles on the Great Glen Way to Inverness.
For further information especially helpful for self-organizers, purchase a copy of the painstakingly detailed guidebook The West Highland Way by Charlie Loram (Trailblazer Publications), which includes precise walking maps and places to stay and eat. Lonely Planet Walking in Scotland contains a brief chapter on the hike. If you book with Mac’s Adventures, you’ll be provided with the useful map-guide The West Highland Way by Jacquetta Megarry (Rucksack Readers). Also see www.macsadventure.com for excellent travel resources and other links, www.west-highland-way.co.uk, the Way’s official website (includes lodging contacts), and walking.visitscotland.com for general info on walking in Scotland.