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West Highlands Way Trail/Glasgow

We are planning a trip to Scotland, likely in late October. Plan to fly into Glasgow and take the train to the start of the West Highlands Way trail. Hope to hike the entire 96 miles over 5-6 days. Seeking suggestions from anyone who has done this. Did you use an outfitter? Make your own travel, accommodation and meal arrangements? We are worried that late October might affect places being open to stay at night. Our other travel option is the beginning of September.

And seeking any recommendations for travel and sightseeing in Glasgow.

Many thanks!

Posted by
72 posts

I've not done this specific trail, but have done other long distance trails in England and Ireland. Have you checked out the available daylight hours in Scotland in late October? By that time you could be getting less than 10hrs of full daylight (depending on how "late" your late October is). With 5-6 days those are long hiking days of about 20 miles each day. I don't know you're hiking speed, but unless you're mighty quick and don't take much in terms of rest or food breaks you're using almost all your daylight hours on the trail with little to spare in case you get turned around, or hit bad weather or have an injury that slows you down. With all that in mind the trip starts to sound like a forced misery march with little opportunity to stop and enjoy the scenery. If you can move your hike to September that would be good and if you can allow 7-8 days, based on my experience on other trails, you'll enjoy it far more (and for what it's worth, I've always done self guided, making my own reservations on the long distance trails I've done. Most are so well marked or with good published maps and guidebooks that the expense of a guided version wasn't necessary in my opinion).

Try this for seeing daylight hours for various times of year (currently showing Fort William): https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/uk/fort-william

Posted by
5673 posts

Deborah,

You might find this series of You Tube vids of value to see what walking the trail is really like.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6juXe_FUqYkAPByWqpLEmAVIQ0njbobd

It was very interesting to see the different experiences of Lorna Jane's travelling companion from Minimal List-

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLt9UiadU1aXl_cnDaIpDM5r1dTmh220SJ

At the time I was following both simultaneously.

I too think that early September is much better, both in terms of daylight (and the summer midges should have gone by then), but also weather. By late October the weather can be really adverse. September can be really nice weather (emphasis on can)
Then maybe review your intended duration, if you think you should do so.

Posted by
1198 posts

If you choose early Sept that has much to recommend it.
Think the shepavan forum might still be up ,if so worth a look.
September tends to be a decent month and no midges!!

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Deborah,

Add me to the list of folks recommending an earlier start to your through hike. There are several companies which will transport your heavier luggage so that you can travel lighter with just a daypack. These carriers will take your luggage from Milngavie to Drymen on day one, and drop it off at your accomodation. They will continue to transport your luggage to each planned stop which you make along the Way. Although they don't provide accommodation, they provide a list of possible accommodation (B&B, hotel, hostel, campsite, etc.) along the Way, leaving the choice to you.

As far as sightseeing in Glasgow, there is so much to see and do there that you could spend a week there and not see it all. Personal favourites are the Cathedral, the Necropolis, Peoples Palace, Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Burrell Collection, Museum of Transport, Tenement House, the Hunterian and especially the Barras (weekends only).

My favourite restaurant in Glasgow is the University Cafe at the bottom of Byres Road. It has been in the same family for over 100 years, so they must be doing something right!

Best wishes for you travels. Be sure to bring waterproofs and stout boots!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1320 posts

I haven't done the West Highland Way, but 8 years ago we did the https://www.contours.co.uk/great-glen-way with Contour arranging accomodation, transport (from days end to accomodation and vice versa; not to and from the start and end), and transport of our luggage. We very satisfied with the service and later used them in England as well.

Posted by
1639 posts

From the people I have known who have done the WHW, most have done it themselves but as part of groups. Best to get an organiser to set up the accomodation and them to move luggage.

As for the timing, October is the end of the season. Things will be closing down. But the weather in October is very variable and the light is getting shorter. Sometimes I think people forget how far north we are, roughly the same line as where the Canadian provinces and the three territories have their border. The clocks go back on the last Sunday in October and it gets dark very early in the evening then, in the run up to it the mornings dark in BST. Pubs and such like will be open well into the night, and of course in Glasgow there is little seasonal closing.

Posted by
1277 posts

Hi Deborah -

Definitely do it in September. In late October you’ll be racing the light (and losing) and the weather could vary between OK and absolutely appalling. I’m not sure without checking but I’m going to guess that companies who do organised/self guided trips with luggage transfer won’t do early or late in the year for these reasons, plus some of the recognised accommodation will shut down. However if determined to do October, there’s nothing to stop you trying to book your own accommodation. Consult the U.K. National Trails website - the WHW section should give you a starting point to book your own accommodation if you decide to go it alone.

We did our walk in early May and while England was being battered by torrential rain and high winds we were strolling along in shorts and t-shirts as we left Kinlochleven. We did have a snow storm near Inveroran a couple of days before though, so plan for all eventualities whatever time of year you go. If possible leave an extra day at the end to climb Ben Nevis - almost rude not to being on the doorstep so to speak.

What do you mean by ‘outfitter’? I have mental images of an upmarket outdoor shop where you are swathed in bespoke Goretex by over attentive salesmen!

Good Luck with the walk whenever and however you choose to do it. Tougher than you might expect, it remains a grand walk! Oh, and what you’d expect to be a comfortable stroll up along the shores of Loch Lomond turns out to be the toughest part of the walk for many, so be warned!

Ian

P.S. Here’s a link to a video by the wonderful ‘Scotlands Mountains’ where Murray and Ray attempt the WHW in midwinter. It might serve as a warning, but it looks really good! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlKA0tULiDM
Also check out the video of ‘All the gear no idea hiking’ on You Tube of their WHW in June. Warning! Very NSFW in places (it just made me laugh!). Should the air in the USA be filled with protracted swearing come April, that will be them attempting the PCT!

Posted by
670 posts

We hiked the West Highland Way in early September about 5 years ago. The hours of daylight was good; we had hard rain one day, consistent rain another, but the rest of the time was pretty good. We used Contours https://www.contours.co.uk who booked hotels/B&Bs, and transported our luggage. The lodgings were wonderful. One recommendation I have it to use a good rain hat with a brim; we used one from Outdoor Research and it worked for rain and sun.