Great Glen Way

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Great Glen Way
Scotland, UK

The Great Glen Way is a path the sees some of the most spectacular scenery the Highlands of Scotland has to offer, and is one of Scotland’s Great Trails group of long distance walks.

Great Glen Way is made up of four impressive lochs that are connected by the Caledonian Canal, creating a waterway that goes from coat to coast.

Running from Fort William on the east coast, along a natural fault line to Inverness on the west coast, this 117 kilometre walk is the third longest in the country.

Great Glen Way is a route that is fairly flat, being a combination of towpath and routes that hugs the shores of lochs, yet there are also some alternative paths that provide a challenge for keen hikers.

With routes that cover low ground or the high ground, the Great Glen Way is ideal for hikers of average fitness, or for those who want to push their abilities.

The lower levels are great for those who are new to long distance walking, or who want to put in the miles but are not yet ready for demanding inclines.

The higher routes are a great for improving fitness and stamina, with a variety of steep hills to climb, and often mixed weather conditions.

While much of the path is remote, there are accommodation options such as B&B’s, cottages, hostels and bunkhouses, as well camping.

Highlights
  • Dramatic, sweeping landscape
  • Ancient forests and moorland
  • Pristine lochs, including Loch Ness
  • Historic buildings and ruins
  • Caledonian Canal
Walk Map
About the route
  • Travel

Fort William has very good road and rail links, as does Inverness. There are buses and coach services that take you from most major towns and cities in the UK to either Fort William or Inverness, as well as places in between.

From London, Euston, there is a sleeper train that departs in the evening and arrives at Fort William by mid-morning the next day.

There is an airport at Inverness, and a larger one at Glasgow where you might get more options on flight times.

  • Length

The Great Glen Way is 117 kilometres in length, but can be a little longer depending on whether you take the high road or the low road!

Most walkers of average fitness are able to complete the walk between 6 – 8 days.

With great bus connections along the route, it is easy to walk in stages.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

Despite being surrounded by majestic hills and mountains, the Great Glen Way is surprisingly flat. This makes it an ideal trail for all abilities, with the option of stretching yourself by taking the higher routes.

The pathway is well managed, and provides a fairly even surface throughout.

  • Experience

The Great Glen Way is a walk that is easy to moderate, and is suitable for hikers of average fitness.

No experience is needed to enjoy this walk, other than having the stamina to complete the 29 kilometre stage between Drumnadrochit and Inverness

The way is clearly marked, so no navigational skills are needed.

  • Permits

No permits are necessary to walk the Great Glen Way.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

The most popular way to see the Great Glen Way is by a self-guided walk. They way is well marked with thistle signposts, and it is easy to find the way from point to point.

There are guided services available that will accompany you on your hike, book your accommodation and have your bags moved for you from place to place. All you have to do is carry a day bag and enjoy your walk. Or you can just book the bag forwarding service and walk without a guide.

While it is easy to walk this path from any direction, many walkers prefer to walk from Fort William to Inverness, simply because you don’t have the sun in your eyes so much. Some people say that this means the scenery can be admired without squinting!

One of the advantage of doing the walk the other way around, from Inverness to Fort William, is that you get the longest stretch of the trail done in the first day. You also won’t feel as if you are in a line of hikers!

best time to walk

The best time to walk the Great Glen Way is in spring and autumn, as this is where the trail is a little quieter than the summer months.

In summer time the path can be busy with walkers, yet you do have the best of the weather. Midges are also a problem in summer, so make sure you wear plenty of repellent!

The main path can be walked in all seasons, but in winter there can be heavy snow and freezing conditions. Although this is a well-trodden path and easy underfoot, bear in mind that some spots are remote, and it can be easy to see how people can be in danger from bad weather if not thoroughly equipped with the right hiking gear.

A typical itinerary would be:

Day 1:
Fort Willian to Gairlochy – 17 kilometres

Day 2:
Gairlochy to Laggan – 19 kilometres

Day 3:
Laggan to Fort Augustus – 17 kilometres

Day 4:
Augustus to Invermoriston – 12 kilometres

Day 5:
Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit – 23 kilometres

Day 6:
Drumnadrochit to Inverness – 29 kilometres

The Great Glen Way is a trail that can be walked in stages, so you do a day’s walk between two points as part of a longer stay.

No matter which direction you hike in, or what part of the trail you choose, you are going to be met with stunning scenery and wildlife.

Accommodation

Places to stay along the Great Glen Way are concentrated around each stop point on the itinerary, with little else in between. However, you will find a range of accommodation to suit.

Fort William – B&B and hotel accommodation, as well as independent hostels. At nearby Gen Nevis, there is a campsite.

Gairlochy –There is B&B accommodation, although limited. You may have to travel to Spean Bridge to find more, which is a 5k distance away. Campsites are available at Torness.

Laggan Locks – Here you’ll find the Great Glen Hostel, but if you prefer B&B or hotel accommodation then nearby Invergarry has a range of facilities. There is hostel accommodation here also.

Fort Augutsus – There are plenty of accommodation options, including B&Bs, hotels, hostels and camping grounds.

Invermoriston – A small village, yet there are hotel and B&B rooms available.

Drumnadrochit – A range of B&Bs and hotels, as well as a hostel and campsite.

Inverness – This bustling Highland city is full of accommodation options to suit any budget.

What to do

Great Glen Way is a walk that is famous for its outstanding beauty, and there is plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife and birds. Look out for birds of prey, herds of deer, otters, and the endangered red squirrel.

Keep your eyes peeled for ‘Nessie’ as the path takes you to Loch Ness. You can also enjoy a boat cruise along the loch. On the banks, there is Urquhart Castle a 13th century ruin that is worth a look.

The Caledonian Canal is an important waterway built by Thomas Telford in the early 1800s, and is a site of historic importance.

Take the high route option at Invermoriston to test yourself on some steeper inclines and see awe-inspiring scenery.

Enjoy the bustling city of Inverness, and take some time to explore the castle that marks the end, or start of the trail. Or, if you are walking to Fort William, the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is waiting to be climbed!

For an amazing view that stretches from Ben Nevis to Inverness, take a short detour to climb Meall Fuar-Mhonaidh, a formidable hill that is prominent on the landscape along the Great Glen Way.

At each stop point on the itinerary, you will be able to find a welcoming bite to eat at pubs, shops and cafes, and stock up with supplies for the next leg of your journey.

Published: November 22, 2019 Modified: April 24, 2020
Operators
Mickledore
Mickledore
Mickledore specialises in self-guided walking holidays in the UK for the independent traveller.
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At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking, Walking
Difficulty 2/5
Starts at Fort William, UK
Finishes at Inverness, UK
Length of route 117 Km
Average time to complete 6 - 8 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Highest point 375 metres
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededPoles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots
Countries visited Scotland, UK