So, you’ve decided to have a bash at walking the West Highland Way, one of Scotland’s most popular walks and the only recognised Long Distance Route in the country (topping out at 96 miles). The West Highland Way is a stunningly beautiful walk and it shows off some of the very best scenery that Scotland is famous for, but how should you get yourself nice and prepared for this undertaking?
If you’re not a regular walker, then you’ll definitely need to put in some training time before undertaking the Way, with one section of the walk requiring you to complete 20 miles in one day. When training for a walk it is important that you don’t go too hard, too fast – start out with some fairly simple nature walks and then steadily escalate their difficulty to prepare yourself. As you get more comfortable with walking you should start to carry the approximate weight of a full backpack with you as well so that you are properly prepared to lug this weight with you on the way.
Train Some More
The West Highland Way isn’t just a simple stroll across flat ground, there are plenty of hills on this walk including some quite steep bits. That means that it is well worth getting some extra training in hill walking as well as your standard hiking practice. Don’t worry too much about getting in practice scaling sheer cliff faces though, most of the hills on the West Highland Way are steep but easily manageable.
Plan Your Itinerary
The Way is split up into 8 stages which make up the main legs of the walk. While these stages can usually be walked within a day, your own walking ability and fitness can change that, so you might want to create your own plan for the walk. When deciding on the stages of the walk, make sure that you consider things like the distance to shelter and supplies – you don’t want to end up walking in the dark or miles short of a safe place to spend the night.
You should also make sure that you check the weather forecast thoroughly before setting out to make sure that you are properly prepared for the conditions.
Kit Yourself Out
Once you’re fit enough and good and ready to start the walk, you’ll need to take the time to make sure you’re nicely kitted out. A good pair of walking boots are a must, as is a raincoat (even if you travel in the summer, Scottish weather is notoriously temperamental). While you might want to lug a tent around with you for camping, the West Highland Way has lots of guesthouses and places to stay along the way which are a perfectly respectable alternative.
The final and probably most important piece of advice if you’re travelling between the late spring and late summer – protect yourself from the hell beasts that are midges. Midges are small bloodsucking insects that swarm in massive clouds during those months and they can be a particular pest on certain parts of the West Highland Way. Make sure to come well prepared with net hats, insect repellents and light clothing to keep your arms and legs covered.
There are few fates worse than spending an entire day walking while being eaten alive by massive clouds of midges, and believe me, I’m speaking from experience.