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Mountain biking the West Highland Way

West Highland Way in Felled Section of the Nevis Forest cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Chris Heaton

Mountain biking the West Highland Way

Mountain Biking Collection by Barney



3-4 h

/ day

95.4 mi

9,450 ft

9,575 ft

Let's not beat about the bush, the West Highland way is a big ol' challenge. Its 95-odd miles are usually treated as a walk over several days, but they work marvellously well as a magnificent bike ride (you can take a bike on all the trails, after all). As long, that is, as you don't mind a fabulous variety of riding, from mouth-agape gorgeous scenery on wide tracked surfaces, all the way through to hike-a-bike walking your way up the side of vertiginous slopes, and the technical descents that inevitably follow.

This is not a route that you can easily do with a touring bike and panniers, mind you. You’ll be needing a proper mountain bike, and you’ll be needing to pack as light as you can whilst still making sure you’ve got everything you need to be safe. As far as bikes go, you might find a full-suspension bike more comfortable and easier on some technical sections, but be aware that you’ll be carrying it in quite a few places too - so a hefty enduro bike is probably not a good idea.

There are a few other things to note, too. This Collection splits the route up into four sections of broadly escalating difficulty, although they all present their challenges. It also runs the more common south to north, although it’s perfectly possible to run it the other way around, of course. There will be plenty of walkers en route; give way to them and be friendly - most of them will regard you with varying degrees of bemusement or disbelief, especially if you’re riding some of the bits they’re struggling to walk.

Wild camping in Scotland is permitted, with certain caveats - although it’s restricted on part of the Loch Lomond trail. There are other accommodation options en route, of course - this is a pretty popular trail, after all, but they tend to get somewhat more scarce the further north you go. It’s important, therefore, to be prepared if you get stuck out in the open - if you’re not out-and-out bivvying, then you should carry warm clothes, a reflective foil blanket, spare water and lots of emergency food, at a minimum.

Although we’ve split the route into four, it’s entirely possible that you’ll make better time than this - some people have even done the Way, or even both ways, in one go! So if the going is good, and you feel like you can press on, then do so! But plan ahead, and make sure you give yourself adequate options when it comes to stopping, accommodation, food and water.

This being Scotland, the weather can become somewhat changeable, to say the least. Although forecasting has improved over the years, it still can’t totally accommodate the famous Scottish climate, especially in the mountains - so even if the outlook is glorious sun and blue skies, prepare for rain. Just in case.

One last thing - midges. The Scottish midge has a fearsome reputation, especially between May and September, and whenever the going is damp. So, most of the time you’ll be wanting to ride, then. There are precautions you can take: cover up, find (or generate, by riding) breezes; mosquito nets if you’re wild camping or hammocking, and there are a variety of sprays or lotions that can help repel them. The stuff that most Scots folk use is Smidge, which works excellently.

But with all this preparation comes a ride of superlatives; the West Highland Way is a fantastic achievement, whichever way you choose to ride it, and it’s one that will generate memories that will last a lifetime. It’s perhaps not wise to do it as your very first multi-day trip, but it may well end up being one of your best.

The official West Highland Way site, although it primarily caters to walkers, can be found here: westhighlandway.org - it’s got all kinds of good stuff; tips as to what to take, terrain info and accommodation options.

On The Map


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West Highland Way

96.2 mi

9,500 ft

9,625 ft

Last updated: November 23, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Milngavie to Rowardennan — West Highland Way

    26.5 mi
    6.0 mph
    2,225 ft
    2,350 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The first leg of the West Highland Way is everything that the rest of the route is, in microcosm. Urban, flat, immensely steep, exposed, beautiful, open and enclosed in parts. It's just wonderful.


    The route starts gently, with a spin out from the centre of Milngavie (pronounce it 'mul-Guy' if you don

    by Barney

  • 04:07
    25.8 mi
    6.3 mph
    2,500 ft
    1,825 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The second leg of West Highland Way runs from Rowardennan and finishes up in Tyndrum.


    From Rowardennan, the lower trail can get frustrating for bikers. Sure, there's a lot that can be ridden, but for a while at least, there will likely be some pushing and a fair bit of muttering before the trail settles

    by Barney

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  • 03:02
    18.7 mi
    6.2 mph
    1,875 ft
    1,825 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The third section of the West Highland way is relatively straightforward compared to the some of the previous sections.


    Although the trail runs close to the railway at the start, it soon becomes more remote and expansive. Plenty of wide doubletrack, singletrack which for the most part lacks the technicality

    by Barney

  • 04:34
    24.4 mi
    5.3 mph
    2,825 ft
    3,600 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The final leg of the West Highland Way starts off with a doozy; the Devil's Staircase as a challenging (to say the least) climb, and a descent that will entirely possibly put steam in your shorts.


    The fun doesn't let up there, though. After another stiff (but eminently doable) climb from Kinochleven

    by Barney


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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    95.4 mi
  • Duration
    16:06 h
  • Elevation
    9,450 ft9,575 ft

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