The Great Glen Way is an epic coast-to-coast journey over the Scottish Highlands along the country's greatest geological fault; past world-famous sights, historic remains, and through some of Britain's finest scenery.
Starting from Fort William, in the shadow of Ben Nevis on the southwest coast, the Way travels 79 miles (127 kilometers) along the Great Glen to Inverness on the northeast coast.
The trail travels along the lengths of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich and then climbs above Loch Ness for enchanting views over the most famous loch in the glen.
You can see plenty of wildlife along the Great Glen, including the incredibly rare red squirrel, big birds like buzzard and osprey, three species of deer, as well as salmon leaping upstream to breed in October and November.
The Way affords low-level walking for the most part and paths are well-signposted, well-designed, and maintained to a high standard. As such, it is a good choice for anyone newly into long-distance hiking.
There are a couple of parts where you can opt for a high route or a low route. As you might expect, high routes are more challenging but much more rewarding.
In this Collection, we split the Great Glen Way into five stages from southwest to northeast (the opposite way is of equal merit). Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation.
Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
If you are planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Glasgow railway station, which is served by direct trains from London, Manchester, and Birmingham, and has connecting services around the UK. From Glasgow, you can catch a direct train to Fort William.
To get home, you can catch a train from Inverness, which has direct trains to Glasgow and Edinburgh and has connecting services around the UK.
If you are planning to arrive by car, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B a rate to stay for a night either side of your hike in Fort William. Alternatively, you could find long stay parking in Glasgow. Public transport links are good between Glasgow, Fort William and Inverness
To get back, you can catch a train from Inverness to Fort William, usually with transfer at Glasgow.
For more information about the Great Glen Way, visit: highland.gov.uk/greatglenway.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
You begin this epic journey along the Great Glen in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain.
From Fort William, the trail passes the Jacobite Steam Train station, made famous in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express, and onto Inverlochy Castle, which was founded in the 13th century.
It is then leisurely walking for the rest of the stage along the Caledonian Canal, which was constructed in the early nineteenth century to connect the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast at Corpach.
Along the canal, just past Banavie, you find Neptune's Staircase, a flight of eight locks built between 1803 and 1822. The feat of engineering raises the canal by 62 feet (19 meters) over a quarter of a mile (400 meters) and is the longest staircase lock flight in Scotland.
This stage finishes in Gairlochy, at the southern edge of Loch Lochy. Gairlochy has limited accommodation and many hikers opt to stay in Spean Bridge, which is four miles (six kilometers) away. Some accommodation providers will arrange a pick up by car.
This stage takes you along the length of Loch Lochy, one of three major lochs in the Great Glen.
From Gairlochy, you follow the road around the southwestern end of the loch before descending to the lochside.
You rejoin the road near Achnacarry, where you find St Ciaran's, a serene church nestled amidst the trees.
After the village of Clunes, the trail continues on forest tracks for the rest of the length of the loch, passing some incredible viewpoints and wild camping spots.
You rejoin the road for a short time and follow forest tracks and minor roads to the village of Invergarry, where this stage finishes.
If you have the energy, it is a one-mile (one-and-a half kilometer) detour to see Invergarry Castle, a 17th-century ruin in an atmospheric setting overlooking Loch Oich.
Invergarry has some accommodation options and places to eat and drink.
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Taking you from smallest loch in the Great Glen, Loch Oich, to the most famous, Loch Ness, the Way’s character really begins to shine on this stage.
From Invergarry, you continue above Loch Oich for its remaining length and then descend to the Caledonian Canal at the Aberchalder Swing Bridge.
You then follow the canal all the way to Fort Augustus, where you are greeted with a breathtaking view over Loch Ness.
At Fort Augustus, you can choose between the low route, alongside Loch Ness, or the high route, above it.
This hike follows the high route due to its stunning views over Loch Ness. Both routes are similar in distance and are well-signposted. However, the high route involves around 600 feet (183 meters) of extra ascent.
This stage finishes in the village of Invermoriston, which has a range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, and a small shop.
You are faced with another choice of high or low route at the beginning of this stage.
The high route from Invermoriston involves around 625 feet (191 meters) of extra ascent, but is worth it as you are treated to some of the best Loch Ness views going.
It is a sharp and winding climb out of Invermoriston to the Viewcatcher Wheel art installation, which frames the view of a group of Munros north of Loch Cluanie.
The trail continues over the tops along a clearly waymarked path with fine views over Loch Ness.
There are some tough ascents and descents along this section, but the trail is well designed with wide zig zags on the steep sections and plenty of perfectly-positioned rest spots to take in the views.
This stage finishes in the village of Drumnadrochit, which has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
The final stage provides the biggest challenge of the entire trail and will push your fitness and stamina to the max.
With 19 miles (31 kilometers) of distance and 1,475 feet (450 meters) of climbing to contend with, this stage will be a real test of your mettle. For details on how to split the route, see below.
From Drumnadrochit, you begin with a one mile (one-and-a half kilometer) walk on the pavement next to the A82. Vehicles travel at speeds of up to 60mph (100kph) along this section, so please take care, especially if you have big rucksacks.
It is then a long and grueling ascent through woodland to the tops, where you are afforded spellbinding views over Loch Ness.
As you emerge from the forest, you get a wonderful view of Inverness, the capital of the Highlands.
The trail then descends to Inverness and takes you through the Ness Islands, a group of small islands connected by Victorian suspension bridges, and along the River Ness to Inverness Castle, where the Great Glen Way ends.
Inverness has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
Splitting this route evenly is not easy. However, if 19 miles (31 kilometers) is simply too long, your best bet is to end this stage in the village of Abriachan, which is seven miles (11 kilometers) from Drumnadrochit. That would leave 12 miles (19 kilometers) to get to Inverness the following day.
There is accommodation in Abriachan and the surrounding area. Many accommodation providers can arrange pick-ups.