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Great Glen Way

Great Glen Way

The scenery of 117 km Great Glen Way is dramatic, following a geographical fault line from Fort William to Inverness on the Moray Firth. Follow the Caledonian Canal towpath, the shores and forests of Loch Ness, with an eye open for the monster, Nessie.

Overview

Beginning in Fort William, walk this peaceful and scenic route through the villages of the Great Glen - Gairlochy, Laggan, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit to finish in the Highland capital of Inverness.

Beginning at Fort William home of Britain's highest mountain Ben Nevis, the Great Glen Way runs for a distance of 77.5 miles / 120 km to Inverness. The route takes its name from the geological fault line of the Great Glen, also known as Glen More, which separates the Grampians from the North West Highlands. The iconic Scottish landscape of glens, lochs and mountains is the dominant feature of this gentle path for walkers and cyclists. The path itself shadows the banks of Loch Lochy, Lochy Oich and the atmospheric Loch Ness - Scotland's biggest body of inland water and hiding place of the legendary Loch Ness Monster.

The Caledonian Canal is an engineering marvel of the C19th, used today by pleasure craft of all shapes and sizes. It's often used a short cut from the North Sea to the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean for yachtsmen. The Way itself is a mix of well-constructed paths along canals, a historic disused railway line, forestry tracks, lochside paths and open moorland - without any steep ascents or descents. It is way-marked with the thistle emblem and easy to navigate. Most of the Way is fairly easy and traffic-free if you like a bit of climb for open views you can take a couple of variant paths.

We supply you with a Self Guiding Travel Pack including a map - so you can be well informed of facilities and track the distances travelled each day.

The first section of the trail is quite easy from Fort William along the Caledonian Canal towpath. The second section is by the banks of Loch Lochy to Laggan Locks on a forestry path by the loch shores. The third section passes by the lock system controlling access between Loch Ness and the canal. From here you can choose to walk the along the east or west bank via Glengarry (there's a ruined castle & heritage centre here), but this will add a few miles to your day. This variant rejoins the main path at Oich Bridge and on to Fort Augustus. The next section from Fort Augustus to Drumnadrochit offers two options at various points - the low road and the high road. As the Way passes along Loch Ness it splits and converges at points, with the high road climbing to 1000ft / 300m, converging at Invermoriston, then splitting again for several miles en route to Drumnadrochit. This is where you will find the enigmatic Urquart Castle and the Loch Ness Visitor Centre. The final stretch day to Inverness is a single route which meanders through forest and hills to a max height of around 100ft/300m. On a clear day the panoramic views are simply magnificent - stretching all the way to the Black Isle and the Moray Firth.

A note on accommodation: in some places accommodation can be scarce and we may have to use the occasional short transfer by taxi. If you choose the 7 or 8-night versions we book you two nights in Drumnadrochit to break up the long hike at the top of Loch Ness to Inverness. Those hotel ransfers are included.

Upgraded accommodation is available in certain places on request.

Itinerary

6-night itinerary with 5 days walking

  • Day One - Arrive in Fort William
  • Day Two - Walk to Gairlochy - 12 miles / 19.2 km
  • Day Three - Walk to Laggan - 15 miles / 24 km
  • Day Four - Walk to Invermoriston - 18 miles / 28 km
  • Day Five - Drumnadrochit - 14 miles / 22.4 km
  • Day Six - Inverness - 20.5 miles

7-night itinerary with 6 days walking

  • Day One - Arrive in Fort William
  • Day Two - Walk to Gairlochy - 12 miles / 19.2 km
  • Day Three - Walk to Laggan - 15 miles / 24 km
  • Day Four - Walk to Invermoriston - 18 miles / 28 km
  • Day Five - Walk to Drumnadrochit - 14 miles / 22.4 km
  • (2 nights are required in Drumnadrochit with shuttle transfer to/from the hotel )
  • Day Six - Walk to Loch Laide - 9.5 miles / 15.3 km
  • Day Seven - Walk to Inverness - 11 miles / 17.6 km

8-night itinerary with 7 days walking

  • Day One - Arrive in Fort William
  • Day Two - Walk to Gairlochy - 12 miles / 19.2 km
  • Day Three - Walk to Laggan - 15 miles / 24 km
  • Day Four - Walk to Fort Augustus - 10 miles / 16 km
  • Day Five - Walk to Invermoriston - 8 miles / 12.8 km
  • Day Six - Drumnadrochit - 14 miles / 22.4 km
  • (2 nights are required in Drumnadrochit with shuttle transfer to/from the hotel )
  • Day Seven - Loch Laide - 10.5 miles / 16.8 km
  • Day Eight - Inverness - 11 miles / 17.6 km
  • Day Nine - Check out and onward travel

Highlights

Caledonian Canal

The Canal was the idea of the great Scottish engineer James Watt back in the 1770s. The huge scale of the work meant that it took 17 years to construct the early version - much of it dug by hand - and then another 30 years to realise his original vision.

Once finished, the Caledonian Canal provided a short cut between eastern and western Scotland. Mariners had been used to sailing the hazardous route around the north of Scotland and through the Pentland Firth. The new canal system provided the quickest way to get your ship from Inverness to Glasgow.

To cope with the change in the level of the terrain the engineers had to design and construct 29 locks in total - along the 22 miles of canal. You can see the impressive Neptune's Staircase, a ladder of eight locks that raises vessels to a height of 70 feet above sea level over a distance of 500 yards. If you're lucky enough to see a vessel making its way through the locks you will be amazed at how brilliantly simple the construct of a lock actually is.

Another good place to see the Canal in operation is at Fort Augustus which has another ladder of locks to lower boats down to the level of Loch Ness. There is a Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre here where you can find out more about the history of the canal.

Loch Ness

This beautiful loch has the highest volume of freshwater in the UK, more than all the lakes of England and Wales combined. The legend of the loch has been shrouded in mystery that can be traced back 1,500 years when St Columba is said to have encountered a beast in the River Ness.

In 1933, it was the first photograph of a large aquatic monster that caught the public's imagination. Although it was eventually admitted as being a fake, eye-witness accounts of sightings of a large monster eventually numbered over 1,000.

Amateur Nessie-hunters and scientists alike, still continue to come to Loch Ness seeking to prove or disprove its existence. Theories include a prehistoric plesiosaur, Greenland shark, giant sturgeon and more recently giant eels are thought to be the source of the Nessie myth.

In 2019, a team from the New Zealand University of Otago failed to find evidence of a creature like a plesiosaur. They didn't find shark, catfish or sturgeon DNA either, but there was lots of eel DNA evidence, suggesting Nessie might be a giant eel.

Whatever your point of view, when you stand on the shores of that inky black loch, as it reflects a timeless landscape under a moody Scottish sky, it is not hard to believe in a monster. And you will linger just a little longer to scan the surface for the rippling wake of some massive ancient creature...

Food & Drink

Haggis? Shortbread? Porridge?

Every hiker knows that local food takes centre stage on any walking holiday. And in Scotland, you can be satisfyingly fed and watered on our finest meats, fish, cheeses, vegetables, craft beers and malt whiskies.

Traditionally, Scottish food was wholesome, tasty, filling and simply prepared without fuss, with the purpose of keeping folks warm and providing the energy required for a hard days labour. It was all about stews, broths and porridge.

Our lochs (lakes), rivers, streams and the sea provide wonderful fish and seafood. Our fertile soil produces farmed livestock and game. It also allows cultivation of grains, vegetables and soft fruit.

The Scottish Larder

  • Meat - Beef (Aberdeen Angus), lamb and mutton, venison are the staples.
  • Game - Pheasant, grouse, partridge, pigeon, rabbit.
  • Fish and - Salmon, Haddock, Trout, Mackerel Herring
  • Seafood - lobster, crab, langoustine, prawns, scallops, mussels, razor clams
  • Crops/Grain - Oats and barley in stews and soups.
  • Vegetables - Root vegetables in the main; potatoes, turnips and carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, peas and leeks.
  • Dairy - our southern pastures support dairy herds producing cheeses, butter, cream, yoghurt and milk which all find their way into our hearty dishes
  • Fruit - brambles/ blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, apples and rhubarb

Fine Dining

Scotland is not short of sublime gastronomical experiences. We have an array of Michelin starred chefs and fabulous restaurants serving not just Scottish, but also International & fusion cuisine.

In terms of the Great Glen Way - one of the very best can be found in Inverness, the French gastronomic superstar Albert Roux has created Rocpool holding one Michelin star https://www.rocpoolrestaurant.com/ What a place to celebrate the successful completion of your long-distance hike.

Accommodation

We pick the best accommodation available from a selection of Bed & Breakfast, Guest-houses and Hotels. All provide a traditional full Scottish breakfast.

Here is a taster of our standard hotels, B&Bs and guest houses.

FORT WILLIAM - Nevis Bank Inn

GAIRLOCHY - DALCOMERA B&B

LAGGAN - GLENGARRY CASTLE OR GLENALBYN LODGE

FORT AUGUSTUS - THE LOVETT HOTEL

INVERMORISTON - BRACARINA HOUSE OR GLEN MORISTON ARMS HOTELS

DRUMNADROCHIT - LOCH NESS INN

INVERNESS - ACORN HOUSE

Our baggage transfer service means that your luggage transported daily by vehicle, so all you will need to carry is your day pack.

We can also offer a series of upgraded hotels on the route by request

Getting There & Back

We work out the logistics so you can relax and enjoy yourself. All you have to do is consider carefully how far you want/are able to walk each day.

It's easy to get here from Scotland's airports using the bus and/or train. The route begins in the highland town of Fort William which has a bus and railway station, making it easily accessible from Glasgow & Edinburgh.

Once you've finished in Inverness, you can catch a train or bus back south, or continue your adventures.

Just ask us to book your local travel tickets.

Map

About Us

The WHW is right on our doorstep and we meet walkers everyday in our town centre. So, we really do know everything your need for a well supported trip on this iconic Scottish Highland route.

Contact Us

Scotland’s Walks

13 Main Street
Suite 9
Milngavie
Glasgow
G62 6BJ
Scotland
United Kingdom

+44 (0)141 956 1569
info@scotlandswalks.com

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