After camping along the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel. After researching many options…
After camping along the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel. After researching many options for our next adventure, we finally settled on the West Highland Way, a 96-mile (154 km) trek that begins just outside of Glasgow, winds past the iconic Loch Lomond towards rugged moors and emerald hillsides, and ends in the stunning highlands at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
In addition to its dramatic beauty, the West Highland Way offers some other great perks: both ends of the hike are easily accessed by public transportation, it can be completed in just over a week, and it is possible to camp every night (many long-distance treks require at least one or two expensive hut stays). If you haven’t considered camping, we are here to tell you that you should! Camping along the West Highland Way allowed us to meet so many great people from all over the world, sleep in stunning locations, keep our trip expenses very low, and earn the satisfaction of carrying everything we needed on our backs. Below you’ll find tons of practical information, tried and true tips, and handy maps.
A few notes: This guide is based on a moderately-paced 8-day itinerary that begins in Milngavie and ends in Fort William. There are a few sections that would be relatively easy to modify, and those have been noted in the guide. Reservations are not necessary for the campsites, unless explicitly stated. Prices listed are per person. Wild camping is possible on some sections of the walk, but keep in mind that would be very difficult on the first night due to the lack of public land, it is unlawful along Loch Lomond, and has the potential to be very midgey (but certainly doable) in other sections. In general, we found the comfort and convenience of the campgrounds to be well worth the small fees we paid to stay there.
We hope this guide will provide everything you need to start planning your own WHW camping adventure!
Camping Availability: Drymen Camping
This small campground is surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque farmland. You’ll see it on the lefthand side of the road about a mile and a half before reaching the town of Drymen. The modest nightly fee includes access to a covered cooking area, toilets (bring your own TP!), hot showers, outlets, a dishwashing sink, and potable water.
Nearby: Not much. The town of Drymen is another 1.5 miles up the road, so it is unlikely you’ll want to make the trek into town after a long day of walking. However, it does make for a nice stop in the morning of your second day, as you can pick up any forgotten supplies and maybe even a freshly baked treat to start your day. Moreover, Drymen is your last opportunity to visit a full grocery store along the trail until you reach Tyndrum.
Camping Availability: Milarrochy Bay Campsite, Cashel Caravan and Campsite, & Sallochy Campsite.
The second stage of the West Highland Way presents many options for camping. As you walk north along Loch Lomond, you’ll reach Milarrochy Bay Campsite first, then you’ll see Cashel about a mile further, and if you keep going for another mile or so, you will reach Sallochy. Remember, wild camping is not permitted on this section of the WHW.
Milarrochy Bay Campsite: This large campground has hot showers, a cooking room, toilets, wifi (for an added fee), and a small shop.
Price: Varies, but expect to pay about £6-8
Cashel Caravan and Campsite: Located on a pretty field next to the loch, Cashel also offers toilets and a shop.
Price: Varies, but expect to pay about £6-12
Sallochy Campsite: We chose to stay at Sallochy and highly recommend that you do the same for a number of reasons. First, the lochside campsites are secluded, peaceful, and totally gorgeous. While this is the most basic of the three camping options, the lack of major facilities means that you get an experience that feels more connected to the amazing natural surroundings of the Loch Lomond area. Additionally, Stage 3 of the WHW is the longest and most strenuous day of the entire trek, so make it all the way to Sallochy on Stage 2 and you’ll have a head start for the day ahead. Sallochy offers simple, clean composting toilets, drinking water, and sinks for washing up. Fire pit rentals and firewood bundles are available from the camp warden for £5 each. You must make reservations in advance for this campsite (the website makes it quick and easy). Make sure to book a lochside site, as the main camping area can get noisy and crowded. As you approach the campground, you’ll see the higher numbered lochside pitches first. The higher the number, the further away from the toilets and water tap you’ll be, but you’ll also be further from the noise of the main campground.
Nearby: The town of Rowardennan is about three miles up the trail past Sallochy. There you’ll find a pub, a hotel, and a hostel with a basic shop.
Camping Availability: Doune Bothy & Beinglas Farm.
Doune Bothy: For those who don’t want to walk quite as far on Day 3, Doune Bothy is a good, free option. Set in a lovely stone building, this simple shelter offers a fireplace and lake views.
Beinglas Farm: We loved camping at Beinglas Farm! Perhaps it was because of the cold beers they sold us after nine hours of hiking, or the excellent and clean hot showers, or the friendly staff. Regardless of the exact reason, this is a great campground that offers flat pitches, free wifi in the bar/restaurant, a well-stocked shop, a cooking room, laundry facilities, and drinking water. This was the most midgy place we camped, however, so be prepared to get out your net and bug spray as soon as the sun starts to set. We were very grateful for the indoor cooking area and restaurant, as these provided a welcome escape from the bugs.
Nearby: It’s about a 10-minute walk from Beinglas Farm to the village of Inverarnan. There you’ll find a few hotels, a pub, and access to public transportation. Additionally, you can detour to Crianlarich (15 minutes from the trail each way) halfway through your walk tomorrow (Stage 4). This detour is highly recommended if you’d like to resupply at a proper supermarket.
Alternative Option: To break up the 15-mile stretch from Sallochy to Inverarnan into two easier days, you can camp at the Rowchoish Bothy, which is about five miles past Sallochy. It is located along the lower alternative route, but can be accessed by doubling back a short distance from where the upper and lower routes meet. This is a simple, free shelter with a fireplace.
Camping Availability: Strathfillan Wigwams, By the Way Hostel and Campsite & Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping
Strathfillan Wigwams: You’ll see this camping option about 2 miles short of the town of Tyndrum. This was one of the quirkiest places we camped on the Way, but also one of the most beautiful. Set in a dramatic valley, this spacious campground is next to an idyllic sheep farm and a lovely river. The campground itself boasts some strangely painted “wigwams” and a slightly sad petting zoo. The facilities are excellent though. There is a lovely indoor kitchen and sitting area with laundry (wash and dry are £1 each), outlets, and wifi (for an extra fee), sinks, and drinking water. The showers are hot and clean, and cost £1 for eight minutes. The shop offers some kitschy souvenirs alongside snacks and treats.
Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping: This huge campground hosts large families in RVs, minimalist backpackers, and everyone in between. There are showers, toilets, drinking water, a shop, laundry, and wifi available. Situated next to the road, this campground is certainly less scenic than Strathfillan, but offers convenient proximity to the town of Tyndrum.
By The Way Hostel & Campground: This hostel and campground is located near the lower Tyndrum train station. Note that they will only accept one or two-person tents and they may not accept any campers if there has been a significant amount of rain, due to the ground being too water-logged. The Way passes right by this hostel (as the name implies) and offers showers, laundry, wifi, a heated drying room and an indoor pot washing room.
Nearby: Make sure to check out the ruins of St. Fillian’s Priory and the adjacent graveyard for some fascinating history! You’ll see these just before approaching the Strathfillian campground. In Tyndrum, there’s an outdoor goods store, a supermarket, a post office, ATM’s, and two train stations. Make sure to stock up on food and supplies while in Tyndrum, as you won’t have another chance until you reach Kinlochleven on the final night of the WHW.
Bridge of Orchy
Camping Availability: Free camping behind the hotel.
When you arrive at Bridge of Orchy, continue past the hotel and across the bridge to the free camping area. There are no facilities here, but there is a potable water tap next to the main entrance of the hotel. In terms of your bathroom options, there’s a wooded area directly behind the campsite. Unfortunately, you won’t be the first person to use these natural facilities, and they were a bit polluted with human waste when we were there. Bring your trowel and a positive attitude, and you’ll be fine. Alternatively, you can use the hotel restroom if you purchase something at the bar/restaurant or if you leave a donation on the tray by the bar. If the weather is nice, make sure to soak your tired feet in the river while you take in the views of the quaint stone bridge and the green hills beyond.
Nearby: The Bridge of Orchy Hotel serves food all day long, and it’s also a great place to enjoy a well-deserved post hike beer. You won’t find a real town along the trail until Kinlochleven. The Inverornan Hotel is three miles past Bridge of Orchy, and it offers free camping, a water tap, and a restaurant.
Camping Availability: Glencoe Ski Center/Mountain Resort & Kingshouse Hotel
Glencoe Ski Center/Mountain Resort: A very slight detour off the main trail leads to this campground. This ski area offers nice, flat pitches, hot showers (£1 for 5 minutes), outlets, washing sinks, drinking water, and a bar/restaurant with free wifi. While it can get crowded, Glencoe has a fun atmosphere and is the best option for this segment of your trek.
Kingshouse Hotel: At the time of writing (August 2018), the hotel was under construction. However, free camping is still possible. Walk past the hotel, cross the bridge, and you’ll see a field on your right. The hotel’s water tap appeared to be functioning during construction.
Nearby: Nothing. From the A82, you can catch a bus or hitch a ride to Glencoe Village (9 miles away). There you’ll find a grocery store, ATM, and a medical center.
Camping Availability: MacDonald Hotel & Blackwater Hostel
MacDonald Hotel: This campground is at the far end of town, and can feel quite tedious to get to after a long day of hiking. It’s worth the extra walking though! The staff is very friendly, the views of the loch are magical, and you’ll start right next to the trail in the morning. There are toilets, free hot showers, an indoor cooking and washing hut, a heated drying room, wifi, a restaurant, and a casual walkers’ bar. Reservations recommended.
Blackwater Hostel: You’ll see this campground immediately upon entering Kinlochleven. It is located on a lovely spot alongside the river. There are toilets, showers, a drying room, and an indoor cooking area.
Nearby: The town of Kinlochleven has a post office, ATM, supermarket, outdoor equipment store, and a handful of pubs and restaurants. These can all be reached within a 10-minute walk from either campground.
Fort William/Glen Nevis
Camping Availability: Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park
Upon completing the West Highland Way, many hikers choose to treat themselves to accommodation that includes four walls and a real bed, but there is an option for the hardcore campers out there. While the hike officially ends in the town of Fort William, you can stop a couple miles earlier in the town of Glen Nevis and pitch your tent at the Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park. This massive campground has laundry, toilets, and a shop.
Nearby: There is a visitor center and a few restaurants in the village of Glen Nevis. This location also provides easy access to the trail that leads to the summit of Ben Nevis.