The Great Glen Way: Fort William to Inverness
The Great Glen Way can be walked in 3 to 5 days undertaking a distance between 11 and 22 miles a day. There are Independent Hostels along the Great Glen Way providing accommodation that caters specifically for long distance walkers and mountain bikers on the trail. This article gives details of the stages of the walk and ideal places to stay. The Great Glen Way travels from Fort William, the largest town in the West Highlands, to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. It is a way marked walk of around 75 miles. The route follows the natural fault of the Great Glen which divides Scotland in half. Most of the route is at low level alongside the water and is a good first walk for those new to long distance walking in the Highlands. There are also higher sections between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit which have dramatic views and steep climbs. The Great Glen Way runs alongside Loch Linnhe, Loch Oich and through the forests above Loch Ness. There is a section along the towpath of the Caledonian Canal which links these lochs to make a navigable sea route from the West Coast of Scotland to the Moray Firth.
The Great Glen Way is most often walked in 4 or 5 days by those undertaking an average distance of 13 miles a day. However, it can be completed in 3 days if a mileage of around 20 miles a day is undertaken on two days. There are Independent Hostels in Fort William, in three locations on the banks of Loch Ness and in Inverness at the end of the Great Glen Way. These provide self catering accommodation with meals and cater specifically for long distance walkers and mountain bikers on the trail.
Most people walking the Great Glen Way start in Fort William, which has the train station on the West Highland Line and plenty of coach and bus links. There is a choice of accommodation in Independent Hostels in Fort William all an easy walk from the town centre. BANK STREET LODGE and FORT WILLIAM BACKPACKERS offer good value accommodation in the town centre. Or Coorie Doon is a self catering luxury cabin just north of the town.
The first day’s walk from Fort William to Laggan Locks is 23 miles on flat loch side terrain. This day can be split in half with a night at Gairlochy if required. GREAT GLEN HOSTEL at Laggan is just a few minutes’ walk off the Great Glen Way and provides good value accommodation and meals ideal for walkers of the Great Glen Way.
The second day’s walk (or third day if an overnight was taken at Gairlochy) is from Laggan to Fort Augustus. This is a beautiful walk, in places the path is sandwiched between the Caledonian Canal and the side of Loch Oich covered with natural woodlands. This is a shorter day’s walk totalling around 11 miles. MORAGS LODGE LOCH NESS at Fort Augustus provides great accommodation, meals, a bar and an efficient welcome for walkers on the Great Glen Way.
As an alternative to the main route along Loch Oich walkers can choose to follow the Invergarry Link of the Great Glen Way. The 8.4 mile link route takes the west side of Loch Oich between the Kilfinnan road end and the Bridge of Oich. The forest tracks and paths that make up the Invergarry Link climb up above Loch Oich, giving great views of the loch itself, Loch Ness in the distance and the nearby mountains. Walking the Invergarry Link takes you through the village of Invergarry and right past the front door of SADDLE MOUNTAIN HOSTEL. It’s a hostel run by walkers for walkers, and with (probably) the best gear drying room in the Great Glen. The village of Invergarry has a small shop to buy provisions and a hotel where walkers can stop for a meal or a drink.
The third (or fourth) day’s walk from Fort Augustus to Dumnadrochit is 22 miles. This involves some steep climbs up forestry tracks and spectacular views as you climb the paths up the lochside. This is a long walk with significant accent, but it can be split into two parts with a night at The Lochside Hostel at Altsigh. This is the old SYHA Loch Ness hostel, built right on the bank of the loch with stunning views over the water.
The third (or perhaps fourth or fifith) night accomodation is in the village for Drumnadrochit LOCH NESS BACKPACKERS LODGE provides a welcoming nights rest.
The last day’s walk from Drumnadrochit to Inverness is 18 miles of easy walking through farmland and forestry. There are some nice views over Loch Ness to the mountains to the north. There is hostel accommodation available at INVERNESS STUDENT HOTEL and good public transport links including a train station to find your way home.
You can see a map showing all the hostels and bunkhouses around the Great Glen Way. Owen Peters, one of our travel writers, has walked the Great Glen Way in reverse, starting at Inveness and finishing at Fort William. He did the route in 3.5 days. The tale of his adventures has been published on this blog in the four installments shown on the links below.
Inverness to Drumnadrochit – ‘Pigs and non believers‘.
Drumnadrochit to Fort Augustus – ‘Yep, that;s steep‘.
Fort Augustus to Laggan – ‘Or so it should have been‘.
Finishing at Fort William -‘ Walking in Reverse‘
This article shows the location and details of the hostels and bunkhouses along the trail. Full details of the route and other resources can be found on the LDWA website.