Walking Scotland’s West Highland Way in winter

Hiking Scotland’s premier long-distance trail in the colder months allows you to experience the stark natural splendour of the Highlands without the summer crowds, writes Alastair Gill

Sunday 26 February 2023 11:23 GMT
The West Highland Way is just as beautiful in winter
The West Highland Way is just as beautiful in winter (Alastair Gill)

Graeme, the duty manager at the YHA hostel in Crianlarich, raises an eyebrow as I dump my dripping pack by the door. It’s been dark for several hours already, it’s raining heavily, and he clearly wasn’t expecting any guests. “You’re the first West Highland Way walker I’ve seen for over two weeks,” he says, on learning that I’m walking the 96-mile trail from Glasgow to Fort William in early January.

I hadn’t been planning to stop in Crianlarich, which was a mile off-trail, but the rain had been falling constantly since late afternoon and, although my waterproofs were holding up, the idea of pitching my tent amid a downpour was rather unappealing.

Of course, western Scotland is infamous for its rain. Yet apart from a brief shower during the first day out of Glasgow, the conditions had been good until now. The first night I had camped wild on the approaches to Loch Lomond. The following day, winter sunshine had accompanied me to the summit of Conic Hill, blessing me with glorious views of islets scattered like jewels across the azure surface of the loch. At sundown, as I hiked north along the pebbly shore, the loch was a velvet mirror framed by crisp black silhouettes.

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