The Great Glen Way runs for 73 miles along the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness. It formally opened for business in April 2002, though intrepid souls had been bringing it into use for some time previously.
Unlike the West Highland Way, which is almost always walked from south to north, there has been a healthy debate about which is the best way to tackle the Great Glen Way. We'd recommend starting in Fort William and walking to Inverness. That means you are walking with the sun (hopefully) behind you, giving you a much better view of the scenery you came to see.
The column on the right gives links to useful resources. The route description below is broken into six daily sections (though two may be combined to give a five day schedule), each of which contains links to further information on Undiscovered Scotland. The Area Pages provide links to accommodation providers and other businesses. The Feature Pages each contain detailed background information and a collection of images about particular places or attractions on the Great Glen Way or near it.
Note that this page does not set out to provide you with the full range of detailed information you need to walk the Way, but it should give you a good starting point. And when used with the rest of Undiscovered Scotland it will give you a clear idea of what the Great Glen Way and the places you will be passing through are like.
The starting point for the Great Glen Way is in the Old Fort near the roundabout at the northern end of the dual carriageway running up the shore of Loch Linnhe, parallel with Fort William's main street. This is close to the railway station, which offers regular services from Glasgow's Queen Street station. It is also quite close to the end point of the West Highland Way, so the more energetic can proceed seamlessly from one to the other.
The route out of Fort William takes you close to the original Inverlochy Castle, built in the 1200s. It then crosses the River Lochy before going on to the start of the Caledonian Canal at Corpach. You will see a lot of the canal for the rest of the day (and the rest of the week), but none of it quite as spectacular as Neptune's Staircase, the ladder of eight locks that raise the canal 70 feet a little north of its start. This spot also gives you some of the best views of the 2000 foot cliffs that hide around the north side of Ben Nevis.
The onward route to Gairlochy, at the southern end of Loch Lochy, uses the Caledonian Canal towpath the whole way. A few miles to the east of Gairlochy is Spean Bridge, complete with its spectacular Commando Memorial. Accommodation in the area can be found via our Fort William & Spean Bridge area pages. This is one of those occasions when you might wish to consider extending your accommodation options by taking public transport or hitch-hiking to a convenient centre, before returning to pick up the route in the morning.
The second day's walk sticks fairly closely to the west shore of Loch Lochy, though the more energetic can add an optional five miles by taking a diversion to the Clan Cameron museum at Achnacarry and to Loch Arkaig beyond it. The return trip brings you through the heavily wooded and mossy "Mile Dorcha" or "Dark Mile".
The section of the day's walk from Clunes to Kilfinnan is along forest tracks, and in pleasingly remote countryside: the main road runs down the far, eastern bank of Loch Lochy. Accommodation in the Laggan area can be found via our Inverness, Loch Ness & Cromarty Firth area pages.
Day three is fairly short and can easily be combined with the onward walk to Invermoriston, giving a combined total journey of 19 miles. The day sees you walking along the east shore of Loch Oich (the main road is on the west shore), a stretch of the walk from which dogs are prohibited. At the north end of Loch Oich you join the Caledonian Canal once more, for its journey to Fort Augustus.
Fort Augustus lies at the southern end of Loch Ness and is built around the locks that lower the canal to its level. The village is the only place where you get a guaranteed sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, known as Nessie to her friends: in the form of a topiary arrangement alongside the canal. Accommodation in the Fort Augustus area can be found via our Inverness, Loch Ness & Cromarty Firth area pages.
A short day that can easily be combined with the eleven miles from day three. The eight miles to Invermoriston are along paths and forest tracks above and parallel to the main A82 road as it runs along the west shore of Loch Ness. Accommodation in and around Invermoriston can be found via our Inverness, Loch Ness & Cromarty Firth area pages. This is one of those occasions when you might wish to consider extending your accommodation options by taking public transport or hitch-hiking to a convenient centre, before returning to pick up the route in the morning.
More forest tracks parallel to the main road carry you north from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit. For the last section the route drifts away from Loch Ness and picks up the path of a minor road. As a result the Great Glen Way by-passes one of the area's major attractions, Urquhart Castle, on the shore of Loch Ness two miles south of Drumnadrochit. Accommodation in and around Drumnadrochit can be found via our Inverness, Loch Ness & Cromarty Firth area pages.
The eighteen miles from Drumnadrochit north along tracks and minor roads to Inverness make this the longest and hardest single day on the standard schedule for the walk. The day also takes you to the highest point on the walk after you climb above the A82 and out of the Great Glen altogether. The end of the walk brings you to Inverness, Scotland's fourth city.
The official end point for the Great Glen Way is at Inverness Castle, destroyed by Jacobites and rebuilt as a courthouse. Inverness offers a wide range of accommodation, which can be found via our Inverness, Loch Ness & Cromarty Firth area pages. It also has a railway station with links to the south, just beyond the castle.