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12 tips for walking the West Highland Way as a family

The West Highland Way, which Scotland’s most famous long-distance walking trail, is a great hike for families. You could plan to walk the route over a week to two weeks in the spring, summer or autumn holidays, or walk shorter sections on weekend trips to Scotland.

If you are thinking about a West Highland Way walk with your family, here are some of our tips.

1 Plan in advance

If you hope to stay in accommodation, whether campsites, hostels, B&Bs or guest houses, along the route you’ll ned to book in advance. This is an iconic and popular route and a lot of accommodation is booked months ahead, especially in the busy high season.

Then, make sure you can get your luggage transferred along the route. Most families will prefer to walk with lightweight day packs, rather than carrying all their day and overnight kit with them.

2 Check out the route

There is plenty of information on-line, as well as books and maps, for the West Highland Way route. You’ll want to plan ahead and it’s a great place to start with encouraging your kids. If you get children involved with the planning they will be more invested in the walk from the start.

3 Daily walking distances

Be realistic about how far your children will want to walk each day. Pushing them to walk too far will most likely end up feeling like a chore because they won’t want to keep going. There is no reason why you can’t take two weeks to walk the 96 miles, especially if you plan days away from the trail for sight-seeing and doing other activities.

4 Try a few walks first

While a walk of the West Highland Way might seem like the best family holiday, it's a good idea to do a few trial walks first. Start with short and easy walks and see how your kids take to them. After this, you'll be able to gauge whether they will enjoy a walking holiday as much as you hope to, and how far they will be keen to walk each day.

5 Bring the right gear

It’s vital that both you and your children are properly dressed for the West Highland Way. The weather can be changeable in Scotland and staying warm and dry is important both for comfort and safety. Make sure you all have the right clothing in your day packs.

Good quality footwear will mean walking boots or shoes that can keep out the wet and offer comfort on stoney and hard packed trails. The paths can get wet and boggy as well. Trail running shoes might also be a good choice but remember that they are more likely to let in the wet and rain. It's a good idea to check the weather forecast each day and take a couple of pairs of shoes with you so you can decide which ones to wear.

Pack a few pairs of socks so you always have a dry pair to put on the next day. You can dry socks overnight and also try to dry out your shoes or boots. Most people, especially children, will not enjoy starting each day with wet shoes and socks.

Waterproof jackets and trousers are essential, and so, too, are are a hat and gloves. A warm hat as well as a sunhat will be useful, depending on the weather.

It’s a good idea to take a couple of spare base layers and an insulated jacket or fleece. Remember that if you stop for something to eat, or to enjoy a view, you’ll quickly feel chilly.

Midges can be pest in the summer months, so a midge net and midge repellent will be very useful. Look out for ticks, too, and remove them as soon as you can. It’s a good idea to carry a tick removal device with you.

Other useful items will be blister plasters and painkillers, as well as sun cream, sunglasses and an emergency shelter of some kind, in case you get into trouble and need to stop to wait for rescue.

6 Food and drink

You’ll come across villages along the route to stop for food but these may require a detour and children tend not to enjoy being hungry for too long. So, make sure you have plenty of food with you each day.

Snacks and treats will keep you all going and while this might seem a bit unhealthy you are going to be burning calories walking all day, so it’s fine to have some sweets and chocolate, as well as nuts and fruit.

Water is really important, especially on hot and sunny days.

7 More useful kit

  • Take dry bags so that any kit you are carrying in a rucksack stays dry even if it rains.

  • Walking poles can be a great asset for both adults and children.

  • If you know it’s going to be wet, think about using gaiters to keep the worst of the wet from your feet.

8 Do something else as well

Day after day of walking might not suit all families, so why not plan to do other activities or attend events along the route? There is plenty to do throughout the summer.

Activity ideas could include a day of watersports on Loch Lomond, Tree Zone, mountain biking at Glencoe, or a Via Ferrata at Kinlochleven, to name a few ideas.

9 Track your progress

If you have a GPS watch, or a watch that counts steps, you’ll be able to keep track of how far you have walked each day and your exact route. It’s fun to see your progress and children are more likely to feel motivated to keep going if they see their progress day after day.

10 Take lots of photos

The scenery on the West Highland Way is spectacular. Photos don’t really do it justice, and you need to appreciate it as you go along, but it’s also good to have a bank of photos for jolting your memory after the walk.

Keeping a pictorial chronicle of your journey will allow you all to enjoy the experience for years to come.

A red deer in Glencoe.

11 Spot wildlife

There will be plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, including birds, mammals, plants and flowers on the West Highland Way. You could download wildlife spotting apps or take books with you so that you can keep track of what you see.

12 Go with others

If you have family friends, why not walk the West Highland Way with them as a larger group? Children will enjoy the company of others youngsters who are not necessarily siblings and it means the adults will have company, too.

Make plans for the West Highland Way

If you want to discuss any plans or ideas you have for running, walking or cycling the West Highland Way in Scotland, please do give Highland Transfers a call. We can help with luggage transfer between your overnight accommodation and we have a wealth of other information that we can discuss with you.

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