Finding your night rest along the West Highland Way
During my month-long hiking adventure in the Scottish Highlands, I was almost only sleeping in my tent – either wild camping or on a camping site, only a few times sleeping in a bothy. Scotland is the perfect destination for a budget travel. It has very liberal laws regarding wild camping, but there are, of course, limitations. Make sure you research them and learn how to camp leaving no trace. There are areas (in National Parks and such) where camping might be forbidden outside of designated camping areas.
Below are the places I stopped at and some I know about that might be useful. There is also a plethora of B&B and hotel accommodation if that’s your style – just make sure you book them well in advance. When I was hiking I saw only signs announcing they had no openings. The good thing is, if you are a hiker/walker a camping site can’t turn you away if there is no other one near (they can do that for drivers).
It is also good to know that thanks to West Highland Way’s popularity there is a number of luggage transport services. They will take your big bag to the next campsite or B&B while you hike the trail with only light day pack. This is a wonderful service, although I did not use it, I’ve seen a lot of positive opinions and recommendations.
Camping sites along the West Highland Way
There actually aren’t any campsites in the Drymen itself but you can stop before you reach it at the Easter Drumquhassie Farm, about 1 mile before Drymen. This campsite is the best ending to your first day on the trail. (You can also check this website, as they seem to be revamping it)
This one is a semi-wild camping site with very limited facilities (no showers) at the shore of Loch Lomond. It costs £5 and you can book online. Check here for details.
That’s the one I actually stayed at, as I didn’t make it to Sallochy. This is one of the kind for campers and annual fee holders. Which means it’s more expensive for regular walk-ins like me. It’s £12,5 for nothing-special facilities. But it is right on trail. It’s about 18 km away from Drymen.
- Beinglass Farm
I absolutely loved this camping site. I spent there my rest day and the spot is just perfect for it. The area is huge so you are not packed one on another and the views around are stellar. In addition to the camping area there are also lovely huts to rent. There is a nice pub/restaurant, a small store and a shelter for hikers. In the big shelter there are cookers and pots and pans, washing area and even washing machine. It’s completely sheltered, so you can hide there both from rain and heat/sun (I was lucky to hide from both there!). Price: £8.
- By the Way in Tyrdum
Another lovely and well maintained camping site. Good, clean facilities and shelter for eating (but not completely covered so midges can get at you). It is closed from 11am, so make sure you get your stuff together and leave before that time. Camping is £8, but there are also cabins and huts to choose from.
By the way (see what I did there?) – go to the village of Tyrdum (don’t call it city or town, people were confused when I asked for directions :P) to the wonderful Real Food Cafe. In addition to supposedly superb fish&chips, they have a few different choices of gluten-free cakes! I had their polenta lemon cake with coffee and it was just so delicious!
- Inveroran Hotel wild camping site
This is not a camping site and is not run by the Inveroran Hotel (you might want to stay there if you want), but this is an accepted spot for wild camping, as it’s at the
right moment on West Highland Way. When you walk you need to pass by the hotel and go for another 100 m or so till you see the lovely spot by the river. The hotel has a walkers’ bar, where you can have your tea or meal (not much choice for gluten-free folks, though) and access to electricity and toilet.
You might be surprised (as I was in the beginning) why there must be a “dedicated” wild camping area, with the liberal Scottish laws and greenery all around… well, those beautiful green pastures perfect for your little tent? Those are wet bogs and moors, looking like gentle meadows from afar, but absolutely useless as a camping spot 😛
- Kingshouse Hotel wild camping site
Similar to the Inveroran Hotel, there is an accepted area for wild camping behind the building. One is by the river on the left from the road, and one on the right side. You can buy breakfast at the hotel in the morning (around £10, but huge and well accommodating for gluten-free clients). There is also a pub at the back.
- Blackwater Hostel & Campsite in Kinlochleven
That’s the one I planned on staying, but decided to pass by and move farther down the road. It has variety of pods and huts to choose and a very narrow strip of grass for tents. The view is right on to an old factory plant or such and I didn’t like the industrial vibe all that much. But it might be a perfectly fine stay for a night. £10
- MacDonald Campsite in Kinlochleven
This one is the other side of Kinlochleven, on the way out of town, but still on WHW trail. It is a hotel with camping lodges and enough room for a few tents in the back. There is a pub and you can sign for a breakfast (I can’t remember exactly but something around £6). £8.
- Glen Nevis Caravan & Campsite
This place is huge! But thanks to its size it can provide great facilities. The bathrooms and shower rooms are good, modern and clean. There is a number of washing machines with spinners and dryers as well. The store is pretty well stocked. The walk to Fort William is a bit long, but there are buses connecting the campsite to the town (but check schedule, there aren’t running all that often). You can also take a walk to the Cow Hill from there.
Bothies along the West Highland Way
What is a “bothy“? – you might ask. Well, bothies are mountain shelters taken care of by volunteers. The MBA (Mountain Bothy Association) is a charity which maintains about 100 shelters in some of the remoter parts of Great Britain. You do not pay for using one of them, but you are required to follow the rules. Most bothies are very simple shelters – with no electricity, running water or any kind of other facilities. You need to bring your own water and take away any rubbish you might have. If you have a Harvey map the location of bothies is marked on them.
- Rowchoish bothy
This once a cowshed building is now a shelter. As I took the high, alternative route of the WHW along the Loch Lomond, I did not pass by it. It’s close the shores of the Loch.
- Doune Byre
This bothy was my original goal for the second day of hiking the West Highland Way, but I didn’t make it and stopped for a wild camp. It is located right on the trail and beyond the Loch Lomond.
This is not the bothy, but a lovely old cottage right next to it. The bothy is to the right, but somehow I didn’t take a photo of it.