Planning an East Highland Way walk

Last updated 2 October 2017

East Highland Way at Insh Farm

The Scottish Highlands offer some of the most dramatic scenery and finest views for walkers anywhere in the British Isles. No surprise then that one of Britain’s most popular walking routes is in the area. However if you want to enjoy the Highlands and not spend your day walking in a convoy, the East Highland Way is well worth checking out.

Passing over 82 miles, the East Highland Way connects the West Highland Way in Fort William, with the Speyside Way in Aviemore. It goes through some of the quieter walking areas of the region, yet still allows you to enjoy the might of the Cairngorns and Ben Nevis range.

Devised by Kevin Langan, the trail is a relatively new route. For the most part there’s no waymarking, meaning you need to navigate yourself. But the walking is relatively easy, and highly enjoyable. On our walk, we passed few others. But mark our words – this is a fantastic walk and one which is going to become more popular as time goes on.

The East Highland Way is 82 miles/132km long.

In this guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning an intinerary
  4. Finding and booking accommodation
  5. Getting to/from the East Highland Way
  6. Guide books and maps
  7. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

Achnacochine old croft ruins

Whilst passing through a region of mountains and hills, the East Highland Way is a (relatively) low level walk. There’s no massive hill climbs and no Munroe bagging. For the most part, it follows good tracks or paths, with the occasional section (like most walks) spent on tarmac. There’s also two sections where there are no paths, and a few rivers and streams which need to be forded.

Much of the trail goes through woodland and forests – the attractive and the commercial – as well as following rivers and passing round attractive lochs. There’s fine views aplenty to be enjoyed, and potential diversions to take in historical sights. And if you want a walk that goes past remote (and sometimes abandoned) crofts and cottages, this is one for you.

For most of its journey you’ll see few people around, besides the occasional arrival in small hamlets and towns. Towards the end, near Aviemore, it does get busier as it passes through an estate which is popular with day hikers and cyclists. One section is also particularly remote, and for most people, will require a 21 mile day.

Unlike most of the walks we’ve covered, the East Highland Way is not generally waymarked. There are some directional signs in some parts, however they currently cover only small parts of the route. For the most part you will need to use maps and guidebooks to ensure you’re on the right path.

The route

You can see the route of the East Highland Way using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation.

The East Highland Way goes between Fort William and Aviemore, and you can see the route using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation. The full route is mapped on the East Highland Way website.

Planning an itinerary

Handwritten sign saying ‘please stop’ in a forest

Most people will split the East Highland Way into six or seven days, and we’ve provided itineraries for both below. Unless otherwise noted, each location has a pub, shop and at least one accommodation provider. Locations with railway stations are marked with a *

6 Day Itinerary

Day From To Distance Notes
Miles Km
1 Fort William * Spean Bridge * 12 19
2 Spean Bridge * Inverlair 9 14 [1]
3 Inverlair Feagour 21 34 [2]
4 Feagour Newtonmore * 13½ 21½
5 Newtonmore * Kincraig 16 25½ [3]
6 Kincraig Aviemore * 10 16
  1. No accommodation, pub or shop. Accommodation can be found 2 miles/3½km away at Tulloch railway station, which is also served by trains.
  2. No accommodation, pub or shop. Nearest accommodation can be found at Laggan which is 4½ miles/7½km up the A86 (and which is also on the trail.) Some accommodation providers at Laggan do a pick-up service.
  3. Accommodation, food and drink can be found on the route at the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre, or by going to Kincraig which is ¾miles / 1km off route. There is no shop.

7 Day Itinerary

Day From To Distance Notes
Miles Km
1 Fort William * Spean Bridge * 12 19
2 Spean Bridge * Inverlair 9 14 [1]
3 Inverlair Feagour 21 34 [2]
4 Feagour Laggan [3]
5 Laggan Newtonmore * 8 13
6 Newtonmore * Kincraig 16 25½ [4]
7 Kincraig Aviemore * 10 16
  1. No accommodation, shop or transport. Accommodation can be found 2 miles/3½km away at Tulloch railway station, which is also served by trains.
  2. No accommodation, pub or shop. Nearest accommodation can be found at Laggan which is 4½ miles/7½km up the A86 (and which is also on the trail.) Some accommodation providers at Laggan do a pick-up service.
  3. No pub or shop.
  4. Accommodation, food and drink can be found on the route at the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre, or by going to Kincraig which is ¾miles / 1km off route. There is no shop.

When to walk

Being in the Highlands, the East Highland Way is best walked between April and October, however as it is not a high level route, walkers experienced with navigating in snow may have joy all year round.

Breaking the walk up for several trips

The relative remoteness of the Scottish Highlands means that, for many, splitting the trail up won’t be necessarily practical or desirable. Still it is possible. There are railway stations at Tulloch and Newtonmore, which would allow you to split the walk into three walks each lasting two days (or a two day and a four day.) Kinguissie station – midway between Newtonmore and Kincraig also has station. Note that services are infrequent at all stations, and Tulloch station is remote and has no nearby facilities.

Splitting up the Inverlair and Feagour section

There is, as you may have spotted, a very long section between Inverlair and Feagour. Most people will be able to walk this in a day, although it is hard work. However if you do wish to split it up, one option is to break at Moy Bridge, which is 9 miles/14km from Inverlair. There is no accommodation here, however local taxi services will be able to take you to Laggan, Tulloch or some other location.

Lengthening the Feagour to Laggan section

If you’re thinking about the seven day itinerary you will notice a very short day from Feagour to Laggan. However there’s plenty of nice options for walking here. Our suggestion would be to take a circular route starting from Laggan, and going through the tracks in Laggan Forest, including a trip up to the Wolfrax Café. More information can be found at the Forestry Commission website, and at the Laggan Forest website.

Extending your walk

The East Highland Way connects with three other trails, each of which can be completed in a week. The West Highland Way runs from Milngavie to Fort William. At Fort William it also connects with the Great Glen Way which runs from Inverness. Finally at the Aviemore end, the trail connects with the Speyside Way which heads along the river Spey to Buckie.

Finding and booking accommodation

View from the terrace of Loch Insh Watersports Centre’s terrace

For the most part the East Highland Way goes through towns and villages with a good range of accommodation providers. The East Highland Way website includes an accommodation guide, which although not exhaustive, provides many good options. In larger towns, other options can be found by using your favourite search engine.

There are three areas which pose some small – but not insurmountable – challenges. These are Inverlair, Feagour and Laggan.

The nearest accommodation for Inverlair is the Station Lodge Hostel. This is a reasonably sized independent hostel located at Tulloch railway station, 2 miles/3½km north west, and is the best bet. The infrequent trains will also take you to Spean Bridge or Fort William, although these are not at particularly useful times for walkers. Some accommodation providers may be able to provide lifts to and from Tulloch if pre-arranged. Alternatively you can use local taxi services. The following morning you will need to retrace your steps.

Feagour has no accommodation. The nearest accommodation is five miles up the road in Laggan, and you can either take a taxi or ask for a lift from your accommodation provider if you’re staying in Laggan.

Laggan has a different problem. There is a large hotel on the edge of the village – the Laggan Gaskmore – but it deals exclusively with coach parties. Not that it mentions this on its website. There’s a bunkhouse, however it’s open only for group bookings. That leaves one small B&B, The Rumblie as the only source of accommodation for most walkers. It does evening meals, has a bar with a huge whisky selection, and does lifts for East Highland Way walkers from Feagour. If they are full, your best alternative is a taxi to Newtonmore.

Hostels and bunkbarns

Whilst it’s not quite possible to stay in hostels every night, there are a number of them across the East Highland Way:

Camping and Bothies

There’s a couple of campsites near the East Highland Way, near Roy Bridge and Newtonmore, however the route is also ideal for wild camping. With the exception of the section between Fort William and Spean Bridge, there are a wide number of sites which have good water supplies and flat land suitable for wild camping.

There are also two bothies. The first at Dailnaseilg, in Glen Banchor between Laggan and Newtonmore, isn’t particularly designed for sleeping as it has sleeping platforms. It does have a sofa, if you want to chance it.

Better for an overnight stay is Drakes Bothy, between Feshiebridge and Loch Gamhna. It’s maintained by Scottish Natural Heritage and features sleeping platforms with room for several people.

Getting to/from the East Highland Way

Spean Bridge railway station

The East Highland Way is well served by railway transport, with train stations at both ends of the trail as well as several on the route itself.

Fort William is served by trains on the stunningly beautiful West Highland Line, which is well worth a ride. The East Highland Way also passes by Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Tulloch stations, which are on the same line. There are three trains a day day to/from Glasgow, with just two on Sundays. It’s also served by the Caledonian Sleeper, which runs six nights a week and connects the West Highlands with Preston, Crewe, and London, and is a fantastic way to travel.

At the other end, Aviemore is served by trains on the Inverness line, which runs to Edinburgh. The East Highland Way also passes near Newtonmore and Kinguisse stations on the same line. Services run every 1-2 hours from Aviemore and Kinguisse, with Newtonmore having a more reduced service. All three stations are also served by Caledonian Sleeper services, which run to Preston, Crewe and London.

Regular Scottish Citylink coach services run between Fort William and Glasgow. These coaches also stop at Spean Bridge. Citylink and Megabus run regular services between Aviemore and Edinburgh, and Megabus also run overnight “sleeper coaches” from Aviemore to London.

Guide Books and Maps

Sign informing people that only two people can cross the bridge

There are various ways to create a walking route. And one is that someone can just write it all up in a guide book and publish it. This is exactly how the East Highland Way came into being.

The route is documented ‘The East Highland Way’, written by Kevin Langan and published by Luath Press. The book contains historical information about the trail, along with clear and detailed directions – some of the best we’ve found in any guide book. It also recommends various detours to see interesting locations near the path.

Whilst the guidebook is excellent, it doesn’t contain detailed maps. There are some high level maps of varying scales, however nowhere near detailed suitable enough for navigating with on their own. However Harvey’s have published a strip map of the trail at a 1:40,000 scale. This contains the whole route, with a reasonable area around the trail covered, although the final section to Aviemore is a bit cramped.

The East Highland Way isn’t marked on Ordnance Survey maps, although we can’t help but feel that this can only be a matter of time. If you wish to use OS maps, you will need to plot the route on the maps yourself. You can do this by viewing the full route maps on the East Highland Way website. There’s also a detailed GPX file of the route. If you wish to use OS maps, the maps you will need are listed below.

Note that in 2015 the Ordnance Survey renumbered some of its Explorer maps. Where the number changed, the previous number is given in brackets.

And finally, and any questions

Enchanting path in Black Wood, near Laggan on the East Highland Way

The East Highland Way is an excellent route, and one which allows you to enjoy the Scottish Highlands without having to endure the crowds who flock to the West Highland Way. If you want a Scottish route with fine scenery, and peace and tranquility, this is one to check out.

But do it soon. This great route is bound to get more attention as the years go by!

Found this guide helpful? Why not say thanks by sending us £3 for a beer!

Your Comments

Ken Brooks

25 February 2017 at 3:07 am

Thank you for the great information. We’re coming to walk the EHW in May. Any new updates for 2017?

Tom

7 May 2017 at 11:41 pm

Would you advise against walking the EHW from east to west? I fear Aviemore would be a bit of a let down at the end of the walk.

Andrew Bowden

8 May 2017 at 9:04 am

Aviemore as a town, I can’t say was my favourite ever place to visit, although we only stayed for half a day. However the walk to Aviemore is rather nice. But it’s easy to walk the opposite direction. You just get the fun of walking past a branch of Argos at the end of the walk, rather than the beginning!

Your Comments

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.