Where to camp on the Great Glen Way


The Great Glen Way is a superb introduction to accessible hiking and camping in the Scottish Highlands. Running between Fort William and Inverness, this linear route follows an ancient geographical fault across central Scotland from one coast to the other, connecting a series of three lochs (Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness) along the Caledonian Canal. The route provides fairly easy walking and is not as crowded as its near-neighbour, the West Highland Way.

Read on to find out more about the route, what to see along the way, practical tips to make your camping trip a success and taking the time to discover some of the Great Glen Way’s loveliest sights.

Abandoned jetty on Loch Ness (Daniel Svoboda / Unsplash)

Camping accommodation

Camping is one of the best ways to take in all the spectacular scenery along the Great Glen Way. There are plenty of camping options at every overnight stop along the route, including glampsites if you prefer a few luxuries on your hiking adventure – and if you’d rather get right back to nature, wild camping is legal in Scotland too.

To see the camping options available to you along the Great Glen Way, simply click the link under each day’s itinerary. Campsites in the Scottish Highlands often get booked up ahead of time, especially in summer, so it’s best to plan ahead and book your pitch well in advance in order to guarantee a space at the most scenic sites. 

There’s no real need to carry any heavy camping gear these days either, as plenty of companies will now move your baggage from campsite to campsite for a fee. 

Dogs are welcome at most campsites too, as long as they are always under control. During the lambing season in April and May, they must be on a lead when crossing land with livestock. Wherever possible, avoid fields where cattle with calves are grazing, and if you do have to cross the land, do so with caution. 

Check out Pitchup’s campsites in the Highlands and Islands

Route map 

What can I see on the Great Glen Way?

Although the raw beauty of the loch-and-mountain scenery is the star of the show here, there are five attractions that you should not miss along the route.

1. Neptune’s Staircase

The longest staircase lock in Scotland is at Banavie, just north of Fort William. It was built by master engineer Thomas Telford and opened in 1822, with eight locks in the flight, taking 90 minutes for boats to pass through. There are spectacular views of Ben Nevis from the lock flight as well.

2. Caledonian Canal

Thomas Telford’s engineering masterpiece, connecting the west coast to the east across Scotland, also opened in 1822. It is 60 miles long and you’ll get fantastic views of the canal from Fort Augustus and Corpach.

Lock flight at Fort Augustus (courtesy of George Meer)

3. Fort Augustus 

This series of five locks is in a delightful, pretty town with plenty of shops and restaurants. It's also a departure point for boat cruises on Loch Ness, and home of the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre.

4. Urquhart Castle

The dramatic ruins of this 13th-century castle sit on a promontory with views across Loch Ness from its northern shore. It was the scene of many clan battles, and there are ancient artefacts and a short film in the visitor centre, plus a café.

5. Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition

In Drumnadrochit, this visitor centre has interactive themed areas depicting the history of Loch Ness and its most famous resident, Nessie.

Sunset over Loch Ness (Pixabay)

An itinerary for the Great Glen Way

What follows is a rough guide to what you can expect to achieve in a day, with each day ending at a village or venue that has camping accommodation.

Get an early start on your Great Glen Way adventure by staying locally before your first day. Both Ben Nevis Holiday Park and Linnhe Lochside Holidays are close to the start of the walk.

Day One - Fort William to Gairlochy (10.5 miles)

The first day on the Great Glen Way kicks off at the Old Fort, which gave Fort William its name, and then follows the Caledonian Canal towpath from Corpach to waterside Gairlochy where most walkers spend their first night. It’s a gentle introduction to the hike. Look out for the Neptune’s Staircase lock flight at Banavie as well as views of Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain.

Gairlochy has limited camping accommodation available, so many hikers head for Spean Bridge to spend their first night. If you don’t fancy the extra 4.5-mile walk, some campsites will pick you up from Gairlochy by prior arrangement. A variety of companies will also drive your gear from site to site.

Check out Pitchup campsites around Spean Bridge

Day Two - Gairlochy to Laggan Lochs (13 miles)

From Gairlochy, find the Pepperpot Lighthouse, where the Caledonian Canal meets Loch Lochy. The trail alternates between road and lochside footpaths, before joining forest tracks at Clunes until the canal lock gates at South Laggan. 

There are campsites at Laggan Locks, however many are by the side of the busy A82 road. Often campers continue for an extra four miles on forest tracks to Invergarry, where there are campsites, a post office and a small shop for essentials.

See the Pitchup campsites around Invergarry

Along the Caledonian Canal (Pixabay)

Day Three - Laggan Lochs to Fort Augustus (12 miles)

Beginning on a short stretch of the Caledonian Canal, much of today’s walk runs alongside Loch Oich, where you will spot the romantic ruins of Invergarry Castle. Some of it also follows the old route of the Spean Bridge to Fort Augustus railway line, and there’s a small museum about the track at the former Invergarry station.

Cross the A82 at Aberchalder Swing Bridge, and then it’s canal towpath all the way into Fort Augustus, with a spectacular lock flight and all manner of campsites, shops and dining options as well as amenities including a post office, a doctor and a chemist.

See Pitchup camping options near Fort Augustus

Day Four - Fort Augustus to Invermoriston (9 miles)

(10.5 miles if you choose the High Route)

Once clear of Fort Augustus, the Great Glen Way begins to climb. Here you can follow the 'low' route through forest or take a steep climb up onto the High Route (a detour that's waymarked with an information panel) which climbs above the treeline for views of the Great Glen and Loch Ness before descending steeply into Invermoriston

The lower route is easier but it still has great views, passing through an area of woodland planted with giant Douglas firs and Sitka spruces. This also leads into Invermoriston, where you’ll find campsites, a basic shop, cafés and pubs.

See Pitchup campsites around Invermoriston

Day Five - Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit (14 miles)

(13.5 miles if you choose the High Route)

Leaving Invermoriston, you’ll hit an information panel marking another High Route detour, taking you to the highest point of the trail, above Glen Moriston and with spectacular Loch Ness views. 

The lower route comprises an undulating hike on forest tracks and a climb out of Altsigh before hitting a rural road at Grotaig, where there is a designated path for walkers. At the turnoff to Clunebeg Estate, the path descends down to Drumnadrochit, which has a supermarket, shops, a doctor and a pharmacy as well as camping accommodation and dining choices. Urquhart Castle is close by, and the village is also home to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. 

Both routes also allow access to the campsites at Altsigh.

Find out about Pitchup campsites at Drumnadrochit

Day Six - Drumnadrochit to Inverness (20 miles)

This longest section of the Great Glen Way can be split into two days, as there is limited camping accommodation at Abriachan (seven miles) – if you’re after a bit of luxury in a cosy wooden pod by this stage of the walk, consider staying at Camping Pod Heaven.

Out of Drumnadrochit a stretch of the walk is on pavement along the A82, followed by a winding, steep path through forest to Craig Nay – from here a track leads to Abriachan. After more road walking, the trail heads back onto a forest track, following a former 18th-century drovers’ road, along which livestock was taken to market in southern Scotland.

On the approach into Inverness, the Great Glen Way hops onto the Ness Islands and follows the River Ness to finish at Inverness Castle.

Dubbed the 'Capital of the Highlands', the riverside city of Inverness has all the shops, pubs, cafés and accommodation you could need, as well as onward transport options.

See Pitchup campsites in Inverness

Arriving in Inverness (Pixabay)

Planning for the Great Glen Way

Planning a long hike like this can feel a little daunting, but below we offer information on when to do the walk and show you where to find information on packing, plus a couple of expert tips that will make your hike more pleasant.

What to pack

Check out our ultimate list of what to pack for a camping holiday, and add in a few extras to deal with issues you may encounter along the Great Glen Way.

  • Always carry midge repellent: especially in July and August, although the midge season stretches from June through to September. Most local pharmacies and shops sell midge repellent and/or nets. 
  • Take a tick remover: ticks are a problem in the Scottish Highlands, so take a tick-removal tool – especially useful if you’re walking with dogs, as they can pick ticks up in long grass or heather.

Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness (Ramon Vloon / Unsplash)

When to go

  • The weather in the Scottish Highlands is notoriously fickle, so whenever you decide to hike the Great Glen Way, be well prepared for everything from rain storms to bright sunshine. 

  • Spring and autumn are great times to walk the route, with fewer crowds and lots of places in the campsites. Most importantly, there are fewer midges to drive you to distraction with their constant biting.

  • June through to the end of August sees the trail become crowded, especially during the school holidays. Although you may have better weather, the midges are out in force by August.

  • Although the Great Glen Way stays open over winter, the days are shorter, the weather will be challenging, and many facilities may close. Some campsites stay open all year, but it’s wise to be prepared for pitching up in winter.

Staying safe on the hike

The Great Glen Way is an easy-to-moderate hike but you should still always follow the basic safety rules.

  • Always tell someone what your plan for the day is, so they can raise the alarm if an unlikely emergency happens.

  • Be sure to take enough water for the day.

  • Be prepared for poor weather conditions, even in summer.

  • Learn how to read a map, and have a basic knowledge of first aid.

  • Watch out for tick bites. If you are bitten, let your doctor know that you’ve been in a Lyme Disease area if you need medical treatment.

  • If there is an emergency, contact 999 or 112. Use what3words to pinpoint your position. 

Wild camping

Wild camping is allowed along the Great Glen Way (as it is throughout Scotland), as long as campers adhere to certain guidelines set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. If you’d like to give wild camping a go, remember to pitch responsibly and legally, and be aware of the various rules:

  • Reduce the impact on your environment and don’t stay for more than three nights in one camping spot.
  • Keep groups small, quiet and well away from people’s homes and historic sights. Stay well away from roadsides too.
  • Take all your rubbish away with you.
  • There are public loos in Fort William, Corpach, Fort Augustus, Drumnadrochit, Abriachan and Inverness.
  • If there isn’t a public loo available, carry a trowel and bury your waste. Go to the loo well away from rivers, streams, canals and the lochs.
  • Use a stove to cook on if possible, but if you must have an open fire, follow the campfire safety rules, and never damage trees when collecting kindling. 
  • Never camp in crop fields or fields containing livestock.

Top tip for wild campers

The following facilities are available to boaters, walkers and cyclists on the Great Glen Way or Canoe Trail for a small charge. 

  • Canal-side toilets and showers

  • Washing machines and tumble dryers

  • Powerpoints for recharging phones and tablets

  • A map showing where the facilities are

You can pick up access keys at Corpach Sea Lock, near Fort William, and from the Seaport Marina office in Inverness, or you can call +44 (0)1463 725500 and have a key posted out to you for an additional sum. The keys must be returned at the end of your hike, and the fee helps in the upkeep of the walk.

All available pitches near Fort William 

All available pitches near Inverness

Great Glen Way camping FAQs

Is wild camping allowed on the Great Glen Way?

Wild camping is legal in Scotland, so it is permitted along the Great Glen Way but you must stick to the rules of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code: leave no trace of your campsite and take all your rubbish with you.

Can I camp on other walks from the Great Glen Way?

You can combine the Great Glen Way with camping and hiking the West Highland Way, as they converge in Fort William. This means you can effectively walk and camp from Glasgow all the way to Inverness.

How do I get to the start of the Great Glen Way?

Train services run to both Inverness and Fort William from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. There are no direct rail services between Fort William and Inverness, but there is a regular bus service that takes a little under two hours. If you choose to take your car there are long-term car parks in Fort William (West End Car Park) and Inverness (Rose Street Multi-Storey).

Where can I stock up for the Great Glen Way hike?

There are major supermarkets in both Fort William and Inverness. You can buy essentials along the way at post offices, garages and grocery shops, and there are pubs and restaurants in villages including Fort Augustus, Drumnadrochit and Invermoriston.

Can I cycle the Great Glen Way?

Yes, you can, although a mountain bike is recommended. If you’re cycling and camping, plan on taking three days to complete the ride, as the majority of off-road sections of the walk are on laid tracks. However, there are some hilly sections as you progress north towards Inverness, when the trail rises into the forest above Loch Ness.

Are there any other ways to follow the Great Glen Way?

Yes, you can also follow the route by boat, or paddle by canoe and kayak, along the Great Glen Canal Trail following the Caledonian Canal. If your craft is small enough for portage, you will not have to pay for a licence to be on the water, and you can camp every night at sites along the way.