East Highland Way
1st July 2021 — 7th July 2021
The East Highland Way is a stunning 130km route connecting Fort William to Aviemore, winding through the Nevis mountain range and into the breathtaking Cairngorms National Park. As one of the youngest Scottish National Trails, it’s a relatively unknown route and therefore we had the paths to ourselves virtually the whole way. If you are looking to walk the East Highland Way yourself, hopefully this page can give you some ideas for planning and a taste of what’s in store.
Day 0Travelling & Ben Nevis
1st July, 8am
An unexpected upgrade from the seated coach to a bunk room on the Caledonian Sleeper provided spectacular views approaching Fort William.
1st July, 11am
Started the Mountain Track up Ben Nevis at 11:00 and arrived at the summit at 14:15. Fortunate in doing the climb on one of the 100 or so days a year where the summit is clear, providing the most fantastic views of an almost lunar landscape and across the glen. Even in July had to navigate a section of snow about twenty minutes from the summit plateau.
Descent took around 3.5 hours, though we stopped for a while at the tarn about halfway up. Round trip was approximately 7 hours, plus a half-hour walk from the train station. Well worth stopping for cold drink at Ben Nevis Inn at the bottom.
Day 1Fort William to Roybridge
2nd July, 10am
Left the comfort of our B&B behind and headed out for first day’s walking through the Nevis range. Mainly track walking through forest with a bit of road.
2nd July, 2pm
18km walked in about 4 hours, stopped for lunch in Spean Bridge. This is the usual recommended place to stop for the night as has a range of accomodation choices, places to eat and shop. However our campsite was ~8km onwards at Roybridge so we couldn’t stay long.
The East Highland Way markers are quite rare along the route however navigation for this section is fairly straightforward as can just follow footpath signs for Spean Bridge.
Day 2Roybridge to Fersit
3rd July, 11am
Tent troubles meant a later start to the day than anticipated and I had to change socks after an unplanned dip in the water crossing back over the river. Soon back on the trail heading East on old logging tracks in search of a wild campsite for the night.
An Dubh Lochan
3rd July, 3pm
For this section of the walk, there is only one accomodation option, the Tulloch Station lodge. Unfortunately, they had not re-opened after lockdown and so our only option was to wildcamp.
An Dubh Lochan was a recommended spot with a fresh breeze to reduce midges and a picturesque view, but we arrived too early to want to pitch-up and couldn’t find a water source. We pushed on, past the Inverlair Lodge which was used by the SOE during the Second World War. Legend has it deputy leader of Nazi Germany Rudolf Hess was held there.
3rd July, 5pm
Set up camp a little way beyond the cottages at Fersit, in the woodland next to a small dam. The midges were the worst of the whole trip here but it was the best place to camp for access to water. Probably most isolated place I’ve ever slept; the trail had been completely empty for virtually the whole day and the nearest civilisation was about a two-hour walk back the way we came.
Day 3Fersit to Feagour
4th July, 9am
Started early after a suprisingly comfortable night wildcamping for the longest leg of the trip. Long push to the end of the forest which seemed to go on forever but rewarded with the feeling of realising you’re much further on than you think after a couple of hours.
4th July, 12pm
In my opinion one of the most beautiful parts of the walk, complete with stunning bright blue skies (albeit interrupted with intermittent heavy showers). We detoured from the official route to take the lower tarmac path that hugs the edge of the loch, which rewared us with finding the spectacular Ardverikie Estate. Could not think of a more idyllic place to live; beautiful house, empty beach, endless loch and surrounded by rugged mountains.
Day 4Feagour to Kingussie
5th July, 10am
Dropped back at Feagour and walked the two hours back into Laggan, and on this stretch took the first wrong turning of the trip and had to re-direct along the road. Arrived in time to sit in shelter for a water break just as the heavens opened; the rain did not stop until six that evening.
Through Laggan we were then onto the most challenging part of the route, across boggy moorland with no clear track and with the extra challenge of being sopping wet.
5th July, 3pm
Both soaked to the bone, Dalnashallag Bothy approximately halfway through the moorland section provided a much needed spot to have lunch in the dry. The bothy was much bigger than I anticipated, complete with a woodshed where we hung our coats in a desperate to lose some of their sogginess. We left around an hour later not dry but perhaps slightly less wet than when we arrived, but then had to ford a fierce river after the downpours.
5th July, 7pm
The day ended up being longer than anticipated and we were very glad for a warm bed to stay in and somewhere to properly dry clothes in the village of Kingussie.
Despite the rain, this section of the walk was one of my favourites — it’s true Scottish wilderness, total isolation, with just the wind, rain and mountains to keep you company. Straight from the pages of Macbeth.
Day 5Kingussie to Aviemore
6th July, 10am
Initially the plan had been to walk from Kingussie to Aviemore over two days, camping at Kincraig overnight. However, the previous day’s weather had made us wary of sleeping under canvas and accomodation options were severly limited in Kincraig so we decided to push on and complete the last section in a day.
We walked out past the imposing ruins of Ruthven Barrakcs before joining the Badenoch Way toward Kincraig.
6th July, 1pm
This leg of the journey was the only one where we got properly lost, walking through a large forest area criss-crossed with footpaths and trails. Fortunately it was a beautiful place to be lost in and was also the busiest place we’d been on the trail since the beginning, so somoene could point us in the right direction.
We stopped for lunch at Loch Insh Watersport Centre, which was a shock to the system after barely seeing a soul for four days being thrust into a busy activity morning. It was a really lovely spot, however, and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy tward the young kids who effortlessly windsurfed across the loch.
6th July, 7pm
There was intermittent rain as afternoon turned to evening, and for the first time in the trip my feet truly began to ache with pain. We pushed on, returning to isolation as we walked through the Moor of Feshie and spotting red deer and red squirrel.
We could tell we were nearing civilisation as we entered the Rothiemercus estate as dog-walkers began to pass u, with one advising us to enter Aviemore passing the “Lily Loch”. This turned out to be a beatiful lake covered in waterlililles. We didn’t stop, however, and pushed on to finish our walk at the Colyumbridge hotel.