Staying safe & enjoying the outdoors responsibly
To help you enjoy the West Highland Way safely and responsibly, we’ve set out some helpful guidance.
Camping is a great way to enjoy the West Highland Way and there are a range of campsites with facilities along the Way or you may choose to get even closer to nature by wild camping.
Whichever way you choose to camp please ensure you do it responsibly and respectfully. Leave nothing but footprints and always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code – a practical guide to help everyone enjoy the outdoors responsibly. You can also view Wild Camping – A Guide to Good Practice produced by Mountaineering Scotland.
Seasonal byelaws which affect how and where you can camp on the sections from Drymen to Crianlarich are in place between March and September so if you are planning on camping along the Way during this time it’s important to plan ahead. In some areas along East Loch Lomond, during these months you can only camp in designated permit zones and campsites. The National Park website has more information about camping in this area.
When you are camping, remember to:
- Take your litter home
- Never cut down or damage trees to make a fire
- Don’t move dead wood as this damages the environment and wildlife
- Use a public toilet or bury your waste
- Dispose of your fishing line responsibly
- Is your tent one too many? Avoid over-crowding when camping
- Keep noise down and lights low after 9pm
What to do in an emergency
If you get into difficulty away from the road network and need help or medical assistance, please follow these steps:
- Phone the emergency services on 999. When the operator asks which service, state: police.
- Provide accurate details of the incident and location (grid references are very useful) – if you are in remote location with difficult access it is important to emphasise this.
- The Police will assess the situation and send help – this may include a Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) and other medical support.
The West Highland Way involves some strenuous hillwalking as you progress towards the highlands and at times the route can be quite remote from roads and services. So it is essential that you are well prepared and take the right advice.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has an excellent range of online resources to support hillwalkers. They also offer information and practical advice on how to stay safe, which you can read about in the Safety and skills in the mountains section.
Here are some other useful websites providing information and advice on hillwalking:
- Walk Highlands – covering routes, equipment and accommodation for the majority of hills and mountains in Scotland.
- The Ramblers Scotland – a charity whose goal is to protect the ability of people to enjoy the sense of freedom and benefits that come from being outdoors on foot.
- The Mountaineering Council of Scotland – representative organisation for hill walkers, climbers and ski-tourers living in Scotland.
- The British Mountaineering Council – protects the freedoms and promotes the interests of climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers.
We want everyone to enjoy the West Highland Way in a safe and responsible manner. Be aware that the owners of the land you are crossing might be engaged in deer management and other land management activities and you can help minimise the chance of disturbance. Read more about it in the Heading to the Hills practical guide.
Hiking and hill walking are risk sports.
Ticks & Lyme Disease
Ticks are small parasitic insects that feed on the blood of birds and mammals – including you. They are found in many parts of the region and unfortunately carry several diseases including Lyme disease.
Ticks live in tall grasses, shrubs, bushes and trees branches up to waist height, and attach themselves as you brush past – they prefer creased areas like the armpit, groin and back of the knee. You won’t feel the bite, as the tick will anaesthetise the area. Don’t panic though, simply being bitten by a tick doesn’t mean you’ll automatically contract Lyme disease, however the risk is out there.
- Walk in the middle of paths and avoid unnecessary ‘bushwacking’ between March and October.
- Keep your arms and legs covered.
- Ticks stand out on light-coloured fabrics
- Good quality insect repellent can reduce the incidence of tick bites
- Check clothes and skin carefully– in springtime ticks are tiny, but more easily spotted in summer
- Check that ticks are not brought into the home on clothes, pets, equipment, rugs etc.
- Check children carefully, especially along the hairline and scalp
If you discover a tick
- Fortunately they are relatively easy to remove – use a good pair of sharp tweezers, grip the tick by the mouth parts (as close to your skin as possible), and pull it straight out anti-clockwise. DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick, apply substances like Vaseline or try burning the tick off, as these can lead to an infection.
- If you do not have tweezers to hand, a loop or slipknot of strong cotton wrapped around the mouth parts, and pulled, is also effective. Make sure you remove all of the mouthparts.
- Removing ticks as soon as possible reduces the risk of infection – consider retaining the tick in a sealed container in case you develop symptoms later.
- The most obvious symptom of Lyme disease is the ‘Bull’s Eye’ rash, a red ring-shaped rash spreading from the site of the bite. It appears two – 40 days after infection and is the only sure-fire symptom of the disease. If you develop this rash, take a photo for your doctor. Less than 50% of people with Lyme get this rash, and if left untreated a range of serious symptoms can develop, including a flu-like illness, facial palsy, joint pain and viral-type meningitis.
- If you think you may have caught Lyme disease, see your GP straight away. If the GP suspects Lyme’s you should begin antibiotic treatment right away, without waiting for any test results.
For more information see the National Health Service website.
Farmland & animals
Lambing & Dogs
At times, the West Highland Way will take you through farmland, and every spring new lambs can be seen frolicking in the sunshine enjoying their first taste of life. To a farmer, the lambs represent their livelihood and income – the next generation of ewes and rams. To dogs, the lambs are defenseless ‘prey’ and unfortunately the National Park Authority receives reports every year of sheep being attacked and lambs killed. It is imperative that dogs are kept under close control when livestock is present (especially during lambing). For more information see the Scottish Natural Heritage ‘Dog Walking’ guide.
If your dog is coming along for your West Highland Way adventure, please take note of any signage at access points and adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC).
Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals. Don’t take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young farm animals. If you go into a field of farm animals, keep your dog(s) on a short lead or under close control and keep as far as possible from the animals. If cattle react aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.
Don’t take your dog into fields of vegetables or fruit unless there is a clear path, such as a core path or right of way, and keep your dog to the path.
Pick up and remove your dog’s faeces if it defecates in a public place, they can carry diseases that can be harmful to both livestock and humans.