The West Highland Way is an epic 96 mile trek across the magical Scottish Highlands, which are exactly as they sound - high. The route is truly breathtaking in parts with views that go on for miles across sparkling Lochs and dramatic green mountains. It also involves a lot of steep climbs and difficult terrain meaning it’s not an easy trek, and any edge you can get is a bonus. Having your bag carried for you has got to be the ultimate hack, so we took advantage of the West Highland Way baggage transfer service offered by Travel-Lite. Here’s how it all works.
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What is West Highland Way Baggage Transfer?
Essentially, the system that Travel-Lite have invented allows you to drop and collect your bag and tent at locations that you’ve predesignated each morning and evening. Think of it like having a buddy grab your main backpack for you in the morning and make sure it gets to your next destination safe and sound while you get on with doing what you actually came for, walking the West Highland Way. Like all the best ideas, the West Highland Way baggage transfer service is unbelievably simple, and it takes away a lot of the hassle for you as a walker.
You take with you just a small day pack with just your essentials in and let Travel-Lite take care of your your big bag with all the other stuff you don’t need during the day. Our day pack only weighed a couple of kilos maximum and contained our food, our water bottles, waterproof jackets and basic first aid stuff. Trust us, the West Highland Way is difficult enough without you having to unnecessarily carry around a lot of extra weight.
How Does West Highland Way Baggage Transfer Work?
We simply told Travel-Lite of our route in advance and the exact stops we were going to be making each night. These were a mixture of campsites, B&Bs and hostels for us, but it wasn’t a problem as Travel-Lite deliver your bags to absolutely any of the accommodation along the route. We found the process seamlessly smooth and easy.
On the first day of our adventure, we made our way to the car park which is directly beneath the famous sign marking the start of the West Highland Way trail. Here we met Gilbert McVean, the owner, and his team and said goodbye to our 10kg rucksacks. After about 5 hours walking they were there at the campsite we were staying at on the first night.
Each day was exactly the same process - in the morning we’d leave our bags where we’d found them the night before, and when we’d arrive at the next accommodation our bags would magically be there waiting for us. Travel-Lite run a van up and down the route each day, dropping bags off and collecting bags at accommodation along the way. When you think about it, it’s pretty mind boggling the organisation that must go into it, but they’ve been doing it for over 20 years now which explains why it runs so well.
How Much Does West Highland Way Baggage Transfer Cost With Travel-Lite?
This depends on how you use the service as you can book it for the full journey, part of the journey or even whilst you’re on the walk. For the full route from Milngavie to Fort William it costs £45, so if you divide it over the average of 7 days that people take to walk the route that’s under 7 quid per day - pretty cheap. They also offer discounts for groups.
Many people also only walk a part of the route or are completing the West Highland Way in stages. I met a lovely group of ladies in their 60s who told me that they could comfortably do about 3 days of walking in a row so were completing it in 3 goes across the year. That’s no problem, you can still use the service, you just get in contact with Travel-Lite to let them know what you want and they’ll give you a quote.
Even if you’re part way along the route and realise you’ve made a big mistake by carrying too much weight, you can still sign up. For a single leg I believe it’s around £7 per bag, but you can just get in contact with Travel-Lite by phone for a quote if you find yourself in this situation.
We met two groups of lads who were struggling because they had seriously overpacked and undertrained. We told them about the West Highland Way baggage transfer service we were using and they booked on for a couple of legs with Travel-Lite to allow them a bit of respite from trudging along with their massive packs.
How Safe is Travel-Lite’s West Highland Way Baggage Transfer Service?
This was a big concern for us as we always carry a fair amount of expensive gear in our backpacks that we need in order to be able to work. Combined, the cost of our electricals alone which includes laptops, cameras and various other stuff runs into the thousands, so our bags are like our babies - we protect them diligently! Travel-Lite’s service is fully insured so should put your mind at ease*.
Your bags are dropped off and picked up from secure luggage storage areas they have set up with each hotel, B&B, campsite and hostel. Sometimes it was a locked shed, others it was a storage trailer and sometimes it was within the hostel or B&B itself. We had absolutely no problems and didn’t come across anyone who’d had any issues with regards to the safety and security of their bags.
Another big factor to consider is the weather. I’m going to be generous here and say that the weather in Scotland is changeable. Because of this it can also be a challenge to keep all of your stuff dry. Imagine hiking for 8 hours in the driving rain only to discover that your bag and its contents are soaked through. You’ve got nothing dry to change into, your electricals may get damaged and you’ll have a job drying everything out in time for the next day.
This happened a couple of times with our day packs where virtually everything inside was soaked despite having them covered. You just don’t have this concern with Travel-Lite and you know that your main bag will arrive safe and dry.
*You’re not actually supposed to put laptops in the bags which Travel-Lite carry (we assume due to insurance reasons), but honestly we felt as though they were safer with them in the van than if we took the chance of carrying them on our backs in the rain.*
The whole idea of a West Highland Way baggage transfer service was conceived by Gilbert McVean, the owner of Travel-Lite, so when they started in 1995 they were the only company running the service. Because it’s such a great idea, there are a couple of other companies that have replicated the service, but with Travel-Lite you get the peace of mind that they’ve been around for over 20 years.
They’re used and trusted by many of Europe’s biggest tour companies and booking agents, a testament to how good and reliable the service is. Plus they get our seal of approval, what more reason do you need?
If you were walking 96 miles, would you carry your bag or get them carried for you? Planning on doing the West Highland Way? Drop us a note in the comments, we'd love to follow your journey and have plenty more tips if you want them.