Today, 6th October, is the 40th anniversary of the opening of the West Highland Way. Scotland's original officially designated long distance trail, the 154km (96-mile) route has become hugely popular over the last four decades, attracting walkers from around the world.
Roughly 40,000 people walk the entire route every year, an influx of visitors that's thought to generate £5.5 million annually for the local economy.
Now classed as one of Scotland's Great Trails, the route from Milngavie, near Glasgow, to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, takes in a diversity of scenery from lowland to highland. Key highlights include Conic Hill, the wooded east shore of Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, the Devil's Staircase out of Glen Coe, and the birch woods and spectacular sea loch at Kinlochleven.
Though it can be run in under 24 hours, the route is generally walked over 5-7 days, or longer if detours are made up the various Munros it passes.
See our stage-by-stage trail description here:
"I've watched thousands of West Highland Way walkers pass through my own village of Kinlochleven" said Councillor Andrew Baxter of Highland Council.
"Some stride. Some ramble. Some hobble. Some even run! They all have a shared determination to push on and walk all the way to journey's end in Fort William. There they rub aching limbs, sat next to the iconic "Sair feet" statue marking the Way's official end. All will have an enormous sense of achievement at their completion of an iconic walking trail. And unwittingly, many of us who see these hardy souls pass by, share in their sense of pride.
"Here in Lochaber, the West Highland Way is very much our way too! We are proud to welcome people from all around the world. We delight in hearing their tales from along the way. We nod with sympathy as they complain about aching knees and bleeding blisters. We point them in the the right direction when they lose their way. We welcome them into our B&Bs, hotels, cafes, restaurants and shops. They are part of our way of life. And when winter blows in and their numbers dwindle we long for their return next year. We know the crunch of walking boots on the West Highland Way means spring is not far away."
To mark the date, westhighlandway.org are running a virtual exhibition, including stories and photos from West Highland Way walkers, a series of videos, and a highlights film - see westhighlandway40.org
The celebration is part of a wider project, funded by the Scottish Government's LEADER programme, to support the future upkeep of the route by drawing in further investment and 'exploring income generation opportunities'. The project aims to ensure the long-term economic sustainability of the West Highland Way, and the rural businesses that depend on it.
This short film by one of the WHW's many users gives a good general flavour of the walk: