Scotland is home to some of the most beautiful and rugged terrain on the planet, perfect for hiking and is an attraction for walkers from within the UK as much as it an enticement for those from abroad.
From the highlands to the coasts, and the rivers and lochs in between. There is wild cats, red deer, and you might even spot a wild haggis. Stunning snow-capped mountains, gushing waterfalls, and the remarkable Northern Lights – Scotland really has it all.
Nevisport, was born in the shadow of Ben Nevis in 1970, and it is appropriate that we kick off our hiking trails series with a look our Top Ten Hiking Trails in Scotland.
One of Scotland’s most famous sons, Robert Burns, wrote ‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’, a perfect narrative to hiking in Scotland.
“Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, the hills of the Highlands for ever I love.”
West Highland Way
The most famous and first walking route in Scotland, the West Highland Way stretches for 96 miles from Milngavie [mul-guy or mill–en-gav-ee depending on what side of the tracks you come from] to Fort William.
You begin the trail in East Dunbartonshire and walk through the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Rannoch Moor then welcomes you with its wide open spaces before you are hit with the picturesque and dramatic views of the Glencoe mountain range.
Under the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, Fort William is your final destination and it is a welcome site for those weary legs.
You will walk through some of the most stunning views in all of the British Isles, and while the route is within most walkers’ capabilities it is still enough of a challenge – even more so with the Scottish weather, which is unpredictable even in the summer months.
Duration: 5 to 8 days
East Highland Way
The lesser known wee sibling of the West Highland Way, it was developed in 2007 connecting Fort William to Aviemore and showcases some of the most dramatic scenes in the Highlands. From Pictish forts and World War II memorials to scenes of the Highland Clearances and the last remnants of the ancient Caledonian forests of Inshriach, a history of around 1500 years within just 82 miles.
You kick off the trail in Fort William then to Spean Bridge, before you go deeper into the Highlands, walking around the edge of Loch Moy and then the stunning Loch Laggan. The Pictish fort of Dun da Lamh and Cluny Castle await you thereafter before reaching Newtonmore.
Ruthvan Barracks and the Insh marshes welcome you in your penultimate section of the journey, and on the final and most spectacular section of the East Highland Way, you walk to the Frank Bruce Sculpture Park, climb through the Cairngorm national park and ancient bog forests before the descent to Aviemore via the castle of Loch an Eilein.
If you are adventurous enough and have plenty of time to kill, why not link both Highland ways up and walk the 178 miles from Milngavie to Aviemore.
Duration: 4 to 7 days
Great Glen Way
Another walk connecting from Fort William is Scotland’s fourth national walking route, the Great Glen Way. The route from the end of the West Highland Way to Inverness – along the Great Glen fault line – is 73 miles long.
The way runs the length of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness. You can take in Fort Augustus at the southern point of Ness, built following the Jacobite rebellion if 1715 and named after the Duke of Cumberland – who is best remembered for ending Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
You cross the Caledonian Canal and river Ness before reaching the city of Inverness, where the Ness meets the Moray Firth on Scotland’s north east coast.
Duration: 5 to 6 days
A challenging 79 miles, the Skye trail takes you through some of Scotland’s toughest but most spectacular mountain and coastal scenery.
The trail is haunted by the ruins of deserted villages destroyed by the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th Century, as Highland estates forced out farmer tenants and introduced the more profitable sheep farming.
You take in the celebrated Trottenish Ridge and the Jagged Cuillin – titled the finest mountains in the British Isles.
The Skye trail is not waymarked like many other walks in Scotland, so excellent map reading skills are a must and should only be tackled by the experienced hillwalker. Perfect for those who want to mix up the use of campsites and wild camping.
Duration: 7 days
The Hebridean Way
The 185-mile route, which can be walked as well as cycled, stretches the length of the Outer Hebrides from Bagh a Deas on Vatersay in the south to the Butt of Lewis in the north.
Using a combination of causeways and ferries you pass through ten islands, traverse over rugged hills and the picturesque Atlantic coastline.
This is Scotland’s newest long distance walk, where you will experience the island’s rich Gaelic culture – with some of the oldest Celtic monuments on the planet, take in some stunning wildlife where you could come across red deer, golden and sea eagles, not to mention the stunning beaches free from the mad beach life that so many have experienced on the continent.
Another trail that is perfect for those wanting to experience wild camping.
Duration: 14 days
Southern Upland Way
Britain’s first coast to coast long distance walk, it is 212 miles long starting at Portpatrick on Scotland’s south-west coast to Cockburnspath on the east coast.
Not as popular as the West Highland Way, it provides a challenge for experienced walkers and some of the shorter sections are suitable for families and those who may not want to tackle the whole trail.
The Southern Upland Way does include some very long and arduous sections and it is advised that those tackling the full route must be very fit, well equipped and above all experienced hillwalkers.
Although the route is well marked, you must have excellent map reading and navigation skills as visibility along the way could become poor thanks to the Scottish weather.
Duration: 12 to 16 days
John Muir Way
Running through the centre of Scotland’s heartland, this 134-mile coast to coast route links Muir’s birthplace of Dunbar in the east to Scotland’s first national park – Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – and Helensburgh in the west.
The John Muir Way can be walked, cycled and there are parts that can even be tackled while on horseback. Named after the father of national parks, the way was created in 2010 and completed in 2014 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Muir’s death.
Much of the route is ‘flattish’ with a mix of paths, tracks, canal towpaths, pavements and minor roads. There are a few hill climbs with mainly easy gradients.
If you intend to walk the route, then you will take in its highest points, including Gouk Hill just outside of Helensburgh, as well as the hill forts of Bar Hill and Croy Hill near Kilsyth. In the eastern section of the route, you can take in the stunning views afforded from the top of Arthur’s Seat as it overlooks Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh and then North Berwick Law.
Duration: 7 to 10 days
Cape Wrath Trail
Described as the ‘expedition of a lifetime’ by the trail guide, the 200 miles that make up the Cape Wrath trail takes in some of Scotland’s wildest and most beautiful countryside – and arguably makes it Britain’s toughest trail.
The trail is completely unmarked and is nothing compared to that of the West Highland Way or other walks that you may have tackled previously. If you are considering tackling the route you must have excellent map reading & navigation skills, but above all, you must be very fit and experienced.
There is numerous river crossing with no bridges, which can be treacherous or even impossible in rough conditions, as you traverse through the North West of the Scottish mainland from Fort William to Cape Wrath.
There are two variants to the trial, you can combine the Great Glen Way into the trail which is less arduous than the Glenfinnan variant before combining at Morvich.
The Glenfinnan route takes in the viaduct which was featured in the Harry Potter films and where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Royal Standard to claim the Scottish and English thrones, in name of his father James Stuart, as the clans gathered to support what became the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.
The cape is closed for around 130 days a year as the Ministry of Defence use the area for military exercises, aerial and naval bombardment. The land has been owned by the MoD since 1933 and sentries are posted on roads around the area and red flags raised to keep walkers away from the area for obvious reasons.
Duration: 14 to 18 days
Ayrshire Coastal Path
Named as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, the 100 mile Ayrshire Coastal Path showcases some of the finest coastal views in the Britain as you walk along the edge of the Firth of Clyde, from Glenapp to Skelmorlie.
Sections of the route cater for all types of walkers from beginners to the more experienced. Parts of the coastal path involves cliff tops and rough stony beaches as well as uninterrupted beach walks for almost-three quarters of the entire route.
There are numerous sites to take in like Tam O Shanter’s Auld Brig o Doon and Sawney Bean’s Cave at Bennane Head to that of Turnberry and Kelburn Castle.
Duration: 6 to 8 days
Fife Coastal Path
From the Firth of Forth in the south to the Firth of Tay in the north, the 117 mile Fife Coastal Path offers all levels of walkers an experience.
You will travel along rugged cliffs, award-winning beaches, the town of St.Andrews – made famous by its world-renowned university and is widely regarded as the ‘home of golf’ – wildlife reserves and the former coal mining towns of Fife.
It offers a rich experience and is the best way to explore the Kingdom of Fife, once home to the Scotland’s royalty.
Duration: 6 to 9 days