Here are the top 12 best hikes in Scotland.
From the most achievable to the most challenging, Scotland’s landscape is set for hikers to make memorable moments. Memories of Scotland landscape are not about their heights but about the breath-taking scenery, and there are many hiking destinations for hikers and walkers in groups or for families. Visit in summer for some, autumn for some, spring is perfect for most; do take precaution during winter season. Overall, Scotland’s beauty does not disappoint if you do not skim through from one place to another, it deserves many camera shots.
Before we start, let’s get familiarise some Scottish terms so that you will have a general idea about what to expect when you see them:
- Loch: a Scottish Gaelic word for a lake, is the most common term used to describe bodies of water found in Scotland;
- A glen is a valley: typically one that is long, deep and often glacially U-shaped, or one with a watercourse running through it;
- Dun: a Scottish Gaelic dùn meaning fort;
- Isle: a small island or peninsula.
Let’s get started.
1. Loch An Eilein, Cairngorm National Park
Deep in the forest of Rothiemurchus, Loch An Eilein is a hidden gem sheltered by ancient Caledonian pines with the backdrop of a 13th-century island castle. Families will find the low level route around the Loch most suited for picnics. While you walk, watch out for the red squirrels, Scottish crossbills and other forest wildlife.
Loch An Eilein
Website: Loch An Eilein
2. Dun da Lamh, Invernessshire for a summer hike
This low-level walk in the Cairngorms is about 500 meters (1,640 feet) looking down Loch Spey. Along-the-circuit scenery is spectacular with forestry, pinewoods, open hill ridge and remains of a Pictish fort. The terrain has well-marked routes and hill paths in good conditions, some places along the trails are steep. It is best for summer hikes; remember to drink lots of water.
Dun da Lamh
Website: Dun da Lamh
3. Quinag, Sutherland
Quinag covers 3,699 hectares (9,140 acres) of the Assynt–Coigach National Scenic Area in Sutherland; they are a range of peaks including Sàil Gharbh, Sàil Ghorm and Spidean Coinich, and also three of Scotland’s most northern Corbets. The mountain paths to the summits are well-maintained, you will find Ardvar Woodlands and deers along the way. Join the John Muir Trust to protect and maintain the ecosystem in the Quinag area.
Website: Quinag, Sutherland
4. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Walk along a bleak moorland track that leads you to the Sandwood Bay. This is probably the most beautiful beach in Britain, with miles of golden sand and dunes set against the rocky cliffs and a giant sea stack. It is situated right next to Cape Wrath, a place where the Vikings and even the Spanish Armada sailed past.
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Website: Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
5. The Scottish National Trail
It is a definite accomplishment if you complete this trail; the Scottish National Trail is an 864 kilometer (537 mile) long walking route that runs the length of Scotland, so you might attempt to do so by stages. The trail is joined by other well-known paths such as parts of St Cuthbert’s Way, the Southern Upland Way, the River Tweed, the Union, Forth Clyde Canals, the West Highland Way, the Rob Roy Way, the Great Glen Way, and the Cape Wrath Trail. This long trail offers different terrain, so walkers of all abilities can find a portion to track on. Get on to this grand trail - you will be rewarded with the changing landscape and view.
The Scottish National Trail
Website: The Scottish National Trail
6. The Saddle, Kintail
The Saddle poses a challenge for those who enjoy heights. The Forcan Ridge line that runs through the Saddle to Meallan Odhar, the neighboring top, offers a grade ½ scrambling. If you are up for a challenge, take this track. If such a challenge is not for you, there is always an opt-out path that is less challenging with the character of the mountain retained.
The Saddle, Kintail
Website: The Saddle, Kintail
7. Ben Alligin, Torridon
Ben Alligin is located at Torridon. It is also known as Jewel Mountain in Gaelic language. The trail begins at 50 m (164 ft) above sea level and reaches its highest point at 986 m (3,232 ft). As you ascent, the scenery and the height will take your breath away, you can see as far as the Outer Hebries on a clear day. The “Horns of Allign” offer grade ½ scrambling, which can be avoided easily.
Ben Alligin, Torridon
Website: Ben Alligin, Torridon
8. The Fisherfields Round, Fisherfield Forest
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
The Fisherfields are also known as “the great wilderness” with a group of no less than five munros and a corbett. To start, take the clockwise route from a bothy named Shenevall towards Bein a Chlaidheimh, Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn, A’Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor to return.
The Fisherfields Round, Fisherfield Forest
9. The Ring of Steall, Mamores
This circuit takes in four mountains that sit over the 914 m (3,000 ft) threshold. Starting in Glen Nevis, also at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, the river will lead you to the hills. At 120 m (394 ft), you will see The Falls of Steal - Scotland’s highest waterfall with a single drop. Though there is no need of technical difficulties, there exist some very narrow sections of rocky ridge line.
The Ring of Steall, Mamores
Website: The Ring of Steall, Mamores
10. Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain, beginning its rise from sea-level on the shores of Loch Linnhe, to tower 4,406 ft (1,344 m) above the town of Fort William, the outdoor capital of the UK. The path is steep throughout with the rough and stony upper session, which is often snow covered and could be dangerous. Walkers attempting the path will require winter equipment. There is an option for staying on the mountains when weather permits; you can consider Woodside B&B or Cedar Lodge in Fort William.
Read our article on more tips on how to climb Ben Nevis.
Website: Ben Nevis
11. The Old Man of Hoy, Orkney
Catch a ferry to the Island of Hoy, start from Rackwick, and you can hike along a well-defined, easy-to-follow coastal path to reach the Old Man of Hoy – a famous sandstone sea stack in the Orkney archipelago. The round trip will take about three hours, but the walk follows a rough track that could be demanding for some.
The Old Man of Hoy, Orkney
Website: The Old Man of Hoy, Orkney
First time to Scotland? Join this 5-day tour to the most popular sites of the highlands; you will find scenic mountains, valleys, lakes, and water along the way. Starting from Edinburgh, let the tour guide lead you through the Loch Lomond, Trossachs National Park where you will visit the famous Kilmartin Glen, Loch Ness, Glencoe and the battlefield of Culloden. Let the Jacobite steam train brings you from Fort William to Mallaig, to reach the Isle of Skype. Take your night stays in Oban, Dreumnabrochit and Kleakin. The journey is well-planned for you, but remember to bring your hiking shoes and camera.
5-Day Best of Scotland Experience from Edinburgh
Duration: 5 days
Scotland’s charm is in her landscape. Explore Scotland as a walker or hiker; the spectacular views along the way will take your breath away. Plan well before you hike and when you hike go in groups or join a tour and have the best preparation for different terrains and challenges. It is always advisable to leave your travel itinerary with your country’s embassy before you start each journey, and remember to update them if there is any change. Check the weather and ensure all your equipment is functioning, and your outfits are suitable. Have a pleasant journey and hike in Scotland!
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