Majestic mountains, stunning lochs, blooming heather, and wilderness aplenty. They say that to truly experience a place, first, you must let it into your heart. And in Scotland, one of the best ways to do this is rucksack in hand. There are a myriad array of beautiful walks that you can experience if you wish to get to know the land the natives call Alba… and the country’s many long distance routes are a superb way to do just that.
1. The West Highland Way (96 miles)
The West Highland Way is so closely linked to long distance walking in Scotland that its name has almost become shorthand for the pursuit. This 96-mile (150-kilometer) trek begins in Milngavie, north of Glasgow, and winds its way up to Fort William, in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain. Between the two locations lie Scotland’s largest waterway, the 24-mile (39-kilometer) long Loch Lomond, and mile after mile of stunning countryside. A large number of Munros, mountains with summits over 3,000 feet (914 meters), also sit within touching distance of the route and make for a tempting target for the more intrepid hiker.
West Highland Way
Contact: +44 1389 722600 or [email protected]
Website: West Highland Way
2. The Great Glen Way (77 miles)
A dramatic fault line that cuts all the way across Scotland from the west to east coasts, the Great Glen is one of Scotland’s most impressive natural features. Home to four lochs, including the world-famous Loch Ness and its resident ‘monster,’ the glen stretches all the way from Fort William to Inverness. The glen is also home to the Caledonian Canal, a navigable 19th-century freshwater channel which links the sea and these waterways together. The 77-mile (130-kilometer) Great Glen Way follows its flat, low-level tow paths for much of its length, making it the ideal starting point for those taking on a long distance trail for the first time.
Great Glen Way
Contact: +44 1320 366633 or [email protected]
Website: Great Glen Way
3. The Kintyre Way (100 miles)
A relatively thin finger of land, the 30-mile (50-kilometer) Kintyre Peninsula may be part of the Scottish mainland, but you could easily kid yourself that you are on an island. Indeed the peninsula, which is never more than 11 miles (18 kilometers) across at its widest, is almost severed from the mainland at its northern extreme, the sea lochs of West and East Loch Tarbert almost meeting at the picturesque village which gives the waterways their name.
Contact: [email protected]
Website: Kintyre Way
4. The Cowal Way (57 miles)
The beautiful Cowal peninsula may sit relatively close to Glasgow, as the crow flies, but when you tread those hills, it feels like it could be light years away. Despite being part of the Scottish mainland, the quickest way to reach its principal town of Dunoon from Glasgow is still via ferry across the waters of the Firth of Clyde. This unusual quirk of geography lends the peninsula the kind of peace and tranquility you’d normally expect on an island, while still being within easy reach of Scotland’s biggest city. The Cowal Way takes that sense of peace and isolation even further, staying far removed from Dunoon along its 57-mile (95-kilometer) route.
Contact: Contact Us
Website: Cowal Way
5. Why stop at just one?
If one long distance walk is not enough to satisfy your cravings for the big outdoors, then why stop there? The four walks already mentioned actually interconnect. Starting at Machrihanish on the Kintyre Way, it is possible to trek all the way to Inverness at the extreme north of The Great Glen Way without once breaking away from a designated footpath. The Kintyre Way connects to the Cowal Way via a 25-minute Caledonian MacBrayne ferry service between Tarbert and Portavadie. The Cowal Way’s easternmost end point at Inveruglas sits on the shores of Loch Lomond, a short passenger ferry crossing away from Inversnaid on the West Highland Way.
Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries
Contact: 0800 066 5000 (domestic), +44 1475 650 397 (international) or email [email protected]
Website: Caledonian MacBrayne
6. The West Island Way (30 miles)
The West Island Way is located on the picturesque island of Bute in the Firth of Clyde and, at 30 miles (50 kilometers), is the shortest long-distance trail on this list. Those who tackle the route will really get to know this beautiful and compact island, which measures just 10 miles (16 kilometers) long and is no more than four-and-a-half miles (7.5 kilometers) across at its widest point. It boasts stunning views across to the mainland as well as the islands of Arran, Inchmarnock, Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae. The island also has a number of beautiful beaches at the likes of Kilchattan, Stravannan Bay and Ettrick Bay, all of which lie on or near the path.
West Island Way
Website: West Island Way
7. The Speyside Way (65 miles)
The Speyside Way stretches from Aviemore in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park to Buckie on the Moray coast. The 65-mile (105-kilometer) trail, which can be comfortably tackled in five to six days, follows the course of Scotland’s famous salmon fishing river, the Spey, and offers spectacular vistas of the Cairngorm mountains and the coastline of the Moray Firth. The trail also boasts a 15-mile (24-kilometer) spur near its midway point that leads to the village of Tomintoul.
Contact: +44 1343 557046 or [email protected]
Website: Speyside Way
8. The Moray Coast Trail (44 miles)
Lovers of coastal walking will find much to enjoy on the Moray Coast Trail, which winds its way for 44 miles (74 kilometers) along the shoreline of the Moray Firth from Cullen in the east to Findhorn Bay and Forres at its western end point. In between, the path takes in disused railway viaducts, spectacular sandy beaches, caves and memorable sea arches such as the perfectly-named Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie. History fans are also well-catered for en route. The trail passes an ancient Pictish stronghold at Burghead, where a visitor center will teach you about this fascinating period of Scottish history.
Moray Coast Trail
Website: Moray Ways
9. The Cateran Trail (64 miles)
This 64-mile (105-kilometer) circuit officially begins and ends at Blairgowrie and winds its way around the beautiful glens of the Perthshire and Angus border. Named after the Caterans, or cattle thieves, who once plied their illicit trade in these hills and mountains, this fully waymarked trail takes in the settlements of Alyth, Kirkton of Glenisla, Spittal of Glenshee and Kirkmichael. Landmarks to look out for include the castles of Forter and Dalnaglar.
Contact: +44 1738 476580
Website: Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust
Where will your walk take you?
With these and many other stunning treks dotted all across Scotland, including the likes of the 220-mile (360-kilometer) Southern Upland Trail, the Arran Coastal Way and Rob Roy Way, the country boasts walks to suit every individual. See you on the hills!