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Explore Scotland On Foot At These Top 10 Walking Festivals

Explore Scotland On Foot At These Top 10 Walking Festivals
Philip
Philip
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There are few finer ways to get to know a country than exploring it on foot. The sights, the smells, the sounds and the people are all front and centre, just waiting for you to discover them for yourself. Of course, taking the plunge and venturing into unknown terrain can be as daunting as it is exciting - “What if I take a wrong turning halfway up a mountain?”, “What are the best ways to get from A to B?” And that is where walking festivals come in. Not only can you meet lots of new people, all of whom are as much fans of the outdoors as yourself, but each walk is led by an experienced guide who will take the navigational strain while also offering fascinating information about the landscape you find yourself in. Here are some of the best walking festivals in Scotland.

1. Walk Islay

Walk Islay is one of several walking festivals centred around Scotland’s islands, making it superb for those who love a bit of island hopping. The six-day Walk Islay festival typically takes place around April each year. Past walks have taken in such notable features as Beinn Bheigier, Islay’s tallest summit, as well as excursions to the neighbouring island of Jura, where celebrated author George Orwell stayed while working on the novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four. There were also day trips to the isles of Colonsay and Oronsay, as well as treks centred around Islay’s world-famous export - whisky. No fewer than nine distilleries are active on the island, including the likes of Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Laphroaig and Lagavulin, making a trip to Islay a must for any whisky lover.

Walk Islay

Opening Hours: Runs every April

Contact: [email protected]

Website: Walk Islay

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2. Newton Stewart WalkFest

Dumfries and Galloway is often described as one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. The south-western most county in the country, many people speed past it on their way up the motorway between the English border and Glasgow. But to do so is to miss out. This is fertile walking territory, with beautiful coastlines and rugged hills that beg to be explored. The festival, which is based around the coastal town of Newton Stewart, typically runs for seven days in May and has a busy programme of around 30 hill and coastal walks, as well as evening social events and ceilidhs. Past routes have taken in the likes of the Merrick - southern Scotland’s highest point - and night time walks that really show off Galloway’s famously dark night skies.

Newton Stewart WalkFest

Address: Newton Stewart Walking Festival, c/o WRDC, 8 Queen Street, Newton Stewart, DG8 6JL

Opening Hours: Runs every May

Contact: +44 1671 404500

Website: Newton Stewart Walking Festival

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3. Isle of Arran Mountain Festival

Another festival that gives walkers the chance to really explore one of Scotland’s beautiful islands. It takes place in the spring and features more than 20 walks, from coastal jaunts to trips along some of the island’s impressive mountain ridges. Past treks have included day and night hikes over the impressively rugged terrain of Goatfell - Arran’s highest point and one that, at 874 metres (0.54 miles) tall, is not far off Munros’ height. Other walks have included the neighbouring island of Holy Isle, which is home to an active Buddhist retreat, and a trek to some of the 15 aircraft wreck sites dotted around Arran. There are also a range of evening social events, including ceilidhs and illustrated talks.

Isle of Arran Mountain Festival

Opening Hours: Runs every May

Website: Isle of Arran Mountain Festival

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4. Ballater Walking Festival

Located in the very heart of Aberdeenshire’s Royal Deeside, the Ballater Walking Festival has a range of treks to suit all - from easy rambles right up to serious Munro-bagging. Deeside owes its ‘Royal’ tag to Balmoral Castle and Estate, which is a few miles west of Ballater, and is famous the world over as being the Scottish retreat of Britain’s royal family. Many of the festival’s walks take place within the Cairngorms National Park, with its rugged and beautiful mountains, and the extensive Balmoral Estate. Popular routes include such well known peaks as Lochnagar, which is rumoured to be one of Prince Charles’ favourite treks and inspired the title of his children’s book The Old Man of Lochnagar.

Ballater Walking Festival

Address: Ballater Walking Festival, Park House Anderson Road, Ballater, AB35 5QW

Opening Hours: Runs every May

Contact: +44 1339 755727 or email [email protected]

Website: Ballater Walking Festival

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5. Angus Glens Walking Festival

Most of the Angus Glens have no through road, meaning they retain a serene quality that has fans of this walking festival coming back year after year. Typically held over four days centred on the first weekend in June, the festival’s many highlights include walks along the historic route of Jock’s Road, which is one of the oldest rights of way in Scotland and offers superb views from its high plateau. Other top walks include hikes up the county’s three Munros of Dreish, Mayar and Mount Keen. The alpine landscape of Corrie Fee and its waterfall are another noted highlight, as are walks up around Loch Brandy.

Angus Glens Walking Festival

Opening Hours: Runs every June

Contact: [email protected]

Website: Angus Glens Walking Festival

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6. Moray Walking Festival

This festival boasts one of the country’s busiest and most popular walk programmes. The Moray Walking Festival runs across 10 days in June and takes in more than 50 routes. Last year nearly 450 people enjoyed the treks. Walks take in the rugged cliffs and golden sands of the region’s beautiful coastline, which offers great views across the Moray Firth and the opportunity to spot the odd whale or dolphin. The inland hills and mountains also feature extensively, as too does the county’s famous Speyside whisky industry.

Moray Walking Festival

Opening Hours: Runs every June

Website: Moray Walking Festival

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7. The Isle of Harris Mountain Festival

Head out to Europe’s western edge with a trip to Harris in the Outer Hebrides. The Isle of Harris Mountain Festival features an array of walks every September that take in the island’s peaks as well as its rich past and rare ecological environments. The famous ecology of the coastal machair is a bird-watcher’s paradise, while the island’s many spectacular stone circles and ancient monuments will linger long in the memory. The festival also offers taster sessions in surfing, sea kayaking and mountain biking.

Isle of Harris Mountain Festival

Opening Hours: Runs every September

Contact: +44 1859 502222 or email [email protected]

Website: Isle of Harris Mountain Festival

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8. CowalFest

Another of Scotland’s larger festivals, CowalFest takes place over 10 days in October and its programme of walks usually runs to around 30. The festival is centred around the large Cowal peninsula, which is sandwiched between the sea loch of Loch Fyne to the west and the Firth of Clyde in the east. Its many treks include a walk up the peninsula’s highest mountain (Beinn Mhor), coastal hikes along the shores of Loch Long and Loch Fyne, as well as parts of the Cowal Way. It also features an extensive range of social events - including ceilidhs (an event with folk music, dancing and storytelling), pub quizzes, torchlight walks and fun treasure hunts for children.

CowalFest

Opening Hours: Runs every Octobber

Contact: [email protected]

Website: CowalFest

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9. Crieff and Strathearn Drovers' Tryst

Cattle farmers once walked their livestock to market from all corners of Scotland, and the town of Crieff sat at the crossroads of several of these busy routes. It is this link that lies at the heart of the Crieff and Strathearn Drovers’ Tryst - tryst being an old term for market. Many of its 32 walks follow the old cattle droving routes across the area’s hills and mountains. These boast fine scenery and cater to a wide mix of fitness levels, from simple rambles up to full-blooded Munro-bagging. The festival also hosts a range of social events, including music, cinema and talks.

Crieff & Strathearn Drovers’ Tryst

Opening Hours: Runs every October

Contact: +44 1764 650606 or email [email protected]

Website: Crieff & Strathearn Drovers’ Tryst

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Scotland and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Scotland

10. Scottish Borders Walking Festival

Unlike some of the other festivals on this list, the Scottish Borders Walking Festival’s main base of operations flits from town to town each year. But one ever-present that walkers can be assured of each year are the delights of the rolling hills of the Border country. Hikes include walks on the 21-kilometre (13-mile) John Buchan Way, which gets its name from the famous author of The 39 Steps - as some of his earliest writings were inspired by the Borders landscape. Parts of the long-distance Southern Upland Way and old cattle droving roads also feature, as do visits to some of the area’s ancient iron age hill fort remains.

Scottish Borders Walking Festival

Opening Hours: Runs very September

Contact: [email protected]

Website: Scottish Borders Walking Festival

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Scotland and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Scotland

Get outside and get walking

With so many walking festivals to choose from, there’s likely to be one taking place around the time of any planned trip. So whether you’re keen to sample the lush greens of a Scottish spring or the glorious colours of its autumn - these guided walks around the coasts and mountains of the country are certainly options worth exploring.

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I'm a writer and photographer based in the heart of the beautiful Scottish Highlands. A professional journalist by trade, I have written for and edited several newspapers, magazines and websites....Read more

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