Alternatives to the West Highland Way

Have you already walked the famous West Highland Way? If that’s the case, there’s a pretty good chance you’re looking for a new trekking challenge.

Fortunately, Scotland is blessed with numerous long-distance walking routes that take hikers through some of the world’s most picturesque landscapes – here are five of them for you to mull over. Keep in mind that some of these will require you to be a bit more familiar with the navigational skills due to their difficulty level when compared to the West Highland Way. It is worth reading the best time to visit Scotland.

1.  Great Glen Way

great glen way in summer

The most logical alternative to the West Highland Way is undoubtedly the Great Glen Way, as it starts right where the WHW ends – at Fort Williams. This route is 79 miles (127 kilometers) long and ends in Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands.

This is a delightful walk and one that takes trekkers along three large lochs – Loch Oich, Loch Lochy, as well as the world-famous Loch Ness. And when it comes to these lochs, you will have two choices – walking on the trails that overlook them or walking along their banks. In our opinion, the former option offers sights that are far more unforgettable (but also decrease your chances of spotting Nessie!).

Besides these charming lakes, the Great Glen Way takes hikers through ancient pine forests and old towns full of friendly and hospitable Highland folks.

2. The Lairig Ghru

Lairig Ghru

Here we have a 19-mile (30-kilometer) long trail that runs right through Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park. The Lairig Ghru itself is one of the country’s most spectacular mountain passes and has been used recreationally for more than a hundred years.

Opting for the Lairig Ghru means walking paths that are clear for most of the distance, but also running into a couple of rough hiking sections. It’s not a journey you should embark on if you’re not serious about trekking – you’ll be walking through some extremely remote areas where help is a long way off.

Still, the breathtaking scenery is definitely worth it. On the Lairig Ghru, hikers bump into dramatic sub-arctic plateaus and some of the largest pine forests in Scotland. Of course, you’ll be able to see a couple of 4000-footers along the way, including Cairngorm, Cairn Toul, Ben Macdui, Braeriach, and Angel’s Peak.

3. The Speyside Way

Path on the Speyside Way

The next West Highland Way alternative on our list is the one for whisky lovers – Speyside Way (72 miles/116 kilometers). Along the way, you will pass through a number of picturesque villages and get to visit more than 20 distilleries, some of which are world-famous – the Macallan, The Glenlivet, the Glenfiddich, and others.

Fortunately, that is not the only good thing about the Speyside Way. You will also be going through many charming pine forests between Grantown on Spey and Aviemore with lots of opportunities to forage for mushrooms and wild berries. What is more, the entire area you’ll be passing through is filled with Scottish wildlife, including black grouses and mountain hares.

The most difficult section of this interesting trail is between Grantown and Ballindalloch – here, the trail leaves the Spey river valley and goes over hills and forests mentioned above. However, the route generally follows clear tracks and is well way-marked throughout.

4. The Rob Roy Way

View of the Rob Roy Way

This 80-mile (128 kilometers) long route starts in Drymen and ends all the way east in the heart of Scotland, in the town of Pitlochry. Like most trails on our list, the Rob Roy Way also provides trekkers with unforgettable Highland scenery while also taking advantage of numerous villages for accommodation and refreshment.

As the name suggests, the route goes through many places that are associated with Rob Roy, one of Scotland’s most famous folk heroes. Therefore, walking this trail is a great way to learn more about this country – not just about its scenery and geography, but also about its tumultuous history.

The Rob Roy Way has lots of historical landmarks, like the wooden artificial islands (“crannogs”) on Loch Tay. Rich in hospitality, culture, as well as wildlife, the route is a quieter alternative to WHW but also one that’s certainly worth spending a week on.

5. The Moray Coast Route

Moray Coast

The last trail on our list is only around 50 miles (80 kilometers) long and can also be traveled by bicycle. Just like the Rob Roy Way above, the Moray Coast Route is very rich in history – you’ll be able to see the remains of Pictish forts and visit lots of local museums on the way.

However, a vast majority of trekkers walk this route because of its marvelous landscapes. Walking the Moray Coast Route means enjoying sights such as the sweeping stretches of sandy beaches, sheltered coves and caves, rugged cliffs, and lots of fisher town harbors.

In addition, the trail is teeming with attractive wildlife and rare plants, although it’s never too far away from civilization. As it links a number of idyllic coastal towns, finding accommodation on the Moray Coast Route is never an issue. There are quite a few great long-distance walking routes in Scotland.

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