There’s something about long-distance hikes that feels very soothing. Walking for days on end and not worrying about anything other than how to get from one place to the next has a very simple, relaxing charm to it, and hiking enthusiasts know all about how energizing it can be. If you decide to visit one of the countries with the most beautiful, untouched nature on top of it? Well, you’re in for a wonderful experience.
If you’re looking for a trail that’s full of spectacular sights all along the way then visit Scotland. The following routes are the best long distance hiking routes in Scotland. You should also think about when is the best time to visit Scotland.
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West Highland Way
This road is generally walked from south to north because it’s more convenient. There are more accommodation options that way, and you won’t have to worry about rushing anywhere – you can just enjoy nature. The West Highland Way starts in Milngavie near Glasgow and ends in Fort William, and it takes about 7-8 days to finish. It passes through Loch Lomond National Park and the wilderness of Rannoch Moor, and it ends right near the Ben Navis Mountain. You’ll be able to climb both Ben Lomond and Ben Navis if you choose, and enjoy the spectacular view from the summits.
It’s a well-marked, popular route that usually has a lot of people walking it, so you definitely won’t lack company and you’ll have an easy time finding help along the way. There are many hostels and B&Bs along the way, but you can also stay in various bunkhouses, wigwams, or hotels if you want a more luxurious experience. The only place where it’s trickier to find accommodation currently is King’s House, but if you need to you can catch a bus to Glencoe village and find a hostel there. You can also pack your camping gear if you want a real wildlife experience.
You can reach WHW by bus or train to Glasgow, and the easiest way to return from Fort William is by train.
Rob Roy Way
It starts in Drymen, close to Loch Lomond and one part of the WHW, and finishes at Pitlochry. It takes about 6-8 days to finish, and it goes through Trossachs via Aberfoyle and Callander. It then passes the lochs Venachar, Lubnaig and Earn to finally reach Killin. From there it goes from Loch Tay to Aberfeldy, and then finally ends in Pitlochry. The challenge might be in a section of the road that’s 7.5 miles long between Ardeonaig and Acharn, so prepare well.
You will be walking mostly on tarmac, and there are a lot of hilly sections that aren’t easy to cross for the physically unfit, but there are plenty of beautiful sights, like railway heritage and the Glen Ogle viaduct, and the stone circle in the Fonab forest.
There are plenty of accommodation options all along the way except for Strathyre and Ardtalnaig, so bear that in mind when you plan your itinerary.
Great Glen Way
The Great Glen Way is a lighter, slightly easier hiking trail, and it goes from Fort William to Inverness. If you’re really passionate about walking you can finish both the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way in one go, though we do recommend that you rest in between. The trail starts at Old Fort and goes along the Caledonian Canal, and you’ll be able to see three big lochs – Lochy, Oich, and Ness. The route ends at Castle Inverness and it’s full of wilderness and nature for you to enjoy. Since you’ll be starting near Ben Navis, consider climbing it first. You’ll also be able to climb Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal.
While the first part of the road is fairly easy, once you reach halfway you’ll be climbing several steep hills and walking through forests, so be well prepared. You shouldn’t have any problem finding good accommodation options all along the road.
Southern Upland Way
The Southern Upland Way takes anywhere from 12-16 days to finish, and it’s a coast-to-coast long-distance route. Since most of the road is remote and sparsely traversed it can be a pretty big challenge to finish, so we wouldn’t recommend this to inexperienced hikers. It starts in Portpatrick and goes all the way to Cockburnspath, and you’ll need a map and compass to navigate at times, especially if visibility is poor due to weather. Along the way, you can find attractions such as Rhins of Galloway, Loch Trool, St Mary’s Loch, the River Tweed, and Traquair House, Scotland’s oldest inhabited house. You can also see Abbotsford House, the home of writer Sir Walter Scott.
Accommodation is very sparse in some stretches of the way, but you can take a look here if you want to find some nice B&Bs and hostels. This is a very challenging road, but it’s also very rewarding to take a hike through southern parts of Highlands and gaze at the Irish sea as you go.
The Speyside Way starts at Buckie and ends at Aviemore, but it can be extended beyond to Newtonmore or Tomintoul. Without the extension, it takes about a week to finish, and the views from the Spey valley should be quite enjoyable to the travelers. You’ll be starting near the mouth or River Spey and going upstream, and along the way, you can visit Aberlour and Glenlivet distilleries, or the Loch Garten Osprey Centre at Abernethy. You’ll also be able to see plenty of wildlife! Deer, red squirrels, capercaillie and wildcats all roam the highlands, so bring your camera and capture the moments.
The Speyside Way is suitable for beginners, but you’ll need to be a little careful in slippery wet conditions. Accommodation options are pretty good because you’ll pass through many villages with lovely B&Bs, though it’s wise to call ahead and check whether they have any rooms left. They can get quite busy during certain seasons (mostly during summer), and are closed in winter. There are also many camping spaces if you plan to bring your own tents.
St Cuthbert’s Way
St Cuthberts Way is quite a short route that can take as little as four days to cross, and it’s called St Cuthbert’s Way because you’ll be following the steps of St Cuthbert, a monk who lived during the 7th century. It starts in the beautiful Melrose Abbey and goes all the way to Lindisfarne. It connects with the Southern Upland Way at one point, and it goes along the River Tweed and passes a lot of old abbeys, forts, and castles. The final stretch of the road is called the Pilgrim’s Path and can be walked barefoot. The road ends at the Lindisfarne Priory, and it’s full of charming sights to enjoy.
The path is clearly waymarked so you most likely won’t need a map, but be careful about walking it during the off-season. A lot of B&B are closed down then, but there should be hostels in hostels in Kirk Yetholm and Wooler that are always open.
Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path is a gorgeous coastal way that takes about 10 days to cross, and it starts Kincardine-on-Forth and ends at Newburgh. The path is full both of wild trails and rocky beaches, and it passes through Fife and St Andrews. It’s a little challenging to walk, especially because some sections of the walk are only available during low tide. It’s well marked and you certainly won’t get lost, so feel free to leave map and compass behind.
There are accommodation options all along the way, but it’s recommended that you book rooms in advance because it’s a popular route.
The Annandale Way is a lovely, fairly short road that is traditionally walked from north to south, it can be done in 4-5 days and it’s a good option for beginners. If the weather is cloudy you might need a map and compass to find your way, but otherwise, you should have no trouble. It starts at Moffat and ends at Newbiebarns in Solway Firth, and it follows the River Annan from its source near the Devil’s Beef Tub. The route branches at Corncockle Wood and the south option goes through Lochmaben, and the south-east option goes through Lockerbie. The south path is a little longer (about 12 miles).
Along the way, you can see Eskrigg Nature Reserve (if you take the Lockerbie branch), Joe Graham’s monument (if you take the Lochmaben branch), and you’ll generally encounter a lot of nature, wildlife, and pristine rivers of the River Annan. Don’t worry too much about accommodation because there are plenty of options, but bear in mind that you’ll have an easier time finding a place to stay on the Lockerbie branch.
Arran Coastal Way
Another beautiful coastal path, The Arran Coastal Way is circular and it starts and finishes in Brodick. You can go around this lovely little island in about a week, and you’ll enjoy the beaches and the sea all along the way. From Brodick Castle, Lochranza Castle, and Lochranza Distillery, to Hutton’s Unconformity, one of the world’s most important geological locations.
The whole way is on one island with plenty of charming villages, which means you’ll always have a nice place to stay. Hotels, B&Bs, bunkhouses, guest houses, and hostels are all aplenty.
Ayrshire Coastal Path
From Glenapp Kirk to Skelmorlie, the Ayrshire Coastal Path was created by The Rotary Club of Ayr, and they do their best to maintain it every year. It’s not an overly long trail (takes about 6-9 days to finish), but it’s not suited to beginners as beautiful as it is. You’ll need proper equipment and some experience because you’ll be going along cliff tops and rocky shores, and the terrain can be quite rough. However, the stretch between Ayr to Largs is very flat and suitable for anyone, so you can consider walking only that part on your own.
You can see the Maritime Museum in Irvine, Robert Burns Museum at Alloway, and plenty of wildlife and untouched nature. When it comes to places to stay, you can choose from hostels to five-star hotels – accommodations definitely aren’t lacking.
Pick a path that sounds like something you’d enjoy, then plan your trip. It’s hard to go wrong as long as you have the right hiking gear, so don’t be afraid to go on your walking adventure. If you are looking for shorter routes, then day walks near Glasgow might suit you.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.
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