Scotland has some of the very best walking opportunities in the world. Here we take a look at some of the best walking in Scotland opportunities and how they can fit in with your wider itineraries. From gigantic Munros to low level strolls, it’s incredibly easy to escape to nature wherever you are in the country. So take a hike…
Go on, we know you want to! Walking in Scotland means mighty mountains to conquer, plenty of forest paths or coastal walks to meander along, charming villages to discover, and exciting city routes to explore.
Whether you’d like to enjoy a walking holiday, or simply an afternoon’s amble, you’re definitely in the right place. What are you waiting for? It’s time to explore one of Scotland’s best assets – the great outdoors!
Scotland’s amazingly diverse landscape, including majestic mountains, rolling hills, glorious glens, sparkling lochs and a dramatic coastline dotted with beautiful islands, oers a wealth of walking for all. So easy to reach from across the world and with a fantastic network of transport routes once you’re here, it’s no wonder that Scotland is so popular with visitors.
Add to this a huge range of breathtaking landscapes with walking routes, that range from easy-going strolls to multiday adventures, and you have many reasons to rejoice that you have chosen our small, neatly packaged country for your active holiday.
The seven cities of Scotland – Edinburgh (the capital), Glasgow (the largest), Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Stirling and Perth – and a wealth of picturesque and historic towns, provide a great base for exploring 12 mainland regions and two National Parks. In this guide, we showcase all the regions of Scotland, each with their unique landscapes, paths and trails, and all of them oering a warm Scottish welcome.
In southern Scotland, which includes the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway, the undulating countryside and peaceful beaches are home to many easier walks, which are ideal for a family outing or a leisurely stroll. This area also boasts some wilder moorlands and high peaks for further walking challenges.
Heading northwards, the landscape changes from lowlands to the magnificent Highlands. The Highland Fault Line, the geological feature that crosses Scotland from the Isle of Arran and Helensburgh in the south west to Stonehaven in the north east, creates a striking change in the landscape.
The beautiful waters of Loch Lomond are situated on this fault line and walkers to Loch Lomond, The Trossachs, Stirling & Forth Valley are truly spoilt for choice. Perhaps you’ll choose an easy walk along a lochside or hike to the summit of one of many hills or mountains in this region.
Further north, the landscape rises ever more dramatically as you reach the regions of Perthshire and the Highlands. A popular challenge is to seek out a Corbett or Munro for a lofty hike.
The increasingly popular pursuit of Munro and Corbett bagging sees walkers ticking off hill lists, including the 282 Munros with a summit of more than 3,000 ft (914 m) and the 222 Corbetts with a peak height of between 2,500 ft (762 m) and 3,000 ft (914 m). While many of the summits require experience and high levels of energy, others are perfectly suited to walking newcomers. These regions are not just for experienced hikers, however. In valleys, glens and forests, and along sandy shorelines or close to rivers and lochs, many easier trail gems can be explored on foot. On so many occasions, walkers are treated to fabulous views and wildlife spotting opportunities.
Perthshire is also famed as Scotland’s ‘Big Tree Country’ and boasts many natural treats, such as the world’s tallest hedge and one of the world’s oldest trees. The woodlands and forests are home to so many trails and paths that you will never run out of walking options.
Scotland’s coast is a big draw for visitors. The Kingdom of Fife is famed for its string of pretty fishing villages dotted along a long shoreline, as well as atmospheric forests and gentler hills.
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, further north, combines city entertainment and an outstanding urban beach with very scenic countryside and a superb coast, all dotted with numerous walking routes.
From adventurous outings to romantic excursions, the islands of Scotland oer a wonderful get-away-from-it-all atmosphere. In the northerly, yet still highly accessible, islands that make up Orkney and Shetland, there are many walks that link natural, historical and archaeological treasures in one route.
Other islands, such as those in the Outer Hebrides, promise a wide variety of walking all in one chain, from hills and coast, to lochans and spectacular beaches. Those stunning remoste islands are very impressive and will make feel away from it all! There are over 790 islands in Scotland so there is plenty to explore!
The two National Parks, Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, oer vast areas of natural beauty that are specially managed and conserved to showcase the very best of Scotland’s natural jewels. Walks range from short and sweet to memorably epic.
Scotland is also famed for a long list of waymarked long-distance trails, that offer day after day of wonderful walking, or the option to enjoy a shorter section over a half or a full day.
The original long-distance trail is the West Highland Way, running from north of Glasgow to Fort William. In the south, you’ll find the Southern Upland Way, and the John Buchan Way, among others.
Further north, there’s the Great Glen Way, the East Highland Way and the Loch Ness Trail.
The life of John Muir, the ‘Father of National Parks’ is celebrated with a route from the west to the east coast, called the John Muir Way.
Scotland is a place where walking can be enjoyed in all seasons, although you should be prepared for changeable weather. In autumn, the fabulous colours of foliage will delight you, while in spring you’ll enjoy fresh air and fantastic wild flowers. Summer oers warmer days and lush scenery, yet equally in winter, the views can be as impressive thanks to the drama of the moody sky and snowcovered mountains.
There are some gear and equipment that every hiker will find necessary, and these include a waterproof jacket, walking trousers, gaiters, a water bottle and trekking poles.
It’s essential to be properly prepared for hiking in Scotland. As we’ve said the weather can be unpredictable and the trail can be rough. You should be properly clothed with warm layers underneath and waterproof layers on top – both waterproof jacket and trousers if it is raining. Good footwear is crucial and things like sneakers or trainers really aren’t suitable. At the very least you need walking shoes with a good tread, but proper waterproof walking boots are best.
For day hikes you’ll need a small rucksack to carry your spare clothes, lunch plus snacks and anything extra such as a camera. Walking poles are a popular choice and hats and gloves should always be in your bag except when it’s forecast to be warm and nice all day.
Where in Scotland should you visit? The Highlands and Islands are home to most of Scotland’s mountains, and hence are where most people like to hike. But there is tremendous variation from area to area so one place is very different from another. We break it down into the following regions: The West Highlands, the North West Highlands, the Cairngorms and Central Highlands, the Inner Hebrides, the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney.