Attention all nature lovers! Scotland has something for everyone from short one-day walks and family outings to long daring adventures. So, get your backpack ready for these top ten hikes…
1. Stac Pollaidh, Assynt
Meet one of Scotland’s best little mountains, Stac Pollaidh. Located in the Northwest Highlands, it’s only 613m high with a rocky crest of Torridonian sandstone at its peak. People often compare it to a porcupine due to its many pinnacles and steep gullies. This three-hour hike first takes you up a steep winding pathway, followed by some scrambling in the final stages in order to reach the summit ridge amidst pure wilderness where you can enjoy unequalled panoramic views. It’s a good idea to make the most of your time at the top to fully contemplate the 360-degree views, with mountains like Cul Mor and Suilven, which soar abruptly from the watery Inverpolly Nature Reserve, along with Scotland’s rocky and watery west coast. Check our North Coast 500 trip.
2. Loch an Eilein, Cairngorm NP
Surrounded by ancient Caledonian pines, Loch an Eilein is located in the middle of the Rothiemurchus forest and provides charming views of a 13th century island castle. Chosen as the UK’s best picnic spot in 2010, the low-level route around the loch is ideal for families, even if they have off-road buggies. While there, stay on the lookout for forest animals such as red squirrels and Scottish crossbills and don’t forget to top off your day with an ice cream at the shop. Featuring the UK’s highest funicular railway and offering a multitude of other activities such as mountain biking in the summer and skiing in winter, it comes to no surprise that so many people choose the Cairngorns for their outdoor adventures.
3. The Old Mill & Achmelvich Beach
The great Assynt coastline in the wilderness of northern Scotland offers another picturesque hike, starting from the ruins of an old grain mill. Legend has it the millstone was carved from the 731m high peak of Suilven, which rises to the east. Continue your hike by passing a secret beach and Europe’s smallest castle, Hermit’s Castle and make your way finally to Achmelvich beach with its well-known white sands (no dogs are allowed in high season). Achmelvich beach is famed for both its beauty and wildlife. Animals such as cetaceans, seals, basking sharks, otters, ospreys and white-tailed eagles can be observed there. Later, head back to Lochinver village on a god trail that crosses the peninsular.
4. The Scottish National Trail
How about an 864-kilometre walking route that runs the entire length of Scotland? The Scottish National Trail stretches from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders to Cape Wrath in the far northeast. Brave hikers can choose to complete it either in a single shot or in stages. The Trail is composed mostly of ancient footpaths and includes other famous paths along the way, such as parts of St. Cuthbert’s Way, the Southern Upland Way, the River Tweed, the Union, Forth and Clyde Canals, the West Highland Way, the Rob Roy Way, the Great Glen Way, and the Cape Wrath Trail, a mix that allows hikers to enjoy the ‘Best Of Scotland’. This huge trail offers many varieties of terrain for walkers of different levels. However, the further you go north, the harder it gets with the end of the trail being quite difficult.
5. Beinn a’Chrulaiste, Glen Coe
Practically unnoticed by most visitors whose eyes are inevitably drawn to its majestic neighbours, the colossal silhouette of Beinn a’Chrulaiste soars from the northern end of Rannoch Moor and is more easily seen from the northern end of Rannoch Moor. However, Beinn a’ Chrulaiste provides an absolutely breathtaking view of the Highlands to those who climb to the top. To the southwest, hikers can behold an unforgettable view of the gable end of Buachaille Etive Mor across Glen Coe. Climb up the west ridge and go down to Kingshouse. You can get back to your starting point by following a section of the West Highland Way.
6. Isle of Eigg, Summer Isles
The British Isles have few hills that can match the magnificence of An Sgurr, the highest point on the island of Eigg with an altitude of 393 metres. This impressive mass soars unexpectedly from the untamed moorlands. The steep route, which is rather direct, will take you on a short rocky scramble. Hikers are advised to be careful at the summit. Enjoy beautiful views overlooking this charming and diverse island from its remarkable sloping peak. Feast your eyes upon the emerald island of Muck, one of the Small Isles, and further beyond to Skye and Ardnamurchan.
7. The West Highland Way
Covering 96 miles from Milngavie near Glasgow to Fort William in the Highlands, the West Highland Way is Scotland’s most legendary long-distance trail. This famous itinerary will take you along the ‘bonnie banks’ of Loch Lomond, across impressive Rannoch Moor, past amazing Glencoe and over the high pass of the Devil’s Staircase and will lead you to the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. Discover the history and legends of this mythic route along with a multitude of plants and animals along the way. Check our tour on the legendary West Highland Way.
8. Slioch (The Spear), Wester Ross
The massive mountain of Slioch in Wester Ross will give more experienced mountaineers looking for a challenge a higher peak to ascend. Slioch, which means ‘The Spear’, has been photographed on numerous occasions in landscape photography calendars, thanks to its stunning peak that towers above the landscape. Even though hiking to its summit at 981m by ascending into a high corrie before the final stretch can be quite a challenge, it’s well worth the effort. Once at the top, you can take a short stroll along the ridge to a subsidiary peak where you can enjoy views north across the Fisherfield wilderness, before heading back down.
9. The Great Glen Way
See three of Scotland’s most beautiful lochs thanks to this amazing long-distance hike along a remarkable geological fault. The Great Glen Way’s 117km itinerary crosses Scotland from coast to coast through deep glens and past spectacular mountain ranges. From Fort William, beneath the slopes of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, you’ll pass the canal locks of Neptune’s Staircase and trek northeast through great landscapes, past Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and towards the celebrated Loch Ness, perhaps getting a glimpse of a certain shy creature, before finishing in the capital of the Highlands, Inverness. Explore the Great Glen way by bike, or by boat
10. The Coffin Roads, Isle of Harris
The ancient Coffin Road was used by pallbearers to carry the dead from the Bays district over to the west side of Harris where they were buried in the deep soils of the machair (fertile low-lying grassy plain). Start and finish at Leac a Li. The first half of the route crosses moorland along tracks well waymarked by poles. To the south of Bealach Eòrabhat is Creag an Eoin, which means the ‘rock of the bird’, where walkers are sometimes lucky to see an eagle or two. Some of Scotland’s finest beaches can be found in Harris, including Luskentyre and Seilebost. While on Harris, which shares the island landmass with the Isle of Lewis, take time and visit the new Harris Distillery for a tour and to pick up a bottle of their fine gin or, in a few years, whisky. Explore this road with Adventures Scotland.