Few sum up Scotland’s qualities better than John Muir, the country’s most famous campaigner for wilderness conservation and access: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.” The problem for some, however, is that there are so many spectacular hikes in Scotland they can’t see the wood for the trees. But our carefully crafted walking holidays can guide you to the light. Of course, Scotland’s monro ‘baggers’ aim to climb all of the country’s 282 mountains over 914.4m. However, here are our best hikes in Scotland for those who want to traverse rather than trek to the top of Scotland.
West Highland Way
The West Highland Way, walkable in ten days, is not only one of the best hikes in Scotland but also one of the most popular, so it books out quickly. Thankfully there are only so many places where hikers can stay along the Way, so don’t hang about. It covers 154km between Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, up to Fort William on the shores of Loch Linnhe, where Ben Nevis greets you like a wise elder. Although you won’t have many ascents, you will definitely have wilderness, including Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the wilds of Rannoch Moor and the Glencoe peaks. You can also break it into segments, following Loch Lomond between Milngavie and Inverarnan or through the Highlands between Tyndrum and Fort William.
Great Glen Way
If you love a loch, the Great Glen Way is for you, with Loch Lochy, Loch Linnhe, Loch Oich and Loch Ness lapping alongside you as you hike the 118km trail between Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east through the Great Glen Valley. This is also a journey along one of the country’s most extraordinary engineering feats, not something you can say of many hiking trails. The Victorians ingeniously used canals to link the lochs, thus providing a way for boats to cross the country inland rather than taking on the treacherous northern coast to Inverness. As a result, it’s now not only one of the best hiking routes in Scotland but also one of the most beautiful boating arteries.
A colossal Caledonian combo
Given how much we love the Great Glen Way and the West Highland Way, our ultimate Scotland hiking tour may come close to one of the best hikes in Scotland, as it combines both into one pretty package. Walk for 14 days (a 17 day holiday) through the Highlands and lowlands following both of the journeys above, covering a mammoth 275km of pure Scottish joy. This hiking tour is also suitable for solo travellers, creating a perfect retreat for someone who seeks a soulful, silent retreat. The Scottish guesthouses you stay at along the way are experts at greeting walkers. They prepare hearty breakfasts and packed lunches and send you on your way to the likes of Invergarry Castle or up Conic Hill, across Lairigmor or Rannoch Moor.
The Skye Trail
The Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago and a bit like a microcosm of the mainland’s natural highlights, with its lochs, rugged peninsulas and valleys wrapped around the foothills of its mountainous interior. The Skye Trail goes the length of the island along the eastern side, passing through some of the best hiking areas of the island, including Black and Red Cuillin, Trotternish Ridge, Loch Coruisk, and Skye’s most northerly point, Rubha Hunish. This is a challenging Caledonian adventure over nine days and one that requires plenty of wild walking experience. And if it’s wilderness you’re after, the Skye’s the limit.
The Whisky Way
If you like the idea of a toddy after your trek to toast a good day on the hills, you won’t have to travel too far to do so. Scotland is home to over 140 malt and grain distilleries, and you can sample at least a few of these in the small hotels and inns we choose on our walking holidays, as well as their local pubs. However, if you want a walking trail that includes visits to distilleries, our Speyside Way walking holiday includes the Glenfiddich and Glenlivet Distillery en route, and the Rob Roy Way introduces you to Dewars Distillery. Pack a hipflask in your pocket or, even better, buy one locally.
The wildlife way
We can’t actually give you a specific route for wildlife because it’s everywhere in Scotland. Scotland is teeming with flora and fauna, from badgers to basking sharks, puffins to peregrine falcons. So pack your binoculars and read up on the tens of thousands of species you might spot on our best hikes in Scotland. An excellent resource is Scottish Wildlife Trust, which lists its species and manages 120 wildlife reserves around the country. They strive to protect the precious habitats you might take for granted on a walking holiday, but please consider supporting their vital work by donating to the cause.
We hope you have enjoyed our Scottish hiking hints. You can also enjoy Scotland from a saddle on our cycling holiday along the Great Glen Way, and don’t hesitate to contact us for any more Scottish guidance.