Discover Scotland's Great Trails
Scotland's Great Trails in a Nutshell
1) The West Highland Way | 154 km / 96 miles | From Easy-Moderate to Moderate-Strenuous
In 2020 Wanderlust magazine ranked the West Highland Way among the world's top 20 best walks. So what are you waiting for? Get out on the trail and experience Scotland's most renowned long-distance footpaths for yourself! Leave the bustling city of Glasgow behind for the dramatic Scottish Highlands, all on well-signposted trails with great accommodations along the way. The trail ends in Fort William, Scotland's self-styled 'outdoor capital', at the base of the UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
2) The Great Glen Way | 125 km / 78 miles | From Easy-Moderate to Moderate
The perfect route for your first walking holiday, the Great Glen Way is more easy-going than its well-known counterpart above. Connect the two iconic Highland towns of Fort William and Inverness via the scenic Great Glen, following the Caledonian Canal, forested trails and mountain paths overlooking Loch Ness.
3) St Cuthbert's Way | 100 km / 62 miles | From Easy-Moderate to Moderate
Scotland's very own historic pilgrimage route! Begin in Melrose, a charming town in the Scottish Borders complete with an abbey founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks, and finish in Northumberland, England's most northerly county (home of Earl Grey tea and the country's largest concentration of castles). A variety of itineraries mean that you can make hiking in this gentling rolling terrain as easy, or as challenging, as you like by lengthening the distances you'll walk each day.
4) Fife Coastal Path | 187 km /116 miles | From Easy-Moderate to Moderate-Strenuous
Hug the coastline of The Kingdom of Fife as you walk north from near Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city, to the mouth of the River Tay. Follow this well signposted trail through East Neuk's fishing villages with deep harbours and quaint cottages, along dramatic coastal paths and beaches (both beautiful and sandy to more challenging rocky affairs). Walking through the town of St Andrew's is a highlight of the trip; the town is home to the oldest golf course in the world (the aptly named Old Course) and is also the site of Scotland's oldest university, founded in 1413.
5) Speyside Way | 107 km / 67 miles | Easy to Moderate
A relaxed route following the River Spey upstream from the shores of the North Sea as it meanders inland towards the town of Aviemore, an outdoor-hub, in the Cairngorm National Park (Scotland's largest). Perfect for first-time walkers this trip is easy-going, and detouring to Speyside's famed whisky distilleries (Glenfiddich and Ballindalloch to name a couple) provides welcome punctuation along the peaceful forest paths.
6) Arran Coastal Way | 107 km / 67 miles | Moderate
The Arran Coastal Way is a fantastic lesser-known trail perfect for an off-the-beaten-path experience. Although a signed coastal trail, an optional detour up Goat Fell (the island's highest peak at 874 m), and sections of rocky coastal terrain mean the trail is not to be underestimated. Your efforts will be rewarded with unrivaled views of the mainland, and you can be assured of great variety along the route - the island as known as "Scotland in miniature".
7) Rob Roy Way | 127 km /79 miles | From Easy-Moderate to Moderate
Follow in the footsteps of Scottish folk hero and outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor as you walk north from Drymen, near Loch Lomond, through the Trossachs National Park to the town of Pitlochry in Perthshire. The trail largely follows forest trails and hill paths. En route you'll walk from MacGregor's homelands and discover sites along the way significant in cementing his legendary status - ideal for history buffs!
8) John Muir Way | 215 km / 134 miles | Moderate
The longest of the Great Trails, yet the gentle gradients and well-spaced overnight stops (with just the odd longer day), mean that it's still a good option for first-timers. Opened in 2014 and dedicated to John Muir, the founder of America's National Parks. The trail traverses the breadth of Scotland taking in natural, cultural and historical highlights. From the coastal town of Helensburgh in the west walk through the Trossachs National Park (Scotland's first), passing Linlithgow Palace, and taking you through Edinburgh to reach Dunbar, John Muir's birthplace, on the east coast.
5 Tips for Long-Distance Walking
Planning on a long-distance walking tour? Whether it's your first long-distance trail, or it's been a while since you donned your hiking boots, we hope you'll find these basic tips helpful in the run-up to your trip.
1) Rest days
We know, you haven't even started yet, are we already talking about rest days? Yes! When you are planning your trip it's very easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new adventure on the horizon, so make sure to pause for a moment and think about whether you might like a rest day or two added to your trip itinerary. Perhaps after the longest day's walking, halfway through the trip, or in a town where there's lots to see and do before you continue along the trail. Our itineraries are flexible so don't hesitate to speak to your specialist about adding rest days to your trip.
Now that you have chosen the right trip for you we recommend doing some training. Make sure you can comfortably walk long distances so you can enjoy your holiday (nobody wants to be battling to catch their breath on ascents, or dealing with muscle pains the following day). In the months leading up to your trip try to get out at the weekends for a training hike. It's also worth doing your training hikes in the same footwear and back-pack as you'll be wearing on your trip to help break them in.
3) Footwear (and socks!)
Finding the right type of walking footwear, that fits properly and is comfortable for mile after mile, is the hikers equivalent of finding that perfect pair of jeans that you never want to part with. Time consuming and perhaps painful to acquire but once found never parted with willingly. If you aren't already in possession of the perfect broken-in pair then, if possible, it's best to head to an outdoor shop near you for a fitting with an expert. There are some questions you'll need to ask yourself first; are boots or walking shoes more appropriate for the trip you're undertaking (and which do you prefer)? Is it more important that they are breathable or waterproof (if you're walking in Scotland then go with waterproof)? Should they be lightweight or sturdy (ideally a bit of both)?
A brief note on socks ... normal trainer socks tend not to cut it on long-distance hikes and can lead to blisters and soreness. Packing good quality socks is almost as important as your footwear so make sure to bring a few pairs of high quality socks with some padding to help ease pressure on the soles of your feet.
4) Day-pack size
With our luggage transfer service you can relax in the knowledge that your main baggage will be transferred ahead to your next accommodation leaving you much lighter on your feet. With just a day-pack to carry you can enjoy the trail unburdened, a 20-30 litre bag should be ample depending on the weather, and your personal kit preferences. Allow enough space for everything you may need along the way e.g. waterproofs, spare warm layers (e.g. fleece or thermal tops), hat, gloves, buff (neck-warmer), sun protection, plenty of water and a packed lunch with snacks.
5) Walking poles
Admittedly, walking poles aren't necessary for everyone but they can be a game-changer. They help take some weight off your knees and ankles (especially on ascents and descents), and provide extra stability on rough ground. This is ideal if you aren't accustomed to carrying a backpack over long distances, have an old knee injury, or simply want as much help as you can get to get from A to B.