You might think hiking in Scotland is all about trudging through repetitive windswept mountain scenery. In fact, all the different hikes in Scotland are quite unique to one another. In this blog post, we delve into those differences.
There are of course soaring mountain peaks, deep valleys containing even deeper lakes, plus raging rivers, but there are flatter trails as well and even one long distance walking route focusing on the glory that is Scottish whisky! Yes, that’s right, hikers on that particular trail can make numerous rest stops at the world’s most famous distilleries, where there’s ample drink (and food) to keep them going for the rest of the day. To find out more, read on about four unique long distance hiking trails which suit all different interests among outdoor (and indoor) enthusiasts.
|Hiking Tours in Scotland|
|Self-guided tours from £409! Accommodation and bag transfer included.|
Adventurers and Nostalgics
The Rob Roy Way, named after the infamous Rob Roy MacGregor, is perhaps the best suited walking trail for adventurers and nostalgic history buffs. Rob Roy is a famous Scottish folk hero and outlaw from the early 1700s. The highland bandit developed quite the reputation as the ‘Scottish Robin Hood’ thanks to his various exploits over the years.
This was further exaggerated in the novel ‘Rob Roy’ from 1818 written by Sir Walter Scott. MacGregor even features in certain passages of poems by William Wordsworth. Opened back in 2002, the Rob Roy Way traverses a geological and geographical feature denoted the Highland Boundary Fault. The fault line represents the border between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands.
As such the route takes in majestic lochs (lakes) as well as cascading rivers, while also crossing a few passes in the mountains. All in all the perfect match for the adventurous at heart. Likewise for history buffs out there, you are not only retracing the footsteps of Rob Roy himself, but you’ll also pass by a number of historic Roman era forts and viaducts, as well as plenty of Scottish standing stones, stone circles, and crannogs (fortified homes built on manmade islands in lakes).
You’ll also find old military roads and bridges built by the English troops during the Jacobite rebellion. Alongside the history of Rob Roy MacGregor, all of this merely adds to the allure of the trail towards adventurers and nostalgic history buffs alike.
The West Highland Way is without a doubt the most picturesque and scenic long distance, waymarked hiking trail in Scotland. At approximately 160 kms long (100 miles), and running through the Scottish Highland mountains just north of Glasgow, there’s plenty of scenery to capture on your phone or digital camera. Remember to pack extra batteries, spare memory cards and of course your phone and/or camera battery charger.
You might even want to bring a portable data backup device if you really go to town on the number of photos and videos you capture on your trip. Fortunately though, when booking through a self-guided hiking tour operator like Hillwalk Tours, you’ll be put up in a bed and breakfast each night. Here you can charge your batteries and backup your images, so there’s no need to bring a mobile power bank or solar charger unless you’re really going wild with the photography.
The West Highland Way is considered one of the great long distance walks of the world, and as such is on the bucket list of many photographers, both amateur and professional. The trailhead is actually found in the suburbs of northern Glasgow. As such, photographers should of course also spend a night in Glasgow and maybe even nearby Edinburgh, both beautiful cities in their own right.
Photographers will be delighted with the rambling sheep and rams, the winding country roads and the numerous photogenic forests, mountains and lakes. You’ll pass by Loch Lomond and through Glen Orchy and the moorland of Rannoch Moor. Famous Glencoe is your next stop, considered one of the most beautiful parts of the entire country. The narrow glen is hemmed in on both sides by soaring ridge lines and mountains. Don’t forget to have your camera out (but securely fastened) as you climb the Devil’s Staircase as well. You also have the option of climbing Ben Nevis as you pass by Scotland’s highest mountain at the conclusion of your journey.
Those enjoying a bit of a “pick me up” tipple while hiking will be pleasantly surprised to hear that Hillwalk Tours recently began offering a self-guided hiking tour along the Speyside Way Whisky Trail. The trail is located in the northeast of Scotland and follows the River Spey between the towns of Buckie on the Moray Firth coast and Aviemore on the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains. Just over 100 kilometres in length, the trail is readily reached from the nearby cities of Inverness and Aberdeen.
It’s not too far up from Glasgow and Edinburgh either. 60% of all Scotch whisky comes from the area, and the trail itself brings you past about 20 distilleries, with even more in the greater area. Whisky fans will no doubt recognise Glenlivet, Glenfiddich as well as Chivas Regal. The latter of the three is produced at the Strathisla Distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland and the oldest of all highland distilleries with a founding date of 1786.
You’ll also pass Cardhu – the malt whisky distillery which is today probably most famous for providing the silky smooth ingredient in Johnnie Walker. Hikers can also pop into the Speyside Cooperage to watch craftsmen and women at work making and restoring traditional whisky casks. You’ll even pass through the town of Aberlour, which is home to Walkers Shortbread.
Myth Busters (or Conspiracy Theorists)
Northern Scotland’s Great Glen Way follows the full 37 kilometre (23 mile) western shoreline of the infamous Loch Ness, home to none other than the fabled Loch Ness Monster or ‘Nessie.’ Compared to the more strenuous West Highland and Rob Roy Ways, the Great Glen Way offers up equally impressive mountain scenery just without the climbing. Fortunately it is a rather gentle hike and is comparatively easier thanks to following a long section of the Caledonian Canal.
The Great Glen Way is technically a coast to coast hike, meaning you can proudly say you’ve walked diagonally right across the breadth of the country from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea. With almost a third of the entire 127 kms (79 miles) adjacent to Loch Ness, you’ll have ample opportunities to keep an eye or two out for the creature. But the possibility of glimpsing Nessie isn’t the only highlight here. Walkers will also pass by ‘Neptune’s Staircase,’ an ascending lock consisting of a total of eight separate locks resembling a set of stairs. There are a number of other beautiful lakes to take in as well, plus the infamous Urquhart Castle which has a particularly bloody history from the 13th to 17th centuries.
The Fife Coastal Path offers some of the finest coastal walking in Scotland passing award-winning beaches, woodlands, charming, historic little harbour villages, iconic bridges, nationally important estuaries and wildlife reserves. The route has a gentle gradient throughout, however, although the gradient is gentle, the trail still offers plenty of contrast and parts of it can occasionally feel surprisingly remote. Highlights of the route, aside from some stunning coastal scenery, include the charming, centuries old little harbours at Dysart and Crail and the historic town of St. Andrews, considered the ‘home’ of golf, with its world-famous courses.
St Andrews also has Scotland’s oldest university, as well as the remains of a castle and what was once one of the largest cathedrals in the country. The trail passes by several other internationally renowned golf courses and a variety of interesting castles, sea caves showing Pictish art and several geologically and archaeologically interesting sites. In addition, the walk passes through several nature reserves, such as the Cullaloe Nature reserve at Burntisland, the Dumbarnie Nature reserve, and the Kilminning Coast Nature Reserve (past Crail) and the Tentsmuir Nature reserve (past St Andrews and Leuchars).
Bonus – Harry Potter Fans
Fans of the Harry Potter books and movies will be delighted to know that they can hike the West Highland Way with an added bonus at the very end. Upon concluding the walk, you can take the Harry Potter steam train from Fort William to Mallaig! The experience is yet another one on the bucket lists of many around the world.
We hope that you enjoyed this guide to hikes in Scotland to suit every type of hiker. With so many reasons to go hiking in Scotland, why not head over to the Scotland page at Hillwalk Tours and check out what option might suit you best?