Scotland is one of the most popular destinations for walking holidays. The rough beauty of the highlands attracts countless hikers every year. Nevertheless, in the generous expanse of the Scottish mountains, the feeling of wilderness and seclusion is never lost. Do you also dream of walking through the great landscapes of Scotland? Then we hope that you will enjoy our 9 best tips for hiking in Scotland.
# 1 – Choose a Scotland long-distance hiking trail
Scotland offers a number of excellent long distance hiking trails for visitors. These are not only excellently signposted, they lead you into the heart of the highlands to uniquely wild landscapes. Despite the remote locations, you can still find accommodations for every overnight stay each day.
Scotland’s many long-distance hiking trails include the legendary West Highland Way, the historic Rob Roy Way, the coast to coast Great Glen Way, the seaside Fife Coastal Path and the whisky lover’s paradise Speyside Way.
# 2 – Book early
Due to the great popularity of certain routes, accommodations for the season from May to September are booked out extremely quickly. Plan months in advance, especially on the West Highland Way.
When you book a self-guided hike with Hillwalk Tours, all of your overnight stays along the long-distance hiking trail of your choice will be reserved for you. All you have to do is choose how far you want to hike each day.
# 3 – Prepare for any weather
In Scotland they say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Due to the great variety of landscapes, the proximity to the coast and the high mountains, the weather in Scotland changes often and sometimes dramatically.
There is nothing you can do except pack the appropriate clothing and equipment. A good rain jacket and trousers, extra layers, for example a fleece, gloves, sunglasses and a hat are essential items. You should also bring good, worn-in shoes and a rain cover for your backpack with you.
# 4 – Midge repellent
In summer, they appear by the thousands and make life difficult for hikers in windless weather: midges. The so-called “highland midges” of the Scottish Highlands are small, annoying and can leave little bites that itch uncomfortably. So be sure to take mosquito repellant with you and keep any exposed skin to a minimum.
A head net protects in extreme cases and it is worth lighting an incense stick during breaks. Otherwise you will have to eat your provisions while walking in calmer areas. Movement help to shake off the tormentors and any wind will blow them away. They are also worth at dusk and dawn so it’s best to avoid hiking during these times.
# 5 – Money exchange
In Scotland, you pay with the British pound. There are special Scottish banknotes, but they are valid throughout the UK. So don’t forget to change money before your hiking holiday and have cash with you when you go hiking. Otherwise you will look in vain for an ATM in the Scottish seclusion.
This also applies to other goods. A basic set of patches, energy bars and batteries should therefore be carried in the hiking backpack.
# 6 – Scottish history
The history of Scotland is fascinating and tragic at the same time. The referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 was unsuccessful, but shows that the issue of Scottish identity is still relevant.
If you want to learn more about Scottish history, you can also consult the entertainment industry. The current series Outlander, the classic Braveheart and the remake of Mary Queen of Scots may only be more or less historically accurate, but in any case convey a sense of Caledonia’s past. In addition, you will be introduced to important historical figures and some locations that you can even visit.
In any case, try to look at the original English versions. This is a good way to get used to the Scottish accent. It has it all and unfortunately, subtitles are not available in reality.
# 7 – Collect Munros
An integral part of the Scottish hiking culture is the so-called “Munro bagging”. A munro is a mountain that is over 3,000 feet (914m) high. This classification goes back to Sir Hugo Munro. In 1891, he published a list of 538 peaks in the highlands. Of these, 282 were “Munros” and to this day Scottish hikers have been working hard to climb them all and “bag them”.
Don’t miss the chance to collect your first munro and marvel at the valleys, gorges and mountains of the Highlands from a windswept summit.
# 8 – Ride the bus
The bus is by far the cheapest mode of transport in Scotland. Almost ideally, many starting points for various long-distance hiking trails can also be reached by bus. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can easily go hiking using public transport.
From Glasgow Airport, for example, it is only around 30 minutes by bus to Milngavie, the start of the West Highland Way. The price in local public transport is between two and three euros. A bus trip from Glasgow Airport to Fort William, the beginning of the Great Glen Way, currently costs between 22 and 30 euros by City Link Bus. You get a discount if you book at least two days in advance.
# 9 – Read The Living Mountain
Nan Shepherd’s Living Mountain is a declaration of love to the Scottish highlands. The Cairngorms mountain range is at the center of Shepherd’s reflections on being in the midst of nature and mountains and experiencing them anew.
Although Shepherd wrote this relatively short book as early as 1944, it wasn’t published until the 1970s and has seen a real renaissance in recent years.
For anyone who wants to delve deeper into the secrets of Scottish geography and natural history, this book is indispensable reading and makes you want to set off for the highlands as soon as possible.