Whether you’re a serious trekker or just a Sunday stroller, Scotland is an excellent place to strap on those sensible shoes and head outdoors.
If you like a long walk, there are four official long distance paths in Scotland:
The West Highland Way
96 miles (154 km) of hiking that begins at Milngavie and finishes at Fort William. Along the way you’ll pass through lowland moors, woodland, and rolling hills before hitting the mountainous Scottish Highlands. You’ll follow the shores of Loch Lomond below Ben Lomond and climb the Devil’s Staircase before heading down to sea level.
The Southern Upland Way
Britain’s first official coast to coast walking route, it stretches for 212 miles (340km) from Portpatrick on Scotland’s southwest coast to Cockburnspath on the east coast. The route is hilly with over 80 climbs to 2,000 feet (610m) making it a challenging walk even for the experienced. Most people take between 12 and 16 days to walk the entire route but there are many sections well suited to shorter day walks.
The Speyside Way
Linking Buckie on the Moray Firth with the edge of the Grampian Mountains this walking route basically follows the River Spey for a total length of around 65 miles (105 km) although you can go an extra 15 miles (24 km) on the Tomintoul spur. Some sections of this walk are also suitable for cycling and horse riding.
The Great Glen Way
Stretching for 79 miles (127 km) from Fort William to Inverness this is a popular route for less experienced long distance hikers. It takes about 5–6 days and much of the route passes through forest tracks and along towpaths. You can make it more challenging by climbing the mountains you pass. The route gets most challenging at the Inverness end.
Then of course there is that famous Scottish pastime of bagging munros, munros being mountains over 3,000 feet high. There are 283 of these peaks and the Scottish Mountaineering Site has an online map of all the routes and even a page where you can make notes on those you have hiked. Ben Nevis, near Fort William, is the highest and Ben Lomond near Loch Lomond is the most popular to climb.
Read more: Bagging Munros
For gentle day walks or just a stroll, head for one of Scotland’s famous lakes or lochs. Loch Ness southwest of Inverness and Loch Lomond plus the Trossachs National Park not far from Glasgow are two popular destinations, and Ben Lomond which looms over Loch Lomond is popular for climbing. Loch Brandy between Dundee and Aberdeen is a short hill walk with a good path of 3 miles (5km). If you prefer walking on flat paving head to Strathclyde Loch at Motherwell for a gentle 3.75 miles (6km), not far from Glasgow towards Edinburgh.
Wilderness and Islands
Britain’s last wilderness is the Knoydart Peninsula in northwestern Scotland and there is excellent trekking here for serious walkers. The terrain can be harsh and it is remote so this is only for the experienced. Access to much of the area is by boat. Even further northwest is Assynt famous for its harsh landscape and ragged mountains. And then of course there is excellent walking on the islands of the Outer and Inner Hebrides or the Isle of Skye. Here you’ll find wilderness, coast, history and wildlife from golden eagles to red deer to whales and dolphins.