Long Distance Walking Trails in Scotland

Long Distance Walking Trails in Scotland

There’s arguably nothing more romantic and freeing than the act of simply placing one foot in front of the other and walking. When coupled with empty miles, wide horizons and sublime views, this nostalgic pastime becomes even more alluring.

One of the most beautiful destinations for hiking, Scotland is one of the best places to enjoy this liberating activity. Home to some of the top long distance walking trails in the world, it offers an unrivalled paradise for hikers looking to trace mile upon mile. Ranging from coast-to-coast trails sweeping past lochs and bays to inland routes traversing glens, these rolling footpaths cover a few dozen miles to a dozen days and more.

To ignite your wanderlust, we’ve curated a guide to some of the best long distance walking trails in Scotland for the wayfarers and wild souls.

Ayrshire Coastal Path

A view of the beautiful Arran Hills at sunset from Fairly Moor near Largs

The Ayrshire Coastal Path covers a hundred and six miles of Scotland’s bewitching west coast. Running from Glenapp to Skelmorlie, it hugs the coastline and follows sweeping bays and towering cliffs. Usually walked from south to north for the best views, it promises some of the finest paths and panoramas imaginable and showcases incredible vistas, from the craggy ridgelines of the Arran mountains to the glistening waters of the Firth of Clyde. On clear days, the distant silhouette of Ireland can even be seen.

A well-known long distance walking trail in Scotland, Ayrshire Coastal Path is waymarked for much of the way, although there isn’t a continuously defined path. En route, the winding trail passes sandy beaches and rocky shores and merges with cycle and bridleways. Considered less daunting than some of Scotland’s mountainous trails, it follows a gently meandering course along the coast with some steep ascents and descents as cliffs rise and fall. Just keep in mind that some sections of this route should be avoided during spring and king tides.

Cape Wrath Trail

The town of Fort William near the famous Ben Nevis in Scotland

If you are seeking the wildest of adventures, then the Cape Wrath Trail is an equally challenging and rewarding route for experienced hikers only. The most demanding long distance walking trail in Scotland and one of the best of its kind in Europe, this route runs through the Scottish Highlands and extends from Fort William in the south to Cape Wrath in the north. At well over two hundred miles long and with no official route, it offers an unparalleled opportunity for well-seasoned adventurers and navigators to uncover the wilds of Scotland on foot and trace steps through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the UK.

Rolling dunes leading towards the sea at Sandwood Bay

As with many of Scotland’s long distance walking trails, the Cape Wrath Trail can be broken down into several sections. That said, some segments can leave two-day spells between neighbouring towns, so it’s important to plan out each section carefully. En route, highlights include the powder-fine sands of Sandwood Bay, reaching views over vast sea lochs, remote peaks, the Falls of Glomach (the highest in the UK), the 200,000-thousand-year-old Bone Caves of Inchnadamph, and of course, the wild Cape Wrath itself.

Clyde Walkway 

A pathway through the trees leading to the Falls of Clyde in Lanark, Scotland

Unusually for most long distance walking trails in Scotland, the Clyde Walkway has a wonderfully urban edge. Beginning in Glasgow, this forty-mile-long linear route goes through the Clyde Valley and finishes at the Falls of Clyde in the New Lanark World Heritage Site. Making it even more appealing, this meandering trail closely follows the course of the River Clyde. With easier navigation and relatively even terrain throughout, starry-eyed ramblers can make the most of the mild elevation and proximity to shops and eateries.

A view over the calm waters of Strathclyde Loch in Strathclyde Country Park in Scotland

To begin the walk, venture to Patrick in Glasgow City Centre and enjoy a journey on foot through Scotland’s industrial and cultural heartlands. From the poly-era architecture of the city, the bonnie banks of the Clyde lead you through Strathclyde Country Park and past the glassy waters of Strathclyde Loch. With city streets eventually giving way to verdant farmland, sun-dappled woodland and dramatic valley gorges, wilderness seekers can savour the soul-stirring landscapes whilst never having to stray too far off the beaten track.

Great Glen Way

A beautiful view over Loch Lomond at sunset

The Great Glen Way is one of the most diverse long distance walking trails in Scotland and promises untold adventures for lovers of nature. With options for walking, kayaking, cycling and more, it can be traversed on boot, boat and bike in small or sweeping segments. At seventy-five miles in length, this waymarked route starts at the end of the West Highland Way and runs from Fort William, where the UK’s highest mountain resides, to Inverness, the Highland capital. Following the natural Faultline of the Great Glen and the historic Caledonian Canal, it sets the scene for a world of exploration.

Verdant vistas over trees towards the mighty Ben Nevis in Scotland

Should you be seeking wild escapism, uncover this heavenly coast-to-coast route and begin your walk in Fort William. Known as the Gateway to Ben Nevis, Fort William sits at the foot of the highest mountain in Britain and is one of the most romantic places for proposals and peaceful pursuits in nature. From Fort William, you can skirt the banks of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness before heading seaward and arriving at the shores of the sparkling Moray Firth.

John Muir Way

Trees and sandy shores at John Muir Country Park in Scotland

The John Muir Way is one of Scotland’s Great Trails and one that calls to all wanderers and wonderers. Proposing an ever-changing backdrop of mystic mountains, wild beaches, tangled woodlands and picturesque towns, it has something for everyone. Traversing Scotland’s central belt, this linear coast-to-coast route covers just over one hundred and thirty miles. Beginning in Helensburgh in the west, crossing the capital city of Edinburgh and finishing in Dunbar (the birthplace of the naturalist, botanist and environmental philosopher John Muir) in the east, it flaunts every facet of Scotland’s rich heritage.

Adding variety, the John Muir Way can be completed by bike over four to five days. That said, if you are a trail purist, you can stick to spellbinding walks on foot to take in the awe-inspiring array of sites and sights. The trail can easily be broken up into sections and boasts a wealth of attractions to see along the way. Lace up your boots and adopt a leisurely saunter to soak up the scenery. After all, as John Muir himself said: “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”.

Kintyre Way

The picturesque village and harbour of  Tarbert in Scotland

See the seven-hundred-year-old Skipness Castle, watch seals sunbathing on rocky shores, wander Carradale's harbour and visit Campbeltown's whisky distillery along the Kintyre Way. A magical long distance walking trail in Scotland, the Kintyre Way follows a hundred-mile traverse around the breathtaking Kintyre Peninsula. Occupying one of the most scenic and secluded parts of Scotland’s west coast, it offers an unmissable window into the wild, along with a number of places to rest and refuel along the way.

To follow in the footsteps of tradition, commence the walk from the lochside village of Tarbert and tail the zig-zagging trail from there. Broken up into smaller distances, this trail can be enjoyed in more manageable chunks, and can also be used to join up with the Arran Coastal Way and Loch Lomond & Cowal Way. Greeted by awe-inspiring mountainscapes, deep forests and coastal tracts, enchantment follows in the wake of all those who embrace adventure here.

Loch Lomond & Cowal Way

Beautiful views over the glassy waters of Loch Lomond

The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park is often referred to as “Scotland in fifty-seven miles”. One of the most easily accessible long distance walking trails in Scotland, it can be joined via a number of different transport options, such as ferry, bus and train. Heading around the Cowal Peninsula, it visits five different villages en route and encompasses a hugely diverse array of scenery. Sections of the route even follow blissfully smooth tarmac roads, albeit interspersed with challenging terrain.

Moving in a linear direction and propelled by the prevailing south-westerly winds, walkers typically begin this long distance trail in Portavadie and finish in Inveruglas. As fifty percent of the route runs through the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, it delivers especially beautiful places to savour drawn-out picnics and wildlife watching opportunities. With lots to see and do around Loch Lomond, as well as a variety of splinter walks and cycle trails to enjoy, you can perfectly tailor your hiking experience. For further ambulation, you can also pick up the Three Lochs Way and Great Trossachs Path.

Rob Roy Way

The beautiful trees and mountainscapes of Loch Ard Forest

The Rob Roy Way is named after Rob Roy MacGregor, a famous Scottish outlaw. Born in the seventeenth century, Rob Roy became a beloved subject of national folklore for helping the poor, starving people of the Highlands. Today, the Rob Roy Way connects many of the places linked with this legendary Scottish figure. Running for nearly eighty miles from the village of Drymen, once a popular stopover for Highland drovers, to the town of Pitlochry in the heart of Scotland, it passes many of his old haunts. It also encompasses the Birks of Aberfeldy Gorge, of Robert Burns fame.

Golden-leafed trees reflected in the calm waters of Loch Ard

To set forth on wayfaring dreams, pursue the Rob Roy Way through the Loch Ard Forest to Aberfoyle and beyond past the glistening waters of Loch Venachar, Loch Lubnaig and Loch Tay. From ancient forest swathes to old aqueducts and viaducts, and from Neolithic stone circles to tumbling waterfalls, it has something to see at every turn. Calling to amblers and mountain bikers alike, many sections of this trail can also be enjoyed by bike across forest tracks, disused railways, and waymarked foot and cycle paths.

Speyside Way

The mountain-topped peaks of Ben Rinnes

The Speyside Way is one of Scotland’s Great Trails and one of four official long distance walking trails (as well as the Great Glen Way, Southern Upland Way and West Highland Way). Following the valley of the Spey, the second longest river in Scotland, it creates a navigable link between the captivating Moray Firth Coast and the mist-shrouded peaks of the Cairngorms National Park. Passing through the area’s famous Whisky Country, it can also be paired with Moray Speyside’s Malt Whisky Trail which showcases esteemed distilleries and cooperages in the region.

At eighty-five miles long, the linear Speyside Way travels between the town of Buckie on the coast and the village of Newtonmore in the Scottish Highlands. Don hardy walking shoes and tread footsteps along the crisscrossing path through Moray Speyside. As the scenery unfolds before you, cast your gaze over the jewel-specked waters of the coast and look out for pods of dolphins and whales. Further inland, watch as the coast gives way to open moorland and undulating bens, grazed by enigmatic red deer. Should you wish to tailor your walk, you can also join the Dava Way and Moray Coast Trail from Grantown on Spey and Forres.

West Highland Way

A stream running through Rannoch Moor in Scotland

The oldest and one of the most popular of Scotland’s long distance walking trails is the West Highland Way. First opened in 1980, it starts from Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, and weaves its way north through the country’s first National Park along Loch Lomond, and its largest lake. Continuing north through steadily more rugged realms, it tracks across fern-covered mountains, the Rannoch Moor and past Glen Coe, before reaching the town of Fort William in the western Scottish Highlands.

A tarmac road weaving through the mountains towards Glen Coe

Nearly a hundred miles in total, this superb walking trail is especially magnetic to experienced hikers who are prepared for the vast and varied terrains. Depending on fitness, the walk can be broken up into various stages and boasts beguiling landscapes at every moment. When completed from south to north, the route becomes more demanding, easing hikers into more challenging stretches. Gather compass, pack decadent treats, and head out into the untamed beauty of the West Highlands.

The Skye Trail

The striking façade of Quiraing at golden hour on the Isle of Skye

All around Scotland, there are a huge number of walking trails that beckon for hours and days of exploration. Encouraging further excursions into nature, the islands of the Hebrides reside just off Scotland’s west coast and provide even more inspiration for short and long distance walking trails. Of the archipelago’s best routes, the Hebridean Way is perhaps the most famous. The perfect challenge for keen hikers looking to extend their Scottish wayfaring, it offers an exhilarating opportunity to ramble across more than one hundred and fifty miles of Hebridean beauty. Encapsulating ten islands, six causeways, two ferry journeys and countless natural wonders along the way, it rewards the intrepid with cherished memories to last a lifetime.

Seeking unforgettable adventures? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Scotland.


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