Sure, departing for a multi-day hike in the Scottish Highlands requires certain essentials to be packed. Things like a tent, sleeping bag, food, and water. But all you truly need to begin a journey through this storied landscape is a sense of adventure and a mind open to the inspiration sure to flow like a steady Scottish stream.
The country has endless options when it comes to jaunts that never take in a setting sun, but to get a real sense of the majesty of the rare wonder that is Scotland, investing time and energy into a long trek is the only true option. With the countryside covered with long-distance trails, here are 10 of the best to consider next time you find yourself in the Land of the Brave.
10 West Highland Way
Perhaps the most famous of Scotland’s long distance trails, the West Highland Way reaches a total of 96-miles from Milngavie to Fort William across the astoundingly beautiful Highlands. Even as exhaustion begins to grip the weary traveler, every single step seems to enhance the stunning Scottish surrounds and brighten even the dreariest of weather.
Taking in the breathtaking banks of Loch Lomond, delightfully eerie Rannoch Manor, deeply dramatic Glencoe, before finally coming to rest at the base of Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain. The West Highland Way provides everything an adventurer on foot could possibly desire.
9 Rob Roy Way
This incredible Southern Highlands stroll could be the greatest way to spend a full week anywhere on the planet. Seven days will see the intrepid and determined hiker cover 94-miles, starting at the picturesque town of Drymen and venturing northeast to the finish line of Pitlochry on the River Tummel.
Following in the footsteps forged by Rob Roy MacGregor in the 17th and 18th centuries as one of Scotland’s most notorious outlaw, history leaps out from behind every rock along this trail. Travel through glens, rivers, mountains, and lochs as you soak up some of the finest scenery in Scotland.
8 Southern Upland Way
The first official coast-to-coast walking track in Britain, the Southern Upland Way is steeped in history and grabs a hold of travelers with its wondrous views and doesn’t let go. Spanning a substantial 214-miles from Portpatrick on the southwest coast to Cockburnspath on the eastern tip of Scotland, the trail still feels largely untouched and desperate to be discovered.
Due to its length and occasional severe inclines, it can provide a real challenge even for experienced walkers but the payoff is more than worth it. Along the way, over 80 hills rise above 2000 feet, which provides amazing views of the surrounding countryside without ever crossing into mountain climbing territory.
7 Cape Wrath Trail
This unauthorized and wonderfully natural trek claws its way through the Scottish landscape from Fort William to Cape Wrath, Scotland's most northwestern point.
Only for the most experienced walkers, the trail has no sanctioned route; therefore, as each journey needs to be plotted from beginning to end, mapping and compass skills are required. The joy of this is that no walk will ever be identical as travelers find their own route through the rugged terrain in search of the ominous Cape Wrath endpoint.
6 Mull Of Galloway Trail
A slightly shorter trail, clocking it at 37-miles, this walking route was opened in 2012 and runs from the Mull to Stranraer, dipping into the Loch Ryan Coastal Path along the way.
The path is maintained by volunteers and is one of the most beautifully managed treks in the country. The iconic views and natural formations that make up the trail have been recognized by the Scottish Natural Heritage, who have selected the Mull of Galloway as one of Scotland’s greatest trails. No other recommendation is needed to begin lacing up the hiking boots and taking to the wide open spaces.
5 The Annandale Way
Commencing in the rolling hills above Moffat and tracing the banks of the River Annan all the way down to the Solway estuary, this exquisite trail can be tackled either north to south or south to north. Each provides a starkly different experience due to the differing perspectives created by the powerful scenery.
Covering a total of 56-miles, the route is designed to be completed in four or five days but can be done slower thanks to several possible overnight stops in archetypal Scottish villages along the way. This is a walk that will see walkers not only leaving with a wealth of peaceful experiences but also the contact details of the many friends met along the way.
4 The Skye Trail
Revered in Scottish myth as a place of beauty and wonder, the Isle of Skye has been told to have seen giants and shape-shifting water creatures amongst its mountains and coastlines throughout history. The area inspires a sense of childlike wonder in those who visit the Skye Trail, an 80-mile hiking trail spanning its length is the single best way to get to grips with this mystical destination.
The trail features free mountain huts along the way for a good night's rest but also allows wild camping along the route. The huts can be handy when unpredictable weather lashes the Isle, but it wouldn’t be a hike in Scotland without an intervention from the elements.
3 The Great Glen Way
One for fans of lovely lochs, the Great Glen Way is not called the Adequate Glen Way for a reason. If anything, great is an understatement for what this walk provides. Covering a spectacular geological fault-line and providing elegant views of three of the more remarkable lochs in Scotland, there are not many better walks in the world that the Great Glen Way.
Totaling 72-miles, the trail crosses the country from coast to coast amidst deep glens and over imposing mountain ranges that reward effort with pure wonder once the summits are reached. Keep an eye out for Nessie as you wander past Loch Ness, she hasn’t been seen for a while and the locals are growing concerned.
2 St Cuthbert's Way
Kissing the coast of England and hugging the Scottish border, St Cuthbert’s Way is a 62-mile trail named after a 7th-century saint and spanning the routes he often traveled during his time on earth.
The route has been open since 1996 and is not only suitable for hikers but intrepid cyclists and horse-riders as well. Wild camping is permitted along the Scottish sections of St Cuthbert’s and plenty of lush areas ideal for a night’s rest present themselves each day to the tired traveler. A well-trafficked trail, it is estimated that 2,500 people complete the full trail each year so you will not be lonely on this one.
1 The Scottish National Trail
The big one. The master of all Scottish trails. Essentially, this mammoth journey encompasses most of the major walking routes in the country and tops out at a remarkable 537-miles. The trail follows long-established footpaths for much of its expanse but becomes increasingly difficult and rugged the further north it continues.
Many hikers complete the National Trail in stages, but there are plenty who successfully attempt the entire distance in one trip. It is often described as a ‘Best of Scotland’ trail given just how much of the country and well-known trails it utilizes so those wanting to feel they have conquered the entire country, the National Trail is the challenge for you.