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8 of Scotland’s Great Trails

Written by Fiona

August 18 2017

A 65-mile circular route around the Isle of Arran is the latest walking path to become one of Scotland’s Great Trails. The Arran Coastal Way is the 29th Long Distance Route to be awarded the accolade by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Scotland’s Great Trails include world-famous paths such as the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way.

To be included in the Scotland’s Great Trails branded network, the routes must fulfil certain criteria. The trails are at least 25 miles long and largely off-road with a clearly defined path. There must be waymarking or signposting and a range of visitor services along the way.

Collectively, Scotland’s Great Trails offer more than 1900 miles of well-managed paths from the Borders to the Highlands.

They provide great opportunities to explore the best of Scotland’s nature and landscapes and to experience our amazing history and culture.

Eight of Scotland’s Great Trails

Arran Coastal Way. Pic credit: M J Richardson

Arran Coastal Way

Distance: 65 miles

Start/finish: Brodick

Why walk it? Described as a fairly challenging route but with plenty of scenic and wildlife rewards, the Arran Coastal Way passes through ancient woodland and along sandy beaches and rocky shores.

The route, which was originally conceived by two local men in the 1990s, links 12 coastal villages accommodation and local food.You could walk the route over a week or, if you have the stamina, over a long weekend. To reach the start at Brodick, you can travel by Calmac ferry from Ardrossan.

John Muir Way. Pic credit: Walter Baxter

John Muir Way

Distance: 134 miles.

Start: Dunbar, East Lothian.

Finish: Helensburgh, Argyll.

What walk it?: Another recent new entry to the stable of Scotland’s Great Trails, the John Muir Way heads coast to coast from east to west, or vice versa.

John Muir was born in Dunbar and left Scotland to emigrate to America as a child. He went on to become a leading conservationist and the founder America’s national parks yet he never forgot his Scottish roots.

The John Muir Way was opened in memory of the great man and is likely to take most people 10 to 14 days to walk the length.

West Highland Way. Pic credit: Dorothy Carse

West Highland Way

Distance: 96 miles

Start: Milngavie

Finish: Fort William

Why walk it? The original and classic long-distance walk is a must-do for long-distance hikers. The West Highland Way crosses the Highland Faultline, which divides the lowlands form the Highlands of Scotland.

The route starts just north of and passes through ever-changing landscapes of hills, lochs and mountains to reach the Highlands town of Fort William.

Many people take a week to enjoy walking the route or walk further each day to cover the miles in a four-day weekend. You could book a self-guided walking tour of the WHW.

Although it can be run in 13 hours 40 minutes if you are Rob Sinclair, the winner of the West Highland Way Race 2017.

Great Glen Way. Pic credit: Jim Barton

Great Glen Way

Distance: 79 miles.

Start: Fort William, Highlands.

Finish: Inverness, Highlands.

Why walk it? Another classic Scottish long-distance walk, the Great Glen Way is a superb trail that heads through fabulous Highlands scenery. The trail follows the major natural faultline of the Great Glen, which divides Scotland from coast to coast.

The average time taken to walk the route is seven to nine days. 

Speyside Way. Pic credit: Richard Doake

Speyside Way

Distance: 65 miles

Start: Buckie

Finish: Moray Firth

Why walk it? The Speyside Way offers a beautiful route from Buckie on the shore of the Moray Firth south–west to Aviemore in the Cairngorm National Park. There is also the option of a 15-mile spur to Tomintoul if you fancy an extra day of walking.

Speyside is famed for its rolling hills, mountains, the River Spey and many whisky distilleries.

Coastal view on the Kintyre Way. Pic credit: Johnny Durnan

The Kintyre Way

Distance: 100 miles.

Start: Tarbert, Argyll.

Finish: Machrihanish.

Why walk it? The route heads south on the rugged Kintyre Peninsula from the village of Tarbert on Loch Fyne to the sandy beach of Machrihanish Walkers on the Kintyre Way pass through a wide diversity of landscapes, taking in coastline, fishing villages, hills, moors and forestry. The route is split into seven walking days.

Signs on the Cateran Trail. Pic credit: Trish Steel

The Cateran Trail

Distance: 64 miles

Start/finish: Blairgowrie, Angus.

Why walk it? The scenic circular route is located in the heart of Scotland and takes around six days to complete. The Cateran Trail explores areas such as Strathardle, Glen Shee and Glen Isla.

The route name comes from the bands of cattle thieves known as Caterans, who travelled the lands in the 15th to 17th centuries.

Melrose Abbey on the Borders Abbeys Way. pic credit: Globaltraveller

Borders Abbeys Way

Distance: 65 miles.

Start/finish: Kelso.

Why walk it? The 65-mile walk through the beautiful and rolling landscape of the Scottish Borders visits four historic abbeys en route. The Borders Abbeys Way is a circular walk divided into five day-long sections and can be walked clockwise or anti-clockwise and started from any town, including Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick, Selkirk or Melrose.

Article published in the Sunday Mail. See pdf.

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