5 great wild trails to run in Scotland
Wild runners Jen and Sim Benson have come up with their five favourite trail runs in Scotland. The couple are the authors of the fully-updated second edition of Wild Running, which features 200 incredible routes around Britain.
Wild running in Scotland
Scotland is a paradise for runners, with a network of trails that take you on fantastic adventures through a wide variety of landscapes. From white sandy beaches edged by clear blue seas, to forest trails around silver lochs, to vast windswept moorland and rugged mountain ranges, there is a trail for all types of runners. Jen and Sim pick their five favourite wild trails to run in Scotland.
Buachaille Etive Beag run
Distance: 9 miles/14.5km
Ascent: 716 metres
Start/finish: Cnoc nam Bocan car park, west of PH49 4HY
Full route details: wildrunning.net/2182
Deep in dramatic Glencoe, the Lairig Gartain and Lairig Eilde trails encircle the long ridgeline of Buachaille Etive Beag, the little brother to its better-known neighbour, Buachaille Etive Mor.
Linking these two trails together creates one of the best low-level runs in this spectacular area, with outstanding views down Glen Etive.
The run follows a clockwise loop, heading straight into the glorious steep-sided Lairig Gartain and finishing down the Pass of Glencoe.
Ben Ledi run
Distance: 11 miles/17.5km
Ascent: 1142 metres
Start/finish: Callander, FK17 8BB
Full route details: wildrunning.net/2179
Rising to 760 metres above Loch Lubnaig and the town of Callander, Ben Ledi is the highest peak in the central part of the Trossachs. A beautiful mountain, set in picturesque surroundings, the winding path to the top is paved and relatively straightforward to follow, with non-stop glorious views.
The run starts in Callander, tracing a gentle section of the Rob Roy Way, a long-distance trail that runs for 92 miles between Drymen and Pitlochry.
Shortly after the Falls of Leny, the route heads upwards on a delightful trail through woodland, emerging on to open mountainside and continuing all the way to the summit. The return trip is by the same route, with a whole new set of views.
The Birks of Aberfeldy run
Distance: 3 miles/4.5km
Ascent: 320 metres
Start/finish: Aberfeldy Square, PH15 2DA
Full route details: wildrunning.net/2177
Immortalised in Rabbie Burns’ 1787 poem of the same name, the Birks of Aberfeldy is a densely-wooded area rising steeply from the Moness Burn with its fast-flowing waters and dramatic series of stepped waterfalls.
The run follows the popular loop of the cavernous gorge, climbing steeply to reach the bridge at the very top where awe-inspiring views await.
The descent is fast and fun, weaving through trees and over boardwalks and navigating rocky steps. It’s a magical place, whether you’re walking, running, or simply watching the mesmerising water flowing through the craggy landscape.
Loch an Eilein run
Distance: 5 miles/7.5km
Ascent: 208 metres
Start/finish: Loch an Eilein Gate car park, PH22 1QT
Full route details: wildrunning.net/2173
Loch an Eilein lies hidden deep within the ancient Caledonian pine forests of Rothiemurchus, which is acclaimed one of the finest remaining examples of a vast swathe of temperate rainforest that once covered much of this part of Scotland.
The route takes you through the forest that edges the silver waters of the loch, with its ruined 15th century castle and inviting shingle beach.
At the loch’s furthest end, a short detour leads around neighbouring Loch Gamhna, however this section can get muddy and is worth avoiding after heavy rain.
The final miles take you along the northern shore of Loch an Eilein, with great views of the castle-topped island. Look out for red squirrels as you go.
Glen Esk run
Distance: 10 miles/16km
Ascent: 731 metres
Start/finish: Invermark car park, DD9 7YZ
Full route details: wildrunning.net/2171
Glen Esk is the longest and most easterly glen in Angus, and Mount Keen, at its furthest point, is Scotland’s most easterly Munro.
For a truly wild run, head down the glen, first along the shores of Loch Lee and then climbing a rocky trail past tumbling waterfalls to emerge high on the open mountainside at Cairn Lick at 682 metres.
From here, there’s an exhilarating zig-zag descent all the way back to the valley floor and along Loch Lee, a perfectly peaceful stretch for a post-run dip.
About the authors
Jen & Sim Benson are runners, photographers and authors. As well as Wild Running ((£16.99, wildrunning.net), they have written The Adventurer’s Guide to Britain and Amazing Family Adventures. They are routes editors for Trail Running magazine, columnists for Outdoor Fitness magazine and regular contributors to Runner’s World, Trail and Country Walking magazines.