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5 of the best – and quieter – long-distance walking trails in Scotland

Written by Fiona

February 02 2021

West Island Way, on the Isle of Bute

Scotland is acclaimed as a top destination for walkers and many come to hike the most famous trails, including the West Highland Way, The Great Glen Way and the Fife Coastal path. But did you know there are 29 routes with a total distance of more than 1900 miles that are  known collectively as Scotland’s Great Trails?

Among these routes are those that are far less walked – and therefore a great find if you want to explore Scotland on foot away from the crowds.

To qualify as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, they must be waymarked and largely off-road. They offer the chance for multi-day walking trips, as well as day trips on shorter sections.

The stable of well-managed paths range geographically from the Borders to the Highlands and offer opportunities to enjoy the best of Scotland’s nature and landscape, as well as experiencing history and culture.

Five less walked Great Scottish Trails

View from the Annandale Way. Credit: Scothill
Stone set into a cairn on the Annandale Way. Credit: Scothill

Annandale Way

One of the source-to-sea walking trails in Scotland, the Annandale Way in Dumfries & Galloway is a 56-mile (90km) walking route that starts in the hills above Moffat and follows the River Annan to the Solway Estuary at Annan.

The wide mix of landscape, from rolling hills and the dramatic dip of land known as the Devil’s Beef Tub, woodland, moorland, rivers and stunning see views. There is plenty of fauna and flora to enjoy and lots of historical landmarks such as standing stones, castles, towers and mansions.

Suggested time: 4 to 5 days

Further details including accommodation and baggage transfer at annandaleway.org.

West Island Way

The 29-mile (46km) West Island Way forms a loose figure-of-eight route on the Island of Bute, starting and finishing in the main port town of Rothesay. The waymarked trail takes in a variety of continually changing terrain and views, from coast to wild moorlands and from farmland to forest. 

The route offers great opportunities to see wildlife on land and sea. You might even spot basking sharks offshore at the south of the island and osprey above Loch Fad, near Rothesay.

Other highlights are gems of Bute history, including St Blane’s Chapel, dating from medieval times, and abandoned townships in Glen More.

Suggested time: Two full-day walks or four half-day walks.

Further details: www.westislandway.co.uk

The Dava Way. Credit: Anne Burgess
Sign on the Dava Way. Credit:Dorothy Carse

The Dava Way

The Dava Way path links the historic towns of Forres in Moray and Grantown-on-Spey in Highland. 

The off-road 24-mile (38km) route, half of which is amid open countryside, mostly follows the old Highland Railway line.

From the Moray Firth, the walk heads from sea level to Dava summit at 1050ft (320m) before descending into Strathspey. Walkers enjoy a mix of woodland, moorland and farmland as well as lovely see views.

Suggested time: Fit walkers could do the route in a day, or it can be split into two or three stages.

Further details: www.davaway.org.uk

View of Loch Katrine.
Loch Lomond.

The Great Trossachs Path 

Located at the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, The Great Trossachs Path extends to 30 miles (48km).

The path starts at Inversnaid on the shore of Loch Lomond and journeys via Trossachs Pier at Loch Katrine to Callander in Stirlingshire. Walkers can travel further on foot by linking with the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way.

Beautiful vistas, as well as wildlife, are enjoyed as you walk through the famous Trossachs landscape of hills, lochs and woodlands.  There are a number of historical landmarks, including a military Garrison, an Iron Age fort and the birthplace of Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish outlaw, who later became a folk hero.

Suggested time: 2 days.

Further details: thegreattrossachsforest.co.uk/great-trossachs-path/what-is-the-great-trossachs-path/

The Kintyre Way. Credit: Johnny Durnan
East Loch Tarbert from the Kintyre Way. Credit: Johnny Durnan

The Kintyre Way

The Kintyre Way travels 100 miles (160km) along the length of the Kintyre peninsula, a long leg of land on the west coast of Scotland. It starts in the village of Tarbert on the shore of East Loch Tarbert, which is an inlet of larger Loch Fyne.

The finish point is Machrihanish in the south, where walkers will be wowed by breath-taking beaches and turquoise seas.

The waymarked route passes over hills and moorland, through forests and along a fabulous coastline with a series of pretty fishing villages. The vistas are impressive, especially the many islands such as Islay, Jura, Arran and Gigha.

Suggested time: 7 days

Further details: www.walkhighlands.co.uk/argyll/kintyre-way.shtml

For more information on Scotland’s great Trails see: www.nature.scot/enjoying-outdoors/routes-explore/scotlands-great-trails/.

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