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What are the best walking trails in Scotland?

Written by Fiona

July 02 2021

Scotland’s offers a vast network of trails and paths whether you’re a walker, biker, runner or on horseback. Many of the paths are also way marked and if they are not, you’ll find routes detailed on walking websites and in plentiful books.

The routes can be used without restrictions and as long as you behave responsibly, according to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Many of the walking routes are suitable for short breaks and start-to-finish journeys, with lengths ranging from a few miles to hundreds of miles. Few locations can rival Scotland’s variety of spectacular landscapes in one small country and also offer great road and public transport options with plenty of great local facilities and amenities, too.

The scenery in Scotland is world acclaimed and ranges from stunning sandy beaches, towering cliff tops and old fishing villages, to majestic mountains, rolling hills, atmospheric forests and mellow woodlands.

As the saying goes, there is something for everyone and what better way to have fun this summer. Here are some of the best trails for you to explore.

The Annandale Way.
The Annandale Way. Credit: Oliver Dixon

Annandale Way

This trail in southern Scotland follows the River Annan from its source near the Devil’s Beef Tub to the Solway Firth. The trail begins with a 14-mile/22.5-kilometre round to the north of Moffat. It then proceeds south, splitting into two streams 15 miles south of Moffat near Corncockle Wood.

A more difficult route continues south via Lochmaben, while a less demanding way continues south through Lockerbie. The two paths diverge for around 12 miles (19 kilometres) before reuniting just north of Hoddom Bridge to continue to Annan, near the Newbie Barns.

The only segment north of Moffat with significant height gain (reaching 500 m/1640 ft) is the circuit north of Moffat. With only a slight hill south of Moffat and a more significant climb to Joe Graham’s memorial (217 m/710 ft), the later sections are generally low-lying and flattish.

Waymarking usually is adequate, however, if walking in cloud, you’ll need some navigation skills on the hillside approaching Joe Graham’s memorial.

The Old Man of Hoy. Credit: Dave Wheeler

Island of Hoy

Take a boat to the island of Hoy, which is part of the Orkney archipelago off Scotland’s north coast, and walk over some of the country’s highest sea cliffs before seeing the Old Man of Hoy, an iconic red sandstone sea stack.

This famous walk leads uphill from Rackwick over a well-defined, easy-to-follow coastal road to the Old Man, which is UK’s tallest sea stack rising to a height of 450ft out of the windy Atlantic Ocean.

On a very clear day, you can see as far as Cape Wrath on Scotland’s northwest coast from the cliffs. The round-trip takes about three hours if you return the same way.

Start of the West Highland Way at Milngavie.

West Highland Way

The 96-mile West Highland Way, which begins in Milngavie and ends in Fort William’s Gordon Square, is a hugely popular long-distance route.

It is the original long-distance way marked route in Scotland and visited by tens of thousands off walkers, runners and cyclists annually.

Heading north from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, the trail goes through Mugdock Country Park, along the shore of Loch Lomond, below the mountain of Ben Lomond, across Rannoch Moor, in view of the mountain of Buachaille Etive Mor, via Glencoe, up the Devil’s Staircase, to remote Kinlochleven and on to the outdoors town of Fort William.

Note that camping restrictions apply in the East Loch Lomond area between March 1 and October 31. There are permits for campers. You must adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code if you intend to go wild camping.

seven hills run edinburgh
Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Arthur’s Seat

This dormant volcano, located within Holyrood Park, towers over the capital city of Edinburgh. There are several ways to the summit, such as a three-mile (4.75km) hill walk with a bit of a rocky clamber to the summit that is well worth it for the city views.

Arthur’s Seat is just one of Edinburgh’s seven prominent hills (the others are Calton Hill, Castle Hill, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Blackford Hill, and the Braid Hills), all of which take less than two hours to accomplish. So put on some comfortable footwear and go for a walk in Edinburgh.

The Last Valley, Glen Coe.

The Lost Valley

When you arrive in the Highlands area of Glen Coe, you’ll understand why the beautiful green valley and trio of mountains – the Three Sisters – were chosen as filming sites for well-known films.

The region may look familiar if you’ve seen James Bond: Skyfall or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

You can hike to the Lost Valley, also known as “Coire Gabhail,” to immerse yourself in this unique scenery. The vista of the Three Sisters from the parking lot here is stunning even before you start your hike. You’ll pass through heather-covered slopes, lovely birch trees and a rugged valley created by the River Coe on this walk. Once you’ve completed your ascent and arrived in the Lost Valley, take a moment to relax and take in the tranquil surroundings.

In Scotland, you can walk almost anywhere. Except for private gardens and land used for raising crops, virtually all Scottish land is open to you. According to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, you have the right to explore Scotland’s landscapes on foot or by bike. This means you have unrestricted access to Scotland’s stunning nature reserves, hills, forests, moorlands, and beaches. Of course, you must constantly respect the environment and the rights of others as part of the code.

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