The best hikes in Scotland: an inspiring list
Scotland is definitely one of world’s prime hiking destinations. It may rain a lot, but as soon as the sun starts to shine and the clouds disappear, hiking in Scotland is simply wonderful. It has been a few years since I was on a walking holiday in Scotland and so it’s about time I share my best hikes in Scotland with you. I traveled for two weeks with my tent and my own car through Scotland, of which one week in the snow and the rain, but fortunately also a week in relatively sunny spring weather.
Popular in Scotland is the so-called ‘Munro bagging’. Munros are mountains that are higher than 3.000 feet (914.4 meters) and there is a total of 282 Munro’s in Scotland. Avid hikers make it a sport to climb all the Munros of Scotland. Below I have described some easier Munros to climb, but there are certainly also Munros that are more difficult to climb. The altitude of the mountain certainly does not say everything about the difficulty of the climb, the popularity all the more.
Lost Valley, Glen Coe
My favorite short hike in Scotland is definitely the Lost Valley hike near Glencoe. As the name suggests, the hike takes you to a hidden valley that you cannot see from the road. After you have climbed for an hour, the valley suddenly reveals itself and you have a beautiful panoramic view until very far in the distance. If you have enough time, you can also walk into the valley, depending on how fit you are. The hike is not very technical but sometimes requires quite some scrambling. The trail can be slippery, especially when it has rained so take care in wet conditions!
Duration of the hike: 2.5 to 3 hrs
Distance: 4 kilometer
This hike is also on my list of best hikes in Europe by the way!
A day on the West Highland Way: from Kinlochleven to Fort William
If you don’t want to do the entire West Highland Way, a day hike from Kinlochleven to Fort William is a great opportunity to get to know this iconic trek in Scotland. The length of this day stage is 24 kilometers and although the distance is long, the trail is nowhere really difficult. The easiest way is to take the bus from Fort William to Kinlochleven (the timetable can be found here) and then hike back to Fort William. The majority of this hike takes you along a wide path, between the sheep and abandoned barns. And once in a while you may even have a view of the Ben Nevis, which is covered with a thick layer of snow that early in the season when I’m visiting.
Duration of the hike: 7-8 hrs
Distance: 27 kilometer
Climbing Ben Nevis
Climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain, is of course a must if the weather is good enough. The climb is not very difficult, but can potentially be dangerous if there is still snow on the track. And there was quite a bit when I was there, in retrospect I would have felt safer with mini crampons, but unfortunately I didn’t bring those with me. Only make the climb on a day when there is no cloud cover and preferably no rain. The path is clearly marked and is nowhere really technical, but weather conditions can make navigation difficult.
Duration of the hike: 7-9 uur
Distance: 17 kilometer
To the top of Ben Lomond
Another ‘Ben’ that you can easily climb is the Ben Lomond. This 925 meter high Munro is located about 50 kilometers north of Glasgow and is one of the most popular mountains to climb. The trailhead can be found in Rowardennan and the trail is nowhere really difficult, although you do climb quite a bit. I started my climb of Ben Lomond just after sunrise to stay ahead of the crowds and was the first to arrive at the top. On the way back it was already very busy: getting up early is definitely worth it!
Duration of the hike: 4.5 – 5 hrs
Distance: 12 kilometer
The Eildon Hills are three characteristic mountains near the cute little town of Melrose. From the village you can follow a not too difficult path to the top of the mountains from where you have a beautiful view over the surrounding area. I did this walk after arriving by ferry when I was on my way to Scotland. A great way to stretch your legs and get familiarized with the landscape of this part of Scotland.
Duration of the hike: 3-4 uur
Distance: 9.25 kilometer
Buachaille Etive Beag
Try to say that name without stuttering! The Buachaille Etive Beag is a 958 meter high Munro in the Highlands that can also be climbed without technical parts. You can climb it together with Stob Coire Raineach, the opposite mountain, so you can do two Munros in one trip. And the best thing is: unlike the hikes to the top of Ben Nevis and Ben Lomond, you hardly encounter anyone else here, so this hike is highly recommended!
Duration of the hike: 5-6 hrs
Distance: 8 kilometer
This is a two-day trek in Scotland to the Glen Affric Youth Hostel , a hostel that can only be reached on foot or by mountain bike. There are different approach routes, I did this hike from Morvich where I parked the car and walked to the Youth Hostel. The trail is relatively easy, you occasionally cross a stream or a waterfall, but in general the experienced hikers have little difficulty with this. You need to reserve the hostel online in advance and the route is part of The Affric / Kintail Way.
Duration of the hike: 2 days
Distance: about 30 kilometer, depending on your starting point
Tips for hiking in Scotland
Hiking in Scotland is an absolute must if you go that way, but there is a number of things to keep in mind. I’ll the most important things to consider below:
– Take into account the mosquitoes (midges) that are there from around mid / late May and that can be extremely annoying, especially in areas with water. I traveled in May and had an enormous amount of midges on the campsites where I spent the last days of my trip and sometimes made my stay less enjoyable. The midges were also one of the main reasons why I decided to travel in May instead of in the middle of summer.
– There is often snow on the peaks until mid-June, especially in the highlands. If you want to climb Munros, it is advisable to take mini crampons with you in your backpack. In the winter, regular crampons and an ice ax are a must on your hiking trips.
– Take all weather conditions into consideration during your hike: you can experience four seasons in one day. Or during one vacation, as happened to me. I visited the Cairngorms where skiing was still taking place in May, Loch Ness where I couldn’t see because of the horizontal rain and the Scottish Highlands where I often had beautiful weather. A good raincoat and pants, waterproof shoes and a backpack with rain cover are therefore indispensable.
Conclusion of the best hikes in Scotland
Hopefully with this article I inspired you to go hiking in Scotland. Despite the midges and the rain it is really very worthwhile, especially if you like empty and rugged landscapes just like me! Want to read more? Then make sure to check my list with best day hikes in the world!