If you’re looking for the best Scottish hiking routes, we’ve done the legwork for you, putting together an essential guide to hiking in Scotland.
Read on to find trails with interesting routes, stunning views, and plenty to see along the way. Pack lots of snacks, bring clothing for every season, and keep a camera handy for all the beautiful photos.
The mountains in Scotland have always been a draw for long-distance walking, from the Scottish borders to the furthest highlands. It’s a well-known area for its scenery and hiking trails.
Many of the best hikes in Scotland are challenging, and you’ll find incredible views at every heart-racing turn. But there are plenty of trails available for those who just want a nice walk in beautiful surroundings.
What you need to know before hiking in Scotland
Walking is a great way of getting to know a new place. You’ll get a sense of scale for where you are, experience four seasons in one day, and enjoy varying terrain. The variety of walks in Scotland is a real pull, from romantic moorland to clifftop scrambles, and little villages here and there.
The trails are not always an easy stroll, so do your homework before you reach the start point, and work out which sections are most suited to you and your group.
Hardy hikers will welcome strenuous and challenging walks, while the more inexperienced may prefer low-level wanders or easy day routes.
There’s nothing like pulling off your boots and sitting down to a hearty meal after scaling the glens all day. Accommodation gets busy in the summer months, so make sure you book in advance.
If you’re travelling by train, the distance makes it well worth booking a sleeper. While you travel, you can sit back and read up on the trails.
Scotland’s most popular hiking routes
The Great Glen Way
This path follows a picturesque route from Fort William, in the foothills of Ben Nevis, to Inverness. It’s a 127 km walk along a geographical fault and takes in canal towpaths, forest tracks and roads. This hike is said to be suitable for all levels of walker and takes four to seven days to complete.
Nearest station: Fort William
Loch Ness 360 Trail
As the name suggests, this trail takes walkers on a 130 km circuit around the famous Loch. You may not spot the infamous monster, but an abundance of local scenery more than makes up for that. Expect to see waterfalls, a canal and the ruins of a castle.
Nearest station: Inverness
The Southern Upland Way
This long trail takes hikers coast to coast from west to east, past craggy cliffs, across rolling moorland and through lush forest. At roughly 344 km, the distance from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath is not for the faint-hearted.
In fact, much of the route is described as ‘challenging’. That said, some sections are fine for families and less experienced walkers.
Nearest stations: Stranraer, Dunbar, Sanquhar, Tweedbank
The West Highland Way
A well-known long-distance route, this 154 km trail can be split into sections and should take around five to seven days to complete. Bits of this well-marked route are challenging and the terrain is varied, with some rugged tracks involved.
Nearest station: Milngavie
The Rob Roy Way
This 127 km walk takes its name from the famous Scottish outlaw-turned folk-legend (1671-1734). It’s a relatively new route, established in 2002, that weaves through forests, disused railways, across moors and alongside cycle paths.
Walkers should take around six to eight days to complete it.
Nearest station: Dumbarton East
What guide to this area would be complete without mentioning the iconic mountain track? Two routes lead the way up the highest mountain in Scotland, part of the Grampian Mountain Range.
The Mountain Track is best for beginners, offering panoramic vistas to walkers as they zig-zag to the summit.
The other route, Carn Mor Dearg Arête, is a ridge climb for experienced hikers in peak fitness. Take it on and expect scrambles, along with a feeling of achievement.
Nearest station: Fort William
Hikes with Scottish landmarks
Scale this iconic ancient volcano, the highest point above Edinburgh, and enjoy views all over the city. The climb can be tough but the photo opportunities are worth it.
Isle of Harris
The wild Hebrides is known for having some of the most beautiful Scottish beaches. Take the opportunity to visit the Isle of Harris Distillery and Harris Tweed cloth company.
Isle of Skye
Combine a good walk with a visit to the Fairy Pools, quaint blue pools on the River Brittle. Skye offers beautiful photo opportunities and the chance for a bracing dip.
Moray Coast Trail
Passing through pretty fishing villages and along sandy beaches, keep your eye out for the Bow Fiddle Rock, a geographical sculpture just offshore, as well as more of Scotland’s stunning coast.
When’s the best time of year for hiking in Scotland?
Spring heralds new life, and the temperature starts to climb. You’ll still need lots of warm clothes, but the sun is trying hard to come out, and the days are a little longer. Seals are pupping at this time of year, so get your binoculars ready for sightings.
Summer comes to mind for walking in Scotland, but it’s also when the country is busier. And the summer months don’t just attract tourists: May to September is midge season. If your heart is set on the idea of a Scottish summer, make sure you pack strong midge-repellent and after-sting.
Autumn is the ideal time for Scottish hikes. You’ll need to bring multi-seasonal clothing as the climate will be changeable (as it is across all seasons, to be fair). Scotland’s pretty red deer love autumn too, so expect to meet a few en route.
Winter is fine for lowland walking when the crunch of snow underfoot earns warming whisky sessions by crackling fires.
Whatever time of year you plan to hike in Scotland, remember to let your hotel or hostel know that you’re off on a walk, the intended route, and rough timings.
Getting to Scotland’s best hikes by train
Scotland’s main stations include Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling. As an example, the journey from Plymouth to Edinburgh takes about 10 hours, so bring a good book or download your best podcasts.
The Avanti West Coast line goes to Glasgow and Edinburgh. From there, the Scottish railway system will connect you to the rest of Scotland.
Once in Scotland, you could hire a car and drive to car parks at the start of the walks. If you’re on an organised walking tour, you’ll most likely be collected at the train station and taken to your hotel, and then to the start of the routes every day.
Sleep the whole way
The land of Caledonia is a long way for many of us, especially if you live down south. For this reason, an overnight train to Scotland is a great option. A sleeper train gets you to your destination refreshed and ready to walk.
Does Scotland have good hiking?
Yes, Scotland is known for having some of the best hiking (or "hillwalking" as it's often called there) in the world. With its rugged landscapes, towering mountains, and jagged coastlines, hiking in Scotland offers a diverse range of experiences for all levels of skill and fitness.
What month is best to hike in Scotland?
The best time to hike in Scotland is probably from late spring (May) to early autumn (September). During these months, the weather is milder and the days are longer, offering more comfortable and safer conditions for hiking.
However, it's important to remember that Scotland's weather is pretty unpredictable and hikers should always be prepared for all types of weather.
What is the biggest hike in Scotland?
The biggest hike in Scotland is the Munros, a list of 282 mountains over 3,000 feet (914 metres) high. Hiking all of the Munros is a popular, but tough, challenge for experienced hikers. It takes a few years to complete.
What is the most famous walk in Scotland?
One of the most famous walks in Scotland is the West Highland Way. This is a 96-mile (154 km) trail that runs from Milngavie, near Glasgow, to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.
The route takes you through a variety of terrains, including forests, moors and mountains. Every part of the walk offers stunning views of Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor and Ben Nevis - the highest mountain in the UK.
What is the most scenic part of Scotland?
Scotland is rich in scenic areas. But the most popular include the Isle of Skye, the Cairngorms National Park, the North Coast 500 route, Glencoe, and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
Each of these places has idyllic landscapes and outdoor experiences, from high mountains and dramatic coastlines to serene lochs and green hills.