Big Trips · Day Trips · Scotland · Travel

5 of Scotland’s Best Hiking Trails

For the people who love hiking, then Scotland is pretty much a hiker’s dream. There are so many hiking trails in Scotland and each is more beautiful from the next. Thanks to its stunning lochs and rugged mountains, this evergreen land has long been a favourite destination for people seeking their next adventure.

There are trails out there that suit everyone, you don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy the great outdoors. From one-day walks and family trips to epic adventures you can have the perfect trip for you planned within a day easily. So get those maps out and start thinking about where you want to go next.

The good news with Scotland and its network of hiking trails, is that it makes it possible for every trekker to explore the country’s unspoiled wilderness, without compromising their safety.

But be warned, it’s important to remember that Scotland’s terrain can be unforgiving at times, and the weather can be unpredictable. Make sure you pack all the essentials, be prepared, and be as safe as possible. Just have some common sense about all these things, you don’t want to overlook something that could have been easily avoided.

Walking can create wonderful memories, even just getting out of the house is a positive (literally walking during lockdown has been a huge help). But it doesn’t matter if you’re planning your next physical challenge, or just want a relaxing walking trip, the following hiking trails can suit every different fitness levels.

So make sure to pack your waterproofs, put on your walking boots, stock up on the midge repellents and take a walk along some of the most impressive landscapes in Scotland!

Balmacara Woods: A Fairy Tale Walk

The forest surrounding the tiny village of Balmacara. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

The best thing to do for a bit of peace and quiet is to stroll through some woods. If you are interested in a pleasant stroll with your family and friends, and maybe fancy a picnic at the end of it, then Balmacara Woods is the ideal trail for this. You’ll easily find walks among the varied trees and will have gorgeous views of the hillside above the woods.

This is a place of fairy tales, soaring over the banks of Loch Alsh, the lush green forest makes for an unforgettable trip. This is a nice easy trip that you can make, the path that cuts through the forest is safe and clear, and if you’re lucky you might spot some deer (just remember to be quiet if you do)!

There are some great walks along here, you can take the Tree-Spotter trail to explore the varied woodland, or venture further for some amazing views.

It’s not just the trails that you can enjoy here, these woods have some great history behind them. During World War II, tiny Balmacara played an important role in defending Scotland’s skies. If you decide to make your way up to the top, you’ll reach the site of a World War II gun battery, which protected the military camp and port at Loch Alsh from air attack by German planes. You’ll also see some spectacular views of Loch Alsh, Kintail and the Isle of Skye.

From Balmacara you can follow the path that takes you to the gorgeous seaside village of Kyle of Lochalsch. You’ll come across a few bogs along the way, and swarms of midges on still days, but it’s an easy walk with great vistas of the Isle of Skye.

The Old Man of Storr: The Most Famous Walk on the Isle of Skye

The Old Man of Storr. Photo courtesy of Federica Violin via Shutterstock

This is probably the most famous walk on the Isle of Skye and possible the most beautiful part. The Storr is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high and can be seen for miles around. It is a place that is one of the most photographed landscape in the world. But there is one little downfall with this place of beauty – it does get a little bit busy (understandably though)!

You won’t be the only person on this beaten track, but the good news is that the views make up for it. You will get unmatched views of the island and mainland Scotland, which basically just means that this is a place you need to put on your bucket list!

The walk uses the same path up and down, starting & returning at the same point (the carpark). It covers a distance of 3.8km, with the average time to complete the walk being 1 hour 15 minutes (with no stops). The gravel path is well maintained, but it does involve some steep uphill walks that take about twenty minutes before levelling out.

You better make sure you’re wearing the right foot wear as well, and you should probably be prepared to trudge through some deep bogs. The last part of the walk does require some strenuous effort and a little bit of scrambling. It’s manageable, but if you go up on a wet day it might be a bit of challenge. But that’s what makes it’s fun.

Plus once you get to the foot of the Old Man, all those challenges will be worth it, and you’ll get a well deserved break in the presence of one of the most beautiful sights in Scotland.

Glenfinnan Viaduct: A Magical Place to Explore

Glennfinnan Viaduct. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

If you think that this photo looks familiar then there is a very good reason for that! Glenfinnan Viaduct rose to worldwide fame when it appeared in the Harry Potter films (Scotland has a lot of Harry Potter locations as well – you can check the Magical World of Harry Potter here).  If you happen to be there in the summer months you can actually get on a steam locomotive named The Jacobite. Make sure to sit on the left side of the train to enjoy a panoramic view of Loch Shiel and the surrounding hills.

This area offers interesting walks, which gives some great views of the Glenfinnan monument, Loch Shiel and the surrounding hills and crags. You’ll pass through a range of habitat types, including woodland, heath and a bog. Because of all of this, you can look out for otters and dippers in the rivers, black throated diver on Loch Shiel and red deer and raptors, including golden eagle, on the hills and crags.

This is an easy enough place to walk around, as the route is marked by wooden posts, but the path can be a little bit indistinctive in some places (particularly near the start). Although this walk is relatively easy, it is best to be done during the fine weather (preferably after a dry spell). When the weather is less favourable it should only be done by an experienced hill walker.

Ben Nevis: The Highest Mountain in the UK

The view halfway up Ben Nevis. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

Ben Nevis is one walk you cannot miss. Being the highest mountain in the United Kingdom at 1,344 meters (4,409 feet) above sea level, Ben Nevis is the ultimate walking challenge when you’re in Scotland. And it is something that you must do at some point in your life if you are a walking fanatic.

It’s not as tough as some of the others walks, in fact the walk up to the summit does not need to have any clambering to the top at all. The path is clear, and depending on the weather and the number of breaks you need, the ascent should only take between 3-5 hours.

This is a walk that is labelled as “child-friendly” but it can be rather exhausting at times. But that’s just the norm with any walk. With the walk up Ben Nevis, you don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer or trekker to complete the walk, but it does help if you are physically prepared for it.

Ben Nevis is certainly one that tops them all, and has been described as the king of them all, and even attracts up to 125k walkers every year. Whether you’re an avid ambler or you just love beautiful landscapes, bagging ‘the Ben’ is likely to feature near the top of your Scottish bucket list.

Sligachan to Glen Brittle

The Fairy Pools. Photo courtesy of Daniela Frendo

If you’re looking for an adventure then this is the walk for you. It’s a long one, but only around 8 miles so definitely do-able (although the milage depends on the route you take). But this is a walk that you definitely want to extend, so don’t cut any corners, as you’ll want to walk through the spectucular Cuillin Mountains, and then be rewarded by the Fairy Pools at the end of your walk – an incredible majestic site on the Isle of Skye!

This is a fairly easy walk if you start in Sligachan. It will probably only take you about three hours (unless you want to stop every five minutes and take in the incredible views). The trail that you will be following runs along a stream that is marked by some beautiful waterfalls. So it’s pretty clear where you need to go.

If you’re feeling adventurous though then why not go and dip in the (freezing) crystal blue water of the pools! Just make sure you have a towel before you jump in, otherwise you’ll end up freezing! Doing something like this definitely makes a difference, and it’s not something that you’ll forget.

So there you have it, 5 amazing walks that you can take in Scotland. Of course, there are several hundred more not mentioned here, but these are probably the more “family friendly” ones. But I’d love to know from you if there are any walks that you’ve done which have been incredible? Don’t forget that if you are planning to stay in Scotland then you should also make sure to check out these historic places that you can stay in! Unless you fancy camping… that’s always an option in Scotland!

Have I missed anywhere? Or where was your favourite place to walk in Scotland? Let me know in the comments 😀

31 thoughts on “5 of Scotland’s Best Hiking Trails

  1. I never went on a hike, but wow! Just from the picture I wish to be there, I am glad you included hikes that everyone can do! The Balmacara woods look absolutely amazing as well as the Isle of Skye and the glen! Thank you for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s always good to include something for everyone, and I think at this point now people are just dreaming of where they’ll be going once things go back to normal (hopefully soon). I know I can’t wait to explore places like this in the future!


  2. Just last night we watched an episode of Grand Designs from the Isle of Skye! Through the entire show, my husband and I kept saying “we have got to go to Scotland”. I would love spend an entire summer exploring the UK. Pinning this for future travel plans!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How funny! I think I’ve actually got that episode recorded for a rainy day haha! You definitely must go to Scotland though, and the summer would be perfect. Here’s hoping that travel can become normally soon, although we’ll see what happens!


  3. I fell in love with Scotland when I went to Edinburgh as a college student but we didn’t get to explore the countryside. These hikes are gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a shame that we haven’t been able to travel due to covid! There are so many places that are just waiting to be explored, and these hiking trails in Scotland are certainly worth a visit when you next can – hopefully things become safer soon!

      Liked by 1 person

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