20 of the Best Long Distance Walks in Scotland
The Great Glen Way
Stretching across 79 miles, you can take to the Great Glen Way by foot, by bike or even by boat. The pathway is perhaps the most famous long-distance track in the country and runs concurrently with the Great Glen Canoe Trail – a long-distance path for canoers and rafters. Covering path, loch, canal and track – you can cross it regardless of your chosen transport. The path follows the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness and was designated one of Scotland’s Great Trails by NatureScot. If you’re looking to walk, the route generally takes between 5-7 days to complete. If you do – you’ll be a part of almost 5,000 people who have successfully completed the trail.
Cape Wrath Trail
This one is not for the faint-hearted. Crossing over 200 miles of the Scottish Highlands, the Cape Wrath Trail is considered one of the most difficult long-distance trails in the UK. Taking around 20 days to cross in its entirety, the landscape around the trail is wild, but incredibly beautiful, making the long trek more than worth it. Follow along the Northwest Coast of Scotland, beginning in Fort William and ending up in its namesake, Cape Wrath.
The John O’Groats Trail
Ending in the most north-eastern part of Great Britain, the John O’Groats Trail crosses along the shorelines and cliffsides of the Scottish Highlands. Beginning in Inverness, the trail remains a work in progress, though is crossed by many experienced and local walkers as much of the coastal route is a popular spot for casual strollers. The trek can be particularly tricky and remote, so walkers with less experience are encouraged to pick some of the more popular sections rather than attempt the entire trail. Crossing 147 miles of land, it’s estimated the trail would take around two weeks to complete for an experienced walker tackling one of the 14 stages per day.
Rob Roy Way
Officially created in 2002, the Rob Roy Way gets its name from the Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor – an outlaw in the early 18th century. The 79-mile trail crosses countryside paths MacGregor often used himself, stretching from Drymen to Pitlochry in Perthshire. It also crosses the Highland Boundary Fault, where the Scottish Lowlands meet the Highlands. Following along the River Tay, the trail was designated as one of Scotland’s Great Trails in 2012 and is visited by around 3,000 people each year. If you’re lucky, you’ll be one of the 450 people who complete the entire trail annually.
The Hebridean Way
Not content with staying on one piece of land? Welcome to the Hebridean Way, spanning nearly two hundred miles across ten different Scottish islands. You’ll cross the Atlantic coastline, beginning in Vatersay and travelling up to the Butt of Lewis, either on foot or by bike. The landscape is diverse and awe-inspiring – you’ll want to stop and take the majesty of each island in as you pass through. There are two separate routes that make up the Way – one for walking and one for cycling.
Across 85 miles in the Speyside Way, a long-distance walk that crosses the Scottish Highlands. Beginning in Buckie and ending in Newtonmore, the trail follows along the River Spey and was first opened to adventurous walkers in the 1980s and extended in 2000. One of only four official Long Distance Routes in the country, you’ll travel along the coastline and the edges of the Grampian Mountains. Just under 3,000 people manage to complete the walk in its entirety a year – and the route is also used as the location for the Speyside Way Ultramarathon, which lasts for thirty-six miles.
West Highland Way
Beginning just outside of Glasgow and crossing up to Fort William in the Highlands, the West Highland Way is another of Scotland’s four Great Trails. At 96 miles long, the route passes by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the area – including passing Glen Coe and Ben Nevis – and is full of local wildlife, including red deer, feral goats and even golden eagles. Particularly popular, over 35,000 people tend to complete the route each year.
The Skye Trail
Though not an ‘official’ route for walkers and one of the least travelled, the Skye Trail is something of a best-kept secret among expert trekkers. The route is particularly challenging – there are no official markers for a route and the path often disappears for stretches at a time – but crossing the beautiful Isle of Skye is more than worth it for the hikers who do follow the coastal cliffs. The trail begins in Rubha Hunish and crosses down the length of the island to Broadford. Much of the trail is isolated and remote – so it’s only really for experienced hill climbers.
Southern Upland Way
Ready to cross coast to coast? Get on the Southern Upland Way, Scotland’s only long-distance route that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea. Found in the Southernmost part of Scotland – close to the English border – the trail is 214 miles long, from Portpatrick in the west to Cockburnspath in the east. Considered one of the most difficult of the Great Trails, the area is nonetheless popular not just for walkers, but for mountain bikers – and even for horse riders looking for a challenge.
The Annandale Way
At just 56 miles, the Annandale Way might be one of the shortest long distances on our list – but it’s still one of the most popular. Strong walkers can cross this trail in four or five days, beginning at the delightfully named Devil’s Beef Tub and following all the way up to the Soloway Firth, where the river empties out. The trail is perhaps best known for its historical connections, particularly to Robert the Bruce and Scotland’s extensive and storied medieval history.
There is a large car park and the main trail to Tappie Tower is 4 miles. This trail has good clear paths the whole way up and gives you great views over to the North Sea and Bennachie. Tappie Tower is a fun little 19th Centaury tower that children will enjoy climbing!
Borders Abbeys Way
First established in 2006, the Borders Abbeys Way will take you on a fully circular route around the countryside of the Scottish Borders. Around 64 miles in length, the walk is considered by many to be something of a pilgrimage walk – early Christians are believed to have walked a similar path towards the Border Abbeys. You’ll even be able to see some of the famous Abbeys that are now ruined along the pathways, including Kelso, Jedburgh and Melrose.
St Cuthbert’s Way
Sixty-two miles of long-distance walking separates the towns of Melrose and Lindisfarne in the Scottish Borders – home to St Cuthbert’s Way. Much like the Borders Abbeys Way, the route is seen by some as a pilgrimage route. St Cuthbert – the patron saint of Northumbria in England – began his religious life in the nearby Melrose Abbey and the trail dips in and out of both Scotland and England as you follow it. Full of gorgeous scenery, the route can be completed in around 4-6 days, depending on your ability.
Berwickshire Coastal Path
Just 30 miles long, the Berwickshire Coastal Path follows the coastline along the east of Scotland, from Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders down to Berwick upon Tweed, in England just across the border. Because of the bounty of local animals and wildlife, the area is a designated Special Protection Area because of its international importance to seabirds. A strong walker can complete the trail in around two days.
Ayrshire Coastal Path
Crossing one hundred miles of panoramic coastline, the Ayrshire Coastal Path hugs the Atlantic Ocean and is considered one of the more accessible trails in the area thanks to the path’s proximity to the beach. Also forming part of the International Appalachian Trail, the path is most popular with walkers – though some horse riders have also been known to take on the walk. The path begins in Glenapp, moving across many small villages until it reaches Skelmorlie, further North.
The Fife Coastal Path
Running from Kincardine to Newburgh, you can follow along the Fife Coastline and experience the majesty of the Scottish seaside. At 116 miles, it can take anywhere between a week to ten days to walk in its entirety and is visited each year by around 500,000 visitors who climb all or parts of the trail. It crosses through many seaside towns and villages – including the famous St Andrews – and is also home to many historical landmarks, like Macduff’s and Aberdour Castle. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a glimpse of some dolphins and puffins along the coastline as you walk.
The Cateran Trail
Trailing through Perthshire and Angus, this beautiful circuit walkway will take you through some of the most scenic areas in Scotland. Spanning 64 miles, the trail is unique in that there’s no official ‘beginning’ – walkers can join the trail at any point and follow it around until they reach their own start point. However, walkers tend to start in the town of Blairgowrie. The terrain can vary from farmland to mountain ranges to forest but is very accessible for less experienced walkers who may choose to complete the trail in small sections.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit New Lanark, one of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you can trek along the Clyde Walkway and end up in the iconic landmark after 40 miles of scenic walking. Beginning in Glasgow, the pathway is most often used by walkers and mountain bikers, running alongside the River Clyde. On your walk, you’ll wander through the Clyde Valley Nature Reserve and experience the majesty of the Falls of Clyde – and even get some city centre walking as you explore the centre of Glasgow! Even though public transport links are excellent in some parts, you’ll certainly want to invest in a good pair of walking boots when taking some of the more remote terrains.
The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way
Formerly known as the Cowal Way, this long-distance trail in Argyll and Bute was renamed in 2018 thanks to its close proximity to the famous Loch Lomond. The trail was first established in 2000 and is considered one of Scotland’s Great Trails, with walkers coming from all over the world to cross the trail. Some even regard it as one of the best trails to walk in Scotland! Crossing the Highlands, the trail is known to encapsulate the beauty of Scottish nature in just 57 miles – beginning in Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula and ending in Inveruglas, near the Loch.
At 24 miles, the Dava Way is the shortest long-distance trek on our list – but it’s by no means the least spectacular. The pathway was built to follow alongside the now disused Highland Railway, from the town of Grantown-on-Spey near the Cairngorms to Forres, a town on the Moray Coast. The pathway winds along through the countryside, following farm and moorland across Northeast Scotland. As you walk, you’ll also be able to take in the beautiful Cairngorm Mountains and the Cromdale Hills to the South. The trail is suitable for both walkers and bikers and adjoins other routes that can extend – or indeed, decrease – the amount of time that you spend walking.