Where to go walking in Scotland
The geography of Scotland is diverse, laying out islands, mountains, lakes, forests, sandy beaches and moorlands. Most hiking holidays focus on one region only, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in the area on foot. There are a few long-distance paths to sink your boots into, too, including the Great Glen Way, which traces the Caledonian Canal for a while, and the West Highland Way, where you can climb Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the UK – as your last hurrah. We recommend sticking to trains and ferries for transport where you can. Rail lines conveniently connect both popular and remote hiking spots to cities, towns and ports, and ferries take you to the Scottish islands.
Our Scotland walking Holidays
The Cairngorms is the biggest national park in the UK. Five of the highest mountains in Scotland squat here, along with another 47 summits to climb, salmon streams to cross, and Caledonian pine forests to explore. You’ll share your paths with golden eagles, red deer, pine martens, mountain hares and the Scottish crossbill, one of the UK’s few endemic birds.
Great Glen Way
2. Great Glen Way
Follow the water along the Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness. You can walk it in a week, tracing 125km of footpaths that take you along the shores of three lochs (including Loch Ness), Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal, and past the foot of Ben Nevis, which at 1,345m is the highest mountain in the UK.
3. Inner Hebrides
Ferries carry hikers from the west coast ports to the neighbouring Inner Hebrides. Head over the sea (well… ocean, technically) to Skye, where you can walk rocky hills that drop straight down to seal and sea otter beaches. Scale Ben More on Mull, compare the eight whisky distilleries on tiny Islay (hic), or the bogs and hills of Jura – loved by golden eagles and hen harriers.
Knoydart is for the adventurous – you can only reach this isolated peninsula by boat or boot. Hikers based in the main village, Inverie, can alternate between leisurely walks through forests and along easy stone-walled tracks. Or you can head for the heights of the three 3,000m-plus Munros that give up views right over the Small Isles.
A 90-minute ferry trip off the north-east coast of Scotland, Orkney is a weather-beaten archipelago and stronghold of the Neolithic village Skara Brae and Viking burial tombs. The beaches turn sugar-white in the sunshine, and you can hike to the Old Man of Hoy (guarded by infamously protective great skua birds) and the Italian Chapel, which was built by prisoners of war in World War II.
West Highland Way
6. West Highland Way
Take a week out to walk the 154km-long West Highland Way. It’s best to start in the south, where the easier gradients of the bonny banks of Loch Lomond and Crianlarich Valley warm you up to the more challenging walks of remote Rannoch Moor and the Devil’s Staircase. Glen Nevis is the grand finale; add a day or two and you can climb the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, too.
If you'd like to chat about Scotland walking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Scotland walking holidays travel tips
David Kay, from our partner Ramblers Walking Holidays, says walking tours are a great way to see wildlife and avoid cruise crowds on Orkney.
“You won’t see much land-based wildlife, but the birdlife here is second to none. One of the specialist guides that we use is a top birdwatcher, and has led some amazing tours… You’ll possibly see whales… Porpoises are more common but you would need binoculars.”
Sunlight vs. Northern Lights
“Orkney in winter is pretty dismal as the days are so short. June, however, is ideal as there is very little darkness: sometimes just two hours. I also recommend Orkney in September, as there is the potential to see the Northern Lights.”
“When the big cruise ships are in, they can immediately double the population of Kirkwall. We coordinate closely with the bus company to ensure our groups get where they need to... In truth, though, they stick to the honeypot sites, and within a short walk you’re in a completely peaceful atmosphere again.”
Andy Bateman, guide and co-founder of our partner Scot Mountain Holidays, reveals his favourite places to hike in Scotland.
“The Cairngorms is God’s country... There are over 5,000 species of plant, animal and fungi in this area. There’s nowhere else in Britain terrestrially that can claim that. Wouldn’t even come close. I’m not saying that humans haven’t had a big influence on it – they have – but it is the largest area of least altered habitat we have in the UK.”
“I love Harris, where we’ll usually see half a dozen golden eagles. Mountain hare, grouse, snow bunting, red deer in some areas, otters and seals on the coast, buzzards... I grew up on David Attenborough documentaries and my passion is geology and nature conservation so, whether guests like knowing about it or not, they get it!”
Gordon Steer, Scotland specialist at our partner World Expeditions, recommends walking the Great Glen Way via local accommodation.
Hiking a classic
“The Great Glen Way is really about completing a classic historical journey, point to point, from Fort William to Inverness, the two most well-known towns in the Highlands, through some wonderful countryside. There are many highlights, but the lock system is a pretty special feat of engineering that I find really interesting.”
“We use guest houses and B&Bs owned by local people wherever possible. In some places, they’re pretty much the only option anyway. You get a sense of being at one with the area that you don’t from staying in some big swanky hotel where you could be anywhere in the world.”
More about Scotland walking
Our walking holidays in Scotland explore legends like the West Highland Way, plus rare Caledonian forest and Highlands and islands off the well-trod trail.
Our best walks in Scotland range from island adventures in the Orkney archipelago to long-distance hikes along the West Highland Way.
Walking holidays in the Cairngorms range from self guided hikes to glamping with ponies. Find out how to explore this corner of the Highlands.
Learn about Scotland’s right to roam, how to dig a snow hole, and why summer isn't always best in our guide to walking holidays in the Highlands.
Self guided walking holidays in Scotland are treasure hunts. There are indeed crystals in them hills – but read on to discover more valuable gems.