Scotland is famous for a lot of things. But, when it comes to hiking, Scotland has it all. There are hundreds of different trails ranging from easy – technical, to suit anyone’s standards, and they take you through some of the most stunning scenes Europe has to offer. From the highlands on the mainland to the rugged northern coastline and the western islands, there is so much to discover and explore, that once you go, you might have to return every year.
Whether its summits, valleys, lochs and rolling hills you’re after or booming rivers, forests, and white-sand beaches, you have your pick in Scotland.
The hikes in Scotland are some of the best in the world. A lot of them are easily accessible via public transport and others a bit further out of the way. We would recommend having a car for your hiking trip as this will make your days a lot easier, plus you’ll be able to get to hikes that are a bit further afield.
In this article, we outline some of the best hikes in Scotland, covering both the mainland and the western islands. They range in difficulty and include some of the most famous scenery that Scotland has to offer.
Scotland, unlike England or Wales, has a program called Wild Camping that is governed by the Outdoor Access Code. This code states that anyone has the right to access any land in Scotland and camp there as long as they do so following the rules. The exceptions are private gardens, near dwellings, and land that is being farmed. You’re also not allowed to fish and shoot anywhere and will have to buy permits to fish or shoot in specific areas.
This means that Scotland is open to being a hiker’s paradise. You can start walking with your tent and just keep on going for as long as you like, camping wherever suits you.
The Quiraing Viewpoint hike is full of history and incredible vistas. Found on the Isle Of Skye, one of Scotlands most iconic islands, it passes through some of the most stunning landscapes Scotland has to offer.
It starts at a car park, like most Scottish hikes, and takes you through a huge landslip called the Trotternish ridge. You’ll walk past high cliffs, hidden plateaus, valleys, and pinnacles to give you some of the best views Scotland has to offer.
Make sure to bring your camera and pick a clear day. You’ll be able to see the ocean, neighboring islands, and the mainlands highlands.
The hike starts by taking you past the ‘Prison’. A bit of a daunting label, the ‘Prison’ gets its name from the high cliff faces on one side and a large rock structure on the other, which is known to look like the walls of an ancient fortress.
As you continue past the prison you’ll notice huge rock columns, the biggest of which is known as the needle. Next up you’ll walk through beautiful valleys with interesting rock structures in the distances leading to ascending along a very sheer cliff face, its quite exciting but be careful.
The views from the cliff seem neverending and this is where you’ll see the village of Staffin below, the Islands of Raasay and Rona, and in the distance, the hills of Torridon on the Mainland.
A few more steps and you reach the summit of 875 feet. From here you’ll see the ‘Table’, a grassy plateau surrounded by rocks and cliffs. It’s rumored the ‘Table’ was used by locals to hide cattle from invaders as it’s hidden from sight from below. From here it’s a quick descent, still full of views and back to the start.
This hike is medium in length but hard in difficulty. There are times when you’ll have to scramble up gravel and do some serious hiking.
Make sure to pick a clear day for the views and you must also be cautious about the wind. The cliff faces are steep and gusty winds will make it quite dangerous.
The Fairy Pools hike sounds like something out of Shakespeares’ Mid Summer Nights Dream. A mystic world hidden behind some Scottish Monroes. It’s not quite that magical but the hike is nothing short of stunning. You’ll follow a river and discover pool after pool of crystal clear water with the backdrop of waterfalls.
If you love wild swimming then bring your shorts or a wetsuit as the water is never warm. You’ll be able to jump off waterfalls, swim through arches, and swim in the incredibly crystal blue waters.
This hike is also on the Isle Of Skye, near Carbost on the western side of the island. You’ll start at a car park, of course, the Forestry Commission carpark signposted ‘Glumagan Na Sithichean’ and in smaller writing, it says Fairy Pools.
From the starting point, there are delicious views of the Black Cuillins hills, which are the source of the river you’re going to follow, the River Brittle. The hike follows a path that leads to and along the river.
There are a few river crossings involving large stepping stones and as you meander down the path you’ll start to see a huge boulder that was left there when the ice melted after the last ice age.
After about 30 minutes you’ll reach the first pool with a stunning waterfall behind it. From here you can work your way up the river to get a peek of all the pools. The second pool you come to is the most famous. Crystal clear, blue, with a natural arch for swimming though, it looks like something out of a fairytale. If you’re going swimming, this pool is an ideal choice.
As you continue on there are many more pools to see. Take a picnic and lots of photos, it’s a great space to spend time in.
Once you’re done, simply follow the path back down to your car.
This hike is medium in difficulty due to the river crossings but it is easy in length. You can go in all weather but if it’s been raining a lot, the river crossing can become very challenging.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct Circular Hike is found near Fort William. It’s one of the most iconic walks in Scotland as it takes you past the historical Glenfinnan Viaduct, also known as the ‘Harry Potter’ bridge, and down to the Glenfinnan monument at the head of Loch Shiel.
The hike is short and easy so everyone can enjoy it. There are stunning viewpoints along the way of Loch Shiel, mountains, valleys, and rivers.
After a short distance following the road from the car park towards the river and Glenfinnan, you’ll come to a viewpoint overlooking the monument. As you continue on, you pass under the arches of the famous viaduct, where you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the construction and wonder just how they built it in 1897.
The path then begins to climb, giving you amazing views of the viaduct from man-made viewpoints. Once you’re a little higher and on the hillside, there is a knoll that gives stunning views of Loch Shiel and the mountains on either side of it. Make sure to bring your camera.
Then you’ll go down towards the railway, pass through a hidden tunnel and come past the Glenfinnan House Hotel, where you can stop for tea and look across Loch Shiel again.
Continuing on across a few bridges and behind an old graveyard, and you’ll arrive at the Glenfinnan monument. It sits high at the head of Loch Shiel and was built for Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1815.
Grab a ticket from the National Trust Centre to learn all about it and climb to the top of the 18m monument for some further amazing views.
This hike is easy in difficulty and can be done by anyone who loves a walk. You can go in any weather but to truly enjoy it, a clear day is best.
If you’re a serious hiker and enjoy a summit, then the Ben Lomond Summit will be right up your street. It’s a tough hike, with only around 30,000 people a year reaching the top. Once you make it up to the top, there are gorgeous views of Loch Lomond and its islands.
The path is clear with a couple of rocky sections, making the ascent a little easier. On the ay down you have the option to follow the same route or opt to go down the Ptarmigan ridge which is rocky and steep, and a bit muddy lower down.
Beginning at the Rowardennan car park, you can’t see the mountain when you begin your hike. But there is a jetty on the shore of the Loch that you can get a peek of it from if you like.
Begin the hike by going through the info building, a delightful little thatched-roofed hut that reminds you of a witches cabin. From hear there is a clear path that takes you through a beautiful oak forest, an indigenous regeneration project after the removal of commercial plantations.
Once you’re through the forest, you’ll reach the open hill, and as you ascend you’ll begin to see beautiful views of Loch Lomond and its islands. The steepness backs off slightly when you reach the shoulder of the mountain and the top of Ben Lomond will be in full sight, the path leading right to it.
Once you reach the final cone of the mountain, the gradient steepens and you’ll see an even better view of the Lochmonds islands. As you continue, look east and you’ll see Loch Chon and Loch Ard in the distance.
There will be a moment when you round the side of the mountain and be stunned with some exceptionally dramatic scenery. From here it’s not far to the summit where you’ll find amazing views in all directions. You’re probably not going to be alone at the top, as it’s quite a popular route.
You now have an option to go back down the way you came or if you’re feeling adventurous, follow the Ptarmigan Ridge.
Choosing the Ptarmigan Ridge descent, follow the path going north-west, to go down a very steep rocky slope. Once you’re on the ridge, the route follows it, giving great views again, and halfway down it, the cobbler comes into view along with the Arrochar Alps.
The path is clear but it is a tough hike and is labeled as hard. Make sure to check the weather, especially the wind and any chance of snow or ice. Make sure you use hillwalking clothing, equipment and take an ice-axe and crampons if it’s going to snow/freeze.
Found between Portree to Staffin on the Isle Of Skye, the Old Man of Storr is part of the Trotternish ridge. It’s one of the most famous hikes on the isle and it does get quite busy. The Old Man of Stour is a huge rock pinnacle that can be seen from miles away. It’s part of an ancient landslide that created some of the photographed landscapes in the world.
This hike uses the same path up and down, and you’ll be able to get close to the rock structures and see amazing views of the sea, island and the mainland.
Starting at the carpark, found on the road between Portree to Staffin, you can see the high cliffs with the Old Man peeking out. You’ll see a wooden gate at the end of the car park and this is where the path begins.
The gravel path takes you around the hillside and through the remains of a commercial forest that is now being replanted. Once you’re clear of the forest remains you’ll see a small pond that was used as an emergency water source for forest fires.
The path up the grassy hill is obvious and well worn and becomes rockier as it gets higher. You’ll find it quite tough and it’s a good idea to take breaks and stare at all the interesting structures and cliffs ahead.
While ascending, you’ll notice the Old Man on the right, plus a lot of other rock formations. Keep going and soon you’ll reach the foot of the Old Man of Stour.
The foot is super steep and is not suitable for all. Continue carefully if you decide to go up and you’ll find incredible views of the sea, the mainland, the islands for Rona and Raasay. And to the south, the ‘Storr Lochs’ plus Portree and Cuillin Hills. You can also explore the other rock features around.
You can do this hike in any weather conditions and it’s worth noting the top part can get very muddy on a wet day. It’s an easy walk for most but it does have some very steep moments.
Ben A’an is one of the easiest and most frequented hikes of Scotlands smaller hills. Known as the mountain in miniature, it’s found in the heart of the Trossachs and gives you incredible views of mountain scenery and lochs.
The path is great and it does feature some steep sections. The hike uses the same route up and down, and the starting point is the Ben A’an car park next to Loch Achray.
From the car park, cross the road and head up the path into the trees. The path starts to steepen a lot and you’ll find yourself walking amongst beautiful trees and crossing a little stream.
You’ll cross the stream again using stepping stones and as you continue you’ll notice the trees thin out. They have been cut to replant native trees to replace the conifers that were once there. For here you can see the Ben A’an summit ahead.
You’ll now head through an old native forest and into the gap for the summit. The path gets rocky and steep, and you’ll be able to see great views on Ben Venue form here. As you continue to the summit you get awesome views of Lock Katrine, and once at the top, a full-length view of Loch Katrine comes into view as Ben Venue sits behind it and the magical woods.
In the other direction is och Achray and Loch Venachar, and you can see Ben Lomond in the distance.
Getting down is quick and easy, just follow the same path back down.
You can do this walk in any weather and it’s suited to anyone who loves a walk and is fit. The path is easy and well laid out.