Best Hiking Routes in Scotland for the Trailblazer
There’s much more to Scotland than finding the Loch Ness monster, eating haggis, or playing the bagpipes. I mean, if you’re into it, sure! But the country’s also home to stunning hiking mountain ranges and gorgeous panoramic views of lochs (lakes), glens (valleys), and bens (peaks). It’s the perfect backpacking destination.
Enjoy the simple, serene nature of Scotland. From coastal lookouts and castles to remote routes and whisky tastings, there’s a little bit of magic in every corner of the nation. So what are we waiting for? Let’s explore the best Scottish hiking trails for the adventurer.
North-West Highlands Hiking
Cairngorms National Park
Home to an impressive 282 Munro summits (peaks over 3,000 feet or 914.1m tall), Cairngorms National Park is the place to be for Scotland’s best hikes. Not to mention, you can find one of the country’s official long distance trails in the park: the one that involves whisky. wink wink
- Sugar Bowl. 36km | 13 hours. Four summits in one hike? You got it. The Cairn Toul to Braeriach route takes determination and fierceness, but that’s what you’re here for. Right?
- Cairngorm Ski Centre. 17.5km | 7 hours. Ben Macdui is the tallest in the Cairngorm mountains, and the arctic vibes give. Us. Everything. Hone your Munro-ing skills by tacking on the Cairn Gorm summit while you’re at it too!
- Auchallater. 26.5k | 10 hours. Through valleys, up mountains, and above lochs — you’ll see it all trekking Tolmount and Tom Buidhe.
- Speyside Way. 105km | 34.5-41.5 hours. The Cairngorms are home to one of Scotland’s official long distance hikes: Speyside Way. Following the River Sprey, you’ll see incredible sights and sip even better whisky at the distilleries lining your path.
If the Torridon Mountains aren’t on your travel itinerary, rearrange your schedule ASAP. Tucked in the Northwest Highlands, this range is a remote wilderness haven. Enjoy the tranquil region with some of the best hiking trails in the country.
Three badass peaks, Liathach, Beinn Eighe, and Beinn Alligin, are completely captivating. And clocking in at three billion (yes, billion) years old, the Torridons are a must-see formation.
- Glenn Cottage. 11.5km | 9 hours. Tie up your best hiking shoes and get to WORK, girl. The steep climb up Liathach, one of Scotland’s most stunning mountains, will test your bod, but those panoramic views will dissolve those aches away (but not really).
- Near Allt a Choire Dhuibh Mhòir bridge. 18km | 8 hours. Gentle walking routes through grassy hills soon become challenging terrain as you ascend the Beinn Eighe ridge and Munros. High above sea level, you’ll conquer this climb with your head in the clouds. It sure feels like it, at least!
- Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil. 10.5km | 8 hours. The trek up Beinn Allignin may not be beginner-friendly, but it’s one of the easier Torridon ridges to tackle. Hang out around sunrise or sunset to witness some serious glowiness — no highlight required #WokeUpLikeThis.
- Near Loch Bad an Sgalaig. 23km | 9 hours. Everything’s a view from Baosbheinn: gorgeous Scottish mountains, the distant sea, and Summer Isles line this spectacular landscape. Check the weather before heading out to prevent wet feet from crossing the river!
Slioch is an absolute gem of the West Highland region. While there’s only one actual trail up the mountain, it’s one of the best hikes you’ll ever do. Still, all the other walking routes in the area offer stunning views of the mountain, so don’t skimp out on them!
- Incheril. 19km | 9 hours. Traverse the only actual trail up Slioch, and you’ll boast that accomplishment to everyone forever. As you should. Push yourself to the limit and be rewarded with unmatched views of the Scottish highlands (plus maybe a goat spotting).
- Coille na Glas Letire Trails car park. 9km | 5 hours. Start your hike through an 8,000-year-old forest before catching sight of Loch Maree and Slioch. Careful: this summit’s rocky terrain is certainly not for the faint of heart.
- Tollie. 8km | 3 hours. Loch Maree islands, Torridon mountains, and Slioch are captivating from the Tollie to Slattadale trail: a relatively easy but boggy one-way path. Take a break and feast at the picnic table before beginning your trip back.
- Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre. 15.5km | 7 hours. If your goal is to head off the beaten path, you’re in luck. Part of the route up Ruadh-stac Beag is unmarked, so you can put your navigation to the test.
Cùl Mòr (pronounced “kool”) will leave you feeling like the cùl-est gal around when you stand on the summit taking in the mindblowing landscape surrounding you. With lochs all around, hills underneath, and unusual rock formations, Cùl Mòr is one of Scotland’s hidden gems that’s not so hidden at all!
- Near Knockan Crag visitor centre. 13.5km | 5 hours. Cùl Mòr proves that size isn’t everything — it’s far from the highest point in the Scottish Highlands. Still, there’s nothing small about these outstanding views from this summit.
- South of Knockan Crag. 10.5km | 5 hours. Take a quieter hike through northwest Scotland and opt for a trip up the pure wilderness of Cùl Beag. Catch some lovely glimpses of Cùl Mòr while you’re at it, too!
- Near Glencanisp Lodge. 20km | 8 hours. Sure, there are some in-cred-i-ble views of Cùl Mòr from Suliven, but that’s just one reason it’s among the best hikes in Scotland. Postcard-worthy landscapes are jaw-dropping for even the most experienced hiker.
- Car park at NC232273. 14km | 8 hours. Tackle the triple Corbetts of Quinag: it’s like a three-in-one deal! Protected by the John Muir Trust, the mountain’s fragmented woodlands, steep gullies, and wet bogs are vital and delicate ecosystems.
Like this list? Check out our Scotland Hiking Guide on a map:
Other Popular Regions for Scotland Hiking
Sutherland and Caithness
Looking to conquer some truly badass hiking trails? Of course, you are! Well, Sutherland and Caithness is the place to be. Starting (or ending) in the region, you can access a network of Scotland’s best hikes featuring sections of Rob Roy Way, Cape Wrath Trail, John o’Groats Trail, and more. Really, is there any more inspiration needed?
- Fountain Road. 9.5km | 4 hours. Not every great hike has to include a summit up Britain’s highest mountain. Change it up with coastal walks, like Ben Bhraggie, and keep an eye out for Dunrobin Castle or the controversial monument, “The Mannie.”
- Inverness (John o’Groats Trail.) 226 km | 65-75 hours. With spectacular landscapes along the Moray Coast, John o’Groats Trail is one of the iconic multi day hikes in Scotland. Smaller sections make for great walks, or grab your tent and tackle the entire long distance hike.
- Scottish National Trail. 864 km | 210-257 hours. Starting at the Scottish Borders in the Southern Highlands, you’ll hike parts of Southern Upland Way, West Highland Way, Rob Roy Way, Great Glen Way, and the Cape Wrath Trail. Split this incredibly long distance trail into several hikes, and experience the British mainland in a life-changing way.
- Cairn O’Get. 3km | 1.5 hours. The gentle walk to the Whaligoe Steps may be a treat for tired legs, but the coastal viewpoints? Easy 10 out of 10. You’ll get some big Cliffs of Insanity (à la Princess Bride) vibes here.
Trossachs National Park
Trossachs National Park will have your heart on loch in no time. With some of the best hikes in Scotland, you’ll be thankful for those hard days at the gym. Being physically fit is a requirement when taking in Scotland by foot, exploring legendary destinations like Fort William, Glen Coe, and lochs galore throughout the park.
- Milngavie. 154km | 40-48 hours. West Highland Way is worth visiting Scotland for. You’ll pass the shorelines and nature reserves of Loch Lomond, witness Conic Hill, cross Rannoch Moor, absorb the beauty of Glen Coe, and in Fort William. Dreamy, right?
- Balloch. 50km | 14–17.5 hours. Extend your West Highland Way hike or start from scratch on Three Lochs Way. You’ll spot Loch Lomond, Loch Long, and Loch Lomondside as you stroll this low incline trail.
- Succoth car park. 13.5km | 6.5 hours. Views from Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ìme peaks in the Arrochar Alps are gorgeously rocky, but the lochs and waterfalls you’ll see from above? That’s chef’s kiss.
- Rowardennan car park. 12km | 5 hours. Ben Lomond is famous AF for a reason. Stunning Loch Lomond views go on forever: the kind that makes you feel like you’re in a movie.
How to Prepare for a Hiking Trip in Scotland
Preparation is key when you’re planning an adventure. Sure, it might be a snooze-fest for some, but keep reading, babe. Get your prep done in advance so you can let loose in the highlands.
Invest in a really good pair of hiking boots
Chances are, you’re gonna conquer some mountains in Scotland. And you’re gonna want some serious shoe support as you traverse the rocky, sometimes boggy terrain. So, look for mid-high cut boots to prevent those pesky pebbles, stiff midsoles and insoles to fight foot fatigue, and waterproof materials, so the bogs don’t get ya down. And if you’re planning a long-distance route, durability is critical.
Train your body for your adventure
Backpacking ain’t no joke, girl. It takes some hard work to get that body in peak hiking shape. And let’s clarify this first: people of all ages, body types, and experiences can claim literal mountains. But you can’t go from zero to 100. You need to get your muscles ready!
Some of the best hikes in Scotland are looooong. And have a steep elevation. Strength, endurance, and HIIT-focused routines are winners. Step-ups will get that booty ready for climbing too! But always prep your workouts with full-body stretching, so you don’t injure yourself before the adventure begins.
Break-in your gear
Nobody, and I mean nobody, enjoys breaking in their gear. It’s uncomfortable, annoying, and often involves pain. So, do it before you’re on the side of a mountain in Scotland, okay? Strap on your pack, boots, and clothes, then venture out a few times. Your gear should become more comfortable over time. If it doesn’t, this might be a sign to adjust something.
Read up on trail conditions
Trail conditions can change day-to-day, especially in cloudy, wet Scotland. While it sucks to miss out on your bucket list hike, safety is always the priority. Check for visibility, trail closures, and visit hiking forums to prepare for your journey responsibly.
Don’t forget to bring the appropriate gear, too. Summer and winter climbing can look very different. So channel your inner Girl Scout and always be prepared.
Scotland Hiking Gear
*Disclosure: we independently choose all product recommendations. When you buy from product links in our posts, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This supports our ability to provide the best advice possible.
Let’s start with the essential Scotland hiking gear that every Explorer Chick needs:
And we can’t forget clothing must-haves, including
- stretchy, moisture-wicking joggers,
- antimicrobial, quick-drying shirts (goodbye, stinky pits!),
- and a damn good sports bra.
- Grab a wind and waterproof jacket while you’re at it.
Now for the not-so-sexy side of hiking off the beaten path: peeing. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, but toilet paper takes up a hefty chunk of valuable space in a backpack. Instead, try a hygienic reusable, well, pee cloth to save the day.
Scotland According to Explorer Chicks
So, what’s it actually like to travel to Scotland with Explorer Chicks? The trip of a lifetime, of course!
Scotland transported one Explorer Chick, Lynsey, to an entirely different universe. Worried about the UK weather? Don’t be! She loved every moment of the fickle skies, saying it only made the experience better.
And those trails? Yeah, she worked her butt off and kicked ass climbing up those mountains. Not like we’d expect anything less from our incredible group of gals.
Ready to Get Hiking?
Ready to take the Scotland trails by storm? Britain won’t know what hit ’em! Strangers will soon become forever friends as you summit peaks, sip whisky, and show those mountains what you’re made of.
Join a dedicated, strong, unbelievably fun group of like-minded women on the trip of a lifetime. Come and hike Scotland with Explorer Chicks!
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Meet the Writer
Megan Wray is a queer, mixed-race Japanese-Canadian freelance writer based on Treaty 1 Territory. Passionate about pleasure, identity, and anti-oppression, Megan’s fuelled by meaningful chats about topics that aren’t “appropriate” for dinner table conversation. When she’s not writing, you can find Megan cooking vegan food, singing to live music, and trying to understand astrology.