The 15 Best Hikes in Scotland (2020)

North Coast 500

Looking for some of the best hikes in Scotland? Like most of Britain, Scotland is a wealth of natural resources and incredible landscapes. From moorlands to roaring seas backed by towering rocky cliffs, to rolling hillsides and even skyscraping mountains, Scotland has it all when it comes to landscape.

Due to all of this, it’s a haven for hikers and outdoorsmen. The Scottish Highlands are soul-stirring and remain one of our favorite places for outdoor adventures of all time. If you want to make the most of the hikes be sure to pick up a rental car for Scotland as most spots are tough if not impossible by bus.

Like most places, it’s pretty hard to limit the list to only 15, but we’ve compiled the 15 best hikes in Scotland. Bonus: many of these hikes have a leg in the Highlands so that you can experience the true spirit of Scotland and its rugged, mystical natural landscape.



The Best Hikes in Scotland


Old Man of Hoy


old Man of hoy Hikes in Scotland

This particular Scotland hike, on the island of Hoy,  is just a quick ferry ride from the northern tip of the northeast Scottish coast. The ‘Old Man’ refers to a sea stack rock formation – one of the tallest in the British Isles – that is popular with adventure hikers and photographers. The stack formed some 250 years ago, and due to erosion of one of its ‘legs,’ it is predicted to collapse entirely soon. If you’ve been admiring it from afar, now is the time to visit!

The hike itself can be done along the coastline going uphill from Rackwick. The path is well-defined, so there’s less concern for scraggly bits and risks of tripping. The full trail is around a three-hour roundtrip, so it’s among the shorter hikes in Scotland. 

Location:

Orkney

Insider Tip:

Undertake this hike on a clear day, and you will be rewarded with an unobstructed view all the way across to Cape Wrath on the mainland’s north coast.


Stac Pollaidh


Stac Pollaidh Hikes in Scotland

This circuit path winds around the lower end of Stac Pollaidh, one of Scotland’s smaller mountains (standing at only 613 meters high). If you prefer your hiking with a challenge, you have the option to turn off of the circuit and ascend to the top ridge of the mountain. However, this will not take you to the true (western) summit, which would require expert climbing status and involves a lot of scrambling.

It’s about a three-hour hike to the top ridge, but the 360° views of neighboring mountains like Suilven and Cul Mor, as well as the rugged west coast, make it worth the climb.

Location:

Assynt

Insider Tip:

This hike in Scotland is best suited to late spring and summer hiking – unless you’re prepared to travel with an ice pick!


Fife Coastal Path


Fife Coastal Path Hikes in Scotland

This starting point is only about a half-hour from Edinburgh, so it’s perfect if you’re staying in the nation’s capital. The whole route encompasses 117 miles, so you will probably choose to only do a portion of it. No matter where you start between Kincardine Bridge and Tay Bridge, you’re guaranteed a beautiful walk.

Between the two endpoints of this Scotland hike, you’ll pass through quaint fishing villages and other small towns, including St Andrews – the birthplace of golf, in case you forgot that it originated in Scotland! If you do choose to do the full hike, it should take around a week. There are plenty of homestays and B&Bs along the way. St Andrews also has plenty of excellent restaurants in case you plan on stopping there. We actually made this our first stop when we drove the North Coast 500 around the coast of Scotland, one of our favorite road trips of all time.

Location:

North Lowlands

Insider Tip:

Overall, difficulty is moderate, but some areas can be slippery with steep drop-offs. As always, ensure appropriate footwear.


Muckle Flugga


Muckle Flugga Hikes in Scotland

There’s something kind of cute about the name of this Scotland hike, which is appropriate, because this particular spot has fluffy sheep left, right, and center. Located in Unst, Shetland, Muckle Flugga is on the northernmost tip of Britain. It’s quite remote – in other words, a perfect hiking getaway.

This is a haven for birdwatching; the region is home to dozens of species of sea birds native to the area, including breeding colonies. Thanks to the greenery contained in this area, there are also wildflowers galore. The island has a now-automated lighthouse. Since 1995 it has been uninhabited but is reachable for hikes by ferry.

Location:

Shetland, Scottish Isles

Insider Tip:

Keep an eye out for bonxie seabirds who come to the island to breed.


The Great Glen Way 


The Great Glen Way Hikes in Scotland

The Great Glen Way is one of the more well-known hiking routes in Scotland. Extending from one coast to another, you’ll pass through a variety of the terrains that Scotland is best known for – rugged coastlines, formidable lochs, and vast mountain ranges. Like the Fife Coastal Path, it is long – over 60 miles – so you can choose to hike just a portion of the trail rather than do it start-to-finish.

Some of the incredible sights along this route are not just feats of nature, but city sights – Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland; Neptune’s Staircase in Fort William; and several of the country’s most famous lochs including the famed Loch Ness.

Location:

Fort William to Inverness

Insider Tip:

If you do only a portion, aim for the one that covers the most lochs as these are among the more beautiful sights the path has to offer.


The Beacon (Ben Lomond Mountain)


The Beacon (Ben Lomond Mountain)

While colloquially called ‘beacon,’ this refers to the mountain itself, Ben Lomond. Situated next to Loch Lomond, this mountain stands at over 900 meters and offers two routes to the top. The main walk (more popular with tourists) starts from the car park, but just past the lodge is the alternate way up (it’s still well-defined and used frequently, so there’s no issue with choosing this).

Regardless of the route, the views from the top are some of the most incredible around. It’s roughly six to eight hours to the top, so you’ll want to start this one early in the day. It’s worth it, though: you’ll have 360° views of the loch below and all the surrounding mountains and hillsides.

Location:

Scottish Highlands

Insider Tip:

The weather can change at the drop of a hat, so be sure to bring layers.


Sligachan (ending at the Fairy Pools)


Sligachan Hikes in Scotland

Most tourists visit this extremely popular destination by driving, but the hike will provide a much more scenic route, if a little longer! The starting point, Sligachan, is extremely remote, but there’s a campsite and hotel so you can start early the following morning. 

Though remote, the walk from Sligachan to the Fairy Pools (along the Cuillin Mountains) is less than three hours, and the endpoint is well worth the straightforward hike. You’ll discover natural, clear pools full from nearby waterfalls in which some will even choose to take a quick dip! A classic for hikes in Scotland.

Location:

Isle of Skye

Insider Tip:

When walking, there will be small streams to cross on rocks, which can be slippery.


Loch an Eilein


Loch an Eilein Hikes in Scotland

If you’re traveling as a family, the hike around Loch an Eilein is the perfect option if you want to get moving for a day. It’s almost perfectly level, without the steepness or sudden drop-offs present in many of the other mountainous hikes, so it’s a safer option too. The loch is in Rothiemurchus Forest, and at the center of its waters is a beautiful 13th-century castle.

This area is an all-seasons option for the outdoor enthusiast since its regional activities go far beyond hiking. There’s everything from mountain biking to winter skiing on the higher peaks in the national park, so there’s always something to do.

Location:

Cairngorm National Park

Insider Tip:

This is a great picnic hike if you don’t feel like going at a fast pace. Plus, there’s an ice cream shop nearby to finish off the walk with a treat.


Goatfell


Goatfell Hikes in Scotland

If you’re staying in Glasgow, then you’re not terribly far from this rocky hike. It’s an hour away from the closest coastal city (Ardrossan), and from there, it’s another hour on a ferry. The hike itself is three hours from the bottom to the peak. Since Goatfell is the highest point on the island, you’re guaranteed some pretty amazing views.

The peak sits at an elevation of 874 meters, so because of the steep incline, this is a moderately challenging hike—it’s better suited to intermediate level hikers and up. The peak is also somewhat level, so there’s plenty of room to sit down and have a small lunch. 

Location:

Isle of Arran

Insider Tip:

Don’t miss the Isle of Arran Brewery when you get down from the peak for a hard-earned pint.


Duncryne Hill, Loch Lomond


Duncryne Hill Hikes in Scotland

Duncryne Hill is another hike with minimal effort but optimal views from the top, so another good option for families or hikers who just don’t feel like doing an exerting trek. It’s one of the great easy hikes in Scotland.

This is a hill rather than a mountain, and it takes only 30 minutes to get to the top (or two kilometers there and back), so it’s a very short climb. It’s a lesser-known spot around the otherwise famous Loch Lomond, so there’s little chance of crowds.

Location:

Scottish Highlands

Insider Tip:

Check out nearby Balloch, a quaint village with parks, old shops, and even a castle.


Suilven


Suilven Hikes in Scotland

This hike is fairly long but definitely worth it. It’s about ten kilometers to the top, and from there, the ridge is another two kilometers. The lengthy climb promises an amazing view; on clear days, you can see all the way to the Isle of Skye. 

The roundtrip hike is around eight hours, an additional two if you choose to start the hike from the nearby village of Lochinver. This latter option has you walking alongside beautiful terrain of moors, lochs, and bogs. One of the great hikes in Scotland!

Location:

Northern Scottish Highlands

Insider Tip:

Some scrambling is required to ascend to the ridge, so bring good shoes.


Achmelvich Beach


Achmelvich Beach Hikes in SCotland

If you saw a photograph of this area’s hike, you might assume it’s somewhere in the Mediterranean. But nope, these are just the white sandy beaches of Assynt. You can begin your hike starting at the beach car park and following the coastline. Keep your eyes out for a wealth of wildlife, like basking sharks, otters, and whales.

Along the way, look out for the ruins of the old mill, a ‘hermit’s castle’ (dubbed the smallest castle in Europe), and a hidden cove. In warm weather, going for a swim is also an option. The terrain along this route is relatively straightforward, but if you choose the optional offroading that leads to the hermit’s castle, be more aware of the rougher terrain and ensure you have good shoes.

Location:

Assynt, Scottish Highlands

Insider Tip:

No dogs are allowed on the beach during the high season.


The Coffin Roads


The Coffin Roads Hikes in Scotland

This hike is aptly named, for it follows the ancient path taken by pallbearers to carry their dead to be buried in more fertile ground. Though this is an inland circuit, there are areas where you will walk along the beautiful Harris beaches, famous for being the best beaches in Scotland. 

But you’ll get to see more than just sand and sea: you’ll walk through moorland, grassy plains, and rocky areas where eagles are known to make an appearance. Because of the different landscapes, it’s best to have an all-terrain shoe that will work for everything.

Location:

Isle of Harris

Insider Tip:

Don’t miss the Harris Distillery to pick up a bottle of some of Scotland’s finest gin.


West Highland Way


West Highland Way Scotland Hikes

The West Highland Way is arguably Scotland’s most famous multi-day hike. An impressive 96 miles in length, the West Highland Way starts from near Glasgow all the way to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. The full path will take you alongside Loch Lomond, through Rannoch Moor, and through Glencoe. You’ll even walk the Devil’s Staircase – a daunting, 10-kilometer rocky ridge. The route finishes at Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. 

This hike, should you do the full length, can be arduous. Pack good shoes as well as pain management supplies (for blisters) and insect repellant. The hike takes four to eight days, so you’ll be happy to have the right supplies if you need them!

Location:

Glasgow to Fort William, Scottish Highlands

Insider Tip:

There is a baggage service to send your luggage ahead of you if you’d prefer to travel light.


Ben Nevis


Ben Nevis Scotland Hike

We’ve saved one of the most impressive hikes for last. Not for its length (it’s less than six miles), but for its fame and the formidable view from the top. The way up is steep—you’re climbing a mountain, after all—but it’s a highly trafficked route. As long as you have good shoes, a healthy body, and your wits about you, you’ll make it to the top no worse for wear than when you set out.

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain (and the highest point, period) in the British Isles. It’s 17 kilometers to the top and back down, so pack the right supplies and wear the correct shoes. 

Location:

Near Fort William, Scottish Highlands

Insider Tip:

This is a steep and strenuous hike, but even less experienced hikers should be fine if precautions are met and proper gear is used.


Plan & Pack for Scotland

Packing for Scotland

Travel Credit Card

Best Travel Credit Cards

How do we travel so much and avoid going broke? Well, we actually have many travel rewards credit cards. How many? Over 20 to be exact. If you’re a responsible credit card user I highly recommend looking at these travel rewards credit cards and earning points and miles for your purchases. The result can be free flights, car rentals, awesome lounges, hotels, and free upgrades.

Check out our travel banking tips here. And If you’re wondering how to save money for travel click here.

The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards


Travel Insurance

We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverageSafetyWing is perfect for digital nomads. See our full review here!

Check Rates


Rain Jacket

Best Hiking Jackets REI Drypoint

It should go without saying that the weather in Scotland can be a bit rainy, this is the most important item in your suitcase. You have two options for styles of rain jackets. The first one we recommend is a classic packable rain jacket made for hiking that is a solid choice for outdoor adventurers. The second option being a trench coat jacket for travel for those looking to maintain style while dodging puddles.


Sweater

The fleece sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. We purchased wool sweaters from independent retailers in Scotland, and good ones were fairly easy to find for a decent price. For those with less time, a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. We picked up sweaters from Smartwool and love our stuff from Marine Layer.


Hiking Pants

prana stretch zion best hiking pants for men

Technical pants like these are water-resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable on long walks. They also make for an awesome pair of travel pants as many have become stylish these days with cuts like normal pants.

Women’s Hiking Pants| Men’s Hiking Pants


Boots

Vasque-Talus-Trek-Best-Hiking-Boot

It’s wet in Scotland and you can expect a lot of boggy weather year-round so packing a pair of good waterproof boots for hikes is crucial for protecting your feet. Good boots or hiking shoes for Scotland are essential. We’d suggest a high ankle boot, but you can go even further with “wellies” or muck boots.

Women’s Hiking Boots| Men’s Hiking Boots


Travel Water Bottle

Plastic pollution is a problem everywhere so it’s best not to contribute to the problem by buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps in Scotland is perfectly safe to drink.

We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottles for travel in our post.


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About the Author

Cameron

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Cameron Seagle is one of the creative forces behind The World Pursuit. He is a writer and photographer for the travel website. Cameron has been traveling for the last four years. He found a passion for conservation and safari while living out of a truck in the African bush. Obsessed with finding the best gear and travel products, he loves to research new product releases. In his free time, you can find him shooting photographs, summiting mountains, and snowboarding. Cameron currently lives in Banff with his partner and blogging co-conspirator Natasha. Cameron's favorite countries are Ireland, Scotland, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Japan. And he can never resist an excellent beach destination.

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