Scotland is a hiker’s playground. Thanks to its stunning lochs and rugged mountains, this evergreen land has long been a favorite destination for adventure travel.
Laced with a network of hiking trails, the Scottish Highlands make it possible for trekkers to explore the country’s unspoiled wilderness without compromising their safety. Having said that, the country’s terrain can be unforgiving and the weather unpredictable, so common-sense safety precautions shouldn’t be overlooked.
Whether you’re planning the next physical challenge or a relaxing walking trip, the following hiking trails suit varying fitness levels. So pack your waterproofs, stock up on midge repellent, and take a walk along some of the most impressive landscapes in Scotland.
1. Balmacara Woods
Nothing beats a stroll through the woods for some peace and quiet. Soaring over the banks of Loch Alsh, the lush green forest of Balmacara is the stuff of fairy tales. The paths cutting through the forest are safe and clear — and if you’re lucky you might spot some deer!
From Balmacara you can follow the path that takes you to the gorgeous seaside village of Kyle of Lochalsch. You’ll come across a few bogs along the way, and swarms of midges on still days, but it’s an easy walk with great vistas of the Isle of Skye.
2. The Old Man of Storr
Possibly the most beautiful part of the Isle of Skye, The Storr is a rocky hill crowned with a large pinnacle of rock — the “Old Man” — which can be spotted from miles away.
A bit of warning though; this place tends to be busy. The path to the Old Man of Storr is the most beaten track on the Isle of Skye, so forget about being the only soul in the wilderness; however, this walk offers unmatched views of the island and mainland Scotland, and therefore every fit trekker should put it on the itinerary.
The gravel path from the car park is well-maintained, but it involves some steep uphill walking for about twenty minutes before leveling out. Prepare to trudge through some deep bogs, but don’t forget to absorb the view of the cliff face up ahead. The last part of the walk requires some strenuous effort and a bit of scrambling, which might be challenging on a wet day.
Once you get to the foot of the Old Man, give yourself a well-deserved break in the presence of one of the most beautiful sights in Scotland.
3. Glennfinnan Viaduct
Looks familiar? Glenfinnan Viaduct rose to worldwide fame when it appeared in the Harry Potter films. If you happen to be there in the summer months you can actually get on a steam locomotive named The Jacobite. Make sure to sit on the left side of the train to enjoy a panoramic view of Loch Shiel and the surrounding hills.
After getting off at Glenfinnan Station, take a walk down to the foot of the viaduct, passing beneath the arches and climbing up a wee hill for a bird’s eye view of the bridge. Before heading back to the station it’s worth popping down to the Glenfinnan Monument, which was erected on the shore of Loch Shiel to commemorate the Jacobite Rebellion started by Bonnie Prince Charlie on the very same spot.
4. Ben Nevis
The highest mountain in the United Kingdom at 1,344 meters (4,409 feet) above sea level, Ben Nevis is the ultimate walking challenge when you’re in Scotland.
The walk up to the summit does not entail any clambering. There is a clear path all the way to the top, and the ascent could take between 3-5 hours, depending on the weather and frequency of breaks.
You don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer or trekker to complete this walk, but it helps to be physically prepared for it. Despite being labelled ‘child-friendly,’ the walk can be rather exhausting at times.
Do take a few breaks to admire the range of mountains at your feet. There also plenty of freshwater streams on the way, so take some empty bottles with you.
5. Sligachan to Glen Brittle
This walk takes you through the spectacular Cuillin Mountains and ends at the Fairy Pools, another majestic site on the Isle of Skye.
Starting from Sligachan campsite, the trail runs along a stream marked by gorgeous waterfalls. The path is fairly easy and it takes about three hours to get to the Fairy Pools.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go for a dip in the crystal blue — and freezing cold — water of the pools. Just don’t jump in before making sure you have packed your towel and midge repellent!
And if you’re looking for more outdoor beauty, check out the fairy pools of Skye in photos!
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