Scotland is an ideal place to plan a long-distance walking vacation. Routes are available throughout the country, passing through small towns and beautiful scenery and nearby popular points of interest. It’s possible to tailor a route geographically or according to interest. Plan your walk spontaneously or consult a tour company who will book hotels ahead of time, arm you with a map, and lighten your load by transporting your bags to the next destination.
The Speyside Way
The Speyside Way is one of the four “official” long distance routes (along with the Great Glen, West Highland and Southern Upland Ways), covering 65 miles and taking 4-5 days to complete. It may be one of the best known routes, because in addition to varied and sometimes challenging terrain, it offers the chance to stop at several whiskey distilleries, like Glenfiddich Distillery, along the way.
Great Glen Way
The Great Glen Way is probably the most popular walk in Scotland. It runs 73 miles from Fort William to Inverness and takes 5-7 days to complete. There are a few more challenging sections, but the predominantly flat or gently rolling countryside makes it suitable for walkers of all levels. Along the way, walkers pass Loch Lochy, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, and the town of Drumnadrochit, center of the Loch Ness Monster tourism industry.
West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is one of the longer distance walks in Scotland and was the first established route for walking tourism in the country. It links Milngavie, juts outside of Glasgow, to Fort Williams and encompasses 95 miles. It takes about 7-8 days to walk, with accommodations offered every 7-14 miles. The walk passes through moorlands, through the Caledonian forests, and past several lochs, making it one of the more scenic walks in Scotland.
The Southern Upland Way
The Southern Upland Way is the longest distance walk in Scotland, encompassing 212 miles of beautiful Scottish scenery. The walk can be done continuously over the course of 10-14 days or broken up into smaller journeys of varying lengths. Biking and horse riding are also allowed on the trail. The route bisects the country from west to east coasts and terrain ranges from coastal cliffs to rolling hills and moorlands to dense forests. Some sections are quite challenging and several bothies (free, unmanned, very basic shelters) are located along the way. There are also multiple walking festivals held in spring and fall at towns along the route, featuring organized walks and social events.
Arran Coastal Way
The Coastal Way circumnavigates the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland. It covers 65 miles and requires 5-6 days to complete. The walk is made up of 12 sections which can be completed together to form the full walk, or broken up into a few shorter walks. The walk offers some of the most stunning coastal scenery in Scotland, winding along jagged cliffs and rocky shorelines. It can be quite strenuous in parts and attention must be paid to the tides; some parts of the route are inaccessible during high tide.
Scotland’s tourism website contains information on these and many other walks in every region of the country. For those who aren’t quite ready to undertake a long-distance walk, nearly every destination in Scotland, including the main cites of Edinburgh and Glasgow, features a few recommended shorter routes, ranging from 1-8 hours.
Written by Katie Hammel for EuropeUpClose.com