The hillwalking Guide to Scotland from walking in Loch Lomond and the Southern Highlands to Glen coe and Glen Nevis from the central highlands to the Cairngorms and Eastern Highlands listing the whole walk hillwalking tours in the Cairngorms this site is an introduction with practical information for the Scottish hillwalking community.
The sprawling countryside and fabled mountains of the Scottish Highlands attract visitors from around the world seeking the adventure and solace of hiking through the country and experiencing its pristine landscape and fascinating culture. Backpacking is a unique way to experience the culture and beauty of this country, and there are a number of paths and trails of varying difficulty to accommodate most any level of hiker. The West Highland Way takes travelers from Milngavie through Fort William connecting with the Great Glen Way and ending in Inverness. The trail spans approximately 175 miles as it ascends hills and mountains that offer walkers extraordinary views of the vast landscape; hikers also pass through towns and villages where historic buildings and castles are on display. Hillwalking through Scotland is an unforgettable experience that offers travelers the opportunity to experience the hospitality of locals at a number of shops, restaurants and inns as well as appreciate the natural splendor of this beautiful country.
The West Highland Way
Beginning in the town of Milngavie, the West Highland Way is one of the most traveled long distance walks through Scotland, and the route extends approximately 96 miles northwest to Fort William. Travelers flying into Glasgow can reach Milngavie by train or local bus although the train offers more departures and a more definitive endpoint in Milngavie. This beautiful trail is best traveled by intermediate to experienced hikers because the walk typically takes at least two weeks to complete when broken down into thirteen segments; accommodation can be found at the end of each segment in addition to abundant camping opportunities. Along the trail, hikers will walk along the Loch Lomond shores, passing Ben Lomond before crossing the River Leven and continuing on to Fort William. The majority of the trail segments are approximately six to eight miles long, with several exceptions for longer, more difficult segments. While the trail can be done in two weeks, actual walking times can vary based on the weather and fitness levels of the hikers.
The West Highland Way begins with a relatively simple five mile trail segment that ends in Carbeth where travelers can find accommodations if they do not plan on camping. With very mild climbs, it is an excellent introduction to the trail. Continuing past Carbeth into Drymen, walkers will want to make time for some of the most interesting attractions along the way including the Duntreath Castle, the Standing Stones and the Glengoyne Distillery. As walkers make their way to Balmaha and through the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, boat trips are available to Inchailloch. From Balhama, the way becomes more difficult through Inverarnan with twisting paths and more arduous ascents; however, the views along this portion of the trail are some of the finest. While the paths are relatively well-kept, from this point on, weather can play a serious role in travel time, and steeper mountains can make walking extremely difficult. Breathtaking waterfalls reward travelers through Crianlariach, and magnificent mountain views welcome walkers as they finish out the last few sections of the trail on their way to Fort William.
Accommodations can be sparse along this trail, and it is always best to plan ahead and arrange overnight stays in advance. Wild camping is available throughout the trail, but less experienced walkers should remember that camping supplies weigh down backpacks; camping restrictions are also in place from April through October on the segment from Balmaha to Rowardennan. Travelers should be well-prepared with maps, directions and a compass as well as preparations for Scotland's unpredictable weather. And while food and restroom facilities are available along the way, hikers should bring supplies and always be prepared. Walking the West Highland Way is an unforgettable experience, and hikers who are eager for more can continue their hike onto the Great Glen Way to experience even more of Scotland's beautiful landscape.
The Great Glen Way
Although the Great Glen Way is 79 miles from Fort William to Inverness, this easy to moderate hike can be done in five or six days. Those who walk the West Highland Way can simply continue on from Fort William, extending their holiday by a week, and experience one of the most beautiful walking trails of Scotland. Less experienced hikers wishing to start in Fort William (and skip the West Highland Way) will find this moderate walk an excellent introduction to hillwalking as well as being a breathtaking way to experience Scotland. The Great Glen Way can be walked from either direction, but traveling northeast to Inverness is best for less experienced walkers to acclimate to hillwalking as the trail increases in difficulty. More experienced hikers will find plenty of opportunities to diverge from the trail and hike into the surrounding Grampian Mountains.
The first segment of this trail is eleven miles long and begins near Britain's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis. As hikers make their way to the Gairlochy Locks, they walk along the Loch Linnhe shores and eventually pass Neptune's Staircase, an impressive series of aqueducts. From Gairlochy Locks, the next two days are filled with scenic forest paths and relatively simple walks averaging twelve miles per day. Once hikers reach Fort Augustus Fingerpost, there is a dramatic difference in hiking difficulty but also impressive views to reward hikers. On the way to the Invermoriston Bridge, hikers will pass through the bustling tourist-driven villages surrounding Loch Ness before climbing into the mountains for a sweeping view of both Loch Ness and the Urquhart Castle. The last two days of the hike are fourteen and twenty miles respectively, but hikers will be rewarded at the end when they reach beautiful Inverness Castle.
Although the Great Glen Way is a shorter and simpler walk, it can still be challenging, especially for inexperienced hikers. Accommodations along the way include limitless opportunities for camping as well as hotels and B&Bs at each of the stopping points. Late April through early May is ideal for walking, but beginning in May and persisting through October, midges and other pests can be quite a problem. It is best to be prepared with bug protection as well as clothing suitable for the unpredictable weather that sometimes refuse to rise above the 50s during this time of year.
Backpacking through Scotland is the perfect way to experience this idyllic country and all it has to offer. No other form of travel offers such personal impressions of locals or such dramatic views of the country's natural beauty. Whether visitors choose to camp along the way or stay among the country's people, hillwalking through Scotland is an experience like no other.