Some of the best hikes in Scotland offer incredible scenery, adrenaline-pumping trails and rugged countryside.
It’s a part of the UK, I am eager to explore more of, and after spending five days in the Scottish Highlands last February, close to Loch Ness, it really gave me the bug to hiking in Scotland.
Scotland is famous for more than just hiking though, with stunning castles, rugged coastlines, Highland cows, and an iconic history. The best day hikes in Scotland ensure as a visitor you get to see more than just the tourist trails, and instead, you can experience some of the best hikes Scotland has to offer.
Of course, you can travel a lot of Scotland by road, but to get down and dirty, and see the real, wild Scotland, you’ve got to put on your hiking boots and head out to the mountains.
But what are the best hikes in Scotland? Well, there’s loads and this list covers only a few of the best places to hike in Scotland.
As the actual list is endless, including Scottish Highland treks, rugged coastal trails and hikes around some of Scotland’s most serene lochs. And you might even get to see Nessie…
So what are you waiting for, continue reading for the best places to hike in Scotland…
Note: Please be aware of your personal fitness and know that every hike difficulty is subjective. Please be careful and prepare for your hike before departing.
Photo by Yevhen Timofeev from Pexels
11 Best Hikes in Scotland
- Ben Nevis, Scotland
- Loch an Eilein, Cairngorm National Park
- Fife Coastal Path, Scotland
- Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye
- Stac Pollaidh, Assynt
- Lairig Gartain at Glencoe
- Ben Lomond
- Arthur Seat, Edinburgh
- Sligachan to the Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
- Newburgh Beach, Aberdeenshire Coast
- Old Man of Hoy, Orkney
1. Ben Nevis, Highlands
Easily, one of the best hikes in Scotland, hiking Ben Nevis has to be an iconic walk to add to your hiking bucket list.
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK, with the summit being over 1,345 metres above sea level. Ben Nevis stands at the western end of the Grampian Mountains, in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William.
The average time taken to climb Ben Nevis is 7-9 hours, with the ascent to the top taking around 4 1/2 hours and the descent taking approx. 3 hours. It is a difficult and potentially dangerous climb, and should not be underestimated.
It is the third of the national three peaks on this list and is also the hardest out of the three. I was in Fort William this February, and we looked at climbing Ben Nevis whilst we were there, however, the day we decided to climb, the weather decided to change so we decided the safer option was to come back another time and climb Ben Nevis.
Check out my blog post from our accommodation in the Scottish Highlands.
Photo from Pexels
2. Loch an Eilein, Cairngorm National Park
A family-friendly hike in Scotland I’d recommend is at Loch an Eilein in the Cairngorm National Park.
Loch an Eilein is an extremely beautiful lake, and the walk around the loch is stunning as you pass by the magnificent pines of Rothiemurchus Forest, and a 13th-century island castle. En route around the loch, make sure you look out for forest wildlife, before stopping at the ice cream shop at the end.
The low-level route around the loch is perfect for families, and young children and was voted as one of the best hikes in Scotland.
3. Fife Coastal Path, Fife
Around 30 minutes from Edinburgh, the Fife Coastal Path is around 115 miles in length along the beautiful coastline of Scotland. The coastal walk goes from Kincardine Bridge to Newburgh and the Tay Bridge, and along the route, you pass through some of Scotland’s most beautiful towns, as well as the world-famous golfing capital St Andrews. It’s one of the best Scotland hiking trails.
The long-distance footpath was created in 2002, originally running from North Queensferry to Tayport and it’s a tough hike and can take experienced hikers up to a week. But for us more amateur hikers, I would pick a section of the hike that interests you the most.
There are some adorable pastel-coloured houses, as well as incredible B&Bs, award-winning restaurants and beautiful beaches. If you are after a week-long adventure this is the best hike in Scotland.
Here are the various sections you could undertake; Kincardine to Limekilns, Limekilns to Burntisland, Burntisland to Buckhaven, Buckhaven to Elie, Elie to Cambo Sands, Cambo Sands to Leuchars, Leuchars to Wormit Bay and lastly Wormit Bay to Newburgh. Another amazing hike in Scotland!
Photo by Monika Balciuniene from Pexels
4. Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye
The Storr is a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula of the Isle of Skye in Scotland and is known as one of the most beautiful spots on the Isle of Skye. The hill has a steep rocky eastern face overlooking the Sound of Raasay, and this is a contrast with gentle grassy slopes to the west.
The Old Man of Storr is probably one of the best hikes in Scotland as it offers hikers some of the best views in Scotland. The hike is easy, taking around 2 hours in total, and around 45-60 minutes to do the ascent and descent, depending on your fitness.
The rocky hill is apparently called so because the rock outline and the protruding pinnacle resemble that of the face of an old man. “Storr” itself is Norse in origin and is thought to mean “Great Man”.
There is a well-constructed path, used by hikers and day-trippers, who can wander around admiring the pinnacles and the Storr’s eastern cliffs. Walkers can easily ascend to the summit, however, be careful as there are sections of loose rock.
5. Stac Pollaidh, Assynt
Number five on my list of the best hikes in Scotland is Stac Pollaidh. It is one of the best hiking trails in Scotland, consisting of a peak with a rocky crest of Torridonian sandstone, with many pinnacles and steep gullies.
The ridge was exposed to weathering as a nunatak above the ice sheet during the last Ice Age and is often compared to resembling a porcupine!
Due to its relatively low height of just over 600m, you can get amazing views and ease of access from a road it has become a very popular mountain to climb in Scotland.
The hike takes three hours, up a winding pathway and can be strenuous in sections, but the views from the top make it more than worth it. Add an extra half hour at the top, so you can stop for a picnic!
Note: Climbing to the very top of the pinnacles should only be attempted by experienced scramblers, as they can be dangerous and there are serious drops.
6. Lairig Gartain, Glencoe
One of the most picturesque places in Scotland has to be Glencoe, and you can find some of the most beautiful hikes in Scotland here.
The hike between the Two Lairigs at Glencoe combines two historic passes between the Lairig Eilde and the Lairig Gartain. The circular walk is popular with hikers and offers some beautiful scenery.
The hike takes around 5 hours, depending on fitness, with good pathways. The hike can be difficult in bad weather so make sure you plan ahead, especially around the old Military Road in Glencoe which can be extremely boggy and waterlogged during the winter months.
7. Ben Lomond, Highlands
One of the most iconic mountain in Scotland, after Ben Nevis, is Ben Lomond, another incredible mountain range.
Standing at 974 metres, Ben Lomond is a mountain in the Scottish Highlands on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. It lies within the Ben Lomond National Memorial Park, the Loch Lomond region and The Trossachs National Park. The name Ben Lomond is generally agreed to mean ‘beacon mountain’ or ‘beacon hill’.
There are two main paths up Ben Lomond, to the craggy summit: the Sròn Aonaich ridge to the east and the Ptarmigan Ridge to the west.
The usual route up Ben Lomond is via the ‘tourist path’, which is a wide, eroded and easy path, and is paved in steeper sections. The track was created owing to the mountain’s status as one of the most popular in Scotland and climbs the gentle Sròn Aonaich ridge, before ascending a steeper section to the rocky summit ridge. An alternative route follows the Ptarmigan ridge to the summit along a steeper and rockier path.
If you are serious hikers, you could combine this hike with the West Highland Way, which runs along the western base of the mountain by the loch.
Photo by stein egil liland from Pexels
8. Arthur Seat, Edinburgh
If you’ve ever seen an Instagram shot of Edinburgh, you’ve probably seen a photo of Arthur’s Seat. Situated on an extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat forms most of Holyrood Park, described by Robert Louis Stevenson as ‘a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design’.
Though it can be climbed from almost any direction, the easiest and simplest ascent is from the east, where a grassy slope rises above Dunsapie Loch. At a spur of the hill, Salisbury Crags has been popular as a rock climbing venue with routes of various degrees of difficulty, but a permit is required.
9. Sligachan to the Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
If you love hiking, the Isle of Skye in a hikers paradise! And if you are coming to the Isle of Skye you’ve got to take a visit to the famous Fairy Pools, one of the most popular attractions on the island.
The hike from Sligachan to the Fairy Pools is around 11miles and takes around 3-4 hours in total, depending on your fitness, running alongside the beautiful Cuillin mountain range, beside the Allt Dearg Mor.
This popular walk offers hikers stunning scenery and is accessible for most fitness levels due to the fact no scrambling is required. The first section of the hike follows crystal clear waters of the river and waterfalls, before arriving at the famous Fairy Pools.
The car park at The Fairy Pools is super popular which is why I would suggest starting off at Sligachan and walking to the Fairy Pools from there. If you visit in the summer, you could even take a dip at the pools before heading back on your return to Sligachan.
Photo by Mike Andrei from Pexels
10. Collieston to Newburgh Beach, Aberdeenshire
After visiting Aberdeen last year to visit my wonderful friends, we fell madly in love with this area of Scotland. Often forgotten, against the famous Lochs and mountain ranges, but it’s region offers some beautiful coastal walks.
Going hiking in Scotland doesn’t get much better than the coastal walk from Collieston to Newburgh Beach. The hike takes around 2 hours return and is an easy hike for any fitness level.
With some of the largest sand dunes in Britain, Forvie is one of Scotland’s most dramatic stretches of coast.
Along this circular hike, you walk along the banks of the Ythan Estuary, through the sand dunes of the Forvie National Nature Reserve and past the ruins of 12th-century Forvie Church. And at the end of the hike, you can see a massive colony of seals at Newburgh beach.
11. Old Man of Hoy, Orkney
And last but not least, one of the best day hikes in Scotland has to be on the Scottish island of Orkney, on Scotland’s northeast coast.
The Old Man of Hoy is a 450-foot sea stack on Hoy, part of the Orkney archipelago and was formed from Old Red Sandstone. It is one of the tallest stacks in the United Kingdom and is popular with climbers, but is also a popular hiking trail.
The popular 3-hour round hike around Old Man of Hoy in Orkney takes hikers uphill from Rackwick along the coastal path, before reaching Old Man of Hoy, which rises out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Did you enjoy my list of the best hikes in the UK? Have you completed any of those listed?!
Photo credit: Pixabay and Pexels.
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Hannah06/23/2020 at 22:09
Loved this post – particularly number 4! My boyfriend (should I say fiancé, still sounds weird tbh haha) proposed at the Old Man of Storr when we were on our holiday in Isle of Skye! It was magical!
Han | http://www.hannahshapphour.com