Scotland has some absolutely incredible scenery, beautiful mountain landscapes, forestry, lochs, incredible architecture, whatever you’re hoping to see, Scotland has it all. One of the best ways to view Scotland in all its glory is by walking in it! By fully immersing yourself in its beauty, you will truly understand the breathtaking nature of it all. Today’s blog outlines the best walks in Scotland.
Below, is a top 10 of some of these beautiful walks that you can take – in all different parts of the country. Some of these are best suited to more experienced walkers, while others will be suitable for people of all abilities and even kids too if you’re looking for a family outing!
The Best Walks in Scotland
Some of the best walks in Scotland include Ben Nevis, Glen Coe and Loch Lomand. Here’s our top 10, with a variety of difficulty levels for all hikers.
1. Ben Nevis, Fort Williams
No ‘best walks in Scotland’ list would ever be complete without including the highest mountain in the UK! This is, however, not a walk for the fainthearted. This once volcanic mountain, which millions of years ago exploded and collapsed in on itself, is very strenuous and at some points particularly steep. You also need great navigational skills to ensure you stay on the path as to stray off on some parts could be dangerous. This route is approx 10.5-miles/17-kilometres in total with a 4,413ft ascent and is the highest land in any direction for 439 miles! As part of the Grampian Mountain range, Ben Nevis can attract up to 125k walkers in a year.
This route starts from the Glen Nevis Visitor car park, you then follow the mountain path which will take you right up to the summit. On your way up, you will cross a bridge over river Nevis, and on clear days, will experience some of the most unrivalled views of the Scottish Highlands! Once at the top, you will see several memorials, trig points and also the remains of an observatory that was in use until the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century.
Ben Nevis has two distinct meanings, derived from old Gaelic, firstly ‘mountain with its head in the clouds’ and secondly ‘venomous mountain’. Hopefully, after a climb, you’ll be more inclined to prefer the first meaning to the second!
2. Glenfinnan Viaduct Circular, Lochaber
Harry Potter lovers will enjoy this walk and the good news is it is only a smidgen over 2 miles long and relatively easy-going, so a great one for the whole family to enjoy!
This walk gives amazing views of the loch and the viaduct, at some points, there are slight inclines, but nothing too steep. There are also wooden walkways in some of the more muddy sections. This famous viaduct carries the railway to Glenfinnan station, across a 1000ft span and 100ft high in the air! If you go during summertime and time your walk well, you will be lucky enough to catch the steam train as it travels over the viaduct and really feel for a moment as though you are immersed in the Harry Potter world – the filming of scenes in the second and third Harry Potter movies took place here!
While there, you can also visit the Glenfinnan Monument. A now beautiful feature of the highlands, offering spectacular views looking over Loch Sheil but was once a sight of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, one of the most important events in Scottish history.
3. Ben Lomond Mountain Path, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
This mountain hike is approx 7.5miles/12kilometres long with a 3195ft ascent. This is a beautiful climb, with views reaching towards the highlands in the North, Glasgow and the Lowlands to the south and of course the incredible Loch Lomond – the UK’s largest lake – to the southwest.
The route starts at the Rowardennan car park, where there is a £3 parking fee. There is a steady incline all the way up and no part of the walk is particularly strenuous or steep. You do still need to ensure you come prepared though. You’ll need proper hiking shoes, plenty of water and snacks to keep you going. Also worth noting is that the weather can be very interchangeable, so please ensure you bring the appropriate clothing! But it is all worth it for the breathtaking views once you reach the top.
4. Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
This is a smaller 3-mile/4.75 kilometre hike, although there are several routes to the top. This walk is only a short distance from Edinburgh city centre and is the tallest of a group of hills known as the Salisbury Crags. This previously volcanic hill has a quite rocky summit for a hill just outside the city centre, but it offers the most incredible views looking out over Edinburgh. This can be a busy hike due to its location but many tourists are caught out as they don’t come prepared. It may be in the city centre, but you still need proper hiking boots etc to be able to climb this comfortably.
An ancient Celtic legend surrounds the history of this hill. It is known by many locals as the sleeping place of an ancient dragon! It is said that this dragon (many years ago) used to fly around, terrifying the Edinburgh residents, but one day, he ate so much that he landed on this hill and just never woke up!
In other legends, it is also often associated with King Arthur and seen as the place of Camelot! This is definitely one of the best walks in Scotland.
5. Loch Katrine, Stirlingshire
This walk is approx 6 miles/ 9 kilometres and is situated near Callander, Stirling, within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. There are many car parks nearby, all offering free parking. This walk does have some elevation but nothing too steep. It is a beautiful walk around the loch, featuring a mainly tarmacked route. The views of the Loch itself are spectacular, as well as views of the Arrocher alps on a good day.
Fans of Outlander may like this walk in particular as it was used in season 2, episode 13, where Brianna and Roger have their picnic.
As well as being a scenic spot in tv shows, it has also been said to inspire many famous writers from Sir Walter Scott, to Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth.
6. Lost Valley, Glen Coe, Argyll and Bute
This is a 2.49 mile/4-kilometre walk, in a beautiful hidden valley of the Highlands. The Lost Valley was a cattle hiding place for the MacDonald clan of Glen Coe, who used the hiding place to escape a 1692 massacre.
This can be a difficult hike and is not one for an inexperienced walker. There are steep sections, areas where you have to climb over rocks and areas where you have to navigate your way through a stream. The valley at the end, however, is worth all the scrambling and climbing to get there. It is huge and quiet and the most amazing way to immerse yourself in nature! Good hiking shoes are a must for this walk! It is also recommended to not do this walk in wet weather as it can make it slippy and dangerous!
7. Glen Affric, Beauly, Highlands
This route is approx 11.12 miles/ 17.9 kilometres. It is the largest remnant from a large pine forest that used to cover a huge portion of Scotland prior to it being felled during the industrial revolution. This is a predominantly flat route with only slight elevation in places. It offers beautiful viewpoints throughout, including a waterfall. It can be a tougher walk when wet, so take care if going soon after a rainfall – it can get pretty muddy in places! There is also an area where you have to leap over stepping stones in a stream, so waterproof hiking shoes would be a huge bonus.
It is a spectacular walk in the Summer, but even more so in Autumn, with all the beautiful colours of the trees surrounding the loch!
8. Linlithgow Loch, Linlithgow, West Lothian
This circular route around Linlithgow Loch is 2.42 miles or 3.9 kilometres long. The area surrounding the loch is known as Linlithgow Peel and it used to make up the grounds of the nearby Linlithgow Palace. It is an easy walk for all ages and abilities, with a well maintained, flat pathway right round the loch, so you could even push a baby in a buggy around too! It is a brilliant family option for a fun, relaxing day out in nature. There is lots of wildlife to see and children would love looking out for the swans on the loch.
While there you will pass by the historical Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542, which makes for a spectacular view and is also well worth a visit in its own right.
9. Falkirk Wheel to the Kelpies, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
This is a moderately long walk of approx 9 miles/ 14 kilometres. It is, however, all flat and features a good path, so no need to worry about any muddiness. This walk takes you a scenic route along the Forth and Clyde Canal, starting at one amazing piece of architecture – The Falkirk Wheel – and finishing at another, The Kelpies.
The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde canal to the Union canal, which was first opened in 2002. It is well worth a look, given that there is no other boat lift like it in the world! What an amazing way to start off your walk!
Then, at the other side of your walk, are The Kelpies. Two 30metre high horse-head sculptures – the largest equine sculptures in the world! They weigh more than 300 tonnes each and were designed by the artist Andy Scott. They were designed to represent the history of Scottish industry and the part horses played in that, with pulling ploughs, wagons, coal ships and the way in which they aided towards creating the landscape of Falkirk as we know it.
Their name ‘Kelpies’ come from the mythical beast that legend says holds the strength of 100 horses! They certainly are a spectacular sight and it is fun to watch them appearing, towering over Falkirk as you walk along this canal-side route.
10. Old Mine Nature Park East Loop, Bellshill, North Lanarkshire
This used to be an old industrial area, that was revamped and turned into a beautiful nature park with the planting of native trees and stunning flowers. All the interlinking paths total approx 2 and ¼ miles of pathway. This is a child and dog-friendly route, perfect for all the family. Its name was chosen by children from a local primary school! It is predominantly flat but does feature some gentle inclines and also features decent, wide and firm pathways throughout, although these can get a little waterlogged and muddy depending on the weather. There are great views towards Glasgow when looking from the top of the site. During quieter times, it is possible to see some amazing wildlife from a variety of birds, squirrels and sometimes even deer!
There is a free car park on-site and this can be accessed from the south side of the A721 New Edinburgh Road. There is also plentiful parking on nearby streets, Uddingston train station is a 25-minute walk away or buses stop a 10-minute walk away on Old Edinburgh Road (B7001).
So there we have it, a fantastic, but by no means exhaustive, list of 10 of the hundreds of beautiful walks that Scotland has to offer. There’s something here for everyone, whether you’re looking for historical sites, clever architecture, challenging climbs, gentle family walks or are a huge fan of Harry Potter!
Don’t forget to ensure you are suitably prepared for whichever trip you choose, wear the appropriate footwear and clothing, plan how you are going to get there, whether by car or public transport, ensure you have plenty of water and snacks to keep your hydration and energy levels up.
Of course, some of these best walks in Scotland are more challenging than others, so also think about your own experience level and skills and perhaps choose one of the easier going options first, before going for one of the tougher climbs!
That’s it! Grab your walking shoes and get on out there!
Have you been on any of these best walks in Scotland? If so, we’d love to hear your feedback below. If you enjoyed this blog, you might also like to read about the best hikes in Glencoe.