BEST HIKES IN SCOTLAND
One of the many reasons why I love Scotland is its abundance in amazing nature and incredible landscapes, and how easy it is to access. Even if you want to go from Edinburgh to the furthest point on the Scottish mainland it is a maximum of 5 hours and 30 minutes drive so every hike is within your capability and with 282 munros or mountains above 3,000 feet, there is plenty to choose from. This blog is going to explore ten of the best hikes in Scotland that I have been lucky enough to experience, provide you with a quick summary on its difficulty and give access to the route that I took. Hopefully you can use this post to optimise your experience in exploring Scotland and feel challenged, inspired and ready for more. Note these are my experiences and depending on your fitness you could have a very different perspective so make sure you hike within your capability before taking on any of these.
Also if you enjoy this post or have any questions please feel free to comment, share or message me directly. Lets get into it starting from number 10.
10 – Goatfell, Isle of Arran
The Isle of Arran is known as a mini Scotland and is a brilliant place to visit if you get the opportunity. The island has a whole host of places to explore like the Machrie Moor stone circles, the famous whisky distillery, King’s cave and of course beautiful mountains. If you get the time to hike on Arran then you have got to explore Goatfell.
This is a tremendous walk up to the highest point on the island which only took us 5 hours. Most of the journey is on a well define path up a slight gradient until you get to the very end when it throws at you a steep scramble up to the summit which will get you burning off the morning weetabix. Once you have caught your breath you will then reap the rewards as you can see as far as Northern Ireland!
Note: the way to access the Isle of Arran from the mainland is via a ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick. I do recommend taking a car as it will shorten the route by 3.6 miles (6.4km).
9 – Stac Polliadh, North West Highlands
I feel like this walk should be further up the rankings but from my own experience the weather has always been shocking and the midges have also ripped me apart! Nevertheless, if you are travelling in the heart of the highlands on the North Coast 500 route or want a day trip from Ullapool. Then you should really consider stopping off to check this place out! It is a 2-4 hour round trip so you can experience the rugged highlands landscape without exerting too much energy. On a clear day (which I can’t vouch for this) you will be able to see views out across the Summer Isles, Sea of the Hebrides and the Isle of Lewis.
Note the walk up to the east summit is short but if you want to touch the highest point this requires good conditions and technical ability.
Difficulty: 2/5 (distance), 4.5/5 scramble to west summit
8 – Quiraing, Isle of Skye
The first of two incredible locations on the Isle of Skye, the Quiraing. This is a popular location and you can see exactly why. Every time I go I feel like I have landed on the moon! So it is important you spend time immersing yourself in this unique landscape and go a step further than the 95% of visitors that take the 5 minute walk from the car park for the classic Instagram photo. Weather permitting I recommend to you to do the 6.4km Quiraing Hill Circuit which weaves through one of Britain’s largest landslips and takes you on top of and along the Trotterish ridge giving you incredible views as far out as the Isle of Lewis. This can be experienced as a whole or partial hike on most of our Isle of Skye tours.
The hike is quite straight forward and not too exhausting however if you want more of a challenge its worth checking out the “Prison”, “Needle” and the “Table” landmarks. Accessing these can be more difficult so please do take your time and be careful as there is loose rock. If you want to know more about these then feel free to drop me a message on Instagram or Facebook @robcarrtours.
7 – Ben Nevis via CMD arete, Fort William
Welcome to Ben Nevis the Holy Grail of hiking and the highest summit in the UK. Due to its prominence it attracts an average of 150,000 people per year. You are probably thinking a restaurant and pub could make a fortune up there? If you are then you are not wrong. At the top you will find a queue of people patiently waiting for a photo at the cairn. The normal route named the Pony track which was laid in 1883 so they could service the Summit Weather Observatory is not known for enjoyment more so slugging through crowds of people and bashing your joints off the rocky surface.
So here is another option for those with some experience in hiking, have a head for heights and want to go out of your comfort zone. You should try climbing Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg the ninth highest mountain and the ridge that connects them. This route is an exhilarating scramble and is known for giving justice to the incredible mountain. Note you will find in the route below that it is a long day, so come prepared!
Difficulty: 4/5 (length of time on the mountain and scrambling ability)
6 – Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
If you follow me on social media you will recognise this incredible view as it featured in the beginning of my tour guide journey and still features in my Edinburgh sunset walking tour to this day. If you haven’t seen my socials then you may also recognise this from the more famous Trainspotting 2 or One Day movies?
It is a hike which is so easy to access from the heart of Edinburgh. No transport needed just a 60-90 minutes walk from the old town to the top. So for all those people that only have time to visit Edinburgh on their Scotland journey but still want a taste of Scottish nature this one is for you! If you want to do this walk whilst learning about the local horrible histories and Harry Potter inspirations then come and join me on one of my guided tours! More information can be found right here.
Difficulty: 2/5 (steep incline in periods but short duration)
5 – Ben A’an, Trossachs National Park
Now are into the heart of this list, number five! This is at the pinnacle of the hike to view ratio scale. Short hike, but breathtaking views over Loch Katrine and the ultimate day trip into the Trossachs National Park from Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh.
When we last visited the whole walk only took 90 minutes but we did gallop up there like it was the grand national. I would expect it to take more towards 2-3 hours as the walk can be very steep in parts so will require a breather or two! This is one of my favourite hikes to include in all highlands hiking tours. It also makes a great half day tour from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
To top off this experience you can always go and absorb more Scottish culture. Head to the town of Callander which is a beautiful little village well renowned for its pies! And on the way stop off at Trossach’s woollen mill car park where you can see Highlands Cows! It is popular but an absolute gem.
Route: Ben A’an (Walkhighlands)
Diffculty: 3/5 (steep but short)
4 – Grey Mare’s Tail, Moffat
I had heard people talking about this walk time and time again and how special it was. However, when something gets hyped up as much as this I always have my doubts. But wow. This lived up to the expectation and more. Not only does it boast a waterfall of 60m (one of the tallest in the UK) but there is so many other just as fascinating waterfalls leading up to the pristine Loch Skeen.
It really is a stunning walk, note that it does start with a steady incline. But take your time, take in the waterfalls and before you know it the incline will ease. If you are wanting more difficulty than the 60-90 minute walk up to the loch then there are other extended routes one of which takes you to the peak of White Coomb (821m).
Difficulty: 2/5 (without extended route)
3 – Aonach Eagach, Glencoe
WARNING before I talk about my experience I need to make you aware that this is the narrowest ridge on the UK mainland, a grade 2/3 scramble and not for the faint hearted. Even for a confident scrambler you need to fasten your seat belt and prepare yourself for one of the most exhilarating hikes in the UK. This mountain can be accessed via the stunning drive through the Glencoe valley. Where most tourists stop by and gawp at the breathtaking Three Sisters however, it is on the opposite side of the valley where you can find this absolute classic. Two munros and one outrageous ridge, what more could you want?
The route warms you up with a steep hike up to the first munro Meall Dearg. I remember playing the Rocky theme tune at this point on my phone filled with passion and joy but that changed at the blink of an eye as the chaotic ridge quickly arrived and s*** got serious! On the ridge you will be very exposed for multiple hours as you work towards the second munro. Your heart will be pounding when you realise there are no ways to bypass the steep rocky chimneys and the ‘crazy pinnacles’. Welcome to Scotland.
Note for efficiency it will be worth taking two cars, leaving one at the start of the route and the other at the end. Do make sure the conditions are dry as rock can be slippery and you have at least 9 hours of sunlight to complete!
2 – An Teallach, Dundonnell
Oh wow, now this is a HUGE day and nothing less than absolutely spectacular and another belter on the North Coast 500 route. Who doesn’t want to bag two more munros with some heart in mouth moments and more drama than Love Island? This is the perfect mix of tremendous views an incredible challenge and a thrilling ridge which is why it is a real top contender for all those that are confident on the mountain.
I would even go as far as putting this as number 1 had it not been for the frustratingly long descent down the rocky scree. But some of the best things in life are on the other side of hard work so that is why this trek comes in at number 2.
There were also two small things that made it so special which I hope you can experience too which was spotting wild mountain goats and deer. Then finishing off the grueling day (Stac Pollaidh in the same day) by bathing in the Ardessie falls to numb the shattered legs!
Note similarly to Aonach Eagach, if you do have two cars then you could miss 3/4km of road walking at the end.
1 – Sgùrr na Strì, Isle of Skye
Where to start with this one? Well I can really say that when I first set my eyes on this place I realised that this was one of the best days I had ever had on a mountain. It was like winning the golden ticket for Willy Wonker’s chocolate factory. Like Chris Colombus discovering the Americas. Like Mr Bean winning first prize in the church raffle. What more to say? Utterly magical.
The route that we took isn’t the conventional one which you will see in the link below but it is worth considering for the extra views and challenge. We started from the town of Kilmarie heading to Sgùrr na Strì via Camasunary bay and Loch Coruisk. On our way we encountered a river crossing which we had to take on bare foot, spotted seals around the coast and lastly conquered the ‘Bad step’ which is a sheet of rock that you need to confront to continue. But one ‘bad step’ you may fall 15m into the sea below (its not too bad really).
It is a long, thrilling hike. But every ounce of energy is worth it. The views from the summit show you nature at its very best. One side you overlook the mystical Loch Coruisk and the rugged Cuillin ridge. The other over the ocean towards the Isle of Rum. Incredible.
Note that all routes are long due to how remote it is (unless you get a boat from Elgol to Loch Coruisk). If you would like to try the route we took but want to break up the hike. Then there is the perfect opportunity to wild camp at Camasunary Bay. This is a route is included within our 9 Day Highlands and Islands hiking tour or can be included within our 4 day wildlife tour.
Details of the hike and route: Sgùrr na Strì (Walkhighlands)
Difficulty: 3.5/5 (mainly for duration and no real path)