5 Hiking Trails in Scotland

From scenic coastal routes to mirrored lochs to rugged mountains, Scotland is hiking heaven. Here are five hiking challenges that are gentle or tough, depending on what you are looking for.

Old Man of Storr, Skye 

For dramatic scenery, it’s hard to beat the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. The Trotternish Ridge is a geological formation that runs for several miles along the eastern coast of Skye, in Scotland.

The ridge is a series of rocky peaks and pinnacles and offers stunning views over Loch Leathan, the Sound of Raasay, and the Scottish mainland. The highlight is the 55-metre-high jutting pinnacle of the Old Man which looms over hikers. A walk up and down the Storr is a moderately challenging 2.5 miles.

Scottish National Trail 

If you’re undertaking even part of the 536-mile Scottish National Trail, you will need the best equipment and walking boots. From Kirk Yetholm in the south to Cape Wrath on the north coast, this is a true hiking challenge.

You will merge with official routes such as the Rob Roy Way (forests and glens and the shores of Loch Tay) and the West Highland Way (past Ben Nevis) but as you move northwards, the waymarking fades as do continuous paths. You’ll also encounter difficult river crossings. Only serious walkers need apply although you can split the walk into sections and keep returning until you’ve finished.

Sandwood Bay

This remote beach – you’re nearly 200 miles north of Glasgow – is a scenic but shorter hike. Its stunning views make it one of Britain’s most beautiful, remote beaches. This historical place is where a Spanish Armada ship and other vessels are said to have been wrecked.

The family-friendly hike to the bay takes you across four miles of rough but level moorland until you encounter the silver-blue North Atlantic, cliffs, sea stacks, and pink-tinged sands that kiss up against Sandwood Loch. You can wild camp at Sandwood Bay but don’t go swimming as the water has a strong undertow.

Coire Gabhail

Coire Gabhail is a hidden valley where, in the 17th century, the MacDonald clan of Glen Coe hid rustled cattle which led to a massacre by soldiers loyal to the new monarch. Things are safer now! But still take due care on the two-mile route from Glen Coe which can be scrambly, although a dramatic walk makes it worth the effort. You’ll need to use your hands for balance in places and there is a stepping stone river crossing.

After reaching the valley floor, ascend a steep path up the side of Gearr Aonach before reaching Bealach Dearg. Be careful on your descent over rubbly rocks and scree. An alternative is continuing along the ridge and heading down via Coire nan Lochan.

Loch an Eilein

Another family hike, Loch an Eilein sits in the forest of Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorm National Park. The undemanding, three-mile route around the loch takes you past calm, lapping waters where you’ll view the 13th-century island castle. Keep your eyes on the surrounding pine forest too for red squirrels, ospreys swooping for fish, and the vivid red plumage of Scottish crossbills.

Adding to the family nature of this picturesque area (it has been voted Britain’s favourite picnic spot), the UK’s highest funicular railway is nearby and in summer, aside from hiking, you can mountain bike. For winter sports, Aviemore is a five-mile drive from Loch an Eilein.

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