If you want to get a flavour of what our Scotland self-guided tours are all about, just look at a piece of fine Scottish tweed. It perfectly represents its country – classically beautiful, natural, with warm rich colours inspired by nature and created by local people who are passionate about protecting their country’s cultural heritage. You will be wrapped in warmth wherever you go on our Scotland walking holidays, be it by a hot toddy at the end of the day on the Great Glen Way, or by a roaring fire on the West Highland Way or simply by the welcome of Scottish hosts.
Tweed is an all weathers fabric too, and Scotland is well known for having four seasons in one day. However, Scotland hiking tours also take you into several landscapes in a day, be it moorland and mountains, lochs and lowlands, coast and canals, in a country with some of the finest collection of waymarked ways woven through its natural fabric.
Popular regions and trails
Where to go
West Highland Way
The West Highland Way, walkable in ten days, is one of the most magnificent Scotland walking holidays, covering 154km between Milngavie, just north of Glasgow up to Fort William on the shores of Loch Linnhe, with Ben Nevis waiting to greet you on the final stretch. Although you won’t have many ascents, you will definitely have wilderness, including Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the wilds of Rannoch Moor and the Glencoe peaks. Just like you don’t have to down a whisky in one, you don’t have to walk the Way in one either, but imbibe it slowly in different sections, either following Loch Lomond between Milngavie and Inverarnan or through the Highlands between Tyndrum and Fort William.
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago, and a bit like a microcosm of the mainland’s natural highlights, with its lochs, rugged peninsulas and valleys wrapped around the foothills of its mountainous interior. The Skye Trail covers most of Skye’s length and passes through the best hiking areas of the island, including the Black and Red Cuillin, Trotternish Ridge and Loch Coruisk. On our Walking on the Isle of Skye holiday, you’re based in two traditional B&Bs, with different walks on the doorstep of each. These include some on the main coast to coast trail from Loch Coruisk to Sligachan through the Cuillin Mountains, but also walks to the totally magical fairy pools and the island’s iconic Old Man of Storr rocky pinnacle.
Great Glen Way
If being by the water, wind in your hair and dipping your toes along the way is your thing, then the Great Glen Way may be the bonniest of our Scotland walking holidays. Spend nine days sauntering along the shores of the Caledonian Canal, with its adjoining lochs and locks, on a 118km trail leading from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east through the Great Glen Valley. Staying in small hotels or B&Bs along the way, with your luggage transported daily for you, take the low road through the Highlands and be invigorated by fresh air coming in off the waters of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness along the way. For an even greater ‘way’, combine this with the West Highland Way on this ultimate Scotland hiking tour.
Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path covers 174km between Kincardine, north-west of Edinburgh, up to Newburgh, walking between the Forth and Tay estuaries. You can walk the complete trail over ten days on a route that dips in and out of historic towns and villages such as St. Andrews and Culross, as well as Fife’s East Neuk traditional fishing villages. This is a fine way to immerse yourself in Scotland’s eastern peninsula, where woodland paths and nature reserves are peppered with castles and coves. As well as an array of traditional Scottish guesthouses and hotels. You can also choose to just walk one or two sections of the Path, as you can see from our various Fife Coastal Path walking itineraries. All just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh and easily accessible by rail.
Rob Roy Way
Named after Robert MacGregor, an infamously wild clan man from the 18th century, the 150km Rob Roy Way has all the wildness but a lot more serenity than its namesake. Cutting across the Central Highlands, take nine days to enjoy this route from Drymen, near Loch Lomond, through ancient forests and moorlands, along the Rivers Dochart and Tummel, past so many lochs you will lose count, all the way to Pitlochry. With the Highlands hovering like grand protectors along your way. No doubt Rob Roy also enjoyed a whisky or two, and so it seems only right to add a visit to Dewars Distillery.
Things to do
- Taking the train in Scotland is not only the low carbon way to travel but it is also the best introduction to Scottish slow travel. The Harry Potter franchise may have brought Scotland’s magnificent train journeys to the world’s eyes, but the country’s spectacular, scenic rail routes have been world renowned for a long time. Travel on the West Highland Railway to start your Great Glen Way walking holiday in Fort William, or take it all the way to Mallaig for hiking tours on Skye. For a perfect finale, treat yourself to the sleeper train if you are heading to England after finishing the West Highland Way, Great Glen Way or the Rob Roy Way, and travel back the Caledonian way.
- A real Highland fling must involve food, with local produce never failing to fill your boots on our Scotland hiking tours. Scottish salmon and seafood, including the famous Arbroath haddock smokies, Aberdeen Angus Beef, game in season and, for dessert, the creamy cranachan, made with Scottish oats, whisky, cream and seasonal raspberries are just a few delights on offer. There are fine food hubs everywhere, such as on our Coast to Coast walking holiday on the Isle of Skye, with two contrasting foodie greats like the Oyster Shed beach shack and the Michelin Star Loch Bay restaurant. Do also check out our blog on the Best food in Scotland.
- On our Scotland hiking tours, many of you will want to raise a glass of local whisky to toast a good day on the hills. Scotland is home to over 140 malt and grain distilleries and you can sample at least a few of these in the small hotels and inns that we choose for our Scotland tours, as well as their local pubs of course. We also include visits to distilleries on some tours, including the Glenfiddich and Glenlivet Distillery on our Speyside Way walking holiday, or Dewars Distillery along the Southern Highlands’ Rob Roy Way.
Responsible travel tips
- Scotland has many qualities but one of its finest is the law that allows freedom to roam throughout its luscious land and seascapes. This is quite something given that, for example, in neigbouring England, 92% of the countryside is not accessible. As well as thanking the Scottish people for making this happen by actively supporting a right to roam ethos, it’s worth reading up on the complexities of the Right to Roam campaign in England.
- Few sum up the qualities that Scotland has to offer better than John Muir, the country’s most famous campaigner for wilderness conservation and access: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.” To support this view, please remember to always adhere to practices of Leave No Trace, never leave litter, don’t wander off the trails as they may have been designed to protect from erosion or trampling and respect other people’s peace as well as all wildlife habitats.
- From badgers to basking sharks, puffins to peregrine falcons, Scotland is teeming with flora and fauna. So pack your binoculars and read up on the tens of thousands of Scottish species that you might spot on Scotland walking holidays. One of the best resources is Scottish Wildlife Trust which not only lists its species, but also manages 120 wildlife reserves around the country. They strive to protect the precious habitats that you might take for granted on a walking holiday, but please do support their vital work by donating to the cause.