The Scottish Highlands Website     You are not logged in [superman] [] [Ecreator] /files/graphics/admin/toolbar_validate/files/graphics/admin/toolbar_edit/files/graphics/admin/toolbar_frontpage/files/graphics/admin/toolbar_controlpanel

Print-friendly version


Hiking is the ideal way to truly experience the magnificence of the Scottish Highlands.  The region is teeming with wildlife, flora, and fauna; and it is also one of the most diverse regions in the world.  While the Highlands of Scotland are known for their spectacular historic sites, castles, restaurants, and wedding venues, they are even more suited and well-known for their hiking opportunities.  Whether you just want to get out for an afternoon or day, or are looking for a hiking vacation, the Highlands of Scotland will not disappoint.  Majestic mountain vistas, beautiful coastline and sea views, rugged moorland, mysterious forests, and pristine pastureland await you when you lace on those hiking boots and hit the trail.  Whatever type of hiking you wish—steep mountain climbs or easy flats—you can find it here in the Scottish Highlands

At the top of the Scottish Highlands, you will find Caithness and Sutherland, Scotland’s northernmost counties.  Caithness is flatter and more fertile than Sutherland, known for its farming country.  It is also known for its beautiful coastline and historic castles.  The coastal walks will amaze you with stunning scenery and a chance to see cliffs, caves, and sea stacks.  Bird life is diverse in this area, as well.  Northwest Sutherland will surprise you with unusual mountain formations and in some places, tundra-like landscape.  Views of the Pentland Firth and the Atlantic Ocean are spectacular in this region.  You will also find miles and miles of moorland studded with lochs and lochans.  Farther south in Sutherland you will find more diversity with sandy beaches, forest trails, and lots of deer.  Many of the villages and towns in both of these counties have local publications describing short walks and sites to visit.  Hiking trails abound, and the Forestry Commission Scotland offers pamphlets and guidebooks of designated walks all throughout the Highlands of Scotland.  Ferry Wood and Rosehall Forest, Achany Wood near Lairg in Central Sutherland, Borgie Wood near Bettyhill on the northwest coast,  Camore Wood near Dornoch, and the Golsary and Mast Walk near Lybster,  are all managed by Scotland’s Forestry Commission.  Sutherland is also well-known for its remarkable geology and ancient archaeological sites.  Brochs and round tower remains can be found virtually everywhere.  Walk the Knockan Crag trails and other parts of the Northwest Geopark for spectacular geology.  Hike up to the bone caves near Inchnadamph in West Sutherland, where the remains of polar bears and animals dating back as far as 11,000 years have been found.

Easter Ross is the home of the Royal Burgh of Tain, and the landscape is rolling and gentle compared to the west coast.  The coastline is dotted with seaside villages, and there are many forest and country walks to be had in this area.  The Fyrish Monument (a folly worth seeing at the top of a hill near Alness), Aldie Burn, and the Portmahomack Circuit are just a few hikes to be had in Ross-shire.  Again, wildlife is abundant, and the coastline is a good place for viewing seals, dolphins, and porpoises.  Take the Nigg Ferry in the summertime to get across the Cromarty Firth and follow in the pilgrimage paths of kings of old. 

Wester Ross is a favourite location with hillwalkers and hikers of all skill levels.  Torridon is home to fantastic sandstone mountains and Loch Torridon, a fjord.  Loch Maree is nearby, and is sometimes considered Scotland’s most picturesque loch.  Applecross and Lochcarron lie to the south and are very mountainous and rugged, with excellent forest hikes as well.  Gairloch, to the northwest, has beautiful sandy beaches and rugged mountain hiking nearby.  This is a great area for diversity and hiking challenges.

The Black Isle is a rich agricultural region with fabulous hikes and gentler walks, as well as some of the best dolphin-watching in all of the UK.  The region is dotted with picturesque little villages and loads of historic sites, monuments, churches, and Pictish relics.  Dingwall is just across the Cromarty Firth from the Black Isle, and the landscape is drastically different, with much more rugged terrain, roaring rivers, and waterfalls.  In that area, you can hike the Rogie Falls circuit, Ord Hill, Contin Forest, and many more spectacular walks.  For those who like a challenge, a climb up Ben Wyvis is worth a check mark in your book.  Back on the Black Isle, the 15 KM walk from Rosemarkie to Cromarty is a great overview of the area.  Chanonry Point is a great hiking area and the perfect spot for dolphin watching.  The Cromarty Coastal Circuit follows waymarked paths and will take you through beautiful farmland, along the coast, and down to a cave.

The City of Inverness will start you on the Great Glen Way, if you decide to walk from the north.  The whole of the Great Glen Way is 117 KM and is usually done in six stages.  For something a bit shorter, why not follow the Caledonian Canal and the River Ness?  Loch Ness is 23 miles long and surrounded by excellent waymarked hiking trails of a wide variety.  This area of the Highlands is actually gentler than most, and it is a great option for families who are out hiking. 

Kintail and Lochalsh, to the southwest of Inverness, are some of the most popular hiking areas in all of the Scottish Highlands.  There are mountain ridge hikes, lochside hikes, and gentler hiking closer to Lochalsh.  It’s a dramatic region of Scotland, and is accessed by car, or by a spectacular train ride from Inverness.

Fort William and Lochaber are considered the outdoor capital of the UK.  Fort William is close to the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, and just to the south is Glencoe, a popular venue for hikers of all levels.  This region is Highland wilderness at its best, becoming wilder and more remote as you head north.  The Knoydart peninsula is one of the most remote areas of all Britain.  For something a little gentler, take the hike to the Old Fort and Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, or walk out to see the Commando Memorial in Spean Bridge.  There are all varieties and levels of walks available in this area, and the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way both pass through here.  Nearby Glencoe is impressive and packed with history—the perfect hike for those wanting some dramatic scenery and varied hiking.  Here you will also find Aonach Eagach, the famed narrowest ridge on the British mainland.  More of a scramble than a hike, it is a prized destination for the keenest of hikers.  West of Fort William, follow the Road to the Isles and visit Mallaig, Glenfinnan, and Arisaig.  Hiking is varied and includes the Glenfinnan Viaduct circuit, coastal routes, mountain hiking, and forest walks.

Finally, the Cairngorms are the most extensive mountain range in all of the UK.  Hikes of all levels on well-marked trails can be found throughout the National Park, out of Aviemore, and around the region into Speyside.  This region will offer you incredible mountain vistas, riverside hikes, and abundant wildlife, including red deer.  For beautiful valleys and spectacular mountains, this is the perfect spot for hikers.  To the east, you can descend into Speyside and the rolling hills of Glenlivet, hiking the whisky trail as you go.  The Spey Valley, and the areas around Kingussie and Newtonmore, offers excellent low-level hiking but with stunning mountain views.  Lovely villages provide perfect spots for tea breaks and light refreshments along the way.  For Boglies, Newtonmore is a must-see, with Glenbogle’s post office located in the village.  Not far to the west is Loch Laggan and Ardverikie Estate, the real Glenbogle!

The Scottish Highlands are riddled with hiking trails of all kinds—short and long, rugged and gentle, mountainous and low-level—but you will never find yourself crowded or feeling that you have to share your spot.  Remote hiking is the order of the day up here, and you will soon find that whichever trail you head out on, in whatever region, you are experiencing the natural beauty of the splendid Highlands of Scotland in peace and tranquility.  There are small circuits and long-distance trails for all kinds of hikers.  The West Highland Way is a 96-mile trail that runs from Glasgow to Fort William.  The Great Glen Way is a 70-mile hike between Inverness and Fort William.  It follows in part the Caledonian Canal.  The Speyside Trail runs from Buckie on the coast inland to Aviemore and is 84 miles long.  The East Highland Way runs 76 miles between Fort William and Aviemore. 

Whether you are a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there are plenty of trails for you to choose from.  As well, there are several tour operators who run hiking tours all throughout the Scottish Highlands, so you can have an entire vacation based on hiking and sightseeing through the Highlands.  Get yourself some well-broken in hiking boots, some rain gear (this is the Highlands, after all), a good ordinance survey map, and head on out.  See the Scottish Highlands at its very best as you hike the trails, some of which are as old as time.