Scotland’s Long Distance Walks

Cairngorms footpath

Cairngorms footpath

With the official opening of the John Muir Way on the 21st April this will bring the number of long distance walks in Scotland up to 27.  Most people will have heard of the West Highland Way, the Southern Upland Way and perhaps the Cape Wrath Trail but I’m sure that many on the list below will be new to you.  I thought it was worth drawing attention to the range and variety of long distance walks available in Scotland.

But first, what is a long distance walk ?  In Scottish terms I think it describes a recognised multi-day trail.  In most cases these will have signage and a guide available (online if not in print), but some sections may not have waymarked paths.  As such, they don’t compare with the well-known trails in the US (such as the Appalachian or the Continental Divide) or France’s comprehensive infrastructure of Grand Randonnees routes.  At 3,100 miles the Continental Divide really is a long distance trail.

But what Scotland lacks in grandeur and scale it makes up for in terms of variety and charm.  The John Muir Way, West Highland Way and of course the Scottish National Trail, opened last year, traverse a real mix of landscape and natural and built environments.  Even shorter walks of a few days provide enormous variety and access to some truly world-class scenery.  You won’t find the same changes of landscape in the US or France within such proximity.  No part of Scotland is more than 65km from the sea and of course it’s not uncommon to experience four seasons in one day !

Don’t expect these trails to be busy.  Aside from the West Highland Way you may not find yourself coming across many other long distance walkers, although the Scottish National Trail could well – over time – become Scotland’s most popular walk.

As ever, the Walk Highlands website provides an excellent resource for anyone planning any of these walks and I’ve used the site as the basis for this article.  Another (print or e-book) guide worth searching out is the Cicerone guide to The National Trails of England, Scotland and Wales by Paddy Dillon, which covers the longer routes (Southern Upland Way, Speyside Way, West Highland Way and Great Glen Way).  There are of course individual guides to specific walks also available.

How you choose to walk these trails is really up to you.  Some people prefer to walk them in one trip, carrying their food and gear on their backs and camping out in the wild.  Others will want to pay someone else to lug their gear from one night’s B&B to the next to take things a little easier (yes, baggage transfer is available for 11 of these routes).  Or you can split the route up into chunks and do them as single-day walks, gradually covering the whole of the distance.

However you walk them, make sure you’re sufficiently prepared and in shape for the walk, respect the environment and pack the most suitable, lightweight gear you can.


Long Distance Trail

 

Length

(km)

Time

(days)

Scottish National Trail

864

35

Cape Wrath Trail

378

14-21

Southern Upland Way

338

12-15

John Muir Way

212

8-10

Fife Coastal Path

183

6-9

West Highland Way

151

5-8

Ayrshire Coastal Path

147

6-8

Kintyre Way

140

6-7

East Highland Way

128

4-7

Skye Trail

128

7

Rob Roy Way

128

5-8

Borders Abbeys Way

107

5-6 days

Speyside Way

106

5-7

Cateran Trail

104

4-6

Forth & Clyde and Union Canals

101

3-4

St Cuthbert’s Way

100

4-5

Cowal Way

90

4-7

Annandale Way

88

3-5

Formartine and Buchan Way

86

3-5

Moray Coast Trail

72

3-5

River Ayr Way

65

2-4

Clyde Walkway

63

2-5

Three Lochs Way

53

3-4

West Island Way

48

2-4

Berwickshire Coastal Path

48

2-4

Dava Way

38

1-3

6 Comments on “Scotland’s Long Distance Walks

  1. Thank you for making the big effort to list the trails. My wife and I will definitly be going to Scotland sooner or later and its great to get an over view like that.

    Best wishes from a very sunny Bavaria,

    Adrian

    • Hi Adrian,

      Good to hear from you again. I’m happy to oblige – and just let me know if there are any other topics you think I can cover.

      On that note, I’m keen to start a new series of posts featuring other VW camper van owners and their vans. Would you be interested in being featured ? I’ll explain all in my next post.

  2. Thank you for your interesting article. Living in West Somerset I’m presently walking the South West Coast Path which is on my doorstep and when completed, God willing, I would love to walk in Scotland and your article has certainly inspired me.

    Regards

    James

    PS. I enjoy reading your interesting blogs as you have a very nice clear writing style.

    • Hi James,

      Thanks for getting in touch and for your kind feedback. I have to say that I’ve personally focused on climbing mountains for the last 15 years rather than low level, long distance walks (alas, holidays are limited …). But I also hope to be able to do some of these walks in future.

  3. Thanks for this wonderful list. I’m wondering if you have any good route or trail suggestions for getting from the Borderlands to Edinburgh, or from Inverness to John o’ Groats? I’d like to do Scotland end-to-end this summer, but I’d very much like to avoid the Cape Wrath Trail.

    • Hi, there are several options for walking from the Borders north to Edinburgh and it’s worth looking at these closely to check they join up or can be made to join up. The Long Distance Walkers’ Association website is a good source of information on inter-connecting trails. You could take the Berwickshire Coastal Path north from Berwick which (more or less) joins to the John Muir Way, from Dunbar to Edinburgh and across Central Scotland. Another option would be to start in the Central Borders then take the Sir Walter Scott trail to the east coast. The John O’Groats Trail goes from Inverness to John O’Groats and looks like a suitable option to explore. Good luck !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: