Fancy watching dolphins leap in the water while you hike across an unspoilt bay? Come to Scotland.
1. The Fife Coastal Path
This beautiful footpath is part of the larger North Sea Trail and runs from the Forth Estuary near Edinburgh to the Tay Estuary in the north, passing beautiful towns and villages like St Andrews and Crail on the way. You don’t have to walk the entire 115-mile stretch: There are plenty of short walks you can do, including this scenic 12-mile jaunt from Lower Largo to Pittenweem.
2. The Great Glen Way
This iconic 115-mile walking route links Inverness with Fort William via the Great Glen: a sweeping, 62-mile-long valley that cuts through the Highlands and contains several lochs, including Loch Ness and Loch Linnhe. If you don’t have time to walk 115 miles, then you should try the 12-mile Gairlochy to Laggan section. It runs alongside Loch Lochy, so it’s a particularly scenic option.
This 50-mile hike along Moray’s rugged cliffs is ideal for wildlife fans, as the Moray Firth is home to the only pod of resident bottlenose dolphins in the UK, as well as innumerable seabirds and friendly seals. If you don’t want to walk the whole trail, the seven-mile Portknockie to Cullen section is a fantastic option as it passes the rock arch Bow Fiddle Rock (above).
4. The West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is one of the most popular long-distance trails in Scotland, as it passes almost all of Scotland’s most iconic sights, including Loch Lomond, Buachaille Etive Mor, and Glen Coe. It takes a week to walk the 96-mile route, but there are plenty of places to stop along the way, including Clachaig Inn, where scenes featuring Hagrid’s Hut were filmed for the Harry Potter movies.
5. Mull of Galloway Trail
This volunteer-run coastal trail runs the length of the Mull of Galloway, which is the southernmost tip of Scotland and famous for its breathtaking views. The route is 35 miles long, so you could theoretically walk it all in one (epic) day, but if you want something a bit less challenging try the 11-mile Glenapp to Stranraer section, which runs around pretty Finnart Bay.
6. The Speyside Way
If you like whisky then you should definitely hike the beautiful Speyside Way, as it runs through one of the most famous whisky-producing areas of the Highlands. It starts on the Moray Coast and follows the River Spey valley, passing several distilleries in the process, including Aberlour. If you want a shorter stroll, the final, 6-mile Boat of Garten to Aviemore section is a real treat.
7. The Three Lochs Way
The “three lochs” in the name of this trail are Loch Lomond, The Gareloch, and Loch Long, which all form a scenic backdrop as you walk the 34-mile route. Along the way you’ll pass the Cobbler, one of the largest hills in the area. If you only have time for a short walk, try the Tarbet to Inveruglas section: You can get a ferry from Inveruglas back to Tarbet at the end of the day.
8. The West Island Way
This 24-mile walk around the Isle of Bute is sometimes confused with the West Highland Way, but it’s a lot easier, flatter, and almost as scenic. The route runs around the entire island, and forms two handy circular sections that are ideal if you want a shorter hike. The 5-mile Kilchattan Bay circular is a particularly gorgeous way to spend an afternoon, especially on a sunny day.
9. The Rob Roy Way
This seven-day hike is named after famous 17th-century outlaw and folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor, and follows some of the paths that he was known to use. It runs from the picturesque village of Drymen to the equally pretty town of Pitlochry, past Loch Venachar, Loch Lubnaig, and Loch Tay. For a shorter walk, try the Ardtalnaig to Aberfeldy section: It passes the majestic Falls of Acharn.
10. The John Muir Way
This 134-mile-long trail links the west and east coasts of Scotland. It starts in Helensburgh near Glasgow, and ends in Dunbar, East Lothian, the birthplace of renowned Scottish naturalist John Muir. There are lots of shorter walks you can try along the route, but the final 5-mile North Berwick to Dunbar section (pictured) is arguably the most scenic.
The unspoilt Kintyre Peninsula is best explored on foot, so it’s great that there’s a 100-mile trail running from Tarbert in the north to Machrihanish Bay in the south, passing beaches and hidden coves along the way. If you haven’t got a week to walk the full route, then the Clachan to Tayinloan stretch is a good option: It runs beside the sea and offers views of the Isle of Gigha.
12. The Arran Coastal Way
Like the West Island Way, this route runs all the way around an island, making it ideal for people who want a circular walk. As Arran is a bit bigger than Bute this path runs for a more challenging 65 miles, passing beautiful sights like Lochranza Bay, where Queen Elizabeth II spent her honeymoon. Try the scenic Sannox to Lochranza stretch (9 miles) if you want to see it for yourself.
13. The Southern Upland Way
The Southern Upland Way is an epic, 212-mile coast-to-coast trail, which links the pretty harbour town of Portpatrick in the southwest of Scotland to Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders. For a particularly satisfying short walk, try St Mary’s Loch (pictured) to Traquair: You can end your day sampling the home-brewed Bear Ale at Traquair House, a listed building that was built in the 1770s.
14. The Cape Wrath Trail
This 200-mile beast of a walk is also known as “Britain’s Toughest Trail”. It ends at Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly point on the mainland, passing stunning glens and steep mountains along the way. It takes around three weeks to walk the whole route, but you can do shorter sections. The Rhiconich to Sandwood Bay stretch is particularly beautiful: In fact, it’s like nowhere else on Earth.
H/t Jade Riley Photography and Visit Scotland.