Scotland’s 8 finest mountain climbing trails from Highlands to distant islands

Rain, lavatory and midges be damned: Scotland is insanely beautiful it doesn’t matter what hand the climate and wilderness offers you. Its munros don’t appear too intimidating on paper, however up shut they’re gnarly monsters that leap instantly from the ocean. 

Any listing of Scotland’s finest hikes is certain to trigger outrage on the ones which were missed out. As a result of this land ignites the true ardour of the hill climber and the mountaineer, with powerful terrain and heart-breakingly stunning landscapes that may by no means be captured in phrases – not even these of Robert Burns.

No person, nonetheless poetic, can ever do justice to those misty munros, brooding lochs and disorientating moors, the indignant seas that beat the dwelling daylights out of coast and island, and the second when on a dreich day the solar bursts by the clouds with a light-weight so piercing it’s as if the world has been made anew. 

From epic climbs to escapades within the footsteps of outlaws and long-distance hikes over moor and mountain, these are our favourite eight hikes in Scotland. Rant away: We all know you’ll have your individual, as mountain climbing right here is extremely private – and regardless of what number of occasions you come, you possibly can solely ever hope to scratch the floor.

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Be ready for correct hill climbs, disappearing paths and even fording rivers in Scotland © Getty Pictures / Westend61

Liathach, Glen Torridon

Greatest munro climb

7¼ miles (11.5km), 8-10 hours, demanding

The munro that kinds the informal walker from the hard-core hiker, Liathach (“The Gray One”) is a beast, punching a burly fist excessive above the fjord-like depths of Loch Torridon. But when ever you will bag a peak, make it this one. It’s wild, tough and otherworldly up right here, with near-vertical terraces of rock, tawny summits to surmount, boulders to scramble over and elating views over a thrillingly distant slice of the northwest Highlands. So distant, the truth is, that the one different souls up right here is likely to be crimson deer, snow hares and golden eagles.  

These mountains are historical, partly shaped by two-billion-year-old Lewisian gneiss (a few of the oldest rock on the planet), and spectacularly buckled and contorted over the past Ice Age.

Beginning on the automotive park close to Glen Cottage in distant, river-woven Glen Torridon, the hike eases you in gently sufficient – ach, however don’t be fooled! After crossing a stream, you quickly start to climb. And climb. And relentlessly climb the brutal mountain, with a number of rocky scrambles earlier than you attain the knife-edge, boulder-scattered, breathtakingly uncovered ridge that will get your pulse racing, turns your legs to jelly and – oh, wow – makes you gasp out loud at views that ripple over lochs, glens and tawny munros so far as the Isle of Skye on clear days.

And do be sure you select a transparent day from early summer time onwards, because it’s no enjoyable being up right here within the mist, snow or driving rain. Simply once you suppose the exhausting half is over, you’ve acquired to get down – a tricky, steep scree-and-bog scramble that may make your knees scream. You gained’t care, you’ll nonetheless be drunk on that view. Convey a map, compass, meals and water.

North Ronaldsay Circuit, Orkney Islands

Greatest island enchantment

12 miles (19km), 61/2-71/2 hours, simple

Out on a limb off Scotland’s northeast coast, North Ronaldsay is the northernmost of the Orkney Islands. Flat, inexperienced and hemmed by fortress-like drystone partitions that preserve its historical seaweed-eating sheep on the rocky shores, this little island has a quiet magic that seeps into your soul, with its surreal gentle, Previous Norse place names, Viking heritage and waters the place, in the event you dip in an off-the-cuff finger, you’ll certainly pull up a wreck. The landscapes are light however the sea right here is fierce, as it’s right here that the North Sea smashes into the Atlantic with all its may.

Optionally beginning in Hollandstoun, this simple full-day hike is a delight, supplying you with a taste for this island of huge skies, powder-white seashores and phenomenal wildlife – seals, orcas, a feast of birds (from black guillemots to eiders), even the occasional visiting walrus…

Many moments will seize you, however you actually gained’t neglect clapping eyes on the stripy, mid Nineteenth-century lighthouse guarding the island’s north, which at 42m (139ft) is the UK’s highest, the place the views attain all the best way to Truthful Isle on cloudless days. In order for you a memento of the sheep (after all you do), pop into its reward store for wooly souvenirs. Within the south, try the bird observatory and the seal rookery on the Broch of Burrian.

Cape Wrath Path 

Greatest back-of-beyond multi-day trek

230 miles (370km), 2-3 weeks, demanding 

No different hike breaks our bodies and souls and reconnects you to the pure world just like the Cape Wrath Path, the place the roads fizzle out, the GPS attracts a clean and the paths are largely non-existent. Right here it’s simply you and the lonely, not often seen wilderness of far northwest Scotland for mile after mile, day after day, week after week. Bathroom as much as your waist, fast-flowing rivers to cross, blisters and a thousand midge bites – it’s all price it, say those that’ve had first-hand expertise of the path, for a glimpse of the mountains and middle-of-nowhere glens whose stark magnificence makes you pinch your self in disbelief. 

From Fort William to Cape Wrath, essentially the most northwesterly level on the British mainland, this hike is epic not due to solitary view or second, however since you are pitting your self in opposition to the weather, forging a path by the wilds, placing one foot in entrance of the opposite if you find yourself bone-tired, misplaced and moist and frozen to the bone – feeling what it means to be really alone. 

That stated, there are occasions you’ll always remember: glimpsing the flying buttresses of the Assynt mountains, glowing rust crimson within the final embers of day, seeing a stag guard a lonely peak, slipping by the machair and shifting dunes to mile-long Sandwood Bay, warming your bones by a hearth in a bothy. After which, after all, on the path’s finish, there are the excessive, ragged cliffs of Cape Wrath, which takes its identify from hvarf, Previous Norse for “turning level”, as that is the place the Vikings would flip their boats for dwelling. On a day when the ocean unleashes its fury, nonetheless, wrath might have a special that means. 

You’ll should be match, skilled and fully self-sufficient for this hike, as services are sparse and navigation factors few. The Cicerone Cape Wrath Path is a helpful information. Alerts come and go, so revert to the quaint manner of staying protected on the path – inform somebody the place you’re.

The Coulags Bothy.
Wild tenting is allowed in Scotland however for one thing much more memorable, guide an evening in a distant bothy © Getty Pictures

The Southern Upland Approach

Greatest coast-to-coast hike

214 miles (344km), 12-16 days, difficult

With the plain temptation of legging it up munros, the Highlands get all of the fuss in relation to itemizing Scotland’s finest hikes. However it might be frightfully impolite to miss Southern Scotland, particularly when it delivers a magnificence so not often seen and feted. Unspooling by the tawny pleats and folds of the Southern Uplands, the coast-to-coast Southern Upland Approach from Portpatrick within the southwest to Cockburnspath within the east is without doubt one of the nation’s most difficult long-distance Great Trails.

How so? Properly, you won’t be clambering up Scotland’s giddiest peaks, however make no mistake this multi-day march is a monster. The times are lengthy, the going is arduous and also you’ll want your wits and an old style map and compass to navigate, significantly on the misty moors. The path is distant, wild, boggy when moist, and at occasions uncovered, however the surroundings is large, with huge, heathery moors giving method to greywacke sandstone hills. And with slightly cautious planning, you possibly can prepare some guesthouses to select you up at day’s finish to ease issues a bit.

On this trek, nature and tradition continuously jostle for consideration: from the placid shores of St Mary’s Loch to spectacular red-sandstone Melrose Abbey, the place Robert the Bruce’s coronary heart is buried, Abbotsford on the banks of the River Tweed, as soon as dwelling of author Sir Walter Scott, and 466m-high Wanlockhead, Scotland’s highest village.

Ben Nevis (Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête)

Greatest peak hike

11 miles (17.5km), 10-11 hours, difficult

Ben Nevis will get greater than its fair proportion of hiker site visitors and we get it: the temptation to face atop “The Ben” is irresistible. For all its crowd-pulling energy, Britain’s highest peak at 1345m (4412ft) gives a splendidly wild slice of the Highlands, to not point out out-of-this-world views from the summit, the place Scotland’s munros, glens and lochs unfold out at your toes like an awesome tweed blanket.  On clear days, you possibly can even see the define of Northern Eire within the shimmering distance.

Most hikers stomp up the well-trod and well-defined Pony Observe, the shortest, quickest, best (properly, comparatively talking) and most crowded method to the highest. When you have the nerve, depart them to it and deal with the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête as an alternative, which takes you alongside a curving, knife-edge ridge, with close-up views of The Ben’s fierce North Face.

You’ll have to get an early begin as it is a lengthy, strenuous day, packing in a variety of scenic variety – taking you from the North Face automotive park up by forest and onto rocky floor. Whereas no climbing is concerned, you’ll should be assured with heights and scrambling, as there are uncovered, boulder-strewn, scree-scattered sections to barter. However having these ravishing views largely to your self make it properly price any further effort.

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Greatest metropolis hike

2.4 miles (3.9km), 1½-2 hours, easy-moderate

You’ll be able to admire the crag-hugging fortress and stroll the Royal Mile, however the true fantastic thing about Edinburgh is that you just’re solely ever a muddy boot-step away from correct hill nation. One of many quickest forays into the wilds is Arthur’s Seat, flinging up above the capital in all its darkish, brooding glory. At simply 251m excessive, this stump of a volcano that final blew its high 350-million years in the past is a bairn of a mountain by Scottish requirements, however as with most issues on this land – it isn’t to be underestimated. Robert Louis Stevenson summed it up neatly when he known as it: “A hill for magnitude, a mountain in advantage of its daring design”.

You’ll want a certain foot and a little bit of puff to ramble as much as the wind-beaten summit on the path from Holyrood, former searching floor of Scottish monarchs. There are a number of routes to select from: from the easy-peasy inexperienced and blue routes to the steeper, rockier, more difficult – and in the end extra rewarding – crimson route, following a lava circulation Lang Rig up, and descending by way of the Salisbury Crags. Both manner, the views on the high are sensational, sweeping throughout the capital to the Forth Bridge within the west and past to the Highlands.

Image of a young woman preparing to scale Bad Step on Skye
The Isle of Skye is a well-liked vacation spot however you possibly can escape the crowds on certainly one of its hikes © Peter Burnett / Getty Pictures

Sgùrr Alasdair, Isle of Skye

Greatest island climb

5 miles (8km), 6-8 hours, difficult

The Isle of Skye is stuffed with highs, none extra enthralling than Sgùrr Alasdair, the loftiest peak within the Black Cuillin at 992m (3255ft). With their darkish, gnarly fangs of rock taking pictures up straight from the ocean, the Cuillin mountains current a few of Britain’s hardest terrain to each hikers and mountaineers. After which there’s the climate, which even the Vikings reviled: Skye takes its identify from the outdated Norse sky-a, that means “cloud island”.

Seen from floor stage, these peaks look insurmountable and a few are except you occur to be conversant in rope and karabiner. The Holy Grail for mountaineers is, after all, the Inaccessible Pinnacle (In Pinn), a mighty, cruel fin of rock that’s Sgùrr Alasdair’s cake-topper. Should you’re not able to climb it simply but, you may get a style of the intrepid (and eyeball the abseilers) by hoofing it as much as the bottom.

Beginning at Glen Brittle memorial hut, this tough, powerful hike entails scrambling over rocks and scree above steep gullies, as you choose your manner up the slopes. Navigation can typically be tough, particularly if mist or rain sweeps in. However choose a transparent day and also you’ll be spellbound by the view over rugged mountain and bright-blue loch, which reaches all the best way to the isles of Rhum, Eigg and Canna.

Rob Roy Approach

Greatest historic hike

79 miles (124km), 6-7 days, reasonable

Dashing Scottish outlaw on the time of the Jacobite risings, Rob Roy – or Robert Roy MacGregor to present him his rightful identify – is probably the best and most romantic of all Scottish people heroes. On this Nice Path stroll from Drymen (on the way more well-known and crowded West Highland Approach) to Pitlochry in Perthshire, you’ll cowl the identical floor because the intrepid, rabble-rousing bandit.

The route throws you within the deep finish of the Highlands, with a feast of all of the sort of surroundings and historical past you come right here for: Glacier-sculpted glens and swift-flowing burns, glassy rivers, frigid lochs and falls, the forests of the Trossachs, Clachan An Diridh stone circle on Fonab moor and the 12-arch Glen Ogle viaduct. There’s some hilly terrain to barter, with a good few ups and downs, however no powerful climbs to talk off.

A lot of the path is on slender roads, tracks and cycle paths, however you’ll nonetheless want good package, an affordable stage of health and a map and compass for when the trail isn’t correctly outlined.