The 10 Best Nature Walks in Scotland
Today’s guest writer is Rebecca Brown, a translator, avid traveler, and bookworm. Her job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives her a chance to try to showcase some of them.
Scotland is a hiker’s promised land. It abounds in beautiful nature, wild and dramatic. No matter what kind of landscape you crave, Scotland can provide it. It also doesn’t matter if you’re a fierce hiker or a pool noodle — there’s a walk for everyone’s level of fitness.
Some people like to take their time and backpack, but even if you only have a day (or an afternoon), there are plenty of such walks to try in this gorgeous country.
Narrowing down the list of the most amazing walks in Scotland was difficult, but here are some of our favorite picks:
Glencoe to Glen Nevis
Kicking off this list is a quintessential Scotland hike that is not for the faint of heart. The walk from Glencoe to Glen Nevis is long and strenuous but highly rewarding. You can start from Clachaig Inn in Glencoe and follow the River Coe.
On this route, you get to walk one of the most stunning sections of the West Highland Way and pass Bidean nam Bian Mountain, or the Three Sisters, an iconic feature of the Highlands.
Save your energy for the boulder-strewn Devil’s Staircase, at the top of which awaits one of the most amazing views you’ll ever experience. It’s an arduous walk, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Quiraing Hill Circuit
Quiraing is the most recognizable gem of the Isle of Skye, and rightly so. It’s a landslip on the northern coastline filled with rock towers, plateaus, and needles. Quiraing is also one of the most photographed places in Scotland, and you’ll see exactly why on this short but sweet walk.
The walk is a loop, and it takes about three hours. However, some sections are steep or boggy, so you need to be careful. The walk starts at the dedicated car park, goes up to the cliffs for a breathtaking view, and circles back to the park.
A dry and sunny day is ideal for taking the Quiraing walk, as wind, mist, and rain can make the rock slippery.
Beinn Alligin is Gaelic for “the Mountain of Beauty.” Out of the three famous Torridon ridge walks, this one is the easiest, but it’s still challenging.
It starts at the car park west of the Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil River. From Torridon village, it’s a climb to the first peak — Tom na Gruagaich — which provides an amazing view. From there, you can continue to the second peak before you begin your descend.
There’s a good path along the entire route, but it’s steep and mountainous, so come prepared. It’s an incredible walk that will leave your body exhausted and your spirit lifted.
The Old Man of Hoy
The Old Man of Hoy is an imposing structure on the island of Hoy, off the north coast of Scotland. It’s one of the tallest sea stacks in the entire UK and a wonderful inspiration for this walk.
The walk starts in Rackwick. You then follow the signs that lead to the famous structure. This hike is not that difficult, and you get to see some of the most dazzling cliffs in Britain. You’ll catch a glimpse of the object of your “pilgrimage” long before you get to it.
At the foot of the Old Man, you’ll probably notice many climbers trying to conquer the rocky formation. It’s quite a sight to behold.
Suilven, in the west of Sutherland, has a distinctive shape that makes it one of the most recognizable mountains in the entire country. It’s also surrounded by bogs, moorland, and lochans (small lakes), so it’s not that easy to approach.
Beware that this walk takes a certain level of physical fitness — the terrain is not difficult, but the ascent is quite steep all the way to the highest point, Caisteal Liath. Make sure to take this walk in good weather, so that you can enjoy the magnificent view from the top, dotted with lochans and other diverse natural features.
When you reach the summit, you can start your walk back by retracing your steps, or wander a bit further to explore the entire length of the ridge.
If you’re in Glasgow or Edinburgh and you only have an afternoon to spare, then Ben A’an is a perfect choice! The hill is only a short drive from the cities, and you’ll have the most pleasant three hours in nature you’ve ever experienced.
There’s only one trail leading to the top of the hill, so the walk is quite straightforward. Although the ascent to the top may look intimidating from the foot of the hill, it’s really not that challenging, considering it’s a relatively short walk.
The view is stunning at any time of the year. You can see Loch Katrine, Ben Lomond, and the Arrochar Alps.
Speaking of the Arrochar Alps, if you’d like to explore them, we suggest you go for the Cobbler, otherwise known as Ben Arthur. It’s a small mountain among the rugged giants, and it’s an easy-to-moderate walk.
The hike takes you up at a mild ascent. The trail is well marked at the beginning, and you just follow the stream. The Cobbler has three summits. The central one has a famous rock formation with a hole in it, where climbers like to attempt to “thread the needle,” or pass through the hole in the rock.
If the weather is bad or you don’t feel confident, skip the needle part and just marvel at the view.
Glen Affric is a hidden gem and a National Nature Reserve next to the highly popular Loch Ness. Due to its proximity to the famous lake, the glen is often overlooked. This is great news for anyone looking for some peace and quiet in nature for a few hours.
The best way to explore it is to take a circular walk around Loch Affric. The trail isn’t marked, but you won’t have a hard time following it, and it’s not a difficult walk. On your hike, you’ll notice some trees that look out of place — that’s because these are Scots pine trees that resemble the flora of the African savannah (which is how the glen and lake got their names).
Ben Vrackie is a mountain (or rather a hill) in Perthshire, north of the town of Pitlochry. It’s quite an easy hike, as the ascent is gentle. The initial section of the trail is well trodden and straightforward, so the walk is enjoyable.
It’s best to choose a sunny day — but not too hot, since there’s nothing to protect you from the sun or other elements. If you’re going in winter, make sure to wear proper footwear, ideally with crampons, because the path can get quite slippery with frost.
You’ll have a breathtaking view of the Cairngorm Mountains and the surrounding area at the top.
If you’re craving a beach but want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a lengthy walk, you should hike to Sandwood Bay in Sutherland. The bay is quite remote, with the closest road being seven kilometers (4.3 miles) away. However, when you arrive at the destination, you’ll be stunned.
The bay is gorgeous, with powdery white sand and dunes and a view of the marvelous cliffs. It can be windy, so make sure to dress appropriately. However, don’t try to swim here, as the currents are strong and unforgiving.
These ten walks are just some suggestions in a sea of options. Scotland has marvelous nature, and it never disappoints those who love to spend time in the great outdoors.
I’m Rebecca, a translator, avid traveler, and bookworm. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.
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