6 best walking holidays in Scotland for long-distance trails

Stomp the highlands and islands on a Scotland staycation, from the Cairngorms National Park to the Outer Hebrides

Natalie Wilson
Tuesday 12 September 2023 10:42 BST
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Hike through the spectacular scenery of the UK’s northernmost country
Hike through the spectacular scenery of the UK’s northernmost country (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As summer turns to autumn and accessible tracks for walking and cycling shift to shades of orange and red, now’s the time to staycation in the Great Scottish Outdoors.

A haven of hundreds of hikes, trails and rambling routes, rural Scotland’s Highlands, remote Outer Hebrides islands and national parks including the Cairngorms welcome walkers to tread paths to some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery.

Traditional towns such as Glencoe and Fort William, rich in Gaelic culture and hospitality, make for cosy bases while lochs, moorlands and mountain peaks bring the views and facilities for active adventures in nature.

From summiting Ben Nevis to walking the West Highland Way and hopscotching hikes between the Hebrides, here are some of the best multi-day walking holidays in the north of Scotland with routes to suit all fitness levels and distances.

Read more on Scotland travel:

Hike the Highlands

Trek Loch Leven’s shores and the historic Glencoe while discovering the Scottish Highlands
Trek Loch Leven’s shores and the historic Glencoe while discovering the Scottish Highlands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Northwest Scotland’s crowning jewel, the Highlands, offers the towering peak of Ben Nevis, waterfall valleys of Glencoe and legendary wonders of Loch Ness as the centre of a Scottish Highlands holiday. There are more than enough adventures in the Great Outdoors here, with a wealth of walks in the Cairngorms National Park and the Munros Mountains, all on the doorstep of stays in Fort William and Crianlarich.

How to do it

HF Holidays hosts a “Scottish Highlands Guided Walking Holiday” comprising an active seven-night adventure around Glencoe that starts from £825pp. Highlights of the action-packed week include the 60m Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, the forest trails of Gleann a Chaolais and traversing the Mamores. All meals (including cream tea and three-course dinners), a choice of three daily walks and accommodation in Alltshellach country house are provided for the ultimate comfort while hiking in the rugged Highlands.

Climb in the Cairngorms National Park

Hills, forests and lochs blanket the Cairngorm Mountains range
Hills, forests and lochs blanket the Cairngorm Mountains range (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The UK’s largest national park, the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands, has everything from mountains to climb to forest footpaths to tread and lochs shores to stroll. Mountain ranges amid the 1748.271 square miles of natural beauty include the Angus Glens and the Monadhliath with the Spey, Dee and Don rivers weaving in between. Rare wildlife including goldeneye ducklings and wildcats thrives in the Cairngorms nature reserves and the rugged landscape is as versatile as it is vast, with ski resorts, whisky distilleries and golf courses accommodating holidaymakers in every season.

How to do it

Wilderness Scotland has a six-night hiking tour of the high points of the Cairngorms National Park for active holidaymakers to spend a week in one of Scotland’s most impressive mountain ranges. Small summits of the Northern Corries meet the summit of Cairngorm Mountain and the peak of Sgor Gaoith on walks past fairy tale lochs, ancient pinewoods and wildlife including red squirrels and golden eagles. For £2,285pp, groups of up to eight will stay at a private wilderness lodge in Glen Feshie, enjoy fully catered meals and all transport from and to Aviemore Railway Station during this hiking adventure.

Summit Ben Nevis

At 1,345m tall, Ben Nevis is Britain’s highest mountain
At 1,345m tall, Ben Nevis is Britain’s highest mountain (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If climbing the UK’s tallest mountain is on your bucket list, then look no further than Scotland’s Ben Nevis. Once the site of an active volcano, Nevis’ legendary peak towers over the lochs and valleys of the northwest Highlands. Two trails take hikers to the summit: the zig-zag Mountain Track for beginners to climb to the Old Observatory, and the Carn Mor Dearg Arête for experienced scramblers to traverse across boulders to reach the rewarding panoramic views from the mountain’s North face.

How to do it

Much Better Adventures offers a “Summit Ben Nevis and Learn Winter Mountain Skills” package in the dramatic foothills of the UK’s highest mountain. For two nights between December and April from £564, groups of up to 12 can learn how to survive in harsh conditions and summit Ben Nevis while staying in Fort William, an ideal base to explore the Scottish Highlands. Think ice axe and crampons training and a 1,345m ascent complemented by hearty dinners and drams of whisky. All breakfasts, equipment, guesthouse accommodation and mountain guides are included in the price.

Walk the West Highland Way

The linear walk stretches from Milngavie, Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands
The linear walk stretches from Milngavie, Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands (Getty Images)

One of Europe’s most popular walking paths, the linear West Highland Way walk stretches for 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William through countryside parks, loch shores and steep mountains for a multi-day exploration of the Scottish Highlands. Stops in Inverarnan, Tyndrum and Kinlochleven break up the journey through wild landscapes, including Loch Lomond and the infamous Devil’s Staircase climb, and bunkhouses and B&Bs pepper the long-distance route for a traditional taste of Scotland.

How to do it

Intrepid Travel provides a six-day sample of some of Scotland’s best walks such as the West Highland Way, the Great Glen Way and summiting Ben Nevis from the charming base of Fort William on the shores of Loch Linnhe. Hike the famous Devil’s Staircase in Glencoe and the steep Cow Hill for panoramic views of Glen Nevis Valley. The adventurous walking holiday includes all breakfasts, transport, accommodation and guided hikes from £1,200pp. 

Hopscotch the Outer Hebrides

Hop from Barra’s beaches to the rugged hills of Harris
Hop from Barra’s beaches to the rugged hills of Harris (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Scotland’s remote Atlantic islands lie off the mainland’s northwest coast, a haven for walks, wildlife and Gaelic culture. Deserted white sand beaches meet wild mountains and moors on archipelago hotspots from Vatersay to Barra and The Butt of Lewis. The Hebridean Way spans 156 miles across 10 of the islands for intrepid walkers and cyclists to take in the rugged hills on a complete tour of the Outer Hebrides.

How to do it

Macs Adventure’s “Outer Hebrides Island Hopscotch” gives walkers a chance to go off-grid and tread the Outer Hebridean archipelago from Barra to the Uists and Lewis. Lochs, white sand beaches and Neolithic stones populate the Scottish islands best discovered on two feet. The 23-mile journey costs £960pp for seven nights hiking the Hebridean landscape between March and October. All guest house accommodation, ferry crossings and breakfasts are included in the price.

Stroll Speyside Way

The 85-mile route from Buckie to Newtonmore is in the heart of Scotland’s Malt Whisky country
The 85-mile route from Buckie to Newtonmore is in the heart of Scotland’s Malt Whisky country (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Speyside Way, a long-distance path in the Highlands, links the Moray coast with the edge of the Grampian Mountains on a route dotted with rustic B&Bs, guesthouses and campsites ideal for a pinewood fringed walking holiday. A range of paths from a few hours’ strolls to multi-day hiking adventures span nine sections of differing lengths and levels, including Buckie to Spey Bay and Craigellachie to Ballindalloch along the River Spey. There’s even a heritage trail of seven Speyside single malt distilleries for whisky enthusiasts to savour amid days spent in the Scottish hills.

How to do it

Celtic Trails Walking Holidays offers a six-night walking holiday for active whisky lovers to walk 65 miles on Speyside Way. Prices for the trek start from £725pp, March to October, including farmhouse accommodation, luggage transfers, breakfast and a “Walk Pack” of maps and detailed trail guides. The walking holiday through the Cairngorms visits some of Scotland’s finest whisky distilleries, the Ballindalloch Castle estate and the Strathspey Steam Railway on the journey through northeast Scotland’s ancient Caledonian pine forests.

Read more of our best Scottish Highlands hotel reviews

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