The walking paths of Scotland are some of the most dramatic you’ll find in the world—traveling along broad barren fields and weather-beaten stretches of empty coast without ever straying too far from a pub. John Muir, the Scottish-born founder of the Sierra Club, would be proud of the network of trekking paths that greet visitors to his country today. These three are among the finest. You can camp along the way or stay overnight in the towns you pass through—be sure to bring bug spray either way.
The Best Treks in Scotland: Southern Upland Way
The Southern Upland Way stretches 212 miles across southern Scotland, starting on the southwest coast in Portpatrick and traveling to the opposite shore at Cockburnspath. It’s a significantly less crowded but equally beautiful alternative to the renowned West Highland Way. The walk is a sampler platter of the best of Scotland's scenery—rocky shores, thick forests, sheep pastures, and old castles.
The Best Treks in Scotland: Great Glen Way
The Great Glen Way travels 73 miles through the Highlands along the path of the Great Glen, Scotland’s longest valley. Hikers begin at the southwest trailhead at Fort William and follow the Caledonian Canal, which connects several lakes—including Loch Ness—before terminating in the east at Inverness. The route follows the canal’s towpath for much of the way, though it does dart into the forested hills occasionally, and isn’t overly rigorous.
The Best Treks in Scotland: St. Cuthbert’s Way
This 62-mile route crisscrosses the border between Scotland and England, beginning at the place where St. Cuthbert—the medieval patron saint of northern England—started his ministry in the 7th century, and traveling east to Holy Island where he died. Your hike starts at the stunning 12th-century Melrose Abbey and follows the banks of the River Tweed before climbing the Eildon Hills and Wideopen Hill, passing St. Cuthbert’s Cave, and finally reaching the North Sea coast. The trip usually takes four days to complete.