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Five great hikes in Scotland
Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. With a varied landscape of lush glens, steep mountains, and rugged coastline, there are plenty of great hikes in Scotland to satisfy any hiker. Here are five of the best.
West Highland Way
One of Scotland's most popular hikes runs 96 miles from Milngavie to Ft. William. The trail offers a good sampling of many of Scotland's ecozones including lochs, moors, forests, hills, and mountains. One highlight is the Devil's Staircase, a rough ridge north of Glen Coe that offers challenging walking, and, if you go off the path, the toughest scrambling in Scotland. Check out the West Highland Way website for more information.
East Highland Way
Scotland's newest long-distance trail starts at Ft. William and ends 78 miles later at Aviemore. In between, the trail passes three beautiful castles, prehistoric sites, several fine lochs, and a wonderfully remote and abandoned stretch of wilderness. For more information, check out my Gadling series on hiking the East Highland Way. Also check out the East Highland Way website.
Great Glen Way
Another popular hike, the Great Glen Way crosses Scotland from Ft. William to Inverness, a 79 mile route that takes you through a broad stretch of forest, as seen in this photo courtesy Karsten Berlin, and along the length of Lochs Locky, Oich, and Ness. Loch Ness is 23 miles long and the second largest loch in Scotland. Most walkers take nearly two days to walk its length, providing a chance to admire its beautiful scenery and mistake every ripple on its surface for a monster. I'll probably be doing this hike in September. Stay tuned for a special Gadling series!
Despite this being an unmarked and unofficial trail, there are two guidebooks dedicated to hiking to the Scottish mainland's northernmost point -- the lighthouse at Cape Wrath. One route starts at Ft. William and is 202 miles; the other starts at Banavie and covers much the same ground, clocking in at 205 miles. Parts of the route are unmarked and even uninhabited, meaning you'll have to bring a lot of gear. This is not a hike for the inexperienced. On the other hand, you'll be seeing some of Scotland's most remote spots. The hardy souls who have done this have told me it was one of the toughest challenges they've ever faced, and the most rewarding.
The Clyde Coast Way
If hiking to Cape Wrath is a bit more than you want to tackle, the Clyde Coast Way is a lot shorter and more forgiving. At only 50 miles, it can easily be done in four days and provides plenty of stunning views of Scotland's southwest coast. As you walk from Ayr to Greenock, you'll have mountains on one side and distant islands on the other. You'll pass through several coastal towns, each with their own attractions such as historic churches and, more importantly, pubs. There's easy access to roads, railway stations, and accommodation throughout, making this a good choice for the beginning hiker who wants plenty of beautiful scenery.
Another great hike worth considering isn't actually in Scotland, although you can see Scotland from the trail. The Hadrian's Wall Path follows the length of Hadrian's Wall from Wallsend 84 miles to Solway Estuary. You're just on the English side of the border for much of the time and you can visit several Roman forts along the way. You also get bragging rights for having walked across England. Just don't mention you did it at its narrowest part!