Best Hikes for Beginners in Scotland

We Rank the Best Hikes for Beginners in Scotland

The British Isles are home to some of the most impressive and easily accessible networks of hiking trails in the world. In Scotland alone, there are 32 long distance walking routes as well as hundreds of short trails and paths that vary from coastal walks to forest trails and epic wilderness treks.

For newbie hikers looking to conquer the country’s trails, we’ve compiled this list of the best hikes for beginners in Scotland. Get ready to experience the country’s legendary outdoors on a rewarding hike past historic and enchanting viewpoints. Oh and we’ve also included a few bonus routes for the experienced trekkers out there.

Feeling inspired already? Check out the most popular hiking and trekking tours in Scotland. 

Best Hikes for Beginners in Scotland

1. Ness Islands Walk

  • Distance: 5 kilometres (3 miles)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Best time to trek: May through September
  • Notable stops: Whin Park, St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Wander along suspended Victorian-era footbridges from one small island to the next in the heart of Inverness. The group of five islands nestled in the River Ness is a perfect venue for an invigorating, one-hour morning hike or to cap off your evening with a slow, twilight walk. 

Take your time getting to know the flora that grows in the area, see if you can spot some otters that laze around in the water, cool down with ice cream and sit on a bench and watch the world go by. If it proves to be too easy, you can always take on a more challenging trek through the North Highland Coast. 

river in scotland
Photo credit: conner395 on Visual Hunt / CC BY

2. Rothiemurchus Forest Loop

  • Distance: 7.5 kilometres (4.75 miles)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Best time to trek: June through October
  • Notable stops: Iron Bridge over Am Beanaidh

Cairngorms National Park’s Rothiemurchus Forest, which used to be part of the Caledonian Forest, is a popular hideaway for nature seekers and outdoor lovers for good reason. A day trip here requires a walk through the woods along its easy footpath that starts and ends in the tiny hamlet of Coylumbridge. 

Alternately, the loop around nearby Loch An Eilein, which is equally as easy, might be more stunning with the lake’s captivating reflections of the surrounding foliage and castle. Pack a picnic basket and find a spot to settle in for a lovely lunch. 

3. Crinan Canal Hike

  • Distance: 14 kilometres (9 miles)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Best time to trek: May through November
  • Notable stops: Moine Mhor National Nature Reserve, Dunadd Fort

Though boating, fishing and kayaking are top diversions in the idyllic Crinan Canal in the Knapdale region of western Scotland, exploring the canal on foot is quite possibly the best way to get to know its nooks and crannies.

Starting from the village of Crinan at Loch 14, follow the scenic towpath that takes you 14 kilometres southeast in the village of Ardrishaig, passing bog habitats, wooded land, a historic fort and even resident beavers along the way.

Shorter sections like from Crinan to Cairnbarn are also on hand if you haven’t got the extra time. But if you do, it might be a good idea to veer off the path and visit the Achnabreac Cup and Ring Rocks.

4. The Old Mill and Achmelvich Beach

  • Distance: 6.4 kilometres (4 miles)
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Best time to trek: May through August
  • Notable stops: Hermit’s Castle
seaside in scotland
Photo credit: praveenfbi on Visualhunt / CC BY

The untamed parish of Assynt along Scotland’s west coastline is widely appealing, its rock outcroppings, majestic peaks and grassy plains making it the perfect venue of irreducible journeys by foot. Take on a trek on your own or join a hiking tour.

One grand hike here is the trail to Achmelvich Beach, famous for blue-hued waves lapping against a stretch of white sand beach. The journey from Lochinver Village is absurdly beautiful, passing a secret beach and a small castle along the way. At the beach, stay awhile as you might spot seals, otters and even sharks in the water.

Best Hikes for Beginners in Scotland
Photo credit: aeu04117 on VisualHunt / CC BY

5. Old Man of Hoy Trail

  • Distance: 9.25 kilometres (5.75 miles)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Best time to trek: May through October
  • Notable stops: Anywhere with a view

While the Orkney archipelago is famous for its adorable seal colonies and incredible Neolithic sites, intrepid adventurers prefer to conquer its towering sandstone sea cliffs. One covetable stack is the Old Man of Hoy, a local icon best seen from the adjacent cliff that also offers spectacular views of the country’s northern coast at 450 feet up.

The trail is well-defined that begins in the town of Rackwick, but it’s not so easy a climb so quick stops along the way might be necessary depending on your physical strength. It’s a good thing it’s a coastal walk, and memorable panoramas are abundant along the way. A DSLR with a great lens for landscapes is absolutely necessary.

6. Fairy Hill of Caledonians

  • Distance: 10 kilometres (6.25 miles)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 4-6 hours
  • Best time to trek: May to September
  • Notable stops: Spot overlooking Craigh na Dun from Outlander

It isn’t only superstitions and past traditions that make the Fairy Hill of Caledonians, also called Schiehallion, the stuff of legends along with the views from its summit as well. A munro, it’s become popular to many hikers and trekkers as well as a favourite addition to many trekking tours because of its accessibility. It’s not an easy climb to the top, mind you, but it is less challenging than most of Scotland’s munros.

And at the very top at 3547 ft, you’re rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the highlands as well as Ben Nevis, United Kingdom’s highest mountain, rivalling many less accessible munros.

7. Great Glen Way

  • Distance: 117 kilometres (73 miles)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Duration: 7-8 days
  • Best time to trek: May to September
  • Notable stops: Spean Bridge, Meall a’Cholumain, Invermoriston Hotel

Long-distance hikers come from all over the world to test the country’s long-distance trails through lush hills and craggy lands. One of the most popular treks is the Great Glen Way, a 117-kilometre trail that essentially connects Fort William in the southwest to Inverness in the northeast. Along the way are picture perfect sights of breathtaking lochs including Loch Ness and of the legendary Scottish Highlands. 

Most of the trail is a straightforward hike so many can take on the challenge as long as they’ve prepared for the demands of a long-distance trail. However, steep climbs are to be expected near the end around Loch Ness.

Accommodations in small towns along the way are readily available if you would like to forgo carrying a sleeping bag and a tent.

8. West Highland Way

  • Distance: 151 kilometres (96 miles)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Duration: 6-8 days
  • Best time to trek: April through October
  • Notable stops: Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor

As far as long-distance hikes go, West Highland Way is a classic. Technically, it is nowhere near being classed as a ‘beginner hike’, but why not start thinking about something you can work towards right? Not only is it Scotland’s first long-distance route, it’s also by far the country’s most popular.

Tackling it is a decent undertaking with many fairly easy to manageable sections dotted with some challenging bits – like trekking the Devil’s Staircase – that invite you to push past your limits and reward you with unforgettable views. 

The trail stretches from Milngavie to the foot of Ben Nevis in Fort Williams, a 151-kilometre trek. To push yourself, even more, start in Glasgow along the Kelvin Walkway or continue on from Fort Williams to Inverness along the Great Glen Way.

Best Hikes for Beginners in Scotland
Photo credit: Strength on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

9. Southern Upland Way

  • Distance: 341 kilometres (212 miles)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Duration: 12 days
  • Best time to trek: April to June, September to October
  • Notable stops: St. Mary’s Loch, Castle Kennedy, John Dippie’s Well

Again, this should not be attempted by beginners but it’s simply too beautiful not to include! West Highland Way isn’t the only long-distance trekking must in Scotland. There’s also Southern Upland Way, the country’s only official coast to coast route. Running for 341 kilometres from Portpatrick in the west all the way east to Cockburnspath, it’s more than double the length of West Highland Way.

Dedicate at least 12 days and train hard prior to doing the trek if you’re going to do the whole thing as it has its fair share of challenging sections. Thankfully, there are also some easy stretches to give you a bit of a break. As for the views, well they’re not too shabby.

10. The Scottish National Trail

  • Distance: 864 kilometres (537 miles)
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Duration: 5 weeks
  • Best time to trek: April through October
  • Notable stops: Wideopen Hill, Falkirk Wheel, Corrieyairack Pass, Falls of Glomach

Best Hikes for Beginners in Scotland

Last but not least, tick the Scottish National Trail off your bucket list as the 864-kilometre route that takes you from Kirk Yetholm in the very south to the Cape Wrath in the north is simply incredible. Much like the Appalachian Trail in the US and the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal, this incredible trail is a demanding yet extremely rewarding journey for the brave and the bold.

Furthermore, it runs through sections of some of Scotland’s famous hiking routes including the South Upland Way, West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way so in a way, you’re ticking those off the list as well. Before going, train hard. It is not for the casual hiker.

Are you ready for your next hiking adventure? Take a look at our most popular hiking and trekking tours in Scotland. 

Michelle is Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. Her dream, next to travelling the world, is to own her own funky, boutique hotel with a small animal sanctuary so she can spend the rest of her days chilling with cats and hedgehogs. Follow her on Instagram .

Tajikistan Trekking Tour
Up Next:

Everything You'll See On a Tajikistan Trekking Tour

Everything You'll See On a Tajikistan Trekking Tour