How to get to the Scottish Highlands
How to get to the Scottish Highlands from London, Edinburgh & other cities
Like most of the United Kingdom, getting to the Scottish Highlands and even its trailheads is a breeze. The whole country is very accessible, and different modes of transportation are on hand depending on where you’re coming from, how you’d like to travel, and how much your budget is. Options vary, depending on whether you prefer to travel by rail, plane, or bus. A car or caravan rental is also another option, as is joining a tour that takes care of your transport among other things.
Travellers from big cities like New York and Sydney have many flight options to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, with NYC having both one- and two-stop flights. Those from London may opt to fly, take the train or hop on a bus.
Arriving in a city closest to the beginning of the trail is most ideal. Though, if you prefer to take a longer way, it wouldn’t be much of an inconvenience. In fact, since Scotland is such a picturesque place, flying into Edinburgh or even London then taking a scenic train ride to Fort William, Inverness, or Perth isn’t such a bad idea. It will simply add to your Scottish Highlands adventure.
Travelling by plane to the Scottish Highlands
Though there are smaller airports in the Scottish Highlands, Inverness Airport, located in Dalcross just outside the city of Inverness, essentially serves the destination and is its main airport. It’s an international airport offering flights to many major cities from all over the world, from Amsterdam and Dublin to New York City. A flight from NYC is about 10 hours or more, while a flight from Sydney takes about 29 hours with two stops.
Travelling by rail or coach to the Scottish Highlands
Train services from not just Glasgow and Edinburgh, but also London, are on hand for those who prefer to travel by rail. It’s a great way to get a preview of the Scottish Highlands before you hike it, even if it does take longer. A train ride from King’s Cross Station, for example, can take up to 13 hours, while one from Euston Station can take up to 12 hours.
For an even more offbeat adventure, hop on a bus. The UK is known for its extensive and reliable bus service that reaches the smallest towns and villages, and it’s no different in the Highlands. Several bus companies, including Stagecoach, offer affordable, albeit slow, services to Inverness, Fort Williams and Perth. If you have some time to spare, this might just be an ideal way to meander around the Highlands and see towns and villages you might not otherwise if you took the faster route.
Hire a car in the Scottish Highlands
To reach the Scottish Highlands by hiring a car, arranging for a private transport, or joining a guided tour from one of the major cities in the UK are all possibilities, and easily booked prior to your trip. These typically offer a level of privacy and flexibility you wouldn’t normally get if you flew or took the bus. There are many options available, so be sure to hire a reputable company or brand.
Seasonality and Climbing Requirements
How do I prepare for the Scottish Highlands?
Though many of the Highlands’ great walks and trails are accessible for most skill levels, a strong fitness level is certainly preferable. To prepare, build up your stamina and strength by doing some practice uphill and downhill hikes before your trip, perhaps with your backpack on. Learn more.
When should I climb the Scottish Highlands?
Some trails are manageable in the wintertime, some are best in the summer. Generally, the Scottish Highlands are excellent from May through August, when the days are long and warm. September might be too wet for long-distance treks, but October is drier, and stunning with fall foliage. Learn more.
What permits do I need?
Though wild camping in Scotland is permissible in many unenclosed areas, there are camping bylaw-covered areas in which a permit is necessary for camping. If you plan on camping in such areas, obtain a permit for £3 per tent before your trip. Learn more.
Do I need a guide to climb?
Scotland’s trails are self-guided treks, easily navigable and never too far from civilization, so a guide is not necessary. However, there are guided treks and hikes being offered by tour operators if you prefer to travel with one. Learn more.
How do I get to the Scottish Highlands?
Since the Highlands' network of trails start in different places, where you fly in depends on which route you would like to take on. Travellers from NYC and Sydney have the option to fly into Glasgow, Edinburgh or Inverness, while those from London can hop on a train to those cities. Learn more.
What should I pack and what equipment do I need?
There are some gear and equipment that every hiker will find necessary, and these include mountain gaiters, a raincoat, quick dry pants, water filter and trekking poles. Summers are notorious for midges so a midge head net is also important, as are tweezers for removing ticks. Learn more.
The Scottish Highlands routes
- West Highland Way. Distance: 154 km, average duration: 6-8 days
- Great Glen Way. Distance: 126 km, average duration: 5-6 days
- Southern Upland Way. Distance: 341 km, average duration: 10-20 days
- Great Trossachs Path. Distance: 48 km, average duration: 1-3 days
- Three Lochs Way. Distance: 55 km, average duration: 3-4 days
- Cowal Way. Distance: 92 km, average duration: 3-5 days
- The Great Glen Canoe Trail. Distance: 96 km, average duration: 3-5 days