Insurance, vaccinations, visa and permits for Scottish HighlandsSee all Scottish Highlands tours
Insurance, vaccinations, visa and permits for Scottish Highlands
Scotland has its share of challenging treks to be sure. However, with its highest peak, Ben Nevis, standing at only 4,413 feet, hiking in Scotland is more of a casual affair that takes about around 3.5 - 5 hours to climb than a major trek. It’s not like Kilimanjaro, where you need a proper permit and a licensed guide.
In fact, you to do not need to obtain permission or hire a guide to take on any of its long-distance trails; most people just go on their own on a self-guided trek. You don’t even need permission to climb Ben Nevis, so long as you keep your group to 10 or less.
Unlike in the US, you also do not need a permit to set up camp during your backpacking trip… at least in most areas. Wild camping in Scotland is permissible in unenclosed areas, making it easy for trekkers who prefer to sleep under the stars. However, bear in mind that the country also has designated areas—the Trossachs National Park, for one—that are covered by camping bylaws.
Camping in these areas not only means that you need to obtain a £3 per tent permit; you’re also bound by certain rules, including only camping in designated areas, and starting campfires responsibly.
Travel insurance is always encouraged, though not mandatory to hike the Highlands. You also don't require any special visas (beyond what is required between your country of origin and the United Kingdom to enter Scotland) or vaccinations to hike throughout this region.
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