Whilst Scotland’s landscapes are unbelievable from the roadside they are even more so when seen from above – climbing the hills in Scotland can easily get addictive! From bagging Scotland’s Munros (mountains over 3000 ft) to tackling long distance trekathons I spend a lot of my time outdoors. There are hundreds of amazing walks right across Scotland from the Highlands to the Lowlands – but the best walks take a little more effort. Here are my favourite day walks in Scotland.
Note – walking in Scotland in winter is unpredictable. Please read my guide to hill walking in Scotland before attempting any of these routes. Especially Ben Nevis which should not be climbed in winter unless you have winter climbing experience
10 incredible day walks in Scotland
Before you head out into the hills check out my guide to hillwalking in Scotland.
1. The mighty Scottish glens – Glencoe to Glen Nevis
If you are going to spend one-day hiking in Scotland, make it the walk from Glencoe to Glen Nevis. It might be a marathon distance and take in 5000 ft of hill climbing, but the views through Scotland’s most famous glen and along the most beautiful section of the West Highland Way make for an incredible day out.
Starting at the Clachaig Inn the route takes you 6 miles alongside the River Coe underneath the Three Sisters and the two mighty herdsmen, Buachaille Etive Beag and Mor, before climbing the daunting Devil’s Staircase. From the top of the staircase admire the view back across Glencoe and then follow the last 20-mile section of the West Highland Way all the way through the village of Kinlochleven to the foot of Ben Nevis in the beautiful Glen Nevis – with views of Scotland’s highest mountain and the mighty Mamores all the way. Scotland at its best.
Glencoe to Glen Nevis Walk
Distance 26 miles. Time 9+ hours. Difficulty: Very strenuous. Start/Finish – Clachaig Inn / Glen Nevis. Services including public loos available in Kinlochleven and in Glen Nevis. The hike can also be backpacked in two 13 mile sections from the Red Squirrel to Kinlochleven and then to Glen Nevis. A bus service from Fort William to Glencoe is run by Shiel Buses.
2. Bag Scotland’s highest peak – Ben Nevis
Climbing the highest mountain in Scotland (and the UK) is on most people’s bucket lists which explains why bagging (peak bagging in Scots) the ‘Big Ben’ is so popular with around 150,000 people each year attempting to climb to the top. The main route up the mountain is the ‘Mountain Path’ – also known as the ‘the Ben Nevis tourist route’ – which makes it sound easy – it is not.
There might be 100s of people to follow and a wide, well-maintained path, but the route up the Ben is 5.4miles of uphill walking, often in little to no visibility – the Nevis Range has a very wet and very windy alpine climate, so you are never guaranteed views on the Ben. Most of the time the Ben is hidden in deep cloud so watch for the drops near the top – including the vertiginous Gardyloo Gully…. but if you do get a good day, the views from the top are nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Ben Nevis by the Mountain Path
Distance 11 miles. Time 7-9 hours (5 hours if you are a regular mountain climber). Difficulty: Strenuous. Don’t do Nevis in winter without experience in winter climbing. Start: Ben Nevis Inn. Stay: Fort William or the Glen Nevis campsite. Read more about Climbing Ben Nevis, including how to try and predict the weather forecast!
3. Climb the Five Peaks in the Pentlands
Edinburgh’s Pentland Hills might not have the height of their Highland cousins, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t short of a view or two of Scotland’s capital. The 10 mile Pentland Hills circular takes in five of the hills, including the highest Scald Law, and gives a fantastic day in the hills – and it is just outside Edinburgh.
Starting with a climb up over Turnhouse Hill (506m) and then Carnethy Hill (573m) which give great views back over Edinburgh, and Midlothian, the path then rises up to Scald Law, the highest hill in the Pentland range at 579m. After you have taken a summit selfie it’s time to tackle East and West Kip, the shapeliest and steepest hills in the range. The walk returns via the road alongside Loganlee and Glencourse reservoirs to complete a 10-mile loop.
Pentlands Hills Walk
Distance 10 miles. Time 5-6 hours. Difficulty: Medium. Walk start: The Regional Park car park behind the Flotterstone Inn. You can get to the Pentland Hills by bus from Edinburgh. If you fancy staying in the Pentlands, Eastside Farm offers lovely holiday cottages.
4. The loneliest mountain – Suilven
In the far north-west region of Sutherland, above a watery landscape of turquoise seas and white sandy beaches and thousands of lochans stands a 731m high, 2km long rocky ridge rising straight up from sea level. Iconic mountains in Scotland don’t come much more iconic than Suilven.
Made up of two peaks – the quite unbelievable spire of Meall Meadhonach (its name ‘middle round hill’ in English is, however, a little underwhelming) and the summit on the ‘grey castle’ or Caisteal Liath – the views from the top are simply incredible. However, getting to the top of Suilven is a real the challenge – the peak is six miles from the nearest road and the walk in from Lochinver most of a day.
The loneliest mountain – Suilven
Distance 13 miles. Time 8+ hours. Difficulty: Strenuous. Start: car parking just before you get to Glencansip Lodge on Cansip Road. Read more: How to climb Suilven.
5. The Shore Walk – Edinburgh to South Queensferry
Edinburgh has a spectacular waterfront with over 15 miles of waterside walkways and walking from Silverknowes to the quaint village of Cramond through the Dalmeny Estate to the dramatic Forth Bridges is one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon.
To start your walk, grab a take away bacon roll from the Boardwalk Beach Club and stroll along to Cramond, a 19th Century village with whitewashed cottages, boats on the River Almond and the long causeway to Cramond Island. From Cramond head up the River Almond to follow the Old Mill Trail through the entrance to the Dalmeny Estate. Here you join the John Muir Way which takes you 6.5 miles to Queensferry along the Firth of Forth, with views of a series of increasingly beautiful and wild beaches – and Barnbougle Castle which sits out on a headland, battered by the waves. The path finally takes you to South Queensferry where you end with a very big view.
The Shore Walk, Edinburgh
Distance 10 miles. Time 5+ hours. Difficulty: Easy. Start: take the no.41 Lothian Bus 40 minutes north of the city to Cramond. At Queensferry jump on the train to Waverley or Haymarket from Dalmeny Station. Read more: The Shore Walk.
6. Ben Cleuch & Castle Campbell
Head north through central Scotland and you will need to skirt the Ochils – the range of hills which stretch from Stirling to Perth. The highest hill of the range is Ben Cleuch which stands at 721m and gives an incredible view across to Gleneagles and the hills of Highland Perthshire.
To the east of Ben Cleuch is Castle Campbell – otherwise known as Castle Gloom – and a path connects the two right across the top of the range. Start your walk by climbing up the steep Mill Glen from Tillicoultry, climbing up over the Law to the summit of Ben Cleuch. Descend back to the Law before climbing Kings Seat before descending to Castle Campbell and the beautiful Dollar Glen. This is a great hike in the snow!
Ben Cleuch and Castle Campbell Walk
Distance 13 miles. Time 5+ hours. Difficulty: Medium. Start: Upper Mill St, Tillicoultry. Read more: Castle Campbell.
7. Bag the Beacon, Ben Lomond
The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is famous worldwide for those seeking wonderful scenery and outdoor adventures. There might be 21 Munros to climb but climbing Ben Lomond is one of the most popular walks in Scotland – with over 30,000 people reaching the summit every year.
The easiest route up the hill is the National Trust for Scotland managed ‘tourist path’ – surrounded by the mountains, you get incredible full circle views of the loch and it’s 22 islands. You don’t need to climb far up the ‘tourist path’ before views of the north end of the loch are revealed, but it is worth climbing to the summit for an incredible view of the whole loch. My favourite views of Loch Lomond are actually from the Ptarmigan Ridge next to Ben Lomond. The path is rockier and tougher, but the views from the descent are beautiful.
Loch Lomond Walk – Ben Lomond
Distance 7.5 miles. Time 4+ hours. Difficulty – hard. Start: the Forestry Commission car park at Rowardennan (£3/day) on the east side of the loch. On a good day the car park will be jam-packed and a stream of people heading up into the hills. Read more: Ben Lomond
8. A taste of Perthshire – Ben Vrackie
One of Scotland’s most popular hill walks in Scotland, at 841m, climbing Ben Vrackie is not quite a Munro – but do not estimate how remote the hill will actually feel when you get up there. For most of the walk, there is a well-made path, with steps to tackle the very steep sections towards the top. From the top the views are stunning – you are looking across to the iconic Beinn a’Ghlo range and further afield to the Cairngorm mountains. Take a picnic and stay awhile, I suggest dropping down to just below the summit, even on a summer’s day, it can be a tad windy at the top!
Climb Ben Vrackie
Distance 6 miles. Time 3+ hours. Difficulty – Medium. Start: The walk starts just past the small hamlet at Moulin (spot the pub for your return!) Walk Ben Vrackie.
9. Hike the remote Loch Affric Circuit
Walking through Glen Affric along, the 11-mile circular path around Loch Affric must be one of Scotland’s most awe-inspiring walks. Glen Affric is one of 48 National Nature Reserves in Scotland, and the walk will take you through the remnants of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Scots Pine forest, alongside the River Affric, past Loch Affric and Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain amongst huge surrounding mountains.
West Affric is often described as Scotland’s most beautiful glen, but it takes an effort to get to – it is at least 5 miles from the nearest road and you will need to hike into the glen along the Affric to Kintail Way. It is a 13-mile walk around Loch Affric or check into the Alltbeithe Youth Hostel or Glen Affric Youth Hostel to spend the night in the glen.
Walk the Glen Affric Circuit
Distance 11 miles. Time 6+ hours. Difficulty – Medium. Start: get the bus to or park at the Glen Affric car park, the Forestry Commission has a great guide to the area. Remember that the glens are very remote and from the Loch Affric trail, there is no quick exit back to the car if the weather comes in. Read more: Glen Affric.
10. find the Lost Valley, Glencoe
Take the path between the imposing peaks of the Three Sisters to a valley with a grim history. The valley was once used as a hiding place for stolen cattle, and in 1692 whilst their clan leader was killed and homes burned by Campbell soldiers, the men of the Macdonald clan hid in Coire Gabhail or ‘The Hollow of Capture’ during the Glencoe massacre. Today the valley is more commonly known as the Lost Valley and exploring its depths beneath the imposing peak of the dreadful corrie, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the glen beneath you. It is an unsettling place, but stunningly beautiful.
Lost Valley Walk
Distance 2.5 miles. Time 2+ hours. Difficulty – Easy. Start: The walk up to the Lost Valley starts at the larger of the two car parks beneath the Three Sisters. Follow the walk via Walk Highlands.
Love, from Scotland x