The United Kingdom could have been tailor-made for walking holidays. This land isn’t called green and pleasant for nothing. Rolling, rural landscapes stretch away into the distance; a green-and-gold patchwork of farmland, criss-crossed by wildlife-filled hedgerows and fringed with deep-scented woodlands of oak, ash, beech and hazel. Further afield there are windswept moors, remote hills and valleys, and of course, a never-ending coastline, topped by cliffs and dotted with smugglers coves and long sandy beaches.

And it’s not just the British scenery that is geared up for walking and hiking trips: walker-friendly accommodation, baggage transfer services and transport connections are all well developed, catering to the many millions of walkers who set out on the nation’s 140,000+ miles of public footpaths each year.

And don’t forget the British USP: almost every day of walking can be rounded off in that most unique and ancient of British institutions: the village pub, a welcoming place to rest, drink, usually eat, often stay and always experience an easy way to meet the locals.

The only thing you need to know is decide where to go, and how to do it. We’ve got you covered on both counts. Read on for our in-depth guide to planning a walking holiday in the UK.

Self-guided vs guided walking holidays

How to choose your flavour of hiking trip

There are three broad categories of walking holidays: Fully independent, an organised but self-guided holiday, or an escorted tour, typically with a guide and a group of other walkers.

Each has its own merits. Which you plump for depends partly on your physical ability and your budget, but generally speaking it’s a question of convenience versus freedom.

Fully independent

This is typically the preserve of dedicated trekkers in the more remote wilderness areas where accommodation and services are few and far between.

Some take this to the extreme by being almost completely self-sufficient, carrying a tent and cooking equipment with them and pitching up at whatever quiet camping spot they find each evening. (Wild camping is generally prohibited in England and Wales, but is permissible—within limits—in Scotland.) Others will use B&Bs as they go, but carry everything they need for the entire trip, perhaps altering their route as they go.

It’s difficult to quantify the sense of freedom you have when you set off on a walk from A to B, carrying everything you might need along the way and navigating yourself the entire way. It’s also usually the cheapest way to go, but the main advantage is that you don’t have to tie yourself down to a rigid schedule. Instead, you can go with the flow, walking as fast or slow as you prefer and stopping wherever and whenever you like. And unless you’re hiking a very remote mountainous area in, say, the Scottish Highlands, navigation is rarely a major problem.

Most walking trails in Britain are well marked, particularly the National Trails and the coastal paths, and they are usually covered by a comprehensive, easy-to-follow guidebook, or at very least a mapping series. Top tip: Invest in a walking guide. It’ll be the best £10 you spend on your trip.

Recommended guidebooks

Cicerone Guides (www.cicerone.co.uk) are the best UK source of up-to-date guides to walking routes, with a range of around 350 practical, pocket-sized books and around 30 new editions a year. Expect to pay between £9 and £16 for a guide.

Look out too for Poucher’s Guides, published by Frances Lincoln and highly rated by walkers. They’re hard to find today other than secondhand from online sources. Other good titles are Crimson Publishing’s Pathfinder Guides or the Inn Way Series.

Organised/self-guided walking holidays

For most walkers, carrying all the gear you need for a multi-day trip just isn’t feasible, but going on an escorted or fully guided tour also doesn’t appeal. Fortunately, there are plenty of specialist walking holiday companies that will tailor an itinerary to your level, book your nightly accommodation and transport your luggage from one guesthouse to the next as you complete your walk. This is by far the most common and popular mode of walking holiday in the UK.

There are some restrictions (they can’t always deliver to campsites, for example, nor to very remote hostels), and you’ll be tied to a pre-set itinerary of course, but this option does leave you with the freedom of walking on your own, without having the physical burden of anything more than a light daypack.

A slightly more DIY variation on the organised self-guided walking holiday is to pre-book each night’s accommodation yourself and organise your own baggage transfer from inn to inn. Walker-oriented B&Bs may offer a baggage transfer service via local taxi companies or, in the more popular walking areas, you’ll find standalone baggage transfer services. When all’s said and done the cost saving between this and booking an organised holiday won’t be significant, and the convenience and reassurance of using a specialist walking holiday company usually outweighs any benefits of doing it all yourself.

Escorted/group walking tours

For those who don’t trust their navigational skills or just prefer to walk with others, escorted tours offer fully supported group walks with an experienced guide. This also removes the hassle of having to plan your trip—a nice feeling when you’re on a holiday. Trips usually include accommodation, transport arrangements, baggage transfer, minibus back-up and, of course, a guide.

The downside is that you won’t be able to stop where and when you want, to take that afternoon snooze on a sunny riverbank, to spend an extra few minutes lining up that perfect selfie, or to take an extra rest day in an idyllic fishing village you discover you have a soft spot for. Taking a guided tour also makes your walking holiday significantly more expensive.

Point-to-point long distance walks vs centre-based holidays

Inn-to-inn or home base?

Classic point-to-point (sometimes marketed as ‘inn-to-inn’) walking trips follow a single route for the duration of your holiday. This allows walkers to tackle long distance trails and enter into the purposeful mindset of accomplishing a single, longer journey with a rewarding sense of completion at the end.

The downsides are of course a lot of planning for changing accommodation and refreshment on a daily basis. It may mean organising a luggage transfer service, either formally with a specialist company, via taxi, or through your accommodation. You’ll never be settled and feel at home in one place and may be forced to walk to the next accommodation whatever the weather or state of your legs.

Centre-based walking holidays are a more relaxed option, although if your centre is Llanberis in Snowdonia or Windermere in the Lakes you could be in for a very challenging series of day walks. The choice of home base becomes more important if you are spending every night of the holiday there.

If your holiday is more than a couple of days your walks from the same base are likely to involve some repetition, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if the scenery is truly great. You will never get the same smug feeling of completion at the end of a two-week hike but balance that with the compensation of being able to do something different whenever you fancy or find a short cut back to your accommodation if it starts raining. You can adapt to the weather and your energy levels in a way that point-to-point walkers can’t.

Muddying the waters further is the option of dual (or more) centre trips. There’s nothing stopping you spending several days in one place and then moving on to the next. A specialist walking holiday company can create a suitable itinerary.

How much does a walking holiday cost?

Typical costs per day

Costs vary depending on your chosen flavour of trip and can fluctuate significantly by location. Prices are generally higher the further south you go, but also spike in tourist hotspots like the Lake District and the Cotswolds. Solo travellers will often pay more for accommodation than a couple would pay per person.

Fully independent

(per person)

Accommodation (B&B/walking inns): £50 - £100 per night

Evening meals (in pubs/hotel restaurants): £15 - £20 per day

Baggage transfer, if applicable: around £10 per day per bag

Extras (lunch, snacks, entrance tickets): £5 - £20 per day

Organised holiday, self-guided

Between £80 and £150 per person per day, depending on the location. Typically includes accommodation, breakfasts, bag transfers and all other logistics.

Escorted/group walking tours

One week escorted tour: depending on standard of accommodation, from £700 to £1,000 (including accommodation & breakfast, but no other meals)

Meals: £120-£200

When to go on a UK walking holiday

Climate, seasons & when to go

The UK has a temperate-maritime climate which brings cold, wet winters and warm(er) but also often wet summers. Surrounded by sea, the country has changeable weather that can vary within short distances and timescales. There can be fine bright walking days at any time of the year, but they can just as quickly turn into wet and windy afternoons!

Summer is almost never too hot to walk but winters can bring snow, particularly in Scotland and on high ground in Wales and northern England.

Overall the north is on average four or five degrees cooler and wetter. The southwest and Wales are mildest but due to prevailing winds from the Atlantic get more rain than eastern areas.

Generally the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn offer the best balance of smaller crowds and more agreeable weather.

Aside from the more remote stretches of the Scottish Highlands, you won’t find any genuine wilderness in the UK. But conditions can still turn treacherous even when you’re relatively close to civilisation. Regardless of the month, sensible preparation and packing all-weather gear is essential.

In this guide

Best Places For Walking In The UK

The UK's top-rated regions for walking holidays

Best Places For Walking In The UK
By Simon Heptinstall

The UK has more surprises waiting to be discovered than almost any destination in Europe. Wherever you live, don’t let the cosy familiarity of the UK’s cultural icons and famous landmarks deter you from exploring the rest of it.

These four nations are densely packed with variety that, away from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, there are an enormous number of sights that most people have never heard of. Best of all for walkers are the sheer number and variety of paths through British landscapes that are always rich in tradition, varied in landscape and full of history.

Wherever you find yourself you'll never be far from a public footpath of some sort and, once outside of the urban sprawls, almost any patch of countryside makes for a pleasant stroll. But for a truly special trip, consider one of the following top-rated walking holiday regions.

Scotland

Walking north of the border

Still (at least for the time being) a constituent member of the United Kingdom, Scotland is a mecca for casual walkers and dedicated trekkers alike. There’s no way we can do the entire country justice on this page, so click here for a detailed look at Scotland’s hiking highlights.

UK Lochranza on the Isle of Arran

Lochranza, on the Scottish Isle of Arran

Northumberland

Vast, empty and wild

There’s a large area between the Tyne and the Scottish border that is little troubled by tourists but full of walking possibilities. The craggy Cheviot hills form one boundary and the sandy shores of the North Sea the other. Walkers can explore wild hills and vast forests of Northumbria National Park on a long distance trail like St Cuthbert’s Way or the Northumberland Coast Path through some of England’s most scenic but least-visited seascapes.

It’s not a widely marketed destination for walking holidays or specialist luggage movers. In fact England’s least populated countryside includes no cites and few towns, so expect to have to plan inn-to-inn holiday routes carefully around limited accommodation and transport links.

UK Northumberland Lindisfarne Holy Island

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, on the Northumberland Coast Path

East Anglia

Looks can be deceiving

Hillwalkers look away now. This is Britain’s flattest region with pancake landscapes stretching to the hazy horizon in all directions. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some delightful walking and the regional highlights, the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts, and the Norfolk Broads National Park, are as spectacular as anything in the UK. Way-marked, full-supported long distance trails include the 228-mile triangle formed by Peddars Way, Norfolk Coast Path, and the Angles Way while other less well-known routes celebrate local historical figures as divergent as Boudicca, Nelson and Hereward the Wake.

Walkers will be able to explore easy flat paths through gorgeous examples of rural lowland England, with frequent pastoral scenes looking like Constable paintings. Expect a good transport network but plan accommodation ahead because in rural parts options can be limited whether you are travelling inn-to-inn or based in one spot.

Turf Fen Mill in the Norfolk Broads England UK

Turf Fen Mill in the Norfolk Broads

Yorkshire

God's own country

England’s biggest county includes the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire Moors and a big chunk of the Peak District National Park, a Heritage Coast and dozens of outstanding natural areas.

For walkers, its offerings range from challenging hill trails to more relaxed lowland hikes. Most routes include some rugged moorland stretches and Yorkshire’s long distance trails include tough options like the Dales Top Ten, a 77-mile trek round the ten highest hills in the Dales or the Pennine Way, a 251-mile iconic trail along the mountainous spine of the country.

There is a good choice of guided walking holidays along waymarked long distance trails, or centre-based stays in any of the national parks. The availability of accommodation varies greatly between areas but all styles of walking holiday are possible, with choices like the Inn Way trails linking country pubs or circular centre-based routes skirting Barnsley, Sheffield and Hawes in the Dales.

UK Gunnerside Swaledale Yorkshire England

Classic Yorkshire countryside in Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Isle of Wight

Peaceful & pretty

With a varied and fascinating coastline of 60 miles, the Isle of Wight is bigger than many outsiders expect. Safe, quiet and untroubled by mountains or wilderness areas, it has become one of England’s most popular walking destinations. There are no motorways or cities to avoid, instead expect peaceful, pretty landscapes, yachting harbours and wooded estuaries, old-fashioned seaside towns and rolling downland. The coast path is a highlight but other routes criss-cross the island. Yarmouth, Cowes and Ventnor can serve as attractive centres for walking holidays too.

UK Isle of Wight coastpath

Sea views from the Isle of Wight coastpath

The Southwest

Popular and varied

England’s southwestern peninsular of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire has the mildest climate and a varied coastline, which explains why it’s the UK’s most popular holiday area.

The 630-mile Southwest Coast Path encompasses it all but there are hundreds of others, from the 600-miles of trails in Exmoor National Park to circular day-walks like the National Trust routes around Cheddar Gorge or Stonehenge. They range in quality too: from sign-posted long distance national trails with luggage support and frequent refreshments to rugged lonely muddy tracks across Dartmoor where a compass is advisable.

Across the southwest walkers will find some serious wild moorland areas and a few cities, but generally the landscape comprises rolling farmland that’s never far from the sea. Expect crowds at holiday times but the positive side of the area’s popularity is a huge choice of accommodation that means inn-to-inn walks are an easy option. Organised self-guided walks are commonplace, with several specialist operators to choose from.

UK Hollerday Hill of the Valley Of The Rocks in Exmoor National Park

Valley of Rocks, on the Exmoor coastline

The Lake District

England's heavy hitter

Perhaps the most famous walking region in the UK, the Lake District offers a chance to wander lonely as a cloud amid impressive landscapes of mountains and water. The choices for walkers range from England’s most serious climbing routes to gentle lakeside circuits. The two main hazards to consider are that the main roads and towns get very busy with day trippers and tour buses in the summer months, while the fells include challenging terrain to be taken very seriously.

Nevertheless there are world-class scenes to discover here whether Wainwright bagging or pottering in the footsteps of poets. Classic long distance trails include the 93-mile Tour of the Lakes circuit and the start of the Coast-to-Coast and Hadrian’s Wall routes - but there are hundreds of smaller less celebrated paths including classics like Striding Edge or Borrowdale. The former will be way-marked and popular with walking holiday companies. Luggage support should be readily available. The latter fall into the category of mountain walking and you may require more self-sufficiency regarding navigation and luggage.

Across the Lakes the transport network can be a limiting factor. Roads are narrow and sometimes jammed. Nevertheless there is a huge range of places to stay, from farm B&Bs and hostels to luxury hotels and suiting either inn-to-inn or centre-based walking holidays.

UK England Lake District Buttermere surrounded by green hill in Englands Lake District

Buttermere, in the Lake District

Wainwright who?

Prolific mountain walker, author and illustrator Alfred Wainwright was the father figure of Lakeland walking. His 60-year-old guides to the fells are still definitive volumes for walking in the Lakes and he was instrumental in establishing the popular Coast-to-Coast route from the Irish Sea at St Bees to the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay.

South Wales

Undervalued & less-visited

Don’t let an industrial heritage and string of dour coastal cities deter you from exploring this undervalued and less visited walking region. In fact you’ll discover that most of the southern half of Wales is rural, with the Brecon Beacons National Park providing southern Britain’s highest peaks, some impressive coastal walking further west and large areas of pristine countryside to explore.

Long distance walkers have a lot of choices of well-maintained and supported routes, including the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path, part of the massive 870-mile Wales Coast Path or scenic walks through the Black Mountains that form the southern section of the 177-mile Offa’s Dyke Path along the Welsh-English border. Both those paths of course continue into…

Boat houses near St Davids Pembrokeshire

Boat houses near St Davids on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

North Wales

Gritty & quiet

Many long distance trails span the two halves of this nation and if you completed them you’d find the north generally has a rawer, grittier nature. With the added attraction of Snowdonia’s mountain landscape and the remote rolling moorland of the Elan Valley in Mid-Wales, this is an area with rich pickings for walkers. Choices range from major trails like Snowdonia’s 97-mile Eyri Way to day routes visiting Wales’ highest waterfall, Swallow Falls. Try walking around Anglesey, explore the Mawddach Estuary or discover the new Pilgrim’s Way (135 miles) that links ancient churches, crosses and stone circles across the North.

All of Wales, like the rest of the UK, offers extremely varied landscapes and walking conditions. Research your routes in detail because some will have plentiful facilities on hand, luggage transfers and be an easy way-marked ramble—others will have scant infrastructure and may be a serious hiking challenge.

UK Wales Dolbadarn Castle at Llanberis in Snowdonia National Park in Wales

Dolbadarn Castle in Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

The Southeast

Accessible countryside

You won’t find wilderness areas along the south coast between Kent’s ‘Garden of England’ and Poole Harbour. Instead walkers enjoy safe and generally easy, well-maintained paths with excellent infrastructure and access. Expect a mix of coast and well-manicured countryside with long stretches of chalk downland between the two. Most walks include pretty river valleys and rolling farmland with a scattering of affluent villages and towns serving London commuters or escapees.

Major walks include the South Downs Way and the 1066 Country Walk while smaller routes involve the region’s landscape highlights like the Seven Sisters, Devil’s Dyke, Leith Hill, Beachy Head or the White Cliffs of Dover. Accommodation and transport options are plentiful and varied, making the southeast suitable for most types of walking holidays.

England South Downs Way 1

Chalk cliffs on the South Downs Way

The Cotswolds

Classic English countryside

For a glimpse of classic English limestone countryside with rolling hills, leafy vales, dry stone walls and pretty, if sometimes twee, villages, try some of the paths criss-crossing the Cotswold region. Footpaths are generally good quality, waymarked and well maintained, and the en-route facilities are good. The region suits either point-to-point trails or centre-based walkers.

The Cotswolds are hilly but never hardcore. Examples of routes range between the 100-mile Cotswold Way from Bath to Chipping Campden to small circuits like the craggy summit of Cleeve Hill, the Cotswolds’ highest point, or the around idyllic villages like Bibury.

Walkers may find the honey-pot villages too busy with day-trippers at peak times but the comprehensive network of footpaths makes it easy to escape the crowds that rarely go beyond the teashops and car parks. Avoid the tour-bus problem altogether by sticking to the picturesque fringes of the region, like Warwickshire and South Gloucestershire.

Expect accommodation generally on the pricey but exquisite side. Gentrified gastro-pubs are plentiful, but you’ll need to search hard for traditional ‘working village’ pubs.

UK Cotswolds Castle Combe England

Castle Combe, a classic Cotswolds village

The UK's Best Long Distance Walks

Great Britain's long distance paths, trails & ways

The UK's Best Long Distance Walks
By Daniel McCrohan

Walking trails in the UK follow rivers and canals, chalk ridges and estuaries, disused railway lines and even ancient pilgrimage routes, inspiring a liberating sense of escape from modern society, and a strengthening of bonds between walkers, nature and the outdoors.

And yet because Britain is so small, walkers are never really that far from civilisation. Standing atop a moorland crag, with nothing but the buffeting Northumberland wind for company, you may feel as though you have the whole of the northwest to yourself, but the next village is always just around the corner, waiting to offer you a warming cup of tea, a bed for the night, and a hearty ‘full-English’ breakfast to set you up for your next day’s hike.

Those hardy enough to brave the British weather in a tent, and strong enough to carry all the gear, can camp as they hike. Few places allow wild camping, though it is often tolerated if your presence is fleeting and discreet, and in any case, there are thousands of official campsites dotted around Britain with a flat spot for your tent and a welcome hot shower.

For those who prefer a lighter rucksack and a roof over their head at night, youth hostels, guesthouses and that great British institution – the B&B (bed and breakfast) – are also on hand to welcome weary walkers.

Trails here are rarely difficult technically (leave those crampons and ice-picks at home, folks), but don’t underestimate the gradients of some paths (especially the coastal routes) which lead you from the beach to cliff top and back down to beach, time and time again – phenomenal views (and ice creams) provide some consolation.

The main walking season runs from Easter until the end of August and is busiest during the school summer holidays when B&Bs fill up fast. You can walk at other times, and it can be a hugely rewarding, back-to-nature experience as you’ll often have trails to yourself, but be prepared for cold weather, short daylight hours, and a few places such as campsites and cafes being closed.

Read more

For background reading, route-planning and additional resources see the excellent Long Distance Walkers Association and National Trail websites.

Featured walking holiday specialists

Wandering Aengus

Walking holidays in the Lake District & beyond
Destinations England
Tour Type Custom itinerary, Group tour, Private tour
Activity Nature & Wildlife, Active, Hiking & Trekking

EasyWays

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Destinations Scotland
Tour Type Custom itinerary, Group tour, Private tour
Activity Nature & Wildlife, National Parks, Active, Hiking & Trekking

South Downs Discovery

South Downs Way walking holidays
Destinations South Downs National Park
Tour Type Custom itinerary, Private tour
Activity Nature & Wildlife, National Parks, Active, Hiking & Trekking

Encounter Walking Holidays

Self-guided walks in South West England & Wales
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Tour Type Custom itinerary, Private tour
Activity Nature & Wildlife, National Parks, Active, Hiking & Trekking

The UK's best long-distance walking trails

Popular and lesser-known routes & ways

There are more than a dozen official National Trails in England and Wales, and scores of other fabulous long-distance walks besides.

The following ‘Best of Britain’ offers four hugely contrasting walking experiences in terms of location, terrain and difficulty, but each promises an equally tremendous tramp across the glorious countryside.

The Coast to Coast Path

Considered by some to be the best long-distance walk in England, Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path has many remarkable qualities, but it’s the walker camaraderie that is so often the stand-out take-home of this hugely popular cross-country hike. The scenery is at times stunning – looking at you, Lake District – but the sense of community you experience with fellow walkers is felt here on this walk perhaps more than on any other in Britain.

Eng Robin Hoods Bay from Ravenscar

View of Robin Hood's Bay from Ravenscar, on Wainwright's Coast to Coast path

The Coast to Coast Path

Distance: 190.5 miles (306.5km)

Duration: 14 days

Start point: St Bees

End point: Robin Hood’s Bay

Difficulty: Moderate to hard – very hilly through the Lake District stages; poorly waymarked in places, particularly over the Pennines; expect rain and boggy ground at times

Suitable for: Fit walkers with a sense of adventure

This is largely due to the fact that many, if not most walkers tackle the Coast to Coast Path in one go (or at least in two halves), rather than dipping in and out of it on day- or weekend-hikes as many people do for Britain’s other long-distance trails. The result is that you’ll bump into the same people again and again over the course of your two-week walk, in pubs, cafes and hostels along the route, where you can share a drink, and compare blisters whilst drying your bog-drenched toes in front of a roaring log fire.

Coast to Coast isn’t an official National Trail. Instead, it was the brainchild of the legendary fell walker and guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright, who in 1973 decided to plot a walk-to-remember across the width of the country which, as far as he knew, wouldn’t break any trespassing laws. Two-thirds of the trail is spent walking through three of England’s 10 national parks (The Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors) and the route includes some of the most dramatic upland scenery in England. Prepare to be blown away by the beauty of some of the Lake District sections. Prepare also for quite a lot of rain.

The Coast to Coast walk route

Starting from the beach at St Bees, beside the Irish Sea, your first five days of the Coast to Coast Path are an undoubted highlight as you climb your way through the spectacular hills, lakes and valleys of the Lake District – so special it was awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2017. Over the first couple of days, you’ll walk the craggy shoreline of Ennerdale Water, trot past YHA Black Sail, the most remote hostel in England, and climb up and over the rocky pass near Honister Slate Mine, before descending into the lush valley of Borrowdale, with its trio of stone-cottage hamlets.

The climb up and over Greenup Edge is challenging for sure, but the views are breathtaking, and it’s now just a short stroll into the pretty village of Grasmere, home to a plethora of teahouses, cafes, and B&Bs, a 150-year-old gingerbread shop, and Dove Cottage, where former poet laureate William Wordsworth once lived. The climb up the Great Tongue to the tiny mountain lake of Grisedale Tarn will leave you gasping, but it’s a pleasant walk down Grisedale Valley, under the shadow of 950m-tall Helvellyn, to the cute village of Patterdale, with its sheep-filled fields and walker-friendly White Lion pub.

England Lake District Two sheeps on pasture at sunset

Sheep on pastures in the Lake District

Climbing out of Patterdale is a joy, up and over Angletarn Pike, where you sometimes see wild deer, and the even higher Kidsty Pike before descending to the huge Haweswater Reservoir en route to Shap.

Sadly, the Lakes are behind you now, but that means the walking gradients become easier so you can begin to cover more miles each day. Historic Kirkby Stephen is your next stop before you climb up and over the Pennines on a day often clouded in mist, or obscured by rain – the waymarking is hard to follow here – before you crawl, often exhausted, into lovely Keld, with its collection of ‘forces’ (waterfalls), for a well-earned rest. Pastoral Swaledale Valley leads you to Reeth with its welcoming pubs and numerous places to stay, then it’s on through farmland to centuries-old Richmond, the largest settlement on the path, and home to the formidable Richmond Castle.

The next couple of days are forgivingly flat before you hit the heather-covered North York Moors and climb up to remote Blakey Ridge, where a bed, a meal and a pint await at the 500-year-old Lion Inn, the walk’s most iconic pub.

You’re now just a hop, skip and a jump from the North Sea, via the lost-in-time village of Grosmont (steam trains, anyone?), the fairytale-like woods of Little Beck and the squelchy bogs of Sneaton Low Moor. Sweeping views abound as you follow the east coast of England south to Robin Hood’s Bay where a celebratory pint at Bay Hotel’s Wainwright’s Bar is the order of the day.

Coast to coast sections

Budget walkers rejoice – the Coast to Coast path has an abundance of youth hostels, meaning you can stay in cheap dormitory-style accommodation without breaking the bank. There’s also plenty of opportunity to camp, particularly in the Lake District where so-called ‘wild camping’ is tolerated in most places. That great British institute, the B&B, is also well represented all along the route. The following itinerary assumes you’ll be walking from west to east, starting in St Bees. Most walkers do this, though it’s just as easy to walk the other way.

Day 1: St Bees – Ennerdale (14 miles)

Day 2: Ennerdale – Borrowdale (15 miles)

Day 3: Borrowdale – Grasmere (9 miles)

Day 4: Grasmere – Patterdale (8.5 miles)

Day 5: Patterdale – Shap (15.5 miles)

Day 6: Shap – Kirkby Stephen (20.5 miles)

Day 7: Kirkby Stephen – Keld (13 miles)

Day 8: Keld – Reeth (11.5 miles)

Day 9: Reeth – Richmond (10.5 miles)

Day 10: Richmond – Danby Wiske (13 miles)

Day 11: Danby Wiske – Ingleby Cross (10 miles)

Day 12: Ingleby Cross – Blakey Ridge (21 miles)

Day 13: Blakey Ridge – Grosmont (13.5 miles)

Day 14: Grosmont – Robin Hood’s Bay (15.5 miles)

The extra mile

Instead of ambling your way down pretty Grisedale Valley to the village of Patterdale on Day 4, the more adventurous can opt instead for an ascent of Helvellyn (England’s third-highest peak; 950m) followed by a decidedly hairy descent of the mountain ridge known Striding Edge. It adds at least an hour onto your hike for that day and is certainly not for anyone who suffers from vertigo.

Hadrian's Wall Path

This unique walking trail not only crosses the width of England, but also follows the course of Britain’s largest Roman monument – a 1,900-year-old, 73-mile long fortification that once marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. Understandably, much of Hadrian’s Wall has disappeared over the centuries, but significant stretches of it remain today, as do the ruins of many of the forts, mile castles and turrets that were once spread evenly along its length.

England Hadrians Wall

Hadrian's Wall Path, England

Hadrian's Wall Path

Distance: 84 miles (135km)

Duration: Six days

Start point: Wallsend, Newcastle

End point: Bowness-on-Solway

Difficulty: Moderate to easy – well-marked route; few steep gradients; some stiles to negotiate

Suitable for: Any reasonably fit walker, including families.

Roman history buffs will need weeks to fully explore all the Wall-related sights and museums en route, but the casual walker will also adore this National Trail. Apart from the architectural and historical interest, all around the Wall is scenery of breathtaking beauty, from the wild, wind-blasted moors of Northumberland to the pastoral delights of Cumbria. What’s more, this is one of the easiest long-distance trails in Britain; a week-long romp following a well-marked path through gently rolling countryside with very few steep climbs and little more than the odd wooden stile to interrupt your flow.

Unusually for a National Trail, the authorities in charge of maintenance of Hadrian’s Wall Path request that walkers do not attempt the trail in winter (ie October to April) when the path is at its most fragile as this increases the risk of heavy walking boots accidentally disturbing unexcavated archaeological artefacts.

Where to stay

Midtown Farm B&B

Ideally located for Hadrian's Wall
Destinations Cumbria
Tour Type Custom itinerary, Private tour
Activity Family, Active, Walking Holiday
Hadrian's Wall Path route

A forgivingly flat but fascinating first stage starts outside the Roman fort of Segedunum in a suburb of Newcastle aptly named Wallsend. You then follow the River Tyne through the city’s iconic Quayside area then along the pleasant Tyne Riverside Country Park before climbing through woods to Heddon-on-the-Wall where you’ll see your first major chunk of Hadrian’s Wall.

A more modest second day passes the bird-filled lakes of Whittledene Reservoir before ending in the village of Chollerford where you’ll find Chesters Roman Fort, with its quirkily old-fashioned museum and hugely impressive Roman baths, the best-preserved on the whole trail. A glorious day three showcases the most complete section of Wall on the path (at Black Carts), the best-preserved fort (Housesteads), the most famous tree in Northumberland (at Sycamore Gap), and some of the finest views on the whole trail. The stage ends at Once Brewed where there’s a great range of accommodation, a cracking pub and a short walk to Vindolanda Fort, which contains some of Britain’s most treasured Roman artefacts, including the remarkable handwritten documents known as the Vindolanda Tablets.

Chesters roman fort

Chesters Roman Fort, England

Day four is almost as good, with plenty of chunks of Wall to gawp at and more great views as you climb to the highest point on the trail. This is also where you cross from Northumberland into Cumbria and where the scenery changes from windswept moors and crags to gentle rolling cultivated landscape. There are more decent chunks of Wall either side of Birdoswald Fort, but these are now stretches of turf Wall rather than the more impressive stone Wall you’ll have seen further east.

Any further remnants of Wall disappear completely as you approach the historic city of Carlisle through pretty farmland scenery before stretching your legs for the final stage, along the bird-filled flatlands of the Solway Estuary to the end of the path at the peaceful village of Bowness-on-Solway.

Hadrian's Wall Path sections

Accommodation is plentiful along the route, and includes campsites, hostels and B&Bs. Where you break for the night depends not only on how far you’re able to walk each day, but also on how interested you are in the numerous Roman sights along the way. It can take a few hours to visit a museum or the ruins of a Roman fort, but not every walker visits them all, so factor this into your plan. The following schedule is just one option of many and assumes you’ll be starting at Wallsend in Newcastle, but it’s just as easy, and popular, to walk the other way.

Day 1: Newcastle – Heddon-on-the-Wall (15 miles)

Day 2: Heddon-on-the-Wall – Chollerford (15 miles)

Day 3: Chollerford – Once Brewed (13 miles)

Day 4: Once Brewed – Walton (15.5 miles)

Day 5: Walton – Carlisle (11.5 miles)

Day 6: Carlisle – Bowness-on-Solway (14 miles)

The extra mile

For a taste of what it’s like to walk this trail with kids in tow, listen to this travel podcast which follows our writer Daniel McCrohan as he walks and camps his way along the length of Hadrian’s Wall Path with his family.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Whisper it quietly; this might just be the best coastal path in Britain. Pembrokeshire has it all – dramatic clifftop vistas, seemingly endless beaches, secluded coves and tiny fishing villages, but best of all; almost no one knows about it, so you get pretty much all of it to yourself.

Summer views over Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Summer views over the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Distance: 186 miles (299km)

Duration: 16 days

Start point: Amroth

End point: St Dogmaels

Difficulty: Moderate – No problem to navigate, and not technically difficult, but don’t underestimate its length, nor the steepness of some of the cliff climbs

Suitable for: Any fit walker; great for families, though not necessarily in one sitting

You’ll need two or three weeks to complete the trail in one go, and, as with most coastal paths in Britain, you’ll have to endure a lot of ups and down as you climb from clifftop down to cove and back up to clifftop, time and time again. But the rewards are plenty; as well as the sensational views, there’s wildlife to spot (seals, dolphins, all manner of seas birds), historic sites to explore (including no fewer than 11 castles), and exotic Welsh cuisine to fuel those tired legs (oggy and faggots, anyone?).

Pembrokeshire Coast Path route

Starting in the seaside village of Amroth, day one takes you across the sandstone cliffs of south Pembrokeshire to pretty Tenby, with its pastel-coloured harbour buildings and boat rides out to the monastic island of Caldey. You’ll soon reach the beachside 12th-century castle at Manorbier Bay before passing a series of magnificent beaches – Freshwater West, Barafundle Bay, Broad Haven – each with its own unique character. Having negotiated a route around the MoD firing range at Castlemartin, and the more inviting Angle peninsula, you approach the least desirable part of the walk, around the heavily industrialised estuary of Milford Haven – fortunately, historic Pembroke and its magnificent Norman castle provide a welcome distraction.

The coastline becomes increasingly more attractive again as you approach Dale peninsular, then turns spectacular around Marloes peninsula where the three barren islands of Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm attract thousands of seabirds, plus a boatload or two of curious day-trippers.

Boat houses near St Davids Pembrokeshire

St Justinian's lifeboat station near St David's

After the surfing hotspot of Newgale you reach St David’s, Britain’s smallest city and home to a beautiful cathedral plus a host of cute cafes, pubs and restaurants. The rugged coastline of St David’s peninsular provides fabulous hiking over the next few miles as you pass long sandy beaches, hidden coves and windswept bluffs before climbing the cliffs at Pwll Deri for outstanding ocean views.

The large harbour town of Goodwick and Fishguard offers a chance to stock up on supplies before you round the peninsular known as Dinas Island and negotiate the beautiful clifftop path to historic Newport, a precursor to the even more dramatic (and energy-sapping) clifftop walk on your final day.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path sections

Some of the more remote stretches have a dearth of accommodation so you may need to adjust your daily distances accordingly. In general, there’s a good range of places to stay, from campsites and hostels, to B&Bs and guesthouses. Don’t forget to factor in one or two rest days; walking for 16 days on the trot is a tough ask.

Day 1: Amroth – Tenby (7 miles)

Day 2: Tenby – Manorbier Bay (10.5 miles)

Day 3: Manorbier Bay – Broad Haven (10.5 miles)

Day 4: Broad Haven – Angle (20.5 miles)

Day 5: Angle – Pembroke (11.5 miles)

Day 6: Pembroke – Milford Haven (12.5 miles)

Day 7: Milford Haven – Dale (9.5 miles)

Day 8: Dale – Marloes (12 miles)

Day 9: Marloes – Newgale (15.5 miles)

Day 10: Newgale – St Davids (9.5 miles)

Day 11: St Davids – Whitesands Bay (8.5 miles)

Day 12: Whitesands Bay – Trefin (11 miles)

Day 13: Trefin – Pwll Deri (9.5 miles)

Day 14: Pwll Deri – Fishguard (10.5 miles)

Day 15: Fishguard – Newport (11 miles)

Day 16: Newport – St Dogmaels (16 miles)

The extra mile

Give your legs a rest at Martin’s Haven and ride the waves out to Skomer Island, a protected national nature reserve that’s home to a third of the world’s population of manx shearwaters as well as thousands upon thousands of indescribably cute puffins. No need to pre-book anything; just buy your morning boat ticket when you arrive.

South Downs Way

Most of the gradients are reassuringly manageable along the pleasant chalk hills of the South Downs Way, and the weather down here is usually pretty favourable. You’ll need just over a week to complete the hike from the cathedral city of Winchester to the seaside resort of Eastbourne, and for much of that time, you’ll be blessed with sumptuous views of rural Hampshire and Sussex from your perch atop the ridge of chalk which this hundred-mile National Trail follows.

Haven Brow and Seven Sisters South Downs Way

View of Haven Brow and Seven Sisters, South Downs Way

South Downs Way

Distance: 99 miles (159km)

Duration: 9 days

Start point: Winchester

End point: Eastbourne

Difficulty: Moderate to easy – relatively short and very easy to navigate; few very steep climbs, though a lot of walking up and down small hills

Suitable for: Any reasonably fit walker, including families; can also be cycled

You’ll walk through landscapes of rolling hills and breezy fields of corn, passing numerous pretty villages with thatched cottages, historic pubs and gardens bursting with blooms. And there’s a fitting final-day climax as you rollercoaster your way up and down the majestic chalk cliffs known as the Seven Sisters before reaching the beaches of Eastbourne for a celebratory ice cream.

South Downs Way route

Easy going to start with, the Way leaves the River Itchen in Winchester and continues along leafy country lanes through a patchwork of villages, fields, hedgerows and woodland, before reaching the Meon Valley and its scattering of pretty hamlets. The true line of the Downs begins now, a ridge of chalk hills which you’ll follow all the way to Eastbourne.

You’ll soon be climbing Butser Hill (270m), the highest point on the trail and known for its numerous species of butterfly, before flirting with the beech forests of Queen Elizabeth Country Park on your approach into the village of Buriton, with its pretty pond and 12th-century church. More shaded woodland follows before the steep climb up Beacon Hill (242m). Look out for Bronze Age burial mounds as you cross Cocking Down – you may even catch a glimpse of the Isle of Wight off to the southwest. There’s a beautiful forest to walk through atop Graffham Down, as well as more ancient burial mounds before the Way picks up part of the old Roman road over Bignor Hill.

Paragliders over Devils Dyke South Downs Way

Paragliders over Devil's Dyke, South Downs Way

There are lovely views over the Arun Valley as you sweep your way down towards the picture-perfect village of Amberley before eventually reaching the hilltop Chanctonbury Ring, the site of a long-since-disappeared Iron Age hill fort dating back to the 6th-century BC and now a copse of beech trees commanding fabulous views.

The climb up Truleigh Hill is soon followed by wonderful views over Devil’s Dyke and, after passing through Pyecombe, you soon spot the famous pair of 16th-century windmills, known affectionately as Jack & Jill. The rolling hills continue as you climb up Ditchling Beacon, down to the railway level-crossing at Southease, then up Firle Beacon, before reaching the delightful Tudor village of Alfriston, with its quaint teahouses and ye-olde pubs.

The final day’s walk is the best of the lot, as you follow the River Cuckmere through pastoral scenes of English countryside all the way to the coast, where your rollercoaster ride up and down the marvellous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs begins. One final climb up to Beachy Head, marked by its famous lighthouse, is all that’s left between you and that ice cream shop in Eastbourne.

South Down's Way sections

A key consideration on this walk is that you’ll have to drop down off the hills to reach many of the towns and villages you’ll be staying in, and that means a steep climb back up to the trail in the morning! There are numerous options, though, and the following is just one of many possible itineraries. If you’re fit, and not carrying a full load of camping equipment, you could easily combine some pairs of stages into one longer stage.

Day 1: Winchester – Exton (12 miles)

Day 2: Exton – Buriton (12.5 miles)

Day 3: Buriton – Cocking (10.5 miles)

Day 4: Cocking – Amberley (11.5 miles)

Day 5: Amberley – Steyning (10 miles)

Day 6: Steyning – Pyecombe (10 miles)

Day 7: Pyecombe – Southease (14.5 miles)

Day 8: Southease – Alfriston (7.5 miles)

Day 9: Alfriston – Eastbourne (10.5 miles)

The extra mile

It’s well worth dropping down off the Way at Bignor Hill to make the 30-minute detour to Bignor Roman Villa. Believed to date from the 3rd-century AD, it contains some of the world's best-preserved Roman-era floor mosaics, including the longest corridor mosaic in Britain.

The South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is England’s longest trail but also one of its most famous and highly rated. In the Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain it is the first attraction mentioned and often features in lists of the world’s best walking trails.

UK south west coast path

Classic sweeping views of the South West Coast path

The South West Coast Path

Distance: 630 miles/1,014km

Duration: 30 – 60 days, or shorter sections

Start point: Minehead, Somerset

End point: Poole, Dorset

Difficulty: Moderate to hard, with repeated climbs and descents

Suitable for: There’s a small scenic section for everyone but the whole route is for those with time and stamina.

The route skirts the shoreline of England’s South West peninsular, providing a constantly changing nautical panorama that ranges from popular seaside resorts to wildly remote rocky headlands.

The 630-mile trail passes through Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. As it rises and falls with every river, beachhead and cliff top, the total elevation, or height walkers have to climb, is a hefty 114,931 feet (35,031 meters). That’s four times the height of Everest.

Nevertheless the coastal path is generally well signed and maintained, there is a wide selection of places to eat and stay, and a huge selection of sights, attractions and viewpoints on every stretch. And for the less experienced walker there is another great attraction: it’s almost impossible to get lost on the South West Coast Path.

Sculpture at the start of the South West Coastal Path Minehead South West England UK

SWCP sculpture on Minehead promenade marks the path's start (or end) point

South West Coast Path route

Walkers usually start at the special SWCP sculpture of giant hands holding a folded map on the seafront promenade at Minehead in Somerset and end at the metal monument next to the dunes at South Haven Point on the edge of Poole Harbour, Dorset.

This north to south direction is the norm but it can equally be walked from Poole to Minehead: the waymark signs point in both directions. For the sake of convention most guides and day-by-day plans describe it in the anti-clockwise direction from Somerset to Poole.

It starts with a particularly dramatic section along the Exmoor coast. This includes its highest point, the flat-topped, heather-clad bulk of Great Hangman Hill near Combe Martin (1,043ft/318m).

The surf beaches of North Devon are followed by the high, dark, brooding cliffs of the Hartland headland. Cornwall is a sequence of charming bays, beaches and estuaries, before the path returns to the green inlets and harbours of South Devon.

Torbay involves more beach resorts and Victorian hotels, before the grand finale of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast of spectacular rock formations and geological drama on the shores of East Devon and Dorset.

This is the UK’s most popular holiday region for a reason. The path includes many memorable scenes that will have walkers unpacking their cameras, including: Clovelly’s unspoilt whitewashed and flower-bedecked cottages tumbling down to its tiny harbour, the clifftop castle ruins of Tintagel, the sandy crescent of Mount’s Bay, Penzance, dominated by St Michael’s Mount, the grand natural harbour of Falmouth and the dramatic red cliffs of East Devon leading into the extraordinary formation of the Chesil Beach.

South West Coast Path sections

Very few walkers complete the path in one go; for most it’s a longer-term project that’s broken up into more easily-manageable sections. Exactly how you split it up depends on how much time you have for each stretch, and how challenging you want to make it.

The official South West Coast Path website has various suggested itineraries, including this 52 day programme broken up into eight week-long segments:

Section one: Minehead to Westward Ho! (7 days, 87 miles)

Section two: Westward Ho! to Padstow (7 days, 78 miles)

Section three: Padstow to St Ives (6 days, 66 miles)

Section four: St Ives to The Lizard (6 days, 69 miles)

Section five: Lizard to Par (6 days, 72 miles)

Section six: Par to Torcross (7 days, 94 miles)

Section seven: Torcross to Seaton (6 days, 72 miles)

Section eight: Seaton to South Haven Point (7 days, 92 miles)

UK Cornwall St Michaels Mount i

View of St Michael's Mount from Marazion, Cornwall

Need-to-know

Minehead is easy to reach by road, although a glorious alternative is the West Somerset steam railway, which runs a regular service from Taunton to the seafront.

At the other end, most walkers jump on the Sandbanks ferry at South Haven Point across the entrance to Poole Harbour. The three-mile walk through the town to Parkstone Rail Station may seem the longest of the whole route, so note that buses and taxis are an option.

The vast majority of the 8-odd million who venture onto the path every year are doing small sections, perhaps just to buy an ice cream in the next beach cafe. On some stretches there may be no other walkers all day but be prepared for crowds and queues passing close to resorts on sunny summer weekends.

The path is so long that small sections can still provide a fulfilling holiday in their own right. Particularly scenic stretches might include Minehead to Woolacombe, Bude to Padstow, St Ives to Penzance, Exmouth to Lyme Regis and Weymouth to Poole.

Secret spots

It’s not all famous postcard scenes and the path offers plenty of little-trumpeted discoveries that can provide the best memories of all. Hidden treasures include Britain’s smallest church deep in the cliff top woods at Culbone near Porlock, the pretty National Trust valley reaching the sea at Branscombe in East Devon and the strange geological secret waiting to be discovered at the mouth of Boscastle Harbour (clue: it makes a strange noise).

The Yorkshire Wolds Way

The Yorkshire Wolds Way leads across the glorious rolling farmland and chalk landscapes of East Yorkshire, an unspoilt corner of England largely neglected by popular tourism.

UK Yorkshire Wolds

The understated Yorkshire Wolds are a peaceful alternative to some busier routes

The Yorkshire Wolds Way

Distance: 79 miles (127km)

Duration: six days

Start point: Hessle, East Yorkshire

End point: Filey, North Yorkshire

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Suitable for: Relaxed walkers who prefer quiet rural exploration over star attractions at every turn

The route wends its way from the banks of the expansive Humber estuary, across the tranquil countryside and unspoilt villages of the Wolds to reach the spectacular headland of Filey Brigg on the North Yorkshire Coast.

There are no cities on the route and no serious hills either. Don’t imagine it’s dull though: this is rural England at its best. It’s an area that seems to have bigger skies with wide panoramic views. It’s easy to see why artist David Hockney spent years painting landscapes here.

Yet the Wolds Way is never crowded. In fact, this has been called ‘Britain’s least known National Trail’ by the BBC. Nevertheless, the path is generally well mapped, maintained and way-marked.

The Yorkshire Wolds Way sections

Day one: Hessle to South Cave (13 miles/21km)

The path starts on the foreshore next to the landmark Humber Bridge then leads up into the Wolds along leafy paths and through quiet historic villages.

Day two: South Cave to Market Weighton (12 miles/19km)

Walk across hills with wide estuary views and then choose between the main route, via the classic historic country town of Market Weighton, or a trail offshoot to the pretty village of Goodmanham.

Day three: Market Weighton to Millington (9 miles/14km)

Today’s highlight is one of Yorkshire’s great hidden secrets: the photogenic old village of Londesborough and its grand aristocratic parkland. It’s a good spot to look for circling red kites too.

Day four: Millington to Thixendale (12 miles/19km)

Follow the path through a series of gentle dry valleys, enjoying long distance views, leafy countryside and friendly village pubs.

Day five: Thixendale to Sherburn (19 miles/30km)

Near the romantic deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy, cross the highest point of the Wolds Way at (700ft/215m). Savour views from Settrington Beacon during a day that mixes old woods with rolling open country.

Day six: Sherburn to Filey (17 miles/28km)

Leave this Saxon village to pass Iron Age earthworks on the hills above, then descend from the Wolds to the classic seaside resort of Filey for the opportunity to paddle on its wide sandy beaches.

Ruined church at Wharram Percy

The ruins of St Martins church in the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy.

Need-to-know

Hessle makes a good starting point: it’s just three miles west of Hull, at the northern end of the Humber Bridge, and road links couldn’t be better. Hessle also has regular rail and bus services.

At the other end of the walk, Filey has convenient road and rail links too. Some walkers celebrate by marching right out onto the spectacular headland of Filey Brigg, but even then it’s only a 20-minute walk back to the station.

For walkers planning a shorter version of the Wolds Way, public transport options are rather limited as this crosses a very rural area with no cities or rail links. The best option for a break is likely to be at Market Weighton, which offers buses to Beverley, Hull and York.

Rural East Yorkshire accommodation is generally unpretentious but welcoming in a cosy old-fashioned way. Expect homely inns, B&B’s and guesthouses, real ales and hearty traditional food.

It’s an all-year route but although winters are generally mild it can be bleak and windy up on the higher Wolds. Spring provides great wildflowers and the poppy fields of June are renowned. Don’t worry about summer crowds this far inland. The old broadleaved woodlands colour any autumn walk here too.

Wharram Percy

The Wolds Way passes the haunting remains of Wharram Percy, a deserted medieval village hidden among the trees on a grassy hillside. The ruined church, millpond and cottages are one of the biggest of the UK's 3,000 abandoned medieval villages and are now an English Heritage site. It’s open all the time and is free to enter.

The Monarch’s Way

The Monarch’s Way loops down from the West Midlands to the south coast of England, following the lengthy route taken by Charles II to evade capture following defeat by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

UK Stow on the Wold Monarchs Way

Stow-on-the-Wold, a classic Cotswolds town on the Monarch's Way

The Monarch's Way

Distance: 615 miles/990km

Duration: 30 - 60 days, or shorter sections

Start point: Worcester

End point: Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Suitable for: History fans and walkers who enjoy discovering little known patches of rural England

With the roundheads in hot pursuit and a large bounty on his head, Charles took a roundabout route via Bristol, Yeovil and Salisbury before finally escaping by boat to France. Charles II took six weeks but he had to hide in trees and barns. Today the walk should be much more relaxed—especially if you break it up into separate sections!

The paths and bridleways are usually well maintained and signposted with a logo of the Royal Oak tree (where Charles famously hid). It is also marked with a string of diamonds on OS maps.

It’s England’s longest inland waymarked hike and is characterised by its leafy well-established paths that include plenty of canal towpaths and disused railways. The gradients are mostly gentle, the terrain cultivated and much of the route passes through little-known rural areas.

UK Worcester Cathedral Monarchs Way

Worcester cathedral makes a fitting start point for the Monarch's Way

The Monarch’s Way route

It’s customary to start at Worcester, as Charles did. He escaped rapidly after watching the Royalist defeat in the final battle of the English Civil War from the cathedral tower, so the grand gothic church is a good place to begin.

The path loops north to Bosbobel and the famous Royal Oak tree where Charles hid, then heads into Shropshire as Charles tried to escape to Wales. It turns south to Stratford on Avon and through the Cotswolds to Bristol. Then crossing over the Mendip Hills, it continues to Wells and down to Charmouth on the Dorset coast. The final loop curls back over the Chalk Downs of Wiltshire and Hampshire to Shoreham in Sussex.

The Monarch’s Way sections

The Monarch’s Way is so long that it is usually broken into three sections for convenience of description and mapping. Each of these could make a one to two week holiday depending on the speed of walking.

Section one: Worcester to Stratford (180 miles/290km)

Through the West Midlands and Shropshire, highlights include following a network of historic Industrial Revolution canals, seeing a descendant of the Boscobel Royal Oak and reaching Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon. Less celebrated discoveries along this section might include the romantic ruins of White Ladies Priory and Moseley Old Hall, both used as hiding places by Charles.

Section two: Stratford to Charmouth (210/340km)

Crossing the Cotswolds and Mendips are the most arduous parts of the Way but the compensation is a sequence of some of the finest English country towns and villages, including Stow-on-the-Wold, Cirencester, Tetbury, Wells and Montacute. Lesser known highlights include the classic thatched cottages in Upper and Lower Qunton in Warwickshire, the thick woods at Abbots Leigh above the winding Avon Gorge and pretty South Cadbury nestling under its mysterious hillfort.

Section three: Charmouth to Shoreham (225miles/360km)

The Way loops from the Jurassic Coast inland along the ridge of southern England’s chalk downland, passing the major attraction of Stonehenge. Memorable less crowded (and less expensive) discoveries along the route might include the vast hill fort at Old Winchester Hill, crossing the parkland under the ramparts of Arundel Castle and the view from the great cliff peak at Golden Cap, the highest point on England’s south coast.

Need-to-know

Worcester and Shoreham are easily accessible by road or rail, as are many spots along the Monarch’s Way. It doesn’t cross wilderness areas, so refreshments, accommodation and transport links are never far from the trail.

A path this long can be walked in smaller sections of course and detailed mapping and guides are available for specific stretches provided by various local authorities and walking groups.

The Monarch’s Way Association is the best source of detailed information. It publishes three books on the route and offers up-to-date online news about work and conditions on the trail, including via social media. Visit: www.monarchsway.50megs.com

Did you know?

The original Royal Oak, where Charles II took shelter, is long-gone. But the tree’s descendents live on in Boscobel and, in a more figurative sense, across the country, as the country’s third most common pub name.

Round-the-Isle-of-Wight Trail

As a long distance walk, the Isle of Wight coastal path is quite short but it provides an opportunity to walk right round the shoreline of England’s largest island. You might find that on return to the start point there’s great satisfaction in completing an island’s circumference, regardless of the length!

UK Isle of wight alum bay needles

The Isle of Wight's classic view across Alum Bay to the Needles chalk stacks

The Isle of Wight trail

Distance: 70 miles/113km

Duration: 4 – 6 days

Start point: It’s a circuit – but any of the ferry terminals make most sense

End point: Wherever, it’s a circuit, see above!

Difficulty: Moderate with a few gentle cliff climbs

Suitable for: Seascape admirers and those who like a sense of achievement

Along the way, the Isle of Wight offers a surprisingly varied sequence of landscapes, including jagged chalk headlands, long sandy bays, salt marshes and estuaries. There are certainly no boring stretches on this route.

Many islanders are keen walkers and many visitors try at least part of the coast trail. This means the local authority keeps the path well maintained and signposted. It also means you are likely to see other walkers at any time, especially round Tennyson Down and the Needles. Nevertheless the round-the-island walk is generally less crowded than mainland coastal trails simply because it’s harder for most people to get there.

Isle of Wight Coast Path route

It’s a circular route of course so walkers could start anywhere and it may depend on your accommodation plans.

Most walkers will arrive by ferry and so the terminals make sensible start and end points.

The choice of clockwise or anti-clockwise is entirely down to personal preference. Similarly, the time of year is a personal choice. Summer brings more people but better chances of good weather; winter storms could make a coast walk very memorable or spoil your day. Generally the Island has a mild climate and the north coast is particularly sheltered.

It makes sense to check the dates of occasional round-island walks and races before committing. Even major yachting events like the Round-the-Island race could make a big difference to the walk, either positive or negative depending on taste, and also affect availability of accommodation.

Isle of Wight coastal path sections

Wherever you start it’s useful to know what each section of the walk is like:

Day 1: Cowes to Yarmouth (16 miles/26km)

Heading along the sheltered north coast with views across the Solent and its busy waterways to the mainland. Highlights include Newtown Nature Reserve and panoramic views at the delightful coastal village of Gurnard.

Day 2: Yarmouth to Brighstone (14 miles/23km)

This is probably the most spectacular day on the route. Savour amazing seascapes including Alum Bay, the Needles and the south coast ‘chines’ or valleys. Note Tennyson’s grand home at Freshwater too.

Day 3: Brighstone to Niton (8 miles/13km)

Another inspiring day, now walking along the south coast of big chalky cliffs, grand sea views and rolling grassy downs.

Day 4: Niton to Sandown (9 miles/14km)

A chance to explore Ventnor’s Victorian charm and free botanical gardens, then stroll along Shanklin and Sandown’s classic seaside promenades.

Day 5: Sandown to Ryde (12 miles/19km)

Continue up the east coast tackling a fascinating sequence of seaside resorts, wild cliffs, sandy bays and yachting harbours.

Day 6: Ryde to Cowes (8 miles/13km)

Head back along the north coast through attractive wooded shores to photogenic Wootton Creek, then passing Queen Victoria’s favourite home at Osborne House to descend back into the bustling yachting centre of Cowes.

Need-to-know

Arriving at the route’s start point will usually involve a ferry trip for most walkers. The available ferry routes for vehicles and pedestrians are: Portsmouth to Fishbourne, Southampton to East Cowes and Lymington to Yarmouth.

Additional pedestrian-only ferries are: Southampton to West Cowes, Portsmouth to Ryde and Southsea to Ryde.

The best route can depend on your route to the south coast and where you plan to stay on the island. Accommodation should not be a problem; there aren’t any wilderness areas although there are some largely rural stretches. As a holiday destination the choice should cover everything from nice boutique hotels to campsites and B&Bs.

Don't miss

Walkers pass through to one of the Island’s great ‘secret’ locations: Steephill Cove near Ventnor. The tiny classic bay with its semi-circle of pretty old fishing huts and cottages can only be reached on foot. Look out for the seafood pasty stall.

The White Horse Trail

The White Horse Trail is a circular long distance walking route through the Wiltshire countryside linking eight white horse chalk figures and visiting historic sites like Avebury, Silbury Hill and the Kennet and Avon Canal.

UK Wiltshire Hackpen Hill Horse

The view up to Hackpen Hill Horse, Wiltshire

The White Horse Trail

Distance: 94 miles/151km

Duration: 5 – 8 days

Start point: Circular route

End point: Circular route

Difficulty: Moderate, with some hills

Suitable for: Walkers who like history, legends… and great views

The eponymous chalk figures are famous sights across the Wiltshire Downs and each has a different story and associated legends.

It’s a very rural trail using well-established paths across classic chalky hills and neat Wiltshire farmland. It can be muddy but there are no wilderness sections.

It’s rated moderate because there’s a fair amount of clambering up the sides of chalk hills - all the horse figures are cut on the sides of escarpments. The total elevation of the White Horse Trail is 6,703ft/2,043m and the highest point is 932ft/284m.

The White Horse Trail route

The route can be tackled in either direction and from any point, as it is a circle – but a possible day plan provides a formula to make your own holiday arrangements.

Day 1: Westbury to Market Lavington (11 miles/18km)

Start at Wiltshire’s oldest and most iconic White Horse at the site of Alfred the Great’s victory over the Danes. Then follow a spectacular ridge path next to the army’s Salisbury Plain ranges.

Day 2: Market Lavington to Pewsey (12 miles/19km)

The trail leads down into the fertile Pewsey Vale with the village’s modern white horse on the hills above.

Day 3: Pewsey to Marlborough (11 miles/18km)

More glorious rolling Wiltshire Downs leading into the grand historic market square of Marlborough and its 200-year-old horse.

Day 4: Marlborough to Broad Hinton (8 miles/13km)

Discover the Hackpen Hill Horse cut to commemorate Queen Victoria’s coronation amid great countryside views.

Day 5: Broad Hinton to Compton Bassett (12 miles/19km)

Pass prehistoric and medieval earthworks to find Broad Town’s small horse figure cut on a slope above the woods.

Day 6: Compton Bassett to Bottlesford (14 miles/23km)

Pass the Georgian Cherhill White Horse, walk part of the ancient Ridge Way and discover the Avebury World Heritage Site. Cross the mysterious Wansdyke and Milk Hill, Wiltshire’s highest point, to find the remote Alton Barnes horse.

Day 7: Devizes to Westbury (15 miles/24km)

Follow the Kennet and Avon canal towpath down Caen Hill, then cross the farmland and leafy villages back to Westbury.

UK Wiltshire Avebury World Heritage Site

The prehistoric standing stones of Avebury Henge

Need-to-know

The route is a circuit so can be started and ended anywhere. Obvious start/end points are the towns Westbury, Marlborough and Devizes. Note that of those, only Westbury has a rail link but Devizes and Marlborough have more historic (and attractive) town centres to explore.

Wherever you start the White Horse Trail there’s a good choice of accommodation in the towns, less so in the rural spots. It is certainly advised to plan ahead because some stretches will only be served by a couple of farm B&Bs.

Unlike other more popular routes, there may not be a huge choice of organised walking holidays on offer but your accommodation may offer a luggage transfer service, or be able to recommend one.

The walk can be tackled at any time of year and crowds won’t be much of a problem. In the peak of summer there may be small crowds around Westbury White Horse, the Kennet and Avon towpath and Avebury but these are generally wide-open spaces with lots of room to escape others if that’s what you want.

Caen Hill Flight

The walk out of Devizes along the Kennet and Avon canal provides an unexpected highlight: the Caen Hill Flight. This sequence of 29 locks is more than 200 years old and was built to help the canal negotiate the steep hill outside the town. It takes a narrow boat all day to pass through them all – thankfully walkers pass by much quicker.

Walking Holidays In Scotland

Planning and preparing for a Scotland hiking trip

Walking Holidays In Scotland
By Taylor St. John

If you started with a blank sheet and listed all the things you’d want in an ideal walking holiday destination, you’d end up with a list that sounds very much like Scotland. Varied scenery? Check. Accessible? Check. Top-notch hospitality? Double check. From expeditions in the Highland wilderness to relaxed island hopping & whisky tasting trips down the west coast, there is truly a walking holiday for everyone in Scotland.

Okay, it’s not all unalloyed positives. The weather can flit from Jekyll and Hyde and back again in the space of hours, and the midges can be a torment depending on location and time of year. Scotland’s many charms make it popular in summer and places can easily book up, although walking trails are rarely truly crowded. But come prepared and it’ll all be part of the fun. After all, too perfect would be boring! Scotland is just close enough.

Planning a Scotland walking holiday

Weather & conditions

Fair-weather walkers look away now! It is in the raw, wild elements that the character of the Scottish landscape truly reveals itself. The scenery can be more dramatic in the wind and rain, but it can of course make the hiking more challenging. Approach a walking holiday prepared for a dreich (Scots for damp and bleak) forecast, and the dry, sunny days will become a pleasant surprise rather than a make-or-break.

Despite its small size, Scotland’s weather varies wildly from one area to another. Rainfall is generally heaviest on the west coast where places like Arrochar, wedged between the banks of Loch Long and the Arrochar Alps, average 1360 mm of rain a year—about double that of St. Andrews on the east coast.

Yes, it does rain a lot—and snow too, in the hills—but Scotland’s is a temperate climate, with average temperatures ranging from 4 degrees Celsius in winter to 20 degrees in summer. While temperatures fluctuate mildly, the jump in daylight is head-spinning: from just six hours of daylight in December to 18 hours in June at the country’s most northerly latitudes.

Best months for walking holidays

Like the rest of the UK, the main tourism season runs March to October. The high summer months is your best bet for sunnier weather, though this is generally when the midge (a small, biting fly) is most prevalent in the west of Scotland. They often come out on still, overcast days, and bother you most while you’re at rest.

Partly because of the midges’ reputation and partly in avoidance of peak summer crowds, May and September are popular walking months in Scotland. This can mean booked-up accommodation and busy trails on some of the most popular routes.

The shoulder seasons of March/April and October can be wonderful times to walk in Scotland, though keep in mind that the weather will be colder with more chance of rain. Those walking long distances will also need to factor in limited daylight hours.

If you go anywhere near Edinburgh in August, prepare to be swept up in the spirit and the crowds of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest arts festival. Accommodation books out far in advance and can be quite expensive.

You’ll find Highland games events in rural towns, villages and estates from May to September. They’re typically weekend-long events and you can pay a small entrance fee on arrival. Popular fixtures include the caber toss, tug-o-war, hammer throw and plenty of kilts.

What to pack for walking holidays

For any walking trip in Scotland, you’ll need decent waterproofs (trousers, jacket, backpack cover), durable and worn-in walking boots (walking shoes can be used on gentler-gradient, well-distinguished coastal paths), hats and gloves. Also recommended is a midge net for your head, bug spray, and, for the damp shoulder seasons, a few pairs of good-quality wool socks to protect your toes from chilblains.

Can you walk anywhere in Scotland?

Scotland’s “freedom to roam” is an ancient right that has been underpinned in law. Unlike in England where access must be specifically granted, the Scottish law grants access to most rural land, privately-owned or not, for recreational purposes including walking and camping. Some important exceptions include farmland in cultivation, private gardens, sports fields and other common sense exclusions like military sites and paid visitor attractions.

It’s important to take note of signs on gates or stiles that may give important instructions, especially when livestock are grazing or in hunting season. Read more about the Outdoor Access Code here: www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot

Getting around

Scotland has a good public transport network, and, with a few exceptions, most regions of the country can be accessed by train (Scotrail) and/or bus (Citylink). The main hubs of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen each have an airport servicing national and international flights, with car rentals or train and bus connections available to transport you easily from city to countryside.

For access to the islands, Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) and Northlink (Shetland and Orkney) are Scotland’s main ferry operators, and tickets should be purchased in advance if you plan to take a car on board.

LoganAir provides access to many remote areas of the Highlands and Islands from departure points throughout the UK.

Driving is by far the easiest way to reach the country’s more remote regions. Many rural roads are single-track, and understanding the etiquette of passing is both considerate and a safety essential. Take care to share the road with the many cyclists.

Walking-friendly accommodation

Scottish hospitality is legendary and there are many excellent independently-owned accommodations: B&Bs, self-catering cottages, walkers’ hotels, hostels, huts and bothies. In walking areas accommodations are generally well equipped for walkers, offering unbeatable local knowledge, baggage transfer services, along with drying rooms, packed lunches, and hearty cooked breakfasts to fuel your mileage the following day.

Where To Go Walking In Scotland

Scotland’s best walking holiday regions

Where To Go Walking In Scotland
By Taylor St. John

Relatively speaking, Scotland isn’t a big country; transposed over a map of the US it’d be considered a small state, roughly the same size as South Carolina. But when you’re actually here, in the midst of its gargantuan landscapes and with not another human for miles around, it certainly doesn’t feel small. On a human scale—and what else really matters?—this place is vast.

And despite being just 25 miles wide at its narrowest point (and only 154 miles at its widest!) Scotland’s diversity of scenery and landscapes can be astounding. From tranquil lochs to towering munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet), forested glens and yawning moors, from craggy coastlines to fertile farmland to great cities and what remains of a proud industrial history; Scotland provides a backdrop for every flavour of hiking and walking holiday.

The drama of the scenery is matched by the unpredictability of the elements, but that only adds to the ultimate reward. There are no rain days in Scotland. Come prepared to experience four seasons in a day and you’ll be fine—especially with the lure of a good meal and a dram of whisky to warm you at the end of a long day’s walk.

Scotland's best places to go walking

The country’s cultural, political and geographic regions aren’t always perfectly aligned, but from a walker’s perspective here are some of the top-rated areas for walking and hiking in Scotland.

The Highlands

Scotland’s geological fault line runs from the Isle of Arran in the south-west to Stonehaven in the north-east, delineating the dramatic Highlands from the more gently rolling landscapes to the south. This vast, sparsely populated area is the closest thing to true wilderness in the UK and is a justifiably popular region for serious hiking.

UK Scotland loch lomand

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Freedom to roam

Scotland, unlike its more restrictive neighbour to the south, has an ancient tradition of “freedom to roam” which gives recreational access to much of the countryside, including privately-owned land. Access is contingent on visitors acting responsibly and following the basic principles of the Outdoor Access Code, namely to care for the environment and fellow land users, and to take responsibility for their actions. Read more about access rights and responsibilities here: www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot

Highlights

Within Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, 3,196-foot Ben Lomond is a good start to any Munro-bagging mission. Slightly to the east is 3,547-foot Schiehallian, easily-scalable on a fine day and where scientists first attempted to weigh the world. With their proximity to the cities of Scotland’s Central Belt, both of these areas are fairly easy-to-reach making them great for a shorter Highland escape.

In the Cairngorms National Park you’ll find 1,748 square miles of protected heather-covered moorland and mountains cut by meandering burns (small streams). Long-distance walks like the 65-mile Speyside Way and 64-mile Cateran Trail run through the park, and its challenging terrain makes it a popular base for centre-based walking holidays.

Towards the west coast, the wild Knoydart Peninsula is for true backpacking expeditions, largely accessible only by foot or by boat to the village of Inverie. Guided hiking is advisable for all but the most competent navigators. A good challenge for experienced hillwalkers is climbing the three munros of Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe and Ladhar Bheinn.

For maximum reward, finish a long day out in the elements with a pint or a whisky in the nook of a cosy pub. Most villages have at least one local, if you’re lucky you might time your visit for a ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’, a lively evening of folk music and dance.)

Need to know

Some of the main Highland walking hubs, such as Fort William, Pitlochry and Aviemore, are connected via the Scotrail train network (https://www.scotrail.co.uk), with yet more accessible by bus (https://www.citylink.co.uk/journeyplanner.php). If you’re relying on public transport these towns make a good base for day hikes (check out the Pitlochry Path Network of trails) or as departure points for long distance paths; West Highland Way, Great Glen Way, Speyside Way. Be sure to get advice from a walking holiday specialist. Given the region’s topography, a car becomes useful (and sometimes essential) to reach farther-flung areas on the west coast beyond Fort William, and the far north.

The Highlands is a vast region with landscapes that are suitable for hikers of all abilities. Families and inexperienced walkers might enjoy the easy-to-moderate woodland and shore paths of the Trossachs while the northwest Highlands and the wilder reaches of the Cairngorms present a challenge for even experienced multi-day trekkers and hillwalkers.

Recommended walks

At 4,413 feet, Ben Nevis is the UK’s tallest mountain. The peak, accessible from Fort William, attracts over 100,000 summit-seekers each year, though it’s important to keep a close eye on the fast-changing weather if you’re attempting a climb. Further north, the view from the top of the short and steep Stac Pollaidh offers very different Highland views toward the stark beauty of the Assynt region. For another record-breaker, walk Duncansby Head near John-O-Groats, the most north-easterly corner of mainland Britain, where Orkney hovers on the horizon just over the Pentland Firth.

Most of Scotland’s waymarked long-distance paths traverse some part of the Highlands. The 96-mile West Highland Way leads walkers from the outskirts of Glasgow along Loch Lomond, through Glencoe and across Rannoch Moor to Fort William over six to ten days of walking. The easier-going Rob Roy Way crosses paths with the West Highland Way at the southern end of its 79 miles before diverting northeast across the Trossachs and Pertshire to end in Pitlochry. And picking up where the West Highland Way ends, the Great Glen Way stretches along canals, lochside and forested track for 85 miles.

Bothies

More venturesome hikers might consider a self-supported trek between some of the UK’s ninety bothies; very basic but free-to-use mountain shelters run by the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA). Bothies are marked on Ordnance Survey (OS) maps and their locations are listed on the MBA website: www.mountainbothies.org.uk/bothies/location-map

The Lowlands

The Scottish Lowlands sweep up from the English border past the major cities of the Central Belt, the old Kingdom of Fife and up to Stonehaven in the northeast. Named “Lowlands” in contrast to the Highlands, the region actually covers a variety of landscapes including some fairly challenging hills. While the wild mountains further north claim all the attention, the Lowlands offer plenty of classic scenery and some spectacular—and uncrowded—walks.

Scotland Fife Ruins of St Andrews Castle in St Andrews

The ruins of St Andrews Castle on the Fife Coastal Path

Highlights

The Lowlands are home to Scotland’s two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh—both of which offer a good dose of food, arts and culture with which to bookend your walking holiday. Hike Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of Edinburgh’s UNESCO-listed Old and New Towns.

In Scotland’s southwest, stargaze from the Galloway Forest, the UK’s first International Dark Sky Park after a day on the challenging 6-mile Loch Trool route. From the Borders town of Melrose, set off on a 65-mile pilgrimage southeast into England, finishing by crossing the sands at low-tide to Holy Island.

Need to know

The towns and cities of the Central Belt are well connected by bus and train services. Getting further afield into the Borders or Dumfries and Galloway will require trickier bus connections. Bringing or renting a car is advisable if you intend to visit further-flung spots.

You’ll find more accommodation, services and year-round attractions in the Central Belt than in the Highlands and more rural section of the Lowlands. If basing yourself in Edinburgh, the city is busiest in August for the Edinburgh Festival and at Christmas. Accommodation can be expensive and hard to come by during these times, so plan well in advance.

Recommended walks

The 134-mile John Muir Way, retracing the emigration route of the famous Scottish-American naturalist, is a moderate coast-to-coast walk from Dunbar in the east to Helensburgh in the west. The well-waymarked route takes roughly ten days to complete and cuts through the rolling landscape of the Central Belt, following part of the Forth and Clyde Canal, touching the banks of Loch Lomond, and hugging the coast along the Firth of Forth.

Walk a portion of the 117-mile Fife Coastal Path that connects the old Kingdom of Fife’s southern and northern borders, from the Forth to the Tay. If you have just a day, try the 10.5-mile section between Elie and Crail through the colourful, traditional fishing villages of the East Neuk. Look seaward to the cliffs of the Isle of May National Nature Reserve (day trips run out to the isle from Anstruther).

The charming Borders village of Peebles serves as a great base for easy day walks like the River Tweed circular route to Neidpath Castle (4 miles), and, following the Tweed in the opposite direction, a loop walk to the outskirts of Glentress Forest—renowned for its mountain biking tracks (6.5 miles).

The Inner Hebrides & Clyde Islands

When looking at a map of Scotland, it can be hard to distinguish peninsulas from islands on the wonderfully convoluted west coast. The Inner Hebrides are nestled snug between the Western Isles (see below) and the mainland and are made up primarily of Skye in the north; Coll, Tiree and the Small Isles; Islay, Jura and Colonsay to the south, and Mull at their heart. Just a hop over the Kintyre Peninsula are the Clyde Islands of Arran, Bute and a smattering of smaller islands, connected by ferry services to Glasgow across the Firth of Clyde.

UK Scotland Skye Old Man of Storr

The classic view of Old Man of Storr, on the Isle of Skye

Highlights

On Skye, drive past the entrance to Dunvegan Castle until you reach the end of the road at Claigan, from where you can walk out along a stretch of white sand at Coral Beach. Take a boat trip from Mull to Staffa and wonder at the basalt pillars of Fingal’s Cave. On Islay and Jura, taste the renowned single malts for which the islands are world-famous. Soak in the rays on Tiree, surprisingly one of the sunniest places in Britain.

In the Firth of Clyde, the Isle of Arran is sometimes referred to as “Scotland in miniature”, with the highland boundary fault creating dramatic mountains to the north and rolling hills and farmland to the south. The peak that dominates the skyline at 2,866 feet, Goatfell, makes for an excellent day hike that (just about) fits between ferry services if you plan in advance and walk quickly!

Need to know

The largest of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. The other islands have followed suit, and it’s best to book well in advance, especially if you plan to visit in the peak month of May.

Caledonian MacBrayne (www.calmac.co.uk) runs ferries from Oban, Mallaig and Kennacraig to most islands in the Inner Hebrides. The operator also connects Bute (from Wemyss Bay), Cumbrae (from Largs) and Arran (from Ardrossan). Skye can also be accessed via road bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh. If you prefer to fly, Loganair services Islay and Tiree. It’s easiest to get around with a car on the large islands like Mull and Skye, though public transport is available. Portree and Tobermory, both colourful harbour towns and hubs of tourist activity on their respective islands, provide a good home base for a centre-based walking holiday.

Recommended walks

Being an island chain, there are fewer waymarked long distance paths here, with the notable exception of the Arran Coastal Way (66 miles) and the Kintyre Way (100 miles). Specialist walking companies have developed their own offerings which typically consist of multi-centre trips with day hikes in each location. They will devise an itinerary to suit your preferences and arrange your accommodation, ferry tickets and other logistics.

There are countless day walks on the footpaths that criss-cross the Inner Hebrides and Clyde Islands. Just get yourself an Ordnance Survey map and head out! A smattering of suggested walks include the 7km Quiraing loop is a moderate-to-difficult walk on Skye that follows the Trotternish Ridge and offers some of the best views in the west of Scotland. On Mull, the 11km Treshnish coastal walk follows suit, passing a hidden whisky cave and featuring an abundance of wildlife in the sea below and sky above. Christianity and the Gaelic culture came to Scotland by way of Iona—where St Columba first landed. Walk past the Abbey, keeping your eyes peeled for the elusive Corncrake, and to the top of Dun I, at 101 metres, the highest point on the small island.

The Western Isles (Outer Hebrides)

In the westernmost reaches of Scotland, embrace Gaelic culture, archaeological wonders, and remote and wild landscapes. The Outer Hebrides island chain stretches from Barra in the south past North and South Uist, to Harris and Lewis in the North, with smaller islands dotted throughout.

UK Northton Taobh Tuath Isle of Harris Outer Hebrides western isles Scotland

Wild landscapes on the Isle of Harris

Highlights

If you feel an urge to go further west still, take a boat to the island of St. Kilda where a 3.5 mile loop walk takes you to the highest point on the Hebrides—1,410-foot Conachair—passing abandoned villages, and surrounded by Europe’s largest seabird colony. Visit the Callanish Stones in Lewis, dating back to 2900 BC, and don’t leave without sampling Stornoway Black Pudding, so coveted it now has its own protected status.

Need to know

Calmac ferries depart from Oban, Mallaig, Ullapool, and also from Uig on Skye. You can then travel the 130-mile length of the islands by connecting ferries and causeways. An easy way to island-hop is with Calmac’s Island Hopscotch ferry ticket, running from Oban up through the islands and back to Ullapool. Like the Inner Hebrides, island accommodation and car spaces on ferries books up extremely quickly, so it’s best to make your plans well in advance. Travellers can fly with Loganair to Benbecula, Stornoway or Barra (the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use the beach as a runway.)

Recommended walks

While the Western Isles offers walks for all ages and abilities, the most mountainous terrain can be found on Harris. Challenge yourself to climb Clisham (An Cliseam) via the more moderate direct route or the far longer (7-9 hours) and tougher horseshoe. The Hebridean Way stretches 156 miles across ten islands from Vatersay to Lewis. The walking route threads through open moorland, past bald and rugged hills, across machair and white-sand beaches that appear tropical until your toes touch the cold North Atlantic water—a truly Scottish experience.

The Northern Isles (Orkney & Shetland)

The Northern Isles feel a world away from the mainland UK—both Orkney and Shetland are closer to the Arctic circle than to London—yet these rugged archipelagos at the collision of North Sea and Atlantic Ocean are surprisingly accessible. You’ll find independently-minded locals strongly connected to their Nordic heritage, Neolithic history that predates Stonehenge, and wide open landscapes that roll straight into the sea, rich in wildlife and beckoning to be explored on foot.

UK Ring Of Brodgar Orkney Scotland A neolithic stone circle and henge

The Ring Of Brodgar, a neolithic stone circle on Orkney

Highlights

No trip to Orkney is complete without a visit to the several UNESCO neolithic sites on the island. Afterward, enjoy a peedie dram of Highland Park or Scapa Whisky on a tour of the distilleries, both near Kirkwall. In Sumburgh, Shetland, visit the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlements that span 4,000 years of early history. In Unst, Shetland, look toward Britain’s most northerly lighthouse, Muckle Flugga, perched on an outcropping of rock that juts defiantly toward the Arctic.

Need to know

Northlink operates a 90-minute ferry service from Scrabster to Stromness (Orkney) and a 12-14.5-hour ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick (Shetland), with a stop halfway in Kirkwall (Orkney) at least three days a week. Loganair flies to Kirkwall and Lerwick from several airports across mainland Britain, and their Orkney inter-island service is an excellent way to explore the southerly archipelago’s outer islands, including the world’s shortest scheduled flight from Westray to Papa Westray.

A central base in Lerwick, Stromness or Kirkwall will allow you to maximise a shorter trip—especially if traveling without a car. Accommodation can be found in village inns and hotels or a wide range of independent rentals. If you have extra time, be sure to venture to Shetland and Orkney’s outer isles. Each has its own unique character, and you can enjoy empty stretches of coastline and heritage sites (such as Northern Europe’s oldest home on Papa Westray) all to yourself.

In summer, Orkney and Shetland benefit from between 18 and 19 hours of daylight. This swings drastically down to six in the winter. While both islands are known for extreme wind, you are more likely to see the sun in the Northern Isles than in the west of Scotland. Best to be prepared for every type of weather, as in all of Scotland!

While the bulk of tourists visit the islands between May and September, the winter holds its own bit of magic, with the chance to see Mirrie Dancers (Northern Lights) and experience festive cultural traditions like the ancient game of Ba, a sort of full-town rugby game played on Christmas and New Year’s Day in Kirkwall and the Viking fire festival of Up Helly Aa held in January and February across Shetland. If you’re arriving in winter, keep in mind you will have limited daylight for walking and prior planning is essential as accommodation, transport and meal options are more limited.

Recommended walks

Walks range from short and easy loops on well-defined paths to longer cliffside walking with tougher ascents or traversing open heathland and hills. Many short walks are accessible right from villages for those without cars. There are a handful of walking companies that offer both guided and self-guided holidays on Orkney and Shetland. Keep in mind that longer walks from most rural locations will require a car.

On Hoy, the ‘High Isle’, walk from Moaness to Rackwick Bay through Orcadian novelist George Mackay Browne’s “hidden valley of light.” Continue along a cliff path toward the towering sandstone sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy. The newly developed St Magnus Way pilgrimage route follows the 55-mile journey of the martyred Earl of Orkney as it crosses Egilsay, then zig-zags across the Orkney mainland. On Shetland, ferry to the Island of Noss National Nature Reserve for a challenging 5-mile coastal loop and some of the best birdwatching in the Northern Isles.

Scotland's Best Long Distance Walks

Walking holidays to Scotland's highlands, islands and coast

Scotland's Best Long Distance Walks
By Fergal MacErlean

For long-distance hikes, Scotland is hard to beat. The scenery is outstanding and the trails a joy to follow. One of the aspects that make walking here so appealing is the sense of space. This ancient land feels much bigger than it is thanks to the amount of wilderness and low population density: Scotland is the most sparsely populated country in the United Kingdom, with only 70 people per square kilometre; England has more than six times that.

A walking holiday here, as in the rest of the UK, offers a great variety of terrain from delightful coastal routes to long trails that traverse a big chunk of the country with character-filled overnight stops. Hearty food will help keep your energy levels up and you will find lots of regional variations in the cuisine and, of course, the whisky. A warm Scottish welcome also makes a trip here extra special and you can be assured the locals will make your holiday a memorable one. The knowledge that you are exploring a part of the UK, perhaps an entire region you have never been to, is one that many domestic visitors relish.

There are 29 nationally promoted Great Trails in Scotland which range in length from 24-210 miles. Together, they provide almost 2,000 miles of well-managed paths from the Borders to the Highlands. This guide covers walks in Fife, in the east of the country between Edinburgh and Dundee; Speyside, from Aviemore north to the Moray Coast; the central county of Stirlingshire into Perthshire on the Rob Roy Way and the outskirts of Glasgow into the Highlands on the iconic West Highland Way.

Fife and Speyside offer gentler terrain than the other options, though they are totally distinct with the Speyside Way following a broad, partly wooded, river valley while walking in Fife passes through strings of villages, by quaint old harbours and through rich agricultural land. These areas are best for families and walkers who like to take their time sightseeing en route. A basic level of fitness will suffice for much of the walking here.

The West Highland Way passes through increasingly rugged country as it progresses from south to north. This is a trail that is ideal for younger hikers or seasoned walkers. Less fit walkers will manage but will have to push themselves.
The Highlands of Scotland have few villages and only scattered hotels for long distances. Thorough prior planning is required if you are not going with a guide.

Easy Ways Scotland Great Glen Way

Great Glen Way, Scotland

Stirlingshire and Perthshire, on the Rob Roy Way, are filled with smaller hills than the Highlands and the walking is generally a little easier than the more rugged lands to the north. The Rob Roy Way does have one section where experience will help in following the trail. For this reason, we recommend that those with a poor sense of direction engage a guide.

Many attractions and visitor centres are seasonal, opening from Easter to September. And, broadly speaking, that is the best time for outdoor activities. Favoured months are May and September as the weather can be at its most crisp and stable then. In more recent years, heavy rains drop in July and August.

Scotland is a place of many lochs, rivers and moorlands. These are all lovely but (and this quite a big ´but´) they provide ideal conditions for the Scottish midge, which bites walkers from June to late September. Always carry repellent and clothing that will cover your limbs. It is advisable to keep these items accessible along with a head midge net and peaked hat. Warm, sultry, cloudy days are the worst. Dawn and dusk are also when you may be worst hit.

If you are the totally independent type, Scotland is your oyster. Wild camping is enshrined along with access, subject to common sense caveats, through the Land Reform (Scotland) Act (2003) which includes some of the most walker-friendly legislation in Europe.

Scotland's Great Trails

For Scotland specific route-planning, see the Scotland’s Great Trails website.

Scotland's best long-distance walking trails

Popular and lesser-known routes and ways

The following ‘Best of Scotland’ offers four hugely contrasting walking experiences in terms of location, terrain and difficulty, but each rewards with memorable experiences as you wander across this invigorating land.

The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen fault line bisects the Scottish highlands to create an epic backdrop for this spectacular hike. The largely low-level Great Glen Way has beautiful and varied scenery throughout as you follow canal towpaths, pass forests, moorland and mountains on a well-marked path.

UK Scotland great glen way Fort Augustus loch ness

Fort Augustus overlooking Loch Ness on the Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way

Distance: 78 miles (125km)

Duration: Five to seven days

Start point: Fort William

End point: Inverness

Difficulty: First half flat, then some very hilly sections

Suitable for: All levels

The loch-strewn Great Glen fault line divides northern Scotland from Fort William in the east to Inverness to the west. Steep hills rise above Loch Linnhe, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and the famous Loch Ness, all of which lie in a ruler-straight line. The Caledonian Canal links either end via the lochs and 35km of canal.

One should start on the western end at Fort William—which markets itself as ‘the outdoor capital of the UK’—to hike north-east so that prevailing winds are behind you. This also makes for a very gentle introduction following canal towpaths.

Fort William itself is a somewhat underwhelming town but with several good hiking shops it has everything you might need for the trip. The town is well connected by train and bus services, and Inverness, at the other end of the walk, has an airport with regular flights to London Heathrow and Amsterdam.

May and September are the best months for this route when the weather is more stable and drier and there are few biting midges, unlike the summer months.

As with most of the Highlands it is essential to note that services are generally very limited away from the towns. Villages typically only have—at most—a hotel (with bar and restaurant catering for non-residents) and possibly a shop. The suggested day to day planner below ensures an overnight stop at one of the larger settlements where you can enjoy good old-fashioned Scottish hospitality in traditional hotels, comely B&Bs and, at some stops, budget options too such as hostels.

Note, however, that the endpoint on day one, at the hamlet of Gairlochy, has limited accommodation options. The nearest village, Spean Bridge, is four miles (6.5km) off the Way via a single track road and then a pavement by a main road. Be careful of traffic on the minor road: as elsewhere, walk on the right hand side of the road into oncoming traffic so that you are most visible to vehicle drivers. Other road sections are encountered further along the Way at Kilfinnan, Drumnadrochit and Abriachan.

The Great Glen Way is well served by various walking holiday companies and services. You can book your own accommodation and baggage transfer, or let a specialist organise your entire trip.

Good to know

If booking a pre-organised self-guided walk, you can take advantage of a transfer service between Gairlochy and Spean Bridge—particularly useful to rejoin the trail the following morning.

The Great Glen Way route

Those who dislike hills will be pleased to know that the route, following towpaths and forest tracks, is flat beyond Gairlochy to Laggan Locks with then small hills on the Invergarry Link section. After a night in leafy Invergarry, continue to the delightful Fort Augustus set on the Caledonian Canal, close to Loch Ness.

From Fort Augustus the path climbs and the route splits with a signed low route through a forest or the slightly longer but much steeper and challenging high route with spectacular views of the Great Glen.

Both the low and high routes give good views over deep Loch Ness; the average depth of the 23-mile loch is more than 600 feet, making it the largest (by volume) of all Britain’s freshwater lakes.

The final long, but straightforward, walk into Inverness is often broken up with an overnight stay at Abriachan, or your walking holiday company can arrange for a transfer if the 20-mile (32km) section is too daunting.

Inverness, the end destination, on the Moray Firth is the capital of the Highlands with a strong Gaelic culture and vibrant arts scene and has good galleries and museums.

If you have more steam in your legs you can extend your trip with some day hikes:

Fort William to Inverlochy Castle (3 miles/ 4.5km return) is a superb short, flat, linear walk along the Great Glen Way with a signed diversion to the dramatic 13th Century towered ruin of Inverlochy Castle. There are stunning views of Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain – as you leave Fort William.

Fort Augustus to Aberchalder (10 miles/ 16km return) follows the Caledonian Canal on a high quality, but unsealed, path to pretty Loch Oich for a peaceful and easy linear walk.

Read more

The Highland Council website details the full ascent of the high route and has a recommended reading section on essential information for the entire way: www.highland.gov.uk/greatglenway

Great Glen Way day by day

Day 1: Fort William to Gairlochy (10.5 miles/ 17km) Or Spean Bridge an extra 2.5-4 miles, depending on B&B locations, off the Great Glen Way.

Day 2: Gairlochy to Invergarry (17.5 miles/ 28km) The Invergarry Link splits from the main Great Glen Way just above Laggan Locks.

Day 3: Invergarry to Fort Augustus (9 miles/ 14km) The Invergarry Link rejoins the main Great Glen Way after Loch Oich.

Day 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston (9 miles/ 14.8km)

Day 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit (14 miles/ 23km)

Day 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness (20 miles/ 32km)

The Great Glen Fault

This major geological fault line stretches right across the country, from Fort William to Inverness. It is the best example of a tear fault in the UK and operates in the same way as California’s San Andreas Fault. Still seismically active minor earth tremors are recorded regularly.

The West Highland Way

Scotland's oldest and most popular long-distance walking route – the West Highland Way – appeals to serious walkers, strolling day trippers and even runners who race the 96 miles in under 35 hours! Walkers take around a week to complete the distance, travelling from the outskirts of Glasgow, past Loch Lomond’s wooded banks, via Tyndrum and across the wilds of Rannoch Moor before a final stretch to finish in the Highland town of Fort William.

Scotland West Highland Way 2

West Highland Way, Scotland

West Highland Way

Distance: 96 miles (154km)

Duration: Eight days

Start point: Milngavie

End point: Fort William

Difficulty: Moderate with harder northern sections – well-marked route; some remote and hilly parts

Suitable for: Any reasonably fit walker, family-friendly sections highlighted below

The full undertaking is a long and fairly challenging trail but the majority of those who hike it only have an average level of fitness. As with all long-distance walks, it’s a very good idea to get some multi-day training in first if you can to harden up your legs and feet.

Then, all going well, you can relish in the experience as you trek ever northwards. Wildlife that may be seen includes hardy feral goats, red deer and golden eagles, but it's the Highland scenery that offers stunning views year-round. Filmmakers have long been drawn to sights you will see en route.

Sections of Braveheart with Mel Gibson as the Scottish legend, William Wallace, were shot around Loch Leven, Glencoe and in the Mamores mountains near Fort William, all of which are along the West Highland Way trail.

The West Highland Way route

A really satisfying aspect of this long-distance walk is the sense of progression. The change in landscape from the lowlands of the start to the finish near the foot of Britain´s highest mountain Ben Nevis (1,345m) is memorable.

The West Highland Way begins as you step off the high street in Milngavie (pronounced Mullguy!). You’ll be following in good company: around 85,000 people walk parts of the Way every year. Indeed the West Highland Way has been well tramped over the centuries as much of it follows ancient drove roads, military roads from Jacobean times, old coaching roads and disused railway lines.

You enter Mugdock Country Park, pass the Carbeth Huts built by Glaswegians during the thirties, cross a stile and suddenly the scenery becomes wilder. Straight ahead stands wooded Dumgoyach Hill, to the right an ancient volcano – Dumgoyne and, in the distance, bigger hills, including Ben Lomond can be seen. In the foreground, a rocky path can be seen weaving its way across this more open landscape.

The first night, spent in Drymen, will give an inkling of the camaraderie that walkers of this epic route share. You´ll probably recognise fellow hikers the following day as you edge up the stunning eastern shore of Loch Lomond, part of a national park, passing oak-wooded islands that drip with natural beauty. Families will love the sections north of Rowardennan and by Inversnaid which give unrivalled views of the loch.

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Glencoe, Scotland

By day five you will be in the shadow of Beinn Dorain, a magnificent mountain that rises from the foot of the trail to a pleasing conical top. Then, after Bridge of Orchy, the route bursts through trees onto the open hillside. Below is Loch Tulla and beyond the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor. On a sunny day, its many lochans glisten like a jewelled rug. Lochan na h-Achlaise, beyond Loch Tulla, is backed by the Black Mount to your left. They include Stob Coir an Albannaich – the Highlandman's peak.

Descend to the Inveroran Hotel, one of Scotland’s oldest inns which retains a charm of yesteryear. Wake the next morning to the fresh Highland air and set off to join a Thomas Telford designed cobbled road which was in use until 1933.

Further on, Bá Bridge over the tumbling river makes a good half-way spot for a break. As you progress the views over the expanse of Rannoch Moor open out and you’ll realise this is no place to be in bad weather.

Round a corner to see the track drop ahead with Buachaille Etive Mór – Glencoe’s guardian – on your left and the Kingshouse Hotel below. The Kingshouse has a famous climbers’ bar complete with classic photos and you can camp by the river for free.

The final two days are the hardest. First, you ascend the Devil’s Staircase to reach the highest point of the West Highland Way at 550m, with breathtaking views back to The Buachaille and north to the Mamores mountain range before dropping down to overnight in Kinlochleven.

After a good night´s rest, another big climb is tackled to gain superb views down tidal Loch Leven. Then the Way takes the Lairigmor (the great pass) for easier walking between towering mountains and then views of might Ben Nevis.

The last leg follows Glen Nevis into the heart of the seagull filled town of Fort William where you can eat to your heart´s content.

West Highland Way day by day

Given the popularity of this trail, there’s a great range of accommodation and support services available. Choose from a mix of accommodation, combining camping experiences with a night in a comfortable B&B or well-appointed hostel.

There are plenty of character-filled old inns to stay in too. These will always be filled with other tired but contented walkers where the smell of malt whiskey hangs pungent in the air. The vast majority of hikers, excepting perhaps day-walkers, go south to north which helps build your strength for the harder hillier sections near Fort William.

Around East Loch Lomond, be aware that camping restrictions are in place between 1 March and 31 October.

Day 1: Milngavie to Drymen (12 miles)

Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan (15 miles)

Day 3: Rowardennan to Inverarnan (14 miles)

Day 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum (12 miles)

Day 5: Tyndrum to Inveroran (9 miles)

Day 6: Inveroran to Kingshouse (10 miles)

Day 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven (9 miles)

Day 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William (15 miles)

Rob Roy Walk

Named in honour of the 17th-century folk hero, the Rob Roy Way passes through rugged country closely associated with the irrepressible Scot and follows tracks he would have taken on his many adventures.

While Rob Roy was no saint, he was a man who captured the popular imagination. Variously described as a folk hero and Robin Hood type figure, he was wont to help the less fortunate with random acts of kindness.

Scotland Rob Roy Way Loch Tay

Loch Tay, Rob Roy Way, Scotland

Rob Roy Walk

Distance: 79 miles (127km)

Duration: Six days

Start point: Drymen

End point: Pitlochry

Difficulty: Moderate to hard – partly way-marked route, ill-defined path in places; hilly sections

Suitable for: Any reasonably fit walker, family-friendly sections highlighted below.

Rob Roy was a hugely effective and talented leader of a section of his clan, the MacGregors, and proved himself to be a very persistent thorn in the side of the government and its local supporters.

His life story, from successful cattle dealer to outlaw, has become the stuff of legend, helped in no small part by several audacious escapes. On one occasion, a troop of dragoons surprised him at his Balquhidder farm and, hopelessly outnumbered, he succumbed. The troops rode down Strathyre with a dejected-looking Rob Roy in the saddle. It seemed certain he would be sentenced and imprisoned like his father. MacGregor, however, timed his escape to perfection at a narrow point by Loch Lubnaig, disappearing up a heathery slope as the horses below danced in confusion.

The great thing about the Way is that it passes through all these places. So, as you walk through this beautiful landscape, you are literally walking through history.

The Rob Roy Way route

Expect quiet pine forests, scenic lochshores, and wilder upland sections where the adventure is tangible. The first four days lead northwards through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park – a gem among Scotland’s landscapes.

Set off from Drymen where the Clachan Inn dates from Rob Roy’s time. The route meets and follows the West Highland Way for a short distance before ascending a minor moorland road. Forest tracks and a quiet road leads to Aberfoyle. The variety of terrain and underfoot surfaces followed are typical of the Way.

Scotland’s most notorious outlaw was born north-west of Aberfoyle, at the far end of Loch Katrine in 1671, and named Raibert Ruadh MacGregor – red-headed Robert. By his thirties, he had prospered as a cattle dealer. But when his chief cattle hand, or drover, absconded with a large sum of borrowed money MacGregor was accused of embezzlement, evicted and outlawed.

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Loch Lomond, Scotland

Next, the quiet Way leads by the wooded shores of Loch Venachar and Loch Lubnaig. Families will enjoy the flat section from Loch Venachar to the southern end of Loch Lubnaig, just before which is a particularly pretty woodland trail by the Falls of Leny.

Beyond Loch Lubnaig, divert off the Way for Balquhidder where one can see Rob Roy’s grave at the churchyard where he was buried in 1734.

After overnighting at Lochearnhead, walk up Glen Ogle on an old rail line, crossing a viaduct. At the crest look left to spy a beautiful hidden lochan, or small loch, before reaching the village of Killin at the head of Loch Tay. There´s a wilder aspect to the landscape here and great panoramic mountain views once you have climbed stiffly to the dammed Loch Breaclaich. This is wild country where you need to be prepared for the elements. The going can be tough and wet underfoot.
By the time you drop back down to Loch Tay at Ardeonaig you will be glad to follow the gently undulating lochshore road which gives magnificent views to lofty Ben Lawers opposite. The official way leaves the road at the hamlet of Acharn. However, it is recommended that you keep straight to visit the fantastic Crannog Centre – with its reconstruction of the ancient stilt dwelling – and overnight in Kenmore.

The next leg begins with a sharp road climb before rejoining the Way to continue east above the River Tay. The conical peak of Schiehallion draws the eye. Its Anglicised name translates from the Gaelic Fairy Hill of the Caledonians. Stroll on to reach the enchanting birch-clad Birks of Aberfeldy.

Nearing the end of the journey you will reach Strathtay close to a prison from which Rob Roy escaped in June 1717.

The final uphill leg of the Way offers rewarding views over Strathtay before a welcome descent through woods with bustling Pitlochry down below your feet.

Rob Roy Way day by day

Accommodation is generally plentiful along the route (except on the south shore of Loch Tay on Day 5), with options that include campsites, hostels, B&Bs and hotels. The seven-day schedule outlined below is a popular one, with a stay each night in the main villages or town en route. Very fit walkers could complete the Way in four or five days. Note there is an additional optional 17-mile loop through remote glens to the hamlet of Amulree from Loch Tay. For wild country lovers, this is well worth considering.

Either way, it is best to complete the trip from south to north to benefit from the prevailing wind and to soak up the atmosphere of the Rob Roy country at the beginning.

Day 1: Drymen to Aberfoyle (11 miles)

Day 2: Aberfoyle to Callander (9 miles)

Day 3: Callander to Lochearnhead (16 miles)

Day 4: Lochearnhead to Killin (7.5 miles)

Day 5: Killin to Kenmore (18 miles)

Day 6: Kenmore to Aberfeldy (8 miles)

Day 7: Aberfeldy to Pitlochry (10 miles)

The Speyside Way

The Speyside Way is one of four official Long Distance Routes in Scotland (the others are the West Highland Way, the Southern Upland Way and the Great Glen Way). It largely follows the course of the majestic River Spey from the Moray coast to the Cairngorms National Park gateway town of Aviemore. Along the route one passes myriad whisky distilleries and stands of ancient pine and birch woods.

The route principally follows the wide and peaceful Spey Valley and passes through some of Scotland's most beautiful landscapes. Alongside, the river – the fastest flowing in Scotland – is glimpsed regularly and walked next to, though not continuously.

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Pack horse bridge, Carrbridge

Speyside Way

Distance: 65 miles (105km)

Duration: Five to eight days

Start point: Buckie

End point: Aviemore

Difficulty: Easy to moderate – well-marked route; few steep gradients; some stiles to negotiate

Suitable for: Most walkers, family friendly sections

It springs from the Cairngorm mountains, a vast subarctic plateau where reintroduced reindeer thrive. Not surprisingly, the Spey has shaped the landscape and character of the lands through which it passes. The pure waters have given rise to a staggering number of malt whisky producers across Speyside, more than half of the total distilleries in Scotland. You’ll literally smell them before you see them from the trail!

In the 1600s pine logs felled in the ancient forests under the Cairngorms were transported downriver in rafts. The timber was used for railway construction, and later for shipbuilding where the river meets the sea at Kingston and Garmouth, from where more than 500 vessels were launched.

The Speyside Way route

Lace up your boots to leave Buckie, formed from a string of villages during the 19th-century herring boom years, to walk pleasantly to the mouth of the Spey. This is a fine walk from all the family and leads to the Scottish Dolphin Centre. The nutrient-rich Spey waters mean fish flourish here which in turn provides a haven for wildlife including bottlenose dolphins, ospreys, grey and common seals, the occasional otter and many coastal birds. The free-to-enter centre is located in an 18th Century salmon fishing station.

A further easy five miles leads inland with stretches of riverside path that are flower-lined in the warmer months. Take your time, bring a picnic, and soak up the atmosphere on a lazy summer´s day. Afterwards, in the village of Fochabers, you can eat well as there is a good range of excellent local produce from the surrounding fertile lands.

Heading south Day 3 is considerably longer (at 13 miles) and harder (graded moderate) as the Way negotiates hillier ground on woodland paths, roads and forestry tracks. A highlight is the view from the steep wooded slopes of Ben Aigan, which looks down over Speyside. From there a descent leads back down to the river before the mighty Spey is crossed on a road bridge by charming Craigellachie. A must-see is the Craigellachie Hotel, where the unique Quaich bar stocks some 900 single malts!

Scotland Speyside whisky

Speyside whisky, Scotland

The next day´s stretch is very pretty. Note that the narrow riverside path with views to famed fishing spots can get muddy here.

Stroll through woods and tunnels before reaching a park by Aberlour, or Charlestown of Aberlour, as it is known in full. The linear town is home to the famous Walkers shortbread factory, and, of course, the Aberlour distillery. If you’re feeling peckish, the butcher shop sells a superb steak pie.

The Speyside Way visitor centre (open April-September) is located in the old Aberlour railway station and has displays on the natural and local history, including archive footage of the former railway.

Carry on, rising gradually, to follow the river bank downstream through mixed woodland and cross the river below. Knockando distillery is passed in a couple of miles. Close by are the distilleries of Tamdhu and Cardhu. The latter runs tours which will proudly tell you how it was the first distillery in Scotland to have been set up by a woman. Further on, you will recross the Spey on a lattice girder bridge to reach the old Ballindalloch station building, near the Cragganmore distillery (tours).

Continuing south to Grantown is the hardest section of the route (graded moderate/hard). It´s hilly and rough and wet underfoot with two burns (streams) to cross on stepping stones; these may be difficult to cross in flood conditions.

Once completed, the remaining three days to Aviemore are a breeze and nice and flat. The villages passed through all have good facilities with lots of home cooking in the cafes. Ancient pine woods are walked through by Nethy Bridge and the final leg gives superb views across the Spey Valley to the Cairngorms´ mighty northern faces.

Speyside Way day by day

The official Speyside Way website describes the Way from the sea inland to Aviemore, but notes that this is a matter of preference. With this walk, one can just as easily hike downstream. It´s up to you. On the whole, there is a lot of accommodation choice for hotel, B&Bs with a more restricted choice for hostels and campsites.

You may struggle to get accommodation for one night in Ballindalloch. If you are doing the Way independently a simple workaround is to arrange for a taxi to pick you up from Aberlour.

There is also a hard 15-mile spur to Tomintoul from Ballindalloch. This mainly uses rough hill tracks.

Day 1: Buckie to Spey Bay (5 miles; family friendly)

Day 2: Spey Bay to Fochabers (5 miles; family friendly)

Day 3: Fochabers to Craigellachie (13 miles)

Day 4: Craigellachie to Ballindalloch (12 miles; family friendly)

Day 5: Ballindalloch to Grantown (13 miles)

Day 6: Grantown to Nethy Bridge (6 miles)

Day 7: Nethy Bridge to Boat of Garten (5 miles; family friendly)

Day 8: Boat of Garten to Aviemore (6 miles; family friendly)

The Fife Coastal Path

Tamer than the above trails, this 188km well-signed route passes through picturesque seaside villages, old smuggling caves, and fabulous beaches. In summer it is very beautiful. There are many historical castles and sites too in addition to the stunning sea views; Fife is bounded by the Firths (estuaries) of the Forth and Tay, to the south and north respectively, and juts east into the North Sea. You can even take a boat trip to one of the islands.

The route really lends itself to walking in multiple sections if that takes your fancy rather than one big undertaking. Its character changes a lot from the low-lying easy first half to include some rougher but straightforward parts on the easternmost section, the East Neuk.

Scotland Fife East Neuk of F Ife fishing village of Pittenweem

Pittenweem fishing village, Fife

Fife Coastal Path

Distance: 117 miles (188km)

Duration: Eight days

Start point: Kincardine

End point: Aviemore

Difficulty: Easy first half, easy to moderate thereafter – well-marked route; few steep gradients; rough ground and slippy steps in places; some sections only suitable at low tide

Suitable for: Most walkers, family friendly sections

Fifers are proud of their historical importance – Dunfermline was Scotland’s ancient capital – and they stoutly defend the popular county title ‘the Kingdom of Fife’.

There´s more wildlife along the route than you might expect, even where it passes busy urban areas at Kirkcaldy and adjacent former steelworks and old colliery sites. Further east there are several wildlife reserves and a seal colony. The mouth of the Tay estuary is also where hundreds of sea ducks and wildfowl come to roost. And the dunes are full of fluttering butterflies during the summer months.

Fife Coastal Path route

Starting from the western extremity of Fife at the village of Kincardine on the River Forth the path entices you east. Bridges span the Firth of Forth and for the remainder of this section, you can clearly see the far side. The walking is easy and delightful on a calm day when the water can appear like a mirror.

Soon the excellent path runs to Culross by the prominent chimney stack of the last coal-powered station in Scotland, Longannet, which closed in 2016 marking the end of an era as the Fife Coalfield was one of the principal coalfields in Scotland until the late 80s.

Allow plenty of time to see the ancient burgh town, which is very attractive and is packed with colourful, Old Dutch style stone buildings which attest to the strong trade links that the Forthside town had with Veere in the Netherlands. During the 16th century, the town had a thriving community, developed under the laird, Sir George Bruce, and for whom the striking red-tiled Culross Palace was built.

Torry Bay Local Nature Reserve is passed before a steep climb above the firth. The historic villages of Charleston and Limekilns are reached after. Day one gives a good taste of the variety of the Fife Coastal Path for the next sections

Scotland Fife Ruins of St Andrews Castle in St Andrews

Ruins of St Andrew's Castle, Fife

Day four follows sandy beaches during low tides, with alternatives at other times. Beyond Largo Bay the path climbs to Shell Bay where there are two options – one goes up over the cliffs, the second the Ellie Chainwalk hugs the rocks with chains for handholds. Elie is a beautiful harbour village like many to follow.

Day five can´t be beaten though for its string of picturesque harbours. Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail are all linked by the coastal path which is easy to follow and ideal for families. From Anstruther, there are daily boat trips during the summer months to the puffin-filled Isle of May nature reserve.

Beyond Crail the terrain becomes rough. The path narrows by Fife Ness with more low tide only sections beyond a golf course.

Day six also needs to be planned in advance due to sea levels. The rewards are the sense of remoteness and views of a pink sea stack, the Buddo Rock, and the Rock and Spindle, the weathered remains of a volcanic plug. The path leads to the East Sands by St Andrews – the famous golf centre and university town – where you should visit the centre to see the beautiful but ruined 12th-century cathedral.

Heading on from Leuchars the following day is an easy family-friendly section as far as Tayport. It passes through Tentsmuir Point National Nature Reserve. Located at the mouth of the Tay Estuary this forms an important roosting and feeding area for huge gatherings of seaduck, waders and wildfowl. It is also a haul-out area for more than 2000 common and grey seals. Butterflies are a feature of the grassland and dunes too.

Further on you will see Broughty Ferry on the far side of the Tay and then Dundee. It´s fun to realise you have rounded Fife!

One last day of the Fife Coastal Path is all that remains. It takes in the sizeable Normans Law and leads through some nice woodlands. It leads to a suitably pleasing end in the charming town of Newburgh at the coastal path arch.

Fife Coastal Path day by day

Accommodation is plentiful in all locations, though you should book early, and is largely B&Bs or hotels.

The exception is the final day section from Balmerino to Newburgh, though Newburgh itself has plenty of options.

The entire route from Kincardine as far as Newport-on-Tay is well served by public transport, and the section between Kincardine and Kirkcaldy is served by the mainline railway.

More detailed information on sections affected by tides can be found from the official path website.

Day 1: Kincardine to Limekilns (11 miles)

Day 2: Limekilns to Burntisland (17 miles)

Day 3: Burntisland to Buckhaven (14 miles)

Day 4: Buckhaven to Elie (13 miles)

Day 5: Elie to Cambo Sands (16 miles)

Day 6: Cambo Sands to Leuchars (14 miles)

Day 7: Leuchars to Wormit Bay (16 miles)

Day 8: Wormit Bay to Newburgh (15 miles)

St Ninian's Way (Carlisle to Whithorn section)

The Carlisle to Whithorn section is the most scenic stretch of the Way, a second leg (adding a further ten days' walking and 124 miles/ 198km) continues through Ayrshire and across densely-populated central Scotland and ends on the east coast at South Queensferry, by Edinburgh.

There is a marvellous sense of progression throughout, and you overnight at many pretty villages. The best time to do this walk is in high summer when you can appreciate the long evenings with skies staying light until well after 11pm. It's a delight to enjoy the villages with a gentle stroll after a good feed at your hotel or an old pub. But even in summer be prepared for rain and wind!

Accommodation is plentiful at the overnight stops though it is advisable to pre-book. The main choices are hotels and B&Bs with some campsites en route.

The start point of Carlisle is well connected with bus and rail links. The end point of Whithorn is connected by bus to the town of Newton Stewart with onward connections to the Dumfries train station.

St Ninian’s Way isn’t widely offered as an organised walking holiday, although you might find a specialist operator who can help. Most walkers book their accommodation independently, and you might find B&Bs who can arrange luggage transfer on an ad-hoc basis.

UK Scotland St Ninian Way Whithorn in Dumfires and Galloway

The historic town of Whithorn, calling point for pilgrims on St Ninian's Way

St Ninian's Way

Distance: 126 miles (202km)

Duration: 10 to 12 days

Start point: Carlisle

End point: Whithorn (for Part 1)

Difficulty: A largely flat or undulating route with some hilly farmland and moorland sections

Suitable for: All levels

Watch out!

Midges are less of a problem in this part of Scotland though you should be aware of sheep ticks. These match head-sized biting insects thrive in grasslands where sheep, cattle and deer graze and can attach themselves to walkers’ ankles and legs, or other body parts if you rest on the ground. They can transmit the serious Lyme disease. Check your body carefully at least once at the end of each day and remove any parasites with a dedicated tick-removal tool, washing the area with antiseptic.

The walk begins at Carlisle Cathedral which traces its roots to 1122 as a monastic church. Allow time to see this, the second smallest of England's ancient cathedrals, before walking through flat farmland and over the estuary of the Esk and Eden with great views onto the Solway Firth before crossing into Scotland. The day ends shortly after in Gretna, a village with a long history. Thousands of couples say “I do” here every year, following the tradition of young English elopers who since 1753 flitted over the border to marry under Scots law.

From there the waymarked path broadly runs parallel to the firth. Highlights include sections of lovely walking through farmland, especially from Castle Douglas to the attractive village of Gatehouse of Fleet. Look for the distinctive local black and white banded Beltie cows and enjoy the song of the swooping lapwings.

From Gatehouse the route meanders through hill and moorland to drop down to Creetown. Then the Way passes through the town of Newton Stewart before heading south to the quaint booktown of Wigtown. This marks the head of the Whithorn Peninsula where there is a fine coastal track from Garlieston to Whithorn. Here there is the finest collection of early Christian carved stones in Scotland. The intricately engraved stones include towering crosses and the Latinus Stone, Scotland’s earliest Christian monument which dates from around 450 AD.

If you’ve got longer you can extend your walk with the rest of the full pilgrimage route onward to South Queensferry or, for a shorter extension, the Whithorn Circuit is an interesting 8 mile/ 13km walk (5 hours) beginning in the centre of Whithorn and following a road to the pretty causeway-linked Isle of Whithorn and visits St Ninian's Chapel. From here it goes along a rough coastal path to St Ninian's Cave – a shallow depression in the rocks. Enjoy views from the remote beach to the Isle of Man. A track and road completes the return.

St Ninian’s Way day by day

Day 1: Carlisle to Gretna (11 miles/ 18km)

Day 2: Gretna to Annan (11 miles/ 18km)

Day 3: Annan to Bankhead (13 miles/ 21km)

Day 4: Bankhead to Dumfries (10.5 miles/ 17km)

Day 5: Dumfries to Castle Douglas (17 miles/ 28km)

Day 6: Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright (10.5 miles/ 17km)

Day 7: Kirkcudbright to Gatehouse of Fleet (14 miles/ 22km)

Day 8: Gatehouse of Fleet to Creetown (12 miles/ 19km)

Day 9: Creetown to Newton Stewart (7.5 miles/ 12km)

Day 10: Newtown Stewart to Wigtown (8 miles/ 13km)

Day 11: Wigtown to Garlieston (9 miles/ 14km)

Day 12: Garlieston to Whithorn (7.5 miles/ 12km)

Don't miss

One of the earliest Christian sites in Scotland, Whithorn is said to have been founded by Saint Ninian who died there in 432 AD. But there is much uncertainty around Ninian's identity. There is a lot of information in the town at the Whithorn Priory & Museum about the saint and the area’s claims to be the cradle of Christianity in Scotland.

Arran Coastal Way

This challenging trail gives a rewarding circuit around the beautiful, accessible, Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, just east of Glasgow. The route leads around the coastal fringe of Arran’s mountainous north down its west coast to the sandy beaches, rocky shores and gentler landscapes of the south. The return leg up the east coast leads through forests and woodland, passing Iron Age hill forts and burial cairns.

UK Scotland view of Brodick from Goatfell

The view of Arran's coastline from Goatfell, the island's highest peak

Arran Coastal Way

Distance: 66 miles (107km)

Duration: Seven to eight days

Start point: Brodick

End point: Brodick

Difficulty: Challenging and rugged

Suitable for: Experienced trekkers

Note that the Arran Coastal Way has several sections that involve rough going along the shoreline and some pathless boggy sections. Other sections (including those on minor roads) are suitable for all levels (such as the Machrie Moor walk highlighted below). Yellow waymarkers denote the main route while alternative, harder, legs are signed in red.

Arran is easily reached from Glasgow by a 50-minute train from the city's Central Station to Ardrossan where the ferry departs for Arran's main village of Brodick located mid-way on the island's east coast. Tickets can be bought for the hour long sailing at the terminal. If travelling by car to Arran in peak season (Easter-end of August), book your outward and return ferry journeys in advance from the operator Calmac: www.calmac.co.uk.

Arran Coastal Way route

The Arran Coastal Way monument by the ferry terminal marks the beginning of your walk. While in Brodick it's a good idea to stock up on provisions, particularly on Sundays or out of season when few eateries are open along the way.

Brodick has by far the largest choice of accommodation on the island with several hotels and lots of B&Bs. There's also a wonderful, basic, campsite out of town at wild Glen Rosa which is open all year as is the campsite near Blackwaterfoot on the west of the island. Other sites, at Lochranza in the north and Kildonan in the south are seasonal (there is also a bunkhouse in the south at Kilmory). For non-camping Arran Coastal Way walkers the main options are B&Bs with hotels in the larger villages. It is highly advisable to book your accommodation in advance.

As with most of Scotland one should be prepared for rain and winds anytime. The best months for this walk, with more predictable weather and fewer biting midges are May, early June and September. Early October can be a good time too albeit colder.

The main route as a whole could be completed in seven days by completing days seven and eight in one go. However one should, if possible, spend a night in Lamlash to relish the peaceful setting that looks out to Holy Island.

There are a few excellent alternative routes and additional day hikes, if you’ve got the time. The magnificent climb from Brodick up Arran’s highest mountain, Goatfell, is suitable for fit walkers with competent navigation skills. There are no Coastal Way route markers on large sections of this walk. This 9.75 miles/ 15.5km option takes 6-8 hours.

The walk to Machrie Moor stone circles (2.75 miles/ 4.25km return) is a flat hike to a series of Bronze Age standing stones in a magnificent setting at the heart of an open valley. The walk starts just south of Machrie, from Machrie Moor Standing Stones Car Park.

One should consult the official Way website – www.coastalway.co.uk – if you are considering taking other alternative sections, especially the southern Lagg to Whiting Bay which is impassable at high tide.

A number of companies offer support services ranging from baggage transfer, to full-service packages.

Arran Coastal Way day by day

Day 1: Brodick to Sannox (7.5 miles/ 12km)

Day 2: Sannox to Lochranza (9.5 miles/ 15.5km)

Day 3: Lochranza to Imachar (9 miles/ 14.5km)

Day 4: Imachar to Blackwaterfoot (10 miles/ 16km)

Day 5: Blackwaterfoot to Lagg (7 miles/ 11km)

Day 6: Lagg to Whiting Bay (9.5 miles/ 15km)

Day 7: Whiting Bay to Lamlash (5.5 miles/ 9km)

Day 8: Lamlash to Brodick (5 miles/ 8km)

Arran's mountains

Goatfell, which is composed of a red coarse-grained granite weathered into bizarre pinnacles and gullies, draws the eye on the opening day. At 874-metres high (2,866 ft) it stands at the southeastern end of two back-to-back horseshoe ridges which include the peaks of Cir Mhór and Caisteal Abhail.

West Island Way (Isle of Bute)

This delightful long distance walk takes in many of the finest sights on the Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde. This lesser-known trail boasts secluded beaches, a range of wildlife, and a generally flat profile.

UK Scotland Ettrick Bay Bute with the island of Arran in the background

Bute's Ettrick Bay with the Isle of Arran in the background

West Island Way

Distance: 30 miles (48km)

Duration: 2 to 4 days

Start point: Kilchattan Bay, Bute

End point: Port Bannatyne, Bute

Difficulty: Generally suitable for inexperienced walkers, although some sections are strenuous and rough

Suitable for: All levels

Early settlers were drawn to the small, relatively sheltered and productive land on the island of Bute where there are more Neolithic chambered cairns per area than anywhere else in Scotland. Christian missionaries also came, using the island as a gateway to the mainland.

The mainly off-road, well signposted, West Island Way can be completed by the fitter walker in two days, though it is recommended to allow four shortish days for the best experience. As it is a linear walk, with a north and south loop, the local bus service is ideal for the return to the main ferry town of Rothesay.

The principal connection to the island is by car and passenger ferry from Wemyss Bay which is served by direct train from Glasgow's Central Station. If you are flying into Glasgow Airport you can also take the train from Paisley station. The ferry crossing takes half an hour with very regular sailings. Tickets can be bought at the ferry terminal.

West Island Way route

The route crosses diverse landscapes from rocky headlands, seashore and sandy beaches to moorland, farmland and forest. Most of it is level though there is a high moorland section on Day three between Rhubodach to Port Bannatyne which can be boggy, especially in the winter and after long periods of heavy rain. For that reason, as for all west Scotland walks, the optimum months are May, early June and September when the days are warmer, the climate more stable and also when the biting midges are scarcer than in the main summer period.

Accommodation on Bute is limited away from Rothesay and one is strongly advised to pre-book the available hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs. An alternative to finding accommodation away from Rothesay is to base oneself there and stick to day hikes, returning at the end of your day's walk by bus or taxi.

To get to the start point at Kilchattan Bay one can use the hourly bus service which leaves from Rothesay's main square opposite the ferry terminal. This excellent 5-mile (8km) loop has fantastic views across the Firth of Clyde to the island of Arran and the unmistakable domed mound of Ailsa Craig in the distance. Basking sharks may be seen, as from other parts of the Bute coastline too.

Throughout the West Island Way the common wildlife you may see includes foxes and roe deer with peregrines, buzzard and raven overhead.

A good diversion on day three is the walk from Ettrick Bay to St Michael's Chapel (8 miles/ 13km return). The road passes sweeping sands and a lovely tea-room for approx. 2 miles, past a collapsed chambered cairn called Saint Michael’s Grave with an uninterrupted view down the Kyles of Bute to Arran. It’s a fine place to relax and perhaps hear a cuckoo call. Continuing, the path leads to the remains of medieval St Michael's Chapel, where a stone altar and aumbry recess survives.

The West Island Way isn’t widely offered by walking holiday companies, but a good specialist should be able to put together an itinerary for you. In the absence of dedicated baggage transfer companies you may be able to organise luggage transport through your B&Bs or via a local taxi company. Alternatively, base yourself in Rothesay and just walk each section as a day hike.

West Island Way day by day

Day 1: Kilchattan Bay Circular (5 miles/ 8km)

Day 2: Kilchattan Bay to Port Bannatyne (11.5 miles/ 18.5km)

Day 3: Port Bannatyne to Rhubodach (8.5 miles/ 14km)

Day 4: Rhubodach to Port Bannatyne (5 miles/ 8km)

The Kintyre Way

Less well known than the West Highland Way, this 100-mile (161km) trail zig-zags down through the peaceful and energising Kintyre Peninsula. Along the way you'll pass numerous historical sites on this largely unspoilt landmass ending by the spectacular Machrihanish Bay.

UK Scotland Tarbet Kintyre

Fishing boats in Tarbert, on Kintyre's north-east coast

The Kintyre Way

Distance: 100 miles (160km)

Duration: 7 days

Start point: Tarbert

End point: Machrihanish

Difficulty: Easy road and forest track sections to difficult foreshore and remote hill walks

Suitable for: Experienced hikers

The well-marked Kintyre Way has something for all nature lovers with, on the whole, straightforward walking.

Although the route is generally considered as starting in Tarbert in the north to Machrihanish in the south, the route can also be walked south to north and is fully waymarked in both directions.

Be aware that there are remote and exposed stretches such as on day two between Claonaig and Clachan. And the final stage between Southend and Machrihanish is purely for experienced hillwalkers, having steep ground, bog, and difficult navigation if misty. If tackling the full trail, carry waterproofs and a first aid kit as a minimum. Note that mobile phone signal is non-existent on parts of the route.

Low cloud and inclement weather can be expected in any season which can obscure the blue waymarkers on higher ground. The sweet spot for reasonable weather and fewer midges is usually May, early June, September and early October.

Kintyre can be reached from the south via the island of Arran, the north via Loch Lomond, or via a short ferry from Gouroch to Dunoon followed by a drive through the Cowal Peninsula and Lochgilphead. The latter, although not the shortest option, is recommended for the scenery and for arrival into Tarbert – a car journey of 108 miles (174km) from Glasgow. As the walk is a linear one it is recommended to return by bus to Tarbert from Machrihanish (via Campbeltown).

Accommodation-wise it is advisable, especially in Easter and the summer months, to book in advance. Although the majority of the recommended overnight stops have plentiful accommodation that is not the case for Claonaig, Tayinloan or Southend. An alternative option in these cases, for non wild campers, is to arrange transport to your booking. A self-guided walking company can be very useful in this respect or one could use the local bus service or taxis.

The Kintyre Way is offered as an organised self-guided trip by many Scotland walking holiday companies who will tailor an itinerary to your preferences, organise your accommodation, baggage transfer and other logistics. Alternatively you can book your B&Bs yourself and use ad-hoc baggage transfer.

UK Scotland Campbeltown Kintyre

Campbeltown on Kintyre's south-east coast

The Kintyre Way route

An endearing feature of the Kintyre Way is that it skirts both the east and west coasts of this long, protruding, landmass. One day for example you can enjoy walking with views out over the Atlantic on the day three leg from Clachan to Tayinloan right by the sea while gazing out to the islands of Islay, Jura and Gigha. Then the next day you are rewarded with an extensive view of much of the east coast of Kintyre as well as the Arran mountains and Ailsa Craig.

This is a trail which is really worth doing in full. The sense of completion as you stand by the gorgeous sandy beach of Machrihanish is magical.

Kintyre Way day by day

Day 1: Tarbert to Claonaig (11 miles/ 18km)

Day 2: Claonaig to Clachan (10 miles/ 16km)

Day 3: Clachan to Tayinloan (9 miles/ 14km)

Day 4: Tayinloan to Carradale (14 miles/ 22km)

Day 5: Carradale to Campbeltown (22 miles/ 35km)

Day 6: Campbeltown to Southend (16 miles/ 26km)

Day 7: Southend to Machrihanish (16 miles/ 26km)

Ancient Argyll

Kintryre is part of the ancient area of Argyll, which meets the Atlantic with a massively indented coastline. The region takes its name from the anglicised form of Earra Gaidheal, meaning ‘way of the Gaels’. This refers to the early Irish tribe, the Dal Riada of Antrim, who settled here from the third century AD onwards.

Walking Holidays In The UK

Simon Heptinstall

Former Top Gear writer Simon Heptinstall has slowed down a bit recently and now much prefers walking. His hikes have taken him as far as Svalbard, the Falklands and Budleigh Salterton. Find his travel writing everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to the Daily Mail.

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