Walking holidays in the UK


Walking the Scottish Lowlands

Spectacular and uncrowded hiking

Taylor St. John
By Taylor St. John

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—walking holidays.

Scotland Fife Ruins of St Andrews Castle in St Andrews

The ruins of St Andrews Castle on the Fife Coastal Path


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.

Where to walk in the Scottish Lowlands

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).

About the author

Walking the Scottish Lowlands

Taylor St. John

Taylor is a freelance travel journalist based between Glasgow and the east coast of the U.S. She writes for publications like HuffPost UK, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Country Walking, easyJet Traveller and Orkney.com.

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