One of the more historical of Scotland's best walks, the Rob Roy Way is named in honour of the 17th-century folk hero who captures the popular imagination to this day.

The route 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 variously described as a folk hero and Robin Hood type figure, and he was wont to help the less fortunate with random acts of kindness.

Scotland Rob Roy Way Loch Tay

Loch Tay, on the Rob Roy Way

Rob Roy Way

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.

My favourite thing about this route 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, I'd recommend completing 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)

About the author

The Rob Roy Way

Fergal MacErlean

Dublin-born Fergal fell in love with Scotland as a student, settling there to become a journalist and cycle guidebook writer. In addition to his guides covering Scotland, he has written for the BBC, New Scientist, BBC Countryfile Magazine and many travel publications. Andalusia is a second home.

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