Scotland’s great trails are on the up

Walking the west highland way

Scotland’s stable of long-distance walks are already acclaimed worldwide – and now there are more being added to the long list.

Photograph © VisitScotland/ScottishViewpoint

With a list of more than 30 long-distance walks and great trails in Scotland – many of them waymarked – you would imagine that would add up to enough walking for one small but perfectly packaged country. Yet over the last year or so, at least two new long-distance walks have been added to the stable – and there are plans afoot for two more to open in 2014 and 2015.

Scotland’s long-distance walks range in length from the 13-mile John Buchan Way in the Scottish Borders and the 24-mile Dava Way in Grantown on Spey to the new 470-mile Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail. In between are famous walks such as the 96-mile West Highland Way, the North Sea Trail and the Fife Coastal Path.

There are long-distance walks to suit all from waymarked, flat and easy-going to wild and remote and with a requirement for excellent navigation skills; and from inland to coastal and mainland to island.

New long distance walks

The East Highland Way

A relative new-comer, the East Highland Way opened (unofficially) in late 2011. The route links Fort William to Aviemore over 82 miles/132km. It also connects Scotland’s existing long distance walks: The West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way, to the Speyside Way in the north east.

The East Highland Way passes through a wide range of landscapes including broadleaf forests, loch-side trails and mountain wilderness. It skirts unspoilt marshlands and explores the last remnants of the ancient Caledonian forests of Inshriach.

Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail

In October 2012, the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail was officially launched. The brainchild of walker, writer and TV presenter Cameron McNeish, the walk links together many existing trails and together forms a 470-mile hike from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders to Cape Wrath, the most north-western point on the British mainland. The suggested walk itinerary is:

The route can be walked in its entirely over period of 5-6 weeks or broken down into shorter sections;

• Kirk Yetholm to Edinburgh – 130km/80 miles

• Edinburgh to Milngavie – 82km/51 miles

• Milngavie to Kingussie – 200km/125 miles

• Kingussie to Cape Wrath – 354km/220 miles

John Muir Trail

In April 2014, the new John Muir Trail is set to be opened. This extends the existing John Muir Way in East Lothian, taking walkers from Scotland’s east coast to the west. Tying in with the 100th anniversary of John Muir’s death, the John Muir Trail will stretch from his birthplace in Dunbar to the waters of the Clyde at Helensburgh, This new trail will allow walkers to explore the landscapes of Central Scotland, as well as popping into Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Great Trossachs Path

And hot off the press is news of another long-distance walking route that is planned to open in 2015. The Great Trossachs Path will link together two existing walking routes, the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way. The 35-mile Great Trossachs Path will also tie in with a wider network of trails in the Great Trossachs Forest, extending from Inversnaid on of Loch Lomond to Kilmahog, by Callander.

Five more great Scottish trails to try

There are so many fabulous routes that it is difficult to pick just five. But we’ve given it a go!

Cowal Way: 57 miles along the wonderful Cowal Peninsula

Kintyre Way: Wild-feeling and with superb coastal views this 87-mile walk is on the Kintyre Peninsula (see our Summer 2013 issue for Don’s account of walking this route)

Arran Coastal Way: 65 miles around the delightful island of Arran

West Island Way: The lesser known 25-mile walking route on the isle of Bute

Cateran Trail: 64 mile circular route through Angus and Perthshire on trails that would once have been used by the area’s notorious cattle rustlers, the Caterans.

Ticking off your great trails

Like Munros, you can also tick off the long-distance trails in Scotland via the useful WalkHighlands website.

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