backpacking across the Cuillin

Hiking in Scotland

Scotland is of course renowned for castles, tartans, whisky and beautiful scenery, but the hiking in Scotland is as good as you’ll get anywhere.  Although it’s a small country, the landscapes are very varied and with a population density in the Highlands roughly equivalent to that of the Amazon basin, there’s plenty of opportunity to get off the beaten track.  It’s possible to get out on foot and enjoy adventures of all types from the most challenging mountain routes to leisurely strolls. everything from a gentle half hour along a loch side to a multi day excursion into remote country only accessible by carrying tents and camping.

People coming here from overseas, or even south of the border, often remark that hiking in Scotland is distinctly different from what they’re used to.  First off, the trails… or lack of them! The Scottish Highlands are blessed with a network of “stalker’s paths” relics of the age of the Victorian shooting estates, but once off those and away from the more popular routes to the principal summits and through the main glens, then things are delightfully off-road. it’s possible to have a real sense of wilderness here and yet only be a couple of hours from the road.


Many areas of the Scottish Highlands are very easily accessible. For instance Glencoe is only a couple of hours away from Edinburgh and Glasgow.  The area is astonishingly beautiful and very varied with dramatic mountain scenery and stunning views out over the sea lochs that cut deeply into the west coast. on a visit here you’ll quickly discover that there’s much more to hiking in Scotland than just ticking off peaks, or “Munro Bagging” as it’s called here.  (Scottish mountains over 300oft are called “Munros” after the eminent Victorian member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club who first catalogued them around the turn of the last century).  Popular hikes in Glencoe include the short trip to the “Lost Valley” a dramatic hidden glen in a hanging valley where MacDonald clansmen allegedly held cattle “borrowed” from neighbouring clans.

Another area that’s well known for hiking in Scotland is the Cairngorms National Park.  Again, it’s only a couple of hours north of Edinburgh and here Scotland hosts an almost arctic type environment.  The high plateaux of the Cairngorms hold snow longer than other places in the Highlands – due to their easterly position they are sheltered from the prevailing warm, humid winds that come off the Atlantic and the climate is more influenced by colder continental air.  The upper slopes of Cairngorm are home to britain’s only population of semi-wild reindeer.   Lower down there are the huge forested areas of Rothiemurchus and Abernethy, where the vegetation is predominantly groves of Caledonian Pines which have been there since the retreat of the last glaciers some 10,000 years ago.  In fact the Cairngorms are home to Britain’s only reliable year-round snow fields and scientists say it would only take a drop in temperature of a couple of degrees for the area to become glaciated again.  This primeval habitat is home to a unique wildlife, with mammals such as the Scottish Wildcat and Pine Marten, and birds such as the Capercaillie and Ptarmigan.


The North West Highlands are maybe a little more remote but can still be reached in only a few hours from Edinburgh or Glasgow, and only a couple of hours from Inverness.  The area is largely devoid of people, there are very few settlements of any size and hiking in Scotland here has a rugged and remote feel. Although the area is great for extended treks and Backpacking trips, due to a decent road network, it’s also perfectly possibleto explore on foot and return to a lively pub and a comfortable bed in the evenings!  Torridon for instance is little more than an hour from Inverness but feels like it’s on the edge of the world.  There’s still plenty of hiking opportunities to suit all tastes: a hike along the crest of the Applecross hills, through the glens, or along the shores of Loch Maree is just as sensational as a hike to the higher elevations, along the jagged spine of the peaks of Ben Eighe and Liathach, or a few days with a tent crossing the “Great Wilderness” of the Letterewe and Fisherfield areas.


Whatever your preference for hiking in Scotland, rest assured that at Mountain Freedom we have it covered.  Our experienced guides not only manage your safety but also have exceptional local knowledge that will help you get the most out of your time here.  Get in touch to Discuss your own personal adventure!

  1. Amy Norris Reply

    Very tempted to join a group for walking, hiking, camping this year. Your site is very inspiring. It’s hard to know where & what to begin with. Maybe you can advise..

    • Ian Reply

      Hi Amy,
      Glad you’ve enjoyed looking round the site. Of course, if I had to recommend something, it would be everything! which I know probably doesn’t help much so I’ll email you later with a few pointers. Speak soon, Ian

    • Ian Reply

      Amy, I’ve emailed you at the address you supplied. Thanks, Ian

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