Scotland is an ideal location for a walking holiday. There are tremendous opportunities for varied walks be it walking round a loch, climbing some of the many hills and mountains or backpacking through the glens.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 permits ‘reasonable’ access to all land and inland waters including mountains, moorland, woods and forests, day or night making Scotland one of the easiest countries to exercise access rights. However it isn’t common for walking routes to be marked as in the Alps. You need to have a map and compass and know how to use it or alternatively hire a guide or join a guided walk.
There are some long distance trails, the West Highland Way (Glasgow to Fort William), Great Glen Way (Fort William to Inverness) including the banks of Loch Ness and the Southern Upland Way (from Portpatrick in the south-west to Cockburnspath in the east). These are marked trails.
In the south of Scotland you have the rolling border hills which are used by sheep farmers so care is required during the lambing season not to disturb the sheep. There may also be some restrictions or diversions during this time to avoid any disturbance.
In the central area of Scotland are the Cairngorms which are large rounded mountains the highest ground with its artic vegetation and wildlife, the only artic area in Britain.
To the west the mountains are more peaky and several rise from sea level and have fantastic views out over the west coast and to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. The area around Fort William, the outdoor capital of Britain, is very popular as the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, is located on its doorstep. A few miles south of Fort William is Glen Coe, another popular climbing and walking area.
The north-west of Scotland is wild and remote. Here you may travel for miles without seeing any habitation or meeting anyone else. There are areas like Letterewe and Fisherfield which are popular for backpacking although they involve river crossings which are impossible to cross after heavy rain or snow melt. This area can also be used on a walk from Fort William to Cape Wrath, the most northerly point in mainland Scotland. This route is not a marked trail as there are several alternative routes that can be taken but it does involve some overnight wild camps as it crosses some uninhabited countryside.
Away from mainland Scotland there are the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
The Inner Hebrides include several islands including Skye, Rum and Mull, all popular with hillwalkers and climbers. Skye is a tourist haven and walkers have plenty of choice from coastal walks to severe mountain walks. The Cuillin in Skye is not for the faint hearted as it involves some scrambling and climbing. Unless you have these skills and knowledge of the ridge I would give it a miss although you could hire a guide – see Guiding on Skye web site at http://www.guidingonskye.co.uk
Outwith the Black Cuillin as this area is known, there is the Red Cuillin where scrambling and climbing is not required although some of these mountains are steep sided. The mountains on the Island of Rum are similar to the Black Cuillin on Skye, hence the name the Rum Cuillin. Rum is a National Nature Reserve with very limited accommodation facilities. Access is by Caledonia MacBrayne Ferry from Mallaig on a limited timetable.
The Outer Hebrides consist of the Islands of Lewis, Harris, North and South Uist and Barra. Some of these Islands have beautiful sandy beaches, especially on the west coast where you could be the only person on the beach. On Harris and South Uist there are a few mountains which can be climbed. On a clear day the remote St Kilda can be seen from the tops of the Harris hills.
The weather in Scotland can be very variable from beautiful sunny days to wild, wet and stormy so always be properly prepared while walking in Scotland, be it a low or high level walk.
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