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5 reasons to go hiking in Scotland

Scotland is an amazing destination renowned for many things: castles, golf, kilts, haggis and it’s amazing scenery. Scotland is also promoted as an adventure destination. However, there are thousands of people who visit Scotland every year but have no idea of the opportunities they can experience. Your experience is greatly enhanced if you invest a wee bit in expert guidance. Many people list our scenery as one of the motivating factors for a visit to Scotland. It also ranks highly as one of the reasons to go hiking.

Choosing a holiday destination is not always easy. There are a lot of considerations which come in to play. How much time do you have available? How much money do you have available? Do you have a short list to choose from? What images are influencing you? And these days, of course, you have your friends images and reviews to peruse via social media. If you’re a keen hiker, you probably already know, that Scotland has amazing scenery. Maybe you’re putting Scotland on your short list. In our experience running accommodation and adventure holidays in Scotland, it’s still got untapped potential and a lot of advantages as an adventure destination which most people don’t know about.

1. Scotland has world beating access rights – top reason to go hiking.

reasons to go hiking in Scotland

Waiting for the cloud to clear to reveal the spectacular view which can’t be seen from the road.

Photo credit: Scot Mountain Holidays

Photo description: A guided hiking vacation in the Cairngorms, Scotland – off the beaten track thanks to our excellent, world-beating access legislation.

Everyone has a right of responsible access in Scotland due to The Outdoor Access. You are legally allowed to walk/bike/canoe anywhere they wish. You do need to avoid the immediate grounds of a building. So you don’t have the right to walk across someone’s manicured garden. You do have the right to roam the hills at will without sticking to what few paths there are.

Do be careful when out on the high ground though because there is not a system of well-maintained way marked paths across the hills, unlike other European countries. In fact, if you have not been out hiking in Scotland before it would be advisable to book a local guide for the first time you go out. You will have a more in-depth appreciation for the countryside you’re walking through with your guide.

The guide would have extensive knowledge of:

which you as a visitor would never be able to glean during your short visit to the area without his/her presence.


2. Scotland has some amazing wildlife; but nothing which will kill you – another bonus reason to go hiking in Scotland

Capercaillie - wildlife of Scotland (reasons to go hiking in Scotland)

Photo credit: Jamie MacArthur (www.ornithography.com)

Photo description: A Capercaillie in the Cairngorms

Scotland has celebrated the Year of Natural (2013) and the Year of Adventure (2012). The Golden Eagle was voted Scotland’s most iconic species. The attraction of the wildlife is a growing sector of tourism in Scotland, particularly to the Highlands and Islands. You could expect to see red squirrels, red deer, reindeer, roe deer, eagles, otters and a multitude of other animals throughout the Highlands. Most of these iconic animals are frequently found in the Cairngorms. The Cairngorms feature heavily in all the BBC Spring, Autumn and Winter Watch programmes. However, you don’t need to worry about bear or wolf attacks. There are no large animal predators in the wild. Camping is a relatively safe experience; the main concern being a biting fly known as the midge (which will not trouble you on a windy day and is only around in the main summer months).

reindeer.jpg - wildlife of Scotland - reasons to go hiking in the Cairngorms

Photo credit: Scot Mountain Holidays

Photo description: Part of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd which roam free in the hills during the summer months.


3. Scotland has stunning scenery


Photo credit: David Webster

Photo description: Ridge walking on Liathach, Torridon, Highlands of Scotland with Scot Mountain Holidays

Scotland has ancient mountain scenery full of mystique and history, which draws thousands of tourists every year. Most visitors only experience the views from the road. There are plenty of views to be seen from the roadside, but the best of the landscape can only be experienced by immersing yourself. Exploring the Highlands without a car has its trials but hiking, canoeing, adventure biking etc here in the Highlands is the way to go.

The beauty of Scotland speaks for itself in many images and has formed inspiration for movies and art worldwide:

There are several long distance paths which are waymarked across Scotland, but the high hills are not waymarked. There are paths which crisscross the high mountains but a knowledge of map reading and compass work are necessary to deal with the changeable weather conditions and wild scenery.


Two climbers

Happy snaps mid climb

Photo description: Viewpoint obove Loch Aan in the Cairngorms showing the cliffs by shelter stone. Some of the stunning features of the Cairngorms which can’t be seen from the road.

4. There is no need for altitude training and adjustment in Scotland’s hills.

Scotland’s highest peak is Ben Nevis at 1,344m. To many Europeans this seems merely a bump, but when you consider that the route up the mountain starts at sea level, it becomes a decent mountain day. Most people take about 8 hours to complete the route up and down Ben Nevis, even by the regular “tourist” route; but for all that it is not an 8000m peak it should still not be under-estimated.

The changeable weather conditions, our maritime climate, in the UK make an ascent of any of the hills challenging, except in the most stable of weather conditions. People do die in our mountains every year. You don’t need to worry about altitude sickness or having to carry oxygen to summit the mountain and most summits can be reached without any need for ropes. All risks in the mountains can be limited by employing a guide with the relevant training and experience.



5. Scotland is accessible

There are international flights to Scotland through Edinburgh and Glasgow with onward flights or good public connections through bus and train onwards to the Highlands. However, to make the most of your time in the Highlands your best transport option is still either to hire a car or to book a suitable tour with a guiding company which will take in the routes at the top of your list or allow them to pick to routes best suited to your ambitions, taking account of the prevailing weather and terrain conditions.

You can reach most of the hills in Scotland on a day walk, within the capabilities of most hikers. There are more extensive routes – which take several days to complete, but you can reach the summit of most individual peaks in a day.

If you do choose to undertake any of the long distance routes you will find that with the exception of the West Highland Way and possibly the Great Glen Way, you are unlikely to see many other people during your walk. So far, Scotland is accessible without being crowded.

The following companies are expert at arranging walking tours and hiking holidays of various kinds:


Links for further information:

Hiking is the ideal way to explore the Scottish Highlands

Visit Scotland’s walking information

WalkHighlands: A comprehensive resource for any independent hikers planning to visit Scotland:

Check out the Lairig Ghru mention in the top list of walks in Scotland

Ramblers info about walking in Scotland

12 Trail rules you should know

8 of the best long distance hikes in Scotland




It’s daunting trying to decide where to hike in Scotland

fifty plus

Researching where to hike in Scotland is not necessarily an easy task You probably have access to such sites as WalkHighlands. We’ve recently come back from New Zealand. While there we toured the North Island (but not the south, despite frequent recommendations to go there). We didn’t take a campervan (despite recommendations) but we did hike the Tongariro Crossing. However, even though we speak English, we found it much more difficult to get an idea of where to go to hike on the North Island and what to expect when we got there.

What you have to bear in mind when you’re planning your trip, is who is giving you recommendations. Are their priorities are similar to yours or not? Just because someone else thought it was great to isolate themselves in a campervan, doesn’t mean that it will be your thing – nor that it will be within your budget. Equally when someone recommends a hike to you – this doesn’t always mean that it is the best the area has to offer.

family hiking activities.

Hiking in to a secret wild camping spot in Assynt

The first step

What are your priorities?

Is time going to be an issue? Can you afford to be relatively spontaneous? Remember sometimes it’s the experiences you haven’t planned which end up being some of the most memorable parts of your trip. For example, before we went to New Zealand we knew we would spend most of our time on the North Island. We knew we’d be spending the first week in Taranaki, visiting family. We thought we’d like to go on through Taupo, Rotorua and the Coromandel peninsula including the Tongariro Crossing along the way.

In the end, we only passed through Rotorua and diverted to Lake Waikaremoana. This is one of the North Island’s few “Great Walks” (as designated by the Department of Conservation). The walk was stunning and not popular at all. Around 90% of visitors are Kiwis. We loved the whole experience because it was remote. The few people we met were extremely friendly, the views were amazing and we were surrounded by nature. We saw more wildlife on this hike than on all the others put together.

Next consider …

Are you using images on social media to influence your choice?

The problem with using social media to help you decide where to go is that 1000s of other people are seeing the same images. When you get there you might be disappointed when the reality doesn’t match up with the (probably) enhanced image you’ve seen. You will also probably find that the place is much more popular than you anticipated. If you, as a first time visitor to the area, have found information about this place, and seen it more than once, the likelihood is that many other travellers have too.

When making your choice of where to hike in Scotland, bear in mind that you are likely to meet many other people on the shorter hikes on Skye, but many of the other Hebridean islands will be just as beautiful and much less crowded (except during HebFest).

If you choice where to hike in Scotland includes the West Highland Way, this is the most popular long distance hike in Scotland – try to go off season if you can. It will be much less crowded in October than July. NB High season on the West Highland Way also co-incides with high season for midges.

midges in scotland

How to mitigate the effects of “over-tourism”?

Speak to local people about alternative options. Ask experts for advice or take a knowledgeable, local guide. Most hiking guides will avoid popular hotspots. They endeavour to take you to places you wouldn’t otherwise reach.

images of the Hebrides

Exploring the hills of Harris. Watch out though there are few if any way marked paths which might come as a shock to some of our continental visitors.

Is the chance to see wildlife high on your list?

Sometimes the highlight of a hike in Scotland is a chance encounter with reindeer, red deer, red squirrels, ptarmigan, … there’s quite an extensive list. Your chances of seeing wildlife during your hike in Scotland are greatly reduced if you choose a popular route. Wildlife in almost all circumstances will avoid areas where there are a lot of people.

Top tips for wildlife sightings

red deer

All the best when it comes round to your turn to choose a hike in Scotland. There are some great books, but if you can afford it we would highly recommend booking a guide for your first walk. You’d get a much better feel for the country and probably learn some unexpected trivia!

Private Guiding:

a review of our holiday at Fraoch Lodge and private guiding with Andy Bateman by Carole Parsons

We had a lovely time and hope you find the comments below useful in terms of creating more great holidays in the future!

What was the most memorable or exciting part of your trip?

We loved the delicious breakfasts and the cosy evenings by the open fire.  Andy was a great guide who used his experience and knowledge of the area plus his reading of the day’s weather to provide a great day’s walking exactly suited to our needs and experience – and even managed to pull out some blue skies for us!

How would you describe your Scot Mountain Holidays experience?

Overall a lovely experience. We found the welcome with tea and cake lovely, and everyone was friendly especially wee Gregor with his gift for us!  The food was lovely, wholesome and tasty, and we had good firm beds.  We did however miss the opportunity to soak tired legs in a hot bath!  We appreciated the thorough briefing we had from Andy our first evening
We also valued the advice and weather readings we got from Andy on the days we were going it alone.  

What tips would you give someone else thinking about booking this trip?

Ask what you might need in advance; don’t be worried if you’re not an experienced mountaineer as there will still be lots available to do; go for it!

Scot Mountain Holidays is a member of the Green Tourism Business Scheme. We have a gold award. What is your understanding of the significance of this award?

We had never heard of this award before our stay with yourselves but really appreciated the obvious hard work on many levels over the years that have gone into providing such an environmentally friendly place to stay. We admire the lifestyle choices you have made 

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