Image description: A landscape image. Tall tress make up the left and right hand side of the image. They are dark and frame the central mountain viewed through the trees. The mountain in the background has now on the top and is rocky. Around are brown and orange bushes.
It isn’t always possible to spend weeks on end exploring an area; sometimes you only have a day or two. It might be that you’re passing through on the way to somewhere else or in town for something special. There are so many opportunities to make the most of what is in an area, but sometimes if you’re only there for a short amount of time, you wouldn’t even know half of what is there just waiting to be explored. Achievable, accessible adventure is about creating opportunities where possible.
In this series, we put together our quick and easy to follow hiking suggestions in some of the world’s most incredible locations.
Image description: Clockwise from left. 1. A landscape image. Tall mountains tower the image. As they reach to the sky, low cloud covers and wisps between. The image is dark and dramatic. It is overcast. 2. A landscape image. Matt walks along a mountain trail with back turned to the camera. In the background are peaks and the colours surrounding are browns, blues and purples. The sky is dramatic and overcast. 3. A landscape image. An elevated loch scene. In the surroundings, there are tall trees in colours of green, purple and orange. The loch in the centre of the image is calm. In the background are distant mountain peaks. The sky is blue with few clouds. 4. A landscape image. Matt walks down a mountain path with a vista and a loch set out in front of him. In the distance are mountains and the sky is overcast with pockets of blue.
Scotland, more so the Scottish Highlands are an area of the United Kingdom I hadn’t spent much time until the last year or so. It has rapidly become one of my favourite places when looking for adventure. One of the things I love the most is that it is possible to still find true solitude there. Even though there are plenty of areas that bring in throws of tourists, it never feels too busy. There seems to be enough space – and the further North you venture, the more wild and rugged it seems to become. My favourite thing about Scotland, though, is just how accessible the outdoors is from the major cities. A relatively short drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow can reveal a multitude of National Parks, Conservation Areas and just all round incredible views which makes getting into the outdoors, even if you’re just visiting for a short amount of time, an achievable reality.
Scotland, with its lofty munro’s, deep lochs and expansive forests is the ultimate adventure lover’s paradise. Combine challenging mountain trails, cold swims and more accessible forest exploration and I really do believe you’ll find something for any appetite.
Image description: A landscape image. In the foreground of this moody scene, a valley of alpine trees make up half of the image. There are wisps of cloud rolling through them creating drama. In the background are snowy mountain peaks which roll behind. The sky is overcast and dramatic.
When to Visit
Scotland is known for its rain – but don’t let that put you off. My experience of Scotland has shown me that all or nothing is far from the truth. Because of its sheer volume of mountains and proximity to the coast, Scotland very much can experience four seasons in one day. I’ve hiked there and been snowed on one minute, for the clouds to roll over and experience what feels like summer in thirty minutes time. This also makes for some incredible photographs – weather patterns are a great, mindful thing to look out for when you’re outdoors and can make for some truly memorable images. In Winter, if the weather is right, Scotland and particularly the Highlands can receive quite significant snowfall. There is even skiing available in certain areas – such as the Nevis Range Mountain Resort. This can make adventures that bit more interesting though, and I’d always recommend that if you’re planning to visit in the winter, that you check local conditions and make sure you’re prepared for the weather you’ll face. If snow isn’t your thing, summer in Scotland can be an incredible time. It will be busier, but it will also most likely be the best chance you’ll have of more consistent and warmer temperatures. Scotland, however, is beautiful and very different at all times of year. If you have the flexibility, deciding on what you’ll plan to do whilst you’re there can be a good way of working out when to go.
Below, I’ve listed four of my favourite hikes within a reasonable driving distance from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling to get you started and give you some inspiration:
Image description: clockwise from left. 1. A landscape image. A dark, moody image of a dramatic sunset in the mountains. Trees in the foreground give way to snowy mountains in the background. A heavy sky is blue with pockets of orange light. 2. Fay walks down a mountain path. Fay is wearing black trousers, grey top and carries walking poles. The mountain behind Fay is rocky and the sky is blue. 3. A landscape image. In the foreground, bare trees frame the scene for mountains that are highlighted with golden light. The sky is overcast and dramatic. 4. Fay frames the scene to the left of a mountain path. Fay wears a blue coat, multi colour hat, black trousers and carries hiking poles. In the background, a steep valley of brown grass and rocky outcrops forms the scene. Snowy mountains frame the back of the scene.
Loch Ard and Milton Circular
Distance from Glasgow: 1 hour 4 minutes drive
Distance from Edinburgh: 1 hour 30 minutes drive
Distance from Stirling: 45 minutes drive
I found this route completely by accident – the route I’d planned to do on the day I discovered this one didn’t work out for one reason or another. However, this trail does not disappoint. It gives you a relatively accessible introduction to the Highlands through dense forests, incredible views of Ben Lomond at points and extensive lochs that will have you wanting to jump in! This route in pretty family friendly too. It can be completed in a couple of hours, and there are also options to extend the route at points taking in further areas of interest.
Image description: A landscape image. Steep sided valleys frame the stream in the centre of the frame. In the background, snowy mountains creep up. The sky is dark and dramatic.
Stob Coire Raineach
Distance from Glasgow: 2 hours drive
Distance from Edinburgh: 2 hours 35 minutes drive
Distance from Stirling: 1 hours 45 minutes drive
This is without a doubt one of my favourite hikes of all time – not just in Scotland. What I loved was within minutes of leaving the car and hitting the trail, you’re thrown into a peaceful world with incredible views. A quick ascent leaves you wondering if you were actually just near a car park or if you were dreaming. This route has a bit of everything – views, waterfalls, stream crossings, rocky paths and a real feeling like you might be the only soul on earth (or at least it felt like that when we I here). The route only continues to get better the further into it you get. A challenging one for sure, but worth every second!
Altnafeadl to Kinlochleven via West Highland Way
Distance from Glasgow: 2 hours drive
Distance from Edinburgh: 2 hours 35 minutes drive
Distance from Stirling: 1 hour 45 minutes drive
As a linear route, you’ll need to work out logistics at the end of this hike for getting back to your car, but this is well worth the effort! Even though just down the road from the last route, you’re presented with something quite different. Valleys, mountain tops and gorgeous lochs – a fantastic day out to unwind and have some breathing space. This route also takes you along a section of one of Scotland’s long distance hiking routes – the West Highland Way.
Image description: From left to right. 1. A landscape image. Matt stands central in frame. He wears a blue coat, black trousers, and grey and red hat. In the background are snowy mountains. It is overcast. 2. A landscape image. Fay walks away with back turned up a mountain path. Fay wears yellow bag, blue coat, black trousers and a multi colour hat. In the background are snowy mountains and it is overcast.
Distance from Glasgow: 1 hour 53 minutes drive
Distance from Edinburgh: 2 hours 49 minutes drive
Distance from Sterling: 1 hour 56 minutes drive
Set in the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, this hike has expansive views across Loch Eck and even Loch Tarsan and Loch Lomond on a clear day. A challenging route, but a rewarding one that feels off the beaten track away from the popular shores of nearby Loch Lomond.