Scotland’s Great Trails – Put Your Best Foot Forward!

If you’ve an inclination to explore Scotland’s amazing countryside and you’re reasonably fit and healthy then why not try one of Scotland’s Great Trails?

Some of these waymarked long-distance routes are better known than others – notably the West Highland Way: this 154Km (96miles) route starts at Milngavie passes through Mugdock Country Park, hugs the shores of Loch Lomond, passing Ben Lomond, through Glen Falloch and Strathfillan, crossing Rannoch Moor, past Buachaille Etive Mor to the head of Glencoe, climbing the Devil’s Staircase, descending to the Loch Leven before entering Lairigmor and Glen Nevis and finishes at Gordon Square in Fort William. There are 28 other (arguably less well known) Great Trails in Scotland and helpfully there’s a great website which brings them all together.

The West Highland Way – perhaps Scotland’s most well known great trail?

Take some time to explore the official Great Trail website. Scotland’s Great Trails offer stunning scenery and varied topography so whichever walk you chose you will not be disappointed. Be warned, the Great Trails website is addictive and it’s hard to resist clicking the links; before you know it you will have become an armchair walker!

I have to admit that many on the Scottish Great Trails website were new to me, but once I had started my virtual journey I was captivated. In my head I have now completed the Three Lochs Way, most of the glorious coast to coast route across the Southern Uplands and just ten minutes ago I headed over the border into England contemplating life and spirituality on St Cuthberts Way which runs from Melrose to Holy Island! Whilst my imagination may have had a good work out you can’t beat the real thing for that intoxicating and pleasurable mix of physical effort and sensual reward.

There are also several new routes on the Great Trails’ drawing board including four potential Pilgrim Routes – the Fife Pilgrim Way; Iona to St Andrews (The Three Saints Way); the Whithorn Way and the Forth to Farne Way – these walks have added purpose. Modern pilgrimages have evolved and you don’t have to be religious to celebrate being at one with nature, the climate and your own thoughts and it’s easy to understand their appeal to a generation who may not be conventional Church going Christians. For many, their church is the great outdoors and there’s no better way to enjoy it than by foot.

Much as I love a good walk my fitness level is perhaps not up to tackling a Great Trail without some preparation. All Scotland’s Great Trails are a minimum of 25 miles in length and most are considerably more! Perhaps, I should start on two wheels rather than on two feet? Most of the trails are accessible to cyclists and whilst my progress would not be as quick as my virtual walking tour it would certainly be quicker than my normal amble through the countryside. Even if walking is not for you in any shape or form it would be hard to ignore its benefits to health and well-being. It is undoubtedly one of the most popular pastimes for anyone on holiday in Scotland. It’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the scenery and every region has hidden gems which can often only be reached by foot. It’s also free – unless you opt for a walking holiday with a guide or a rucksack carriage service – and it’s good for you!

Having somewhere to relax after a good walk makes it even easier and that’s one of the reasons why self-catering is such a good accommodation choice as it gives you complete freedom to come and go as you please, put the washing through, dry your boots, rest your weary limbs and plan your next day’s walking adventure in your holiday home from home.

And if you really think that walking is not for you keep in touch as next month we’ll be looking at the North Coast 500: more than 500 miles of the best the North Highlands has to offer. The route way runs to and from Inverness, venturing round the capital of the Highlands, up the West Coast and back via the rugged north coast. It is being marketed as Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66 and if you are a petrol head then this surely must be on your bucket list!

Some Walkers Tips:

• Always dress for the weather you have and pack for the weather you might get. There’s a saying in the west coast of Scotland – ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’. Let’s face it, the weather in Scotland is changeable, but if you are wearing the appropriate gear (and that includes footwear) then you’ll enjoy being outdoors and you’ll stay warm and dry.
• Respect the Scottish Outdoor Access Code – there’s a Right to Roam in Scotland so you don’t have to stick to walking routes, trails and waymarked paths. But with rights comes responsibilities so please respect the interests of other people, care for the environment and take responsibility for your own actions.
• Walkers Welcome – you can search for self-catering properties via the Embrace website that meet the VisitScotland Quality Assurance scheme requirements for walkers.

Photocredits: VisitScotland

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