8 BEST Day Hikes In Scotland (+ Walking Routes)

Top 5 day hikes in Scotland-2

Are you looking for the best day hikes to do in Scotland? Here are some brilliant day hikes that you can do.

Scotland has two National Parks, the Cairngorms, which is also the largest in the UK and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. With so much to explore in Scotland, it’s difficult to know where to start and which are the best hikes to do.

What’s your favourite day hike in Scotland, is it on the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Hiking in Scotland

Ben Lomond Scotland
Ben Lomond in Scotland

In 2018, on a road trip, I fell in love with Scotland, after exploring the beautiful Cairngorms, Grampians and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs for the first time. 

I did some beautiful day hikes during my trip and have since returned to explore more including when I hiked across Britain 2019, covering over 300 miles in total on the Scotland section, including the West Highland Way.

This includes a mix of day hikes that I’ve done in Scotland hiking to the summit of Ben Lomond and nearby popular Conic Hill (one of the shortest and best day hikes in Scotland). But it also includes hikes from a local Scottish hiker, Craig Ramsey.

Craig shares his best day best hikes in Scotland. He is a local hiker from Scotland who runs Explore Outdoors HQ and is an avid outdoor enthusiast.  When he’s not working, he can be found Munro bagging in the hills. 

‘Scotland is a beautiful country and without a doubt a hiker’s paradise. Historic castles and dramatic mountains provide a fantastic backdrop for some great day hikes. When it comes to mountain hikes, there is such a wide range to choose from.

All Scottish mountains with a height over 3,000 feet are known as Munros (after Sir Hugh Munro, a Scottish mountaineer who first compiled the list of mountains) and “Munro bagging” is extremely popular with hikers in Scotland. However, your options aren’t limited to mountain walks.

For those looking for some great day hikes on flatter hiking terrain, Scotland has over 6,100 miles of coastline and over 790 islands with at least 31,000 freshwater lochs (the Scottish term for a lake). 

Whether you’re looking for a challenging mountain hike or a more sedate coastline stroll, here are the top day hikes for you to try next time you’re in Scotland. Perfect if you are travelling around Scotland on a road trip.’ Craig Ramsey

1. Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Recommended by Craig

Arthur's Seat walk, Edinburgh, Scotland
Popular day hike close to Edinburgh city centre

Route length: 3 miles/ 5 km
Hiking time: 1-2 hours
Hike difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Arthur’s Seat is unique in that it provides an enjoyable day hike virtually in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

Hikers are rewarded with some fabulous views over the city including Edinburgh Castle and it’s the perfect walk to fit into a 2-day trip to Edinburgh.

Arthur’s Seat is part of a hill formation which was originally a volcano and at its highest point is 251 m/ 824 ft high.

Despite being in a major city, don’t underestimate the terrain. It can be quite steep and rocky in places so do wear appropriate footwear.

View the walk route here Ordnance Survey

Try wild camping in the UK – Wild camping beginner’s guide

2. Conic Hill

Conic Hill Loch Lomond Trossachs
Reaching the top of Conic Hill on the West Highland Way

Route length: 3 miles/ 5 km
Hiking time: 1-1.5 hours
Hike difficulty: Easy to Moderate

I’ve done the Conic Hill walk as both a day hike and as part of the West Highland Way route and was lucky enough to have amazing views both times.

The great thing about this walk is that you get amazing views from a relatively small hill (when comparing the nearby Munros!)

The day hike route starts in Balmaha, from the visitor centre car park, taking you up through the trees. It’s a slow and steady climb to the stop with a steep hike up the final section, but those views are 100% worth it.

View the walk route here Ordnance Survey

Fancy doing the full West Highland Way trail one day? You can read my Ultimate guide to hiking + camping the route here.

Check out my West Highland Way hike here

3. Rackwick to the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney

Recommended by Craig

Route length: 5.75 miles/ 9 km
Hiking time: 2.5-3 hours
Hike difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Hoy is an island in Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland and it’s home to the Old Man of Hoy. A 137 m/ 449 ft sea stack popular with climbers.

This day hike starts in Rackwick where you follow the track towards the sea, following signs for the Old Man.

From there the hike heads slightly inland over grassy terrain before starting to climb slightly up into the cliffs above the coast. From here you get your first glimpse of the Old Man.

Following the now rocky path takes you to the base of the Old Man where you will likely see climbers attempting to scale the rocky formation.

To complete the hike, simply follow the route back the way you came to Rackwick, Scotland.

View the walk route here Ordnance Survey

4. Quiraing hill circuit, Isle of Skye

Recommended by Craig

Best day hikes Scotland - Quiraing, Isle of Skye
Stunning views on the Quiraing hike

Route length: 4 miles/ 6.5 km
Hiking time: 3-4 hours
Hike difficulty:  Moderate

The Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It’s become something of a tourist hotspot in recent years due to sights such as the Cuillin Mountains, the Fairy Pools and the Quiraing.

This route starts on easy terrain but moves onto the rocky ground with one minor scramble. The last leg of the route can get quite boggy too.

The route starts from the road linking Staffin and Uig where a footpath starts the ascent with good views of the Quiraing ahead. This short day hike continues across steep slopes and rocks before reaching the distinctive “Needle Rock”.

From there, you follow the route under a rocky overhang before reaching Loch Hasco, before climbing again to reach a ridge with some truly stunning views across Staffin Bay to the Torridon mountains.

You might like to read next – Best hiking destinations in the world

5. The Cobbler, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

The Cobbler best day walk in Scotland
Heading up to the summit of the Cobbler in Scotland

Route length: 7 miles/12 km
Hiking time: 3-4 hours
Hike difficulty: Moderate

The Cobbler walk has to be up there with one of my favourite walks in Scotland. I’d not heard of it until I was hiking nearby Ben Narnain, one of the 282 Munros! From the summit, you can look across to The Cobbler and I knew straight away I wanted to hike up it.

From the car park near Arrochar, it’s a gradual hike up to the top, following the stream on your left.

As the path forks before the final climb to the top, take the left-hand fork. There’s a small scramble to the top, so easier to go up, rather than down this way.

Once you reach the top, head left up the path to the top. You’ll reach The Cobbler summit, where you can attempt the famous ‘threading the needle’ – climbing through a hole in the rocks then up over the other side.

On the day I did the walk, it was incredibly windy so I settled for sitting in the eye of the needle, instead of ‘threading it’!

Descending the Cobbler, you simply follow the path heading down the other side, then meet the same path you ascended.

I highly recommend this walk as a must-do on your visit to Scotland.

View the walk route here Ordnance Survey

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Best day hikes in Scotland

6. Beinn Alligin, Torridon

Recommended by Craig

Route length: 6.25 miles/ 10 km
Hiking time: 6-7 hours
Hike difficulty: Expert

Beinn Alligin means the mountain of beauty in Gaelic – and it’s not hard to see why. The route passes Torridon ridge and provides for some spectacular views, however, the route is tough going and not for the novice hiker.

The hike starts not far from Torridon village and gradually climbs over a prolonged trail before eventually coming out on a plateau at 922 metres high. Technically this is the summit of Tom na Gruagaich and it provides some great views.

From there the route passes some rocky terrain before climbing to the second summit of Beinn Alligin, Sgurr Mhor.

At this point hikers can either go back the way they came or proceed to follow the route over the three Horns of Alligin before descending the southeast ridge, eventually leading back to the starting point.

7. Ben Nevis, Fort William

Recommended by Craig + Becky

Ben Nevis Best day hike Scotland
Enjoying the views on the way down from Ben Nevis

Route length: 10.75 miles/ 17 km
Hiking time: 5-7 hours
Hike difficulty: Moderate

This list wouldn’t be complete without Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in Britain. Ben Nevis stands at 1,345 metres high. Whilst the terrain can be loose underfoot and the going is strenuous, this hike isn’t beyond the reach of most hikers.

The route starts at the visitor centre in Glen Nevis where you cross the River Nevis before the path gradually starts to climb across the hillside. The next marker is the plateau featuring Loch Meall an t-Suidhe – sometimes referred to as the halfway lochan.

Read my detailed guide solo hike up Ben Nevis, Scotland

From here the trail begins to climb in a zig-zag fashion and you’ll gradually notice the terrain becoming rockier and looser underfoot. If you follow the well-trodden path you’ll gradually come out at the summit plateau.

Take care not to stray off the path towards the gullies which line the route, particularly if there are snow and ice underfoot.

Once you reach the summit, take some time to enjoy the fantastic views from the highest point in the British Isles!

View the walk route here Ordnance Survey

8. Ben Lomond, Loch Lomond + the Trossachs

Ben Lomond, Best day walk in Scotland
On the way to Ben Lomond summit

Route length: 7 miles/ 12 km
Hiking time: 4-5 hours
Hike difficulty: Moderate

Ben Lomond for many is there very first Munro, it’s a perfect hike to do in a day and there are options to walk up the main path if you’re a beginner or if you prefer a challenge you can go up the Ptarmigan path.

From Rowardennan car park, you head up

View the walk route here Ordnance Survey

Top tips for Scotland’s awesome day hikes

The Cobbler best day walk
Amazing views from The Cobbler

There you have it – the top 7 best day hikes in Scotland. Whether you decide to tackle one of these hikes, or one of the many other fantastic routes Scotland has to offer, please bear in mind some basic tips for hiking:

      • Build up your strength. Plan ahead and know your route – if it’s a tougher hike than you’ve done before then gradually build up your strength before going so you can fully enjoy the hike.
      • Stay hydrated – a filter water bottle is perfect to save you carrying extra weight, (I use a Water-to-Go bottle).
      • Pack the right gear. If your route involves wild camping, pack the best tent for the terrain and weather conditions. Likewise, take the right clothing – base layers are extremely important, as well as proper footwear.
      • And if you want to capture the moment, don’t forget your hiking tripod too!

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Best day hikes in Scotland
Best day hikes in Scotland

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