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John Muir Way: Stunning coast-to-coast across the heartland of Scotland

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John Muir Way: Stunning coast-to-coast across the heartland of Scotland

Hiking Collection by komoot

9-19

days

3-6 h

/ day

141 mi

6,675 ft

6,650 ft

The John Muir Way is a stunning coast-to-coast across the heartland of Scotland that explores the country’s unique landscape and heritage.

Starting from Helensburgh, on the Firth of Clyde, the trail runs for 134 miles (215 kilometers) across the center of Scotland to the town of Dunbar, on the North Sea.

Along the way, you explore the country’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs; the northwest frontier of the Roman Empire, the Antonine Wall; two iconic industrial canals, the Forth and Clyde and The Union; the world’s only rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel; Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh; many historic castles; and lots of wonderful inland and coastal scenery.

The trail is dedicated to John Muir (1838-1914), one of the most influential figures in the conservation movement. Muir, who was born in Dunbar but emigrated to the United States, was a key figure in saving Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and other wilderness areas.

The John Muir Way affords leisurely walking for the most part. Paths are well-signposted and well-maintained.

There is no set direction to complete the trail, however Helensburgh to Dunbar (as per this Collection) is the most recommended because prevailing winds are from the southwest and Muir’s birthplace makes a fitting finish.

In this Collection, we split the Way into nine stages. Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation.

Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.

If you are planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Helensburgh railway station, which is served by direct trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow and has connecting services around the UK.

To get home, Dunbar railway station has direct trains to Edinburgh, with connecting services around the UK.

If you are planning to arrive by car, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B a rate to stay for a night either side of your hike in Helensburgh. To get back you can catch a train from Dunbar to Helensburgh with one change in Edinburgh.

Alternatively, you could find long stay parking in Edinburgh or Glasgow as both cities have good public transport links between the start and finish.

For more information about the John Muir Way, visit: johnmuirway.org.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Intermediate
    04:35
    10.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,100 ft
    1,075 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The John Muir Way begins from the pretty Victorian coastal resort of Helensburgh.

    Whilst this stage has the shortest distance of all routes along the way, it has the second greatest amount of ascent to contend with, making for a good warm-up.

    From the stone plinth memorial to John Muir, which marks the start, the trail cuts through the center …

  • Difficult
    07:41
    17.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,350 ft
    1,125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage starts by exploring Balloch Castle Country Park; where you experience lovely views over Loch Lomond amid a stunning landscape.

    You ascend gradually from the park and will notice the landscape change from farmland to rugged moorland as you get higher.

    The trail passes woodlands, skirts Thief’s Hill, and affords lovely views over Burncrooks Reservoir as you emerge from …

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  • Difficult
    06:00
    14.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    750 ft
    750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Signs of the Roman Empire are everywhere along the John Muir Way and this stage is your first introduction to that rich history.

    From Strathblane, it is level, easy-going walking to begin. You pass Dunglass and continue east where, after a few miles, you have the option to make a detour to see the eerie ruins of Lennox Castle.

    You …

  • Difficult
    05:36
    13.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage follows the Forth and Clyde Canal for the most part; exploring great scenery, ancient forts, and feats of modern engineering.

    You begin by climbing Croy Hill, which has a Roman Fort and affords spellbinding view over the Kilsyth Hills, the Firth of Forth, Fife hills, and Bar Hill fort.

    The trail descends to the Forth and Clyde Canal, …

  • Difficult
    06:32
    15.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    650 ft
    900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage starts by exploring Callendar Park, a sumptuous stately estate has been developed since the 12th century.

    As you wander through the park you pass Callendar House, a French chateau style home from the 14th century, and the impressive monument, Forbes Mausoleum.

    The trail descends to the Union Canal and follows the towpath through the more urbanized landscape of …

  • Difficult
    08:03
    19.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    925 ft
    550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage takes you along the Firth of Forth to Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.

    From Bo’ness you pick up the trail along the Forth and follow the banks of the ever-widening estuary for the majority of the stage.

    Along the way you pass Blackness Castle, an impressive 15th century fortress, and Abercorn Church, which has architecture that dates to the …

  • Difficult
    07:45
    18.6 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    With the medieval Old Town, Georgian New Town, Castle Rock, a grand Cathedral, and a host of other sightseeing opportunities, Edinburgh is a great place to explore.

    This stage takes you from Corstorphine Hill, which affords wonderful views over the city and the Forth, right through the heart of Scotland’s capital.

    This hike detours slightly from the official John Muir …

  • Difficult
    07:13
    17.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    400 ft
    400 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The landscape is a curious blend of patchwork fields, industrial heritage, grand castles, and golden coastline.

    From Prestonpans, you follow the Forth to Port Seton, where it is worth making a slight detour to see one of the finest medieval churches in Scotland, Seton Collegiate.

    You rejoin the trail and soon arrive at Longniddry Bents, a beach and grassland with …

  • Difficult
    06:16
    15.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    450 ft
    450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage of the John Muir Way explores wonderful scenery bejeweled with natural havens and old ruins.

    From North Berwick, you head inland. As you leave the town behind, you will see the tantalizing North Berwick Law, a conical hill that rises abruptly from the landscape and affords superb views.

    You continue through the patchwork landscape to East Linton, …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    9
  • Distance
    141 mi
  • Duration
    59:41 h
  • Elevation
    6,675 ft6,650 ft

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John Muir Way: Stunning coast-to-coast across the heartland of Scotland