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A coast-to-coast across the heartland of Scotland — John Muir Way

Brian

A coast-to-coast across the heartland of Scotland — John Muir Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

9-18

days

3-6 h

/ day

134 mi

6,475 ft

6,450 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 km) across the centre 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; plus 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, I split the Way into nine stages of between 9.3 and 19.1 miles (14.9 - 30.7 km). 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.

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John Muir Way

133 mi

6,450 ft

6,400 ft

Last updated: September 27, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Helensburgh to Balloch – John Muir Way

    Intermediate
    04:15
    9.34 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,075 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

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    07:56
    18.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,175 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

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:26
    12.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    550 ft
    550 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’s 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

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:39
    13.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    625 ft
    625 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 views over the Kilsyth Hills, the Firth of Forth, Fife hills and Bar Hill fort.

    

    The trail

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:27
    12.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    600 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage starts by exploring Callendar Park, a stately estate that 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. The trail then descends to the Union Canal and follows the towpath through the more

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    07:49
    18.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    900 ft
    575 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

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    07:28
    17.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    500 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 7 takes you from Corstorphine Hill, which affords wonderful views over the city and the Forth, right through the heart of Scotland’s capital.

    

    If you have the time and legs for it, a detour into the heart of Edinburgh is highly recommended to take in sight such as Castle Rock, a volcanic plug in

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:41
    16.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 and soon arrive at Longniddry Bents, a beach and grassland with base-rich soils that allow rare plants to flourish.

    

    The trail heads inland

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:15
    15.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    475 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 bejewelled with natural havens and old ruins.

    

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

    by Dan Hobson

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    9
  • Distance
    134 mi
  • Duration
    56:58 h
  • Elevation
    6,475 ft6,450 ft

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