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Hiking in the Highlands

Hiking

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Walks in the Highlands are among the most awe-inspiring in the world. From the towering peaks of Lochaber and the sub-Arctic plateau of the Cairngorms to the primordial wilds of Assynt and the Isle of Skye’s magnificent sights, this is a wonderfully varied, challenging and beautiful land.


It’s a region of ancient mountains, originally forged of fire and then sculpted by ice. As the glaciers retreated, they left a legacy of vast lochs, some tiny, others so long and deep as to capture our imagination and give birth to legend. This landscape supports fascinating wildlife, is a delight to explore and contains Britain’s last wilderness areas.


The region’s peaks, lochs, crags and corries are emblazoned with elegant Gaelic, Norse and Anglicised names, hinting at a history as tumultuous as the land. Ruined crofts and woodland remnants tell of a time when the Highlands were covered in a vast forest and worked upon by communities of people, now long gone. Hikes in the Highlands give you an appreciation of this transient region’s beguiling and often tragic history.


Top 20 best walks and hikes in the Highlands

    1
    Difficult
    08:20
    11.1 mi
    1.3 mph
    4,350 ft
    4,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
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    2
    Intermediate
    02:42
    4.21 mi
    1.6 mph
    900 ft
    900 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
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  • 3
    Intermediate
    02:31
    5.06 mi
    2.0 mph
    1,025 ft
    1,025 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    4
    Intermediate
    01:18
    2.67 mi
    2.1 mph
    250 ft
    250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Great for any fitness level. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    5
    Intermediate
    04:02
    7.58 mi
    1.9 mph
    1,775 ft
    1,775 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    6
    Easy
    01:40
    3.50 mi
    2.1 mph
    575 ft
    575 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    7
    Difficult
    05:12
    9.06 mi
    1.7 mph
    2,375 ft
    2,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    8
    Easy
    01:24
    3.38 mi
    2.4 mph
    100 ft
    100 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    9
    Difficult
    01:36
    2.27 mi
    1.4 mph
    825 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Great for any fitness level. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.
    View
    10
    Intermediate
    02:30
    5.77 mi
    2.3 mph
    400 ft
    400 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    11
    Difficult
    03:49
    5.27 mi
    1.4 mph
    1,750 ft
    1,750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.
    View
    12
    Intermediate
    03:34
    4.47 mi
    1.3 mph
    2,175 ft
    2,175 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    13
    Difficult
    07:55
    10.7 mi
    1.4 mph
    4,075 ft
    4,075 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.
    View
    14
    Difficult
    05:10
    7.30 mi
    1.4 mph
    2,625 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    15
    Intermediate
    01:56
    2.62 mi
    1.4 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,425 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    16
    Intermediate
    02:17
    3.56 mi
    1.6 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,400 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    17
    Intermediate
    01:09
    2.06 mi
    1.8 mph
    300 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Great for any fitness level. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    18
    Easy
    01:46
    4.25 mi
    2.4 mph
    100 ft
    100 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    19
    Difficult
    05:47
    6.68 mi
    1.2 mph
    3,350 ft
    3,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.
    View
    20
    Intermediate
    03:37
    8.32 mi
    2.3 mph
    575 ft
    575 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View

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An immense adventurer’s playground


The Highlands are home to two national parks, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and the Cairngorms National Park, which is also the UK’s largest. However, the best hiking trails in the Highlands are not just in these two areas. Thanks in part to the Land Reform Act of 2003, much of the Highlands is open access land and hikers are free to explore at their leisure, if done responsibly. Though there are exceptions, as the vast majority is still privately owned and landowners may ask hikers to explore elsewhere at certain times during the year, such as during stalking season.


Britain’s last wilderness


Walks in the Highlands take you into Britain’s last true wilderness. This is partly the result of the travesty of the Highland Clearances, the forced eviction of the folk who used to live on the land by the ruling classes between 1750 and 1860. Entire villages were destroyed, their people emigrating to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.


What has been left behind is a vast and sparsely populated landscape, the dominion of wildlife such as red deer, golden eagles and the ptarmigan. A stay in a bothy – a strategically placed but simple shelter that’s free for all to use – in the wilds of the far northwest, far from the trappings of civilisation, is a special experience. Waking up to the sound of rutting deer reverberating off the mountainsides or walking out onto the sands of a deserted beach are memories that will stay with you forever.


Coping with the weather and the midges


The Western Highlands are right in the path of westerlies rolling in off the Atlantic Ocean and are prone to high levels of precipitation. The weather is more settled in the East Highlands but the mountains can witness extreme conditions nonetheless. It’s essential to pack for all eventualities, with waterproofs and plenty of layers. In winter, the higher mountains become the preserve of experienced and equipped mountaineers, while the lower trails bask in the glory of snow-capped peaks.


The shoulder seasons are probably the best time to set out for hikes in the Highlands, with April and May still witnessing the best of the fading winter and autumn experiencing beautiful colours. Summer is midge season and there’s no getting away from these nasty little insects, which love warm, wet and still conditions. Bring repellent and midge nets to fend them off the best you can.


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