There are all sorts of ways to see Scotland; you can take a bus tour, catch a train, hire a bike – but nothing quite beats a long walk. Taking a coastal walk in Scotland is not only a good way to see the sights, but fresh air and exercise are great for your wellbeing – and there is no air quite as fresh as Scottish sea air! With Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters taking place throughout 2021, now’s the time to fasten up your walking boots and have your camera at the ready, because here are some of the best coastal walks Scotland has to offer.
1. Eshaness Cliffs
Walk Distance: 6km
Best Walk for: Clifftop Scenery
Places to See: Eshaness Lighthouse, Tangwick Haa Museum, Braewick Café
Refresh and raise your spirits on this vigorous clifftop walk around the headland of Eshaness in Shetland. You can explore the coast around the Villains of Ure, The Grind of the Navir and the Holes of Scraada, perhaps spotting otters, dolphins and even orcas along the way. In summer the cliffs become hanging gardens scattered with flowers as the surging waves crash against the rocks below. Part of the Shetland UNESCO geopark.
2. St Magnus Way: Evie to Birsay
Walk Distance: 20km
Best Walk for: History
Places to See: St Magnus Church, Brough of Birsay, Sands of Evie
Orkney has a magic all of its own and the St Magnus Way is a 55-mile pilgrimage route that inspires even the most well-travelled walkers. The route follows the life and death of St Magnus, Orkney’s patron saint, stopping off at many fascinating historical points of interest. The section from Evie to Birsay offers stunning views of Eynhallow, Rousay, Westray and the Brough of Birsay. The terrain can be quite challenging, so a good pair of boots is recommended.
3. Rackwick to The Old Man of Hoy
Location: Hoy, Orkney
Walk Distance: 9.25km
Best Walk for: Epic Views
Places to See: Craa’s Nest Museum, Rackwick Bay, The Old Man of Hoy
This dramatic clifftop walk culminates with fantastic views of one of Scotland’s most celebrated natural landmarks: The Old Man of Hoy. Keep an eye out for the majestic peregrine falcon which can be seen circling along the route as it hunts for prey. Walking in Scotland doesn’t get more epic than this!
4. Mangersta Beach and Cliffs
Location: Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Walk Distance: 3.25km
Best Walk for: Beachcombing
Places to See: Mangersta Beach, Mealaisbhal (the highest hill on Lewis)
This short walk, for those visiting the Isle of Lewis, features a mixture of easy-going terrain, a beautiful sandy beach, dunes and clifftops. Wander down from the track to Mangersta Beach to explore the shoreline – who knows what you might find?
5. West Beach, Isle of Berneray
Location: Berneray, Outer Hebrides
Walk Distance: 4.5km
Best Walk for: Island hiking
Places to See: North Uist, memorial to Angus MacAskill, Rubha Bhoisnis (rocky headland)
This lovely coastal walk in the Outer Hebrides combines gentle terrain, picturesque machair and little bit of local history. Head to the Isle of Berneray where you can spot the Causeway, which joins Berneray to North Uist, that was opened by Prince Charles in 1998, as well as the memorial to Angus MacAskill, a 7ft 9 giant who was born on the island in 1825.
6. Moray Coastal Trail: Buckie to Cullen
Walk Distance: 12km
Best Walk for: Dolphin spotting
Places to See: Bow Fiddle Rock, The Whale’s Mouth, The Three Kings, Cullen Harbour
When it comes to coastal walking trails, Scotland is hard to beat. The Moray Coastal Trail is one of the best and this section from Buckie to Cullen offers clifftop walking, picturesque fishing villages and fine sandy beaches to explore. Keep your eye out for the spectacular Bow Fiddle Rock, an incredible off-shore stack that looks like a giant sculpture.
7. Waternish Head
Location: Isle of Skye
Walk Distance: 21.5km
Best Walk for: Sea Views
Places to See: Trumpan Church, Dun Borrafiach (an iron-age broch), Waternish Lighthouse
Skye is a fabulous place to go for a walk and Waternish Head offers a whole day of wonderful views – just remember to bring a picnic! The terrain is mixed, with easy walking to Waternish Point and a more challenging return through deep heather and marshland. The sea views at Waternish Point are breathtaking!
8. Isle of Canna
Location: Small Isles
Walk Distance: 4.5km
Best Walk for: Couples getaway
Places to See: A’Chill, Saint Columba’s Church, Early Christian cross dating from 7th century
The Isle of Canna is the westernmost of the Small Isles, and some say the most green and verdant. Even a couple of hours’ walk around the island and along designated tracks and paths that are not too rough underfoot will give you a feel for the place. Starting at Canna Pier, this short walk will take you by the historic remains around A’Chill – the island’s main settlement.
9. Portuairk to Sanna
Location: Ardnamurchan Peninsula
Walk Distance: 6.6km
Best Walk for: Birdwatching
Places to See: Sanna Bay, Views of the Small isles, Machair
As spring arrives, the machair grassland on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula blooms into a kaleidoscopic patchwork of colour. The route from Portuairk to Sanna provides an opportunity to explore the landscape as well as the stunning white sandy beaches of Sanna Bay. You won’t have to look far to spot seabirds drifting into view around Ardnamurchan Point.
10. Dunnet Head
Walk Distance: 17km
Best Walk for: Getting away from it all
Places to See: Dunnet Head Lighthouse, Hoy, Loch of Bushta
One of the best things about walking in the north of Scotland is the remoteness – if you are looking to clear your mind then this is the place. Dunnet Head is the most northerly point of mainland Britain and walking here is a great antidote to urban life. Enjoy outstanding views across the sea to Orkney but take care as walking along vertical cliff edges can be risky.
11. Cruden Bay to the Bullers of Buchan
Walk Distance: 4.5km
Best Walk for: Literary inspiration
Places to See: Cruden Bay, Slains Castle
Experience the drama of Aberdeenshire’s coast on this rousing walk from Cruden Bay. Along with impressive geological features, you will pass the eerie ruins of Slains Castle, thought to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Perhaps the wander from Cruden Bay to the Bullers of Buchan will inspire you to come up with a story of your own…
12. The Fife Coastal Path: Buckhaven to Elie
Walk Distance: 20km
Best Walk for: Quaint villages
Places to See: Earlsferry, Elie, Chainwalk, Lundin Links Golf Course
The Fife Coastal Path is one of the most interesting paths in Scotland with a huge variety of things to see and do along the way. The 20km section from Buckhaven to Elie offers charming villages, golf courses, historic monuments and an abundance of wildlife. Elie is the perfect place to finish off your Fife Coastal Path walk.
13. The Loch Ryan Coastal Path
Location: Dumfries & Galloway
Walk Distance: 18km
Best Walk for: Panoramic Lochside Views
Places to See: Stranraer, Cairnryan village
The Loch Ryan Coastal Path begins in Stranraer and extends to Glenapp Church in the north. It is one of the best Dumfries coastal walks on offer! Get ready for some of the most spectacular scenery Dumfries & Galloway can provide, with panoramic views of the loch and local wildlife including deer, which you can often spot along the route.
14. Tobermory Bay
Location: Isle of Mull
Walk Distance: 5.5km
Best Walk for: Taking the dog
Places to See: Tobermory, Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse
This well-signposted walk along Tobermory Bay would make the perfect holiday for you and a special friend – your dog! With your trusty companion at your side you will be able to enjoy beautiful views of the mainland and exciting sections of path through the woods. There are plenty of options for refreshments along the front including tea rooms, cafés, pubs and fish & chips.
15. Seaton Cliffs
Location: Arbroath, Angus
Walk Distance: 11.5km
Best Walk for: Classic coastal scenery
Places to See: Seaton Cliffs Nature Reserve, Deil’s Head, Arbroath, Auchmithie
The Seaton Cliffs look out onto the North Sea on the Angus coast, immediately north-east of Arbroath. These spectacular red sandstone cliffs are a wonderland of sea caves, stacks, blowholes and arches. In the hotter months wildflowers and butterflies are the norm and if you’re lucky you might even spot dolphins offshore. Check out this Arbroath cliff trail map!
Whether it’s a coastal walk in the Scottish Borders or a St Andrews coastal walk you’re after, there are all kinds of choices. Explore more stunning walking routes, coastal spots and landscapes across Scotland ahead of our Year of Coasts and Waters 2020/21.
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