Long Distance Walking Routes for Beginners
If you're tempted by the idea of a long-distance walking challenge, yet find yourself wondering if you have enough time, the correct equipment, adequate fitness, a decent enough sense of direction, and strong enough shoulders to carry a tent for miles, then walk this way!
Your first long walk doesn't need to be an epic traverse of the 96-mile long West Highland Way. We've selected routes which will take one to three days at most, with lovely places to see along the way, ace photography spots, cosy inns for a warming pub lunch, and each follow mostly flat, well-signposted paths and trails.
- Location: Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, part of the West Highland Way
- Type of walk: short hill walk with amazing views
- Start: Balmaha car park
- End: The Oak Tree Inn!
- Distance: 2.4 miles (4 km)
- Photo spot: Conic Hill summit
A fabulous walk at any time of year, Conic Hill is a sharp little peak rising above the loch-side town of Balmaha, and a favourite section of the famous West Highland Way. The hill is easy to reach from Glasgow with trains to Balloch and then an onward 309 bus to Balmaha.
PLACES TO SEE:
- Location: West Lothian & South Queensferry, part of the John Muir Way
- Type of walk: Quiet roads and tracks
- Start: Blackness Castle
- End: Hopetoun House
- Distance: 3.2 miles (5 km)
- Photo spot: Blackness Castle, with views of the three Forth Bridges
John Muir Way - tick! Well, almost. This hour-long stretch (if starting from Linlithgow Bridge, Linlithgow) is part of the coast-to-coast long-distance route and passes along the Forth waterfront and then follows a quiet woodland path, giving wanderers the opportunity to explore two amazing properties. If you want to begin the walk at the coast, start your journey at Hopetoun House and make your way towards the water.
The Bo'ness and Area Community Bus Association runs a mini bus from central Edinburgh to Blackness and back again with stops in between. Hopetoun House is about 4 miles or 6 km from the Dalmeny train station, which connects to Edinburgh. A taxi to the station is the quickest option if you are travelling by public transport.Key facilities
- On Public Transport Route
- Location: Fife, part of the Fife Coastal Path
- Type of walk: Straightforward coastal footpath
- Start: St Monans
- End: Anstruther
- Distance: 3.7 miles (6 km)
- Photo spot: St Monans Windmill
This is an easy-peasy and super scenic section of Fife Coastal Path links together three of the prettiest East Neuk fishing villages: St Monans, Pittenweem and Anstruther. There is plenty to see along the way and the return to the start can be made by bus. The X60 and X58 Stagecoach bus services go from Edinburgh to St Andrews passing through the three villages.
PLACES TO SEE:
- St Monans Windmill - this picturesque windmill is a gorgeous sight on the coastline. If you're really curious, keys can be picked up at the village post office or local Spar if the windmill is locked.
- Cocoa Tree Café - grab a sugar fix at the chocolate café at Pittenweem, with espresso milkshakes, hazelnut hot chocolates and chocolate chip scones on the menu to give you an energy boost!
- Anstruther Fish Bar - this is a legendary chippy, one of the Scotland's finest, in fact. Tuck into a fish supper and watch the boats sail into the harbour.
- Location: Dumfries & Galloway
- Type of walk: Coastal footpath along cliffs, care required at some sections
- Start: Whithorn
- End: Isle of Whithorn
- Distance: 9 miles (14 km)
- Photo spot: Looking to Burrow Head from Thief's Hole
Follow in the historic footsteps of saints, monks and monarchs along the Whithorn Way - a 143-mile pilgrimage running from Glasgow's magnificent cathedral to St Ninian's Chapel on the Isle of Whithorn. Walk a short section of the trail starting at Whithorn, which proceeds along the Ket Burn heading towards the cliffs above St Ninian's Cave. The views over Luce Bay, Scare Rocks and the Rhinns of Galloway are breathtaking. The walk continues along cliffs beyond the cave, where care is required on some sections, before ending at the Isle of Whithorn and St. Ninian's Chapel.
PLACES TO SEE:
- The Whithorn Story Visitor Centre - is well worth exploring before you start your walk - learn more about the fascinating historic and religious heritage of the area.
- Isle Futures Cafe - don't miss the stunning views from this glass-fronted café and a great range of hot and cold sit in and takeaway food.
- Location: Ayrshire & Arran
- Type of walk: Coastal and forestry trail followed by a hill path which can be rocky in places
- Start: Brodick
- End: Goat Fell
- Distance: 9.75 miles (15.5 km)
- Photo spot: Summit of Goat Fell
The first section of the Arran Coastal Way crosses Brodick Bay and will treat you to some dreamy views of the Arran coastline with Brodick Castle in the background and the towering peak of Goatfell looming in the distance. This path passes through picturesque glens and forests, before reaching the foot of Goatfell or there's the option to take the low-level route to Sannox if you don't fancy the ascent at the end.
Brodick is Arran's main ferry terminal, connecting to Ardrossan on the mainland. You can catch a bus from Sannox to Brodick once you've completed the route. Find more public transport on Arran.
PLACES TO SEE:
- Location: Argyll & The Isles
- Type of walk: Flat, well-maintained canal path
- Start: Crinan
- End: Ardrishaig
- Distance: 9 miles (14.5 km) or 18 (29 km) if you walk back
- Photo spot: Views from Crinan wood to Jura and Mull
The Crinan Canal route is a great way to ease yourself into the wonderful world of long-distance walking. The Cairnbaan Hotel provides a cosy stop half way and there is a regular bus service from West Coast Motors serving the start and finish of the route - handy if you want to walk one way and take the bus back!
PLACES TO SEE:
- Moine Mhor National Nature Reserve - an ancient habitat, home to an array of wildlife and wonderful bird-watching.
- Scottish Beaver Trial - a group of beavers call the pretty woodlands of Knapdale Forest home. See if you can spot signs of Europe's largest rodent!
- Crinan Wood - go for a magical woodland wander, just a few minutes' walk from the canal basin.
- Dunadd Fort and Kilmartin Glen - visit the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada and explore the ancient Iron Age fort.
- Location: Scottish Borders
- Type of walk: A few rolling hills through vast Borders countryside
- Start: Peebles
- End: Broughton
- Distance: 14 miles (22.5 km)
- Photo spot: Cademuir hill, for lovely views of Peebles and parts of the surrounding Glentress Forest.
It might require more than 39 steps, but the John Buchan Way is a great day's walk. Some visitors may prefer to end their walk at 6.5 miles in Stobo, where rest and relaxation awaits at the glamourous Stobo Castle! John Buchan spent many summer holidays here with his grandparents and loved this scenic area so much it inspired several of his novels. The 91 bus service operated by MacEwan connects Peebles with Broughton and Stobo, with regular buses from Peebles to Edinburgh.
PLACES TO SEE:
- Broughton Ales - Celebrate the end of the walk with a tasty pint and a tour of this brewery, Scotland's first ever initiated microbrewery.
- Stobo Kirk - one of the region's oldest churches, a church is thought to have been on this site since the 6th century.
- John Buchan Story - the museum celebrates the author of The Thirty Nine Steps.
- Location: Isle of Bute, Argyll & The Isles
- Type of walk: Island coastal trail, rough in places
- Start: Kilchattan Bay
- End: Port Bannatyne
- Distance: 30 miles (48 km) around the Isle of Bute
- Photo spot: Glencallum Bay and the Rubh'an Eun Lighthouse
A lovely way to the see a fab wee island, the West Island Way is well signposted and one of Scotland's Great Trails. Catch the CalMac ferry to Rothesay from Wemyss Bay (approximately 35 minutes crossing) which is connected to Glasgow by bus and train. There is an hourly bus service from Rothesay operated by West Coast Motors which connects the start of the route and the finish.
Why not combine the walk with a Bute-iful island holiday?
PLACES TO SEE:
- Rothesay Castle - Bute's main town of Rothesay is filled with Victorian legacy including the castle, which has strong connections to the Stewart kings of Scotland.
- Mount Stuart - this stately home is the Marquess of Bute's abode and is a fascinating 19th century neo gothic mansion, with an excellent private collection of art.
- Beaches - this blissful coastal walk will pass by many white sandy beaches to stop for a picnic.
- Location: Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
- Type of walk: A lovely loch-side amble
- Start: Balloch
- End: Inveruglas
- Distance: 34 miles (55 km)
- Photo spot: An Ceann Mor at Inveruglas
The beautiful Three Lochs Way route links together Loch Lomond, The Gareloch and fjord-like Loch Long. Balloch is well connected to Glasgow by train and there is a Citylink bus operating along the A82 with a stop at Inveruglas at the end of the route.
PLACES TO SEE:
- Hill House - stop in at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed home, an architectural gem filled with his influential designs and stylish home furnishings.
- Helensburgh - this attractive Argyll town comes to life with vibrant colours in the spring and autumn.
- An Ceann Mor - at the end of the route, check out the An Ceann Mor viewpoint for stunning views of Loch Lomond. A structure made from eco materials, it's the perfect selfie point!
- Ben Vorlich - if you have any energy left, a hike up this fine Munro, in the renowned Arrochar Alps, will promise wonderful views of Loch Sloy and over to Ardlui.
Short Sections of Longer Walking Routes
No one needs to know you didn't walk the whole route.
The next few walks can be completed in a day or less and serve as great training walks for longer routes, or simply give you an excuse to take an epic selfie or enviable landscape shot. Either way, by doing parts of these longer routes, you'll get an introduction to the joys of walking in Scotland, and you'll look like an avid explorer at the same time (win win).
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