Combining Rail Travel With Scotland’s Best Walks

Explore bonnie Scotland along the West Highland Way, which starts in Milngavie and skirts the serene shores of Loch Lomond. The trail then travels across wild Rannoch Moor and dramatic Glencoe before finishing in Fort William, the outdoor capital of the UK.

This itinerary takes you through a stunning landscape of rugged mountains and pristine lakes, with awe-inspiring vistas of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. It is best suited to experienced hikers.

Ben Alligin

Walking in the Scottish Highlands is a truly evocative experience. From the rocky peaks of the Campsie Fells to the atmospheric moors of the West Highland Way, you’ll encounter unimaginable natural beauty. And whether you’re a first-time hiker or an experienced trekker, there are trails to suit every ability.

While the most famous hiking routes in Scotland are long-distance traverses, a day hike can still offer an epic adventure in some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. A classic example is the Loch an ‘Eilein trail, a tranquil circular route around a picturesque lake that offers enchanting forest and waterside views. This easy-going walk is perfect for first-time hikers or those with limited time.

The Highlands are also a haven for mountaineers, with numerous Munro peaks that rise to over 900m (2,990 ft). A great example is Beinn Alligin, which translates as the ‘Mountain of Beauty’ or ‘Jeweled Mountain’. This imposing peak is one of Torridon’s most iconic peaks, offering a beautiful scrambly horseshoe that includes a traverse of the Horns of Na Rathanan. It’s a challenging hike, but less technically difficult than the nearby Liathach ridge traverse.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at a multi-day trekking challenge, but aren’t sure if you have the time and the right equipment, take on the West Highland Way. This renowned trail crosses Scotland from end to end, following the line of the Great Glen fault line that almost splits the country in half. You’ll travel along the ‘bonnie banks’ of Loch Lomond, across atmospheric Rannoch Moor and past dramatic Glencoe. Lastly, you’ll reach Fort William at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

Another iconic train-based walking itinerary in Scotland is the Forth Bridges Trail. You’ll travel across the stunning Forth Bridges, starting in Dalmeny and finishing at North Queensferry, and enjoy stunning vistas over the Firth of Forth. This linear walk is best done by train, with services from Edinburgh and local towns to both points of departure and arrival.

Muckle Flugga

This is one of Scotland’s most popular and challenging hikes, often tackling the full route over two days with a wild camp in between. From Shenevall you’ll tackle Bein a Chlaidheimh, Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn and Ruadh Stac Mor to complete this horseshoe-shaped circuit. The landscape is unsurpassed and the views from the summit will leave you breathless, even more so with the backdrop of Loch Lomond in all its beauty. If you’re feeling exhausted you can always take the train back to Glasgow for a well-deserved rest.

This iconic trail encapsulates the magic of Scottish walking. Its popularity is due to the fact that it’s accessible to anyone with a good level of fitness and determination. The West Highland Way runs from Milngavie to Fort William and along the way you’ll experience mountains, lochs, forests, and glens. The trail starts on the ’bonnie banks’ of Loch Lomond, passes through the desolate landscapes of Rannoch Moor, and then descends into dramatic Glencoe where you can see why this is considered one of Scotland’s most spectacular glens. You’ll also climb over the high pass of the Devil’s Staircase before finishing your walk in the bustling town of Fort William at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The trail begins right outside the railway station at Achnashellach on the Kyle of Lochalsh line so getting there couldn’t be easier. From here the path winds through unsurpassed Highland landscapes including a tiny bothy that was visited by Robert De Niro and others during filming of Stardust and beautiful Scots pine woodland on Easan Dorcha.

Fall is an especially scenic time for this route because you’ll find the forest is ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows against the green of the conifers. The snow-capped peaks of Ben Alligin and Sgurr Mhor are particularly impressive in this season. If you’re hiking in winter be sure to bring extra layers to protect you from the cold.

Glen Brittle

The Black Cuillin mountains tower over Glen Brittle, a remote and isolated mountain glen that is home to scattered villages including the popular hiking center of Bualintur. The glen is an area of unsurpassed beauty and a major attraction for hikers visiting the Highlands. It is also a place of great wildlife. Those with an interest in geology should keep an eye out for the unique purple conglomerate known as Bearfort Puddingstone and glacial erratics, large boulders left on rocky ridgetops by retreating glaciers. And for nature lovers, the loch and forest offer ample opportunities to spot red deer, rabbits, grouse, dunlins and ruddy turnstones.

Hiking in Glen Brittle is at a leisurely pace and suitable for hikers with a range of abilities. The Eynort Loop is a pleasant lochside trail that offers elevated views of serene Loch Eynort where estuary birds gather to feed. A ramble through the forest is a great option to observe the native tree species of the Cairngorms and discover a variety of interesting tree species. And for those with a little more experience, the Lairig Ghru Pass is a stunning walk that will challenge you physically but rewards you with majestic mountain vistas.

All of these walks can be combined with a train journey across Scotland. You can combine rail travel with hiking in the Scottish Highlands on our 13 Day Hiking Adventure with a train ride from Edinburgh to Glasgow via the famous Kyle of Lochalsh line and an extended hike along the ’bonnie banks’ of Loch Lomond, across atmospheric Rannoch Moor, over the ferocious Devil’s Staircase and up to Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest peak.

Or, if you’re interested in hiking in the Scottish Highlands but want to explore at a more relaxed pace, our 5 Day Walking Adventure with a train from Glasgow to Inverness via the magnificent Jacobite Steam Railway is ideal. The trip includes the iconic walk along the Five Sisters of Kintail as well as a tour to Loch Ness and other Highland highlights. This trip has an activity rating of moderate/strenuous; travelers should be physically fit and prepared to hike for several hours a day on steep and muddy terrain.

Loch Ness

When the Highlands are evoked, images of its glaciated peaks and craggy lochs are usually front and center. This wild, untamed wilderness is where saints and clan leaders once clashed, and poets and rebels sought inspiration. Explore its velvet hills and craggy peaks on foot, following in the footsteps of Scottish legends along trails that have been beloved by generations of hikers.

The West Highland Way, a long-distance Great Trail, traverses Scotland’s rugged western reaches. Walk this celebrated route to explore secluded lochs, historic villages, and the stunning mountain scenery of Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, and Glencoe. You’ll also follow in the footsteps of intrepid folk heroes like Sir Walter Scott and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Hike around Loch Ness, where you can try to spot the mythical beast ‘Nessie’, on this popular trail that offers spectacular views over the deep blue lake and surrounding craggy peaks. This walk also takes you to a bothy (hut) that was used as a filming location for Stardust, and through lovely Scots Pine woodlands and waterfall-dotted streams on the Easan Dorcha section of the path.

This is a tough hike that demands some rocky scrambling in its final stages. But if you’re willing to work up a sweat and enjoy the breathtaking summit ridge views, you’ll be rewarded with views of Scotland’s mighty Cul Mor and Suilven mountains, as well as the watery Inverpolly Nature Reserve and its secluded islands.

This is an amazing hike to do on a clear day, when you can take in views of the snow-capped Munros that rise steeply from this iconic mountain pass. The scenery here can be sublime, but even on a rainy day, the pass still offers incredible views of Loch Lomond and the rugged landscapes that stretch to the Isles of Rhum, Eigg, and Canna.

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