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Scotland's Great Trails

In England and Wales you have 15 routes across the two countries which are nationally looked after and collectively are called the National Trails. In Scotland their equivalent of these National Trails are collectively known today as Scotland's Great Trails.

When doing the research for this article for the Great Trails most references on the internet referred to them as 'Long Distance Routes' and said that there were 4 of them:-

  • West Highland Way
    This was the first to open in Scotland, opening in 1980. It covers 96 miles and runs from Fort William south to Milngavie just outside Glasgow.

  • Speyside Way
    First opened in 1981 from Spey Bay to Ballindalloch. It has been extensively added to since with various extensions, the last extension to Aviemore completed in 2000. It now covers 80 miles and links the Moray coast to the edge of the Grampian Mountains, with a further extension being worked on to take it to Newtownmore.

  • Southern Upland Way
    This Trail opened in 1984 and is the longest of Scotland's trails at 212 miles, going from Portpatrick on the west coast to Cockburnspath on the east coast.

  • Great Glen Way
    Was opened in 2002, and travels 79 miles from Inverness to Fort William taking in Lochs, including Loch Ness and Mountains.

These four trails are administered and maintained by the local authorities whose territory they run through, but they were created and designated by Scottish Natural Heritage, who also provides some funding and national publicity.

On visiting the Scottish Natural Heritage website I found that they now manage and promote 20 trails and collectively they call them Scotland's Great Trails.   These include the 4 listed above but there are also 16 others. These are:-

  • Annandale Way

  • Ayrshire Coastal Path

  • Borders Abbeys Way

  • Cateran Trail

  • Clyde Walkway

  • Dava Way

  • Fife Coastal Path

  • Formartine and Buchan Way (53 miles, from Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh)

  • Forth and Clyde Canal and Union Canal Towpaths

  • John Muir Way

  • Kintyre Way

  • Moray Coast Trail

  • River Ayr Way

  • St Cuthbert's Way (going over the border into England ending at Lindesfarne on the Holy Island)

  • Three Lochs Way

  • West Island Way


A typical Marker on Scotland's Great Trails

Collectively they cover 1,300 miles of waymarked paths from the borders to the Highlands and are recognizable by a hexagonal thistle. The definition of a Great Trail is that they are all over 25 miles long. The longest of these being the Southern Upland Way which goes from coast to coast and covers 212 miles. Six of the trails are coastal paths allowing you to see some of the stunning Scottish coastline close up.

The Scottish Natural Heritage website provides links to individual websites covering each of the walks and they also have a brochure, available as a PDF, which identifies each of the 20 walks and gives you highlights of what you can see along each route as well as providing a short walk along part of each of them.

The official website for Scotland's Great Trails has broken the country down into 3 regions of South, Central and North. From it's home page you choose the region you are interested in and a map is shown which each of the walks outlined. From here links are provided to the trails own website or to a page within a local government website that explains the route in detail and in most cases provides free PDF guides of the routes you can download and print. There are also many guide books published which can be purchased from bookshops, local tourism offices or online, below is a selection you can purchase from here.

Our Scotland's Great Trails list provides web links to each of them, details of which counties they go through and their total mileage. Route Guides for some of them will be added over time.

By their very nature are long routes and it is not possible to cover a whole route within a day. But with planning it would be possible to organise short walks that can be achieved and then link them up with the use of public transport so that you can see many of the highlights that Scotland has to offer.

By their very nature the Great Trails are long routes and it is not possible to cover a whole route within a day. But with planning it would be possible to organise short walks which can be achieved and then link them up with the use of public transport, or to cover sections over a longer time period with multiple visits, so that you can see many of the highlights that Scotland has to offer.

See Also:

Scotland's Great Trails

National Trails of England Wales

National Trails of England and Wales

List of Long Distance Coastal Paths

List of National Trust Coastal Walks

Long Distance Paths


For more information see these external links:-


By: Tracey Park Section: Walk Section Key:
Page Ref: great_trails Topic: Walks Last Updated: 02/2012

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