Scotland's Great Trails are long-distance "people-powered" trails in Scotland, analogous to the National Trails of England and Wales or the Grande Randonnée paths of France. The designated routes are primarily intended for walkers, but may have sections suitable for cyclists and horse-riders; one of the trails, the Great Glen Canoe Trail, is designed for canoeists and kayakers. The trails range in length from 40 to 340 km, and are intended to be tackled over several days, either as a combination of day trips or as an end-to-end expedition.
In order to be classified as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, a route must fulfil certain criteria. Each of the routes must be at least 40 km in length, and clearly waymarked with a dedicated symbol. It is expected that visitor services will be present along the way, and that the route has an online presence to help visitors in planning their journey. Trails are required to run largely off-road, with less than 20% of the route being on tarmac. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is the custodian of the brand, maintaining the official list and providing some of the finance and publicity, but responsibility for creating and maintaining each route lies with the local authority(ies) through which a route passes. There are 29 routes, offering 3000 km of trails in total. Additionally, the northernmost 10 kilometres (6 mi) of the Pennine Way between the Anglo-Scottish border and Kirk Yetholm lie within Scotland, but are designated as one of the National Trails of England.
The route of each of the Great Trails is marked with coloured diamonds on Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25000) and Landranger (1:50000) maps; the SGT logo of a thistle within a hexagon is also used to highlight the routes at the 1:25000 scale.
The trails grew out of the Long Distance Routes (LDRs), which were proposed and financially supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, and administered and maintained by the local authorities. The Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 provided the legal basis for the Long Distance Routes, but the first one was not opened officially until 1980. By 2010 there were four LDRs:
Following the passage of the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003, the public has a right to responsible access to most land in Scotland, in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Access rights for new routes therefore largely no longer required to be negotiated and many named walks have been developed by local authorities, tourist organisations and guidebook authors. In 2010 SNH decided that it would not formally designate any further LDRs, but would instead encourage more locally-based proposals for new routes for long-distance footpaths. Within this approach it was recognised that there was a need for a strong "brand identity" to aid marketing of Scotland’s longer distance routes internationally. Minimum standards would be applied in the selection of these branded routes, which would take account of factors such as:
"Scotland's Great Trails" was chosen as the brand identity, and as of 2018 there were 29 officially recognised Great Trails.
As of April 2018.
The Arran Coastal Way is a 107 kilometre long-distance trail that goes around the coastline of Arran in Scotland. As the route is circular, following the coastline of the island, it can be started and finished at any location, however in recognition of the fact that most visitors to the island arrive and depart via the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry a start/finish monument is located on the seafront near Brodick ferry terminal. The route is fully waymarked, using marker posts featuring a gannet.The idea of the Arran Coastal Way was conceived by Hugh McKerrell and Richard Sim in the 1990s, which was formally opened by Cameron McNeish on 28 March 2003. The route is maintained by the Arran Access Trust, and was designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage in June 2017.Ayrshire Coastal Path
The Ayrshire Coastal Path is a coastal long-distance hiking path in Ayrshire, Scotland. The route, which is 161 km long, runs along the coast from Glenapp, Ballantrae to Skelmorlie. South of Glenapp, the route links with the Mull of Galloway Trail to Stranraer.The path was developed by the Rotary Club of Ayr, and opened in June 2008. It is now designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and also forms part of the International Appalachian Trail.The route is primarily designed for walkers, but much of the middle and north sections are alongside beaches and thus suitable for horse riding. The northern section, between Ayr and Largs, is coincident with National Cycle Network routes 7 and 73 and so is suitable for cyclists. About 3,000 people use the path every year.Cateran Trail
The Cateran Trail is a 103-kilometre (64 mi) circular long distance walking route in central Scotland. The trail has no official beginning or end and can be joined at any stage. The route was established, way-marked and is now maintained by, the Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust. A variety of terrain is covered by the trail including farmland, mountains and forest. The path itself follows old drovers' roads, minor paved roads and farm tracks and can be walked in 4 or 5 days. It is now designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. As of 2018 it was estimated that around 8,000 people were using the trail each year.Cross Borders Drove Road
The Cross Borders Drove Road is an 82-kilometre (51 mi) long hiking trail in the Borders region of Scotland. The route is based on the main route used by drovers who used to drive cattle from the markets (trysts) at places such as Falkirk and Crieff southwards for sale in England.Dava Way
The Dava Way is a 38-kilometre (24 mi) long-distance path that mostly follows the route of the former Highland Railway between Grantown and Forres. The railway line, built as a route between Inverness and Perth, opened in 1863 and closed in 1965. The route was reopened as a long distance path in 2005. It is listed as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and links directly to two further Great Trails: the Moray Coast Trail and the Speyside Way. It is currently the shortest of the Great Trails, but can be combined with sections of the Moray Coast Trail and Speyside Way to form a 153-kilometre (95 mi) circular route known as the Moray Way. About 3,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 400 complete the entire route.Formartine and Buchan Way
The Formartine and Buchan Way is a long-distance footpath in Scotland, extending from Dyce north to Peterhead and Fraserburgh in the Buchan and Formartine districts of Aberdeenshire in Scotland. It follows the track of a former railway line, the Formartine and Buchan Railway, and is open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The railway closed in 1979 (Fraserburgh) and 1970 (Maud-Peterhead). The walkway opened in the early 1990s, and is managed by Aberdeenshire Council. It is listed as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. Places of interest along the way include Drinnes Wood Observatory, Strichen Stone Circle, Aden Country Park, Deer Abbey and The White Horse at Strichen.The total path is around 85 kilometres (53 mi) long if both spurs are walked and can be accessed relatively easily by public transport or car. An information pack detailing the route has been produced by Aberdeenshire Council: the pack can be purchased from local tourist information centres and is also available to download. The route is also marked on OS maps. The path is well signposted and is easy to follow. The track is relatively flat and undulates only when roads have to be crossed. It is well maintained, and few parts are overgrown. However, the Maud to Strichen section has a detour because of overgrown shrubbery, marshy conditions and numerous problems such as gates and fences blocking access.Great Glen Way
The Great Glen Way (Scottish Gaelic: Slighe a' Ghlinne Mhòir) is a long distance path in Scotland. It follows the Great Glen, running from Fort William in the southwest to Inverness in the northeast, covering 125 kilometres (78 mi). It was opened in 2002, and is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. The Great Glen Way is generally walked from southwest to northeast to follow the direction of the prevailing wind. It can be walked in 5–7 days, or cycled in 2–3 days. The trail is maintained and improved by the Great Glen Ways partnership, which consists of Highland Council, Scottish Canals and Forestry and Land Scotland. About 30,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 4,500 complete the entire route.A 114-kilometre (71 mi) temporary model railway known as The Biggest Little Railway in the World was laid and filmed over the Great Glen Way in the summer of 2017.Great Trossachs Path
The Great Trossachs Path is a 48 km long distance footpath through the Trossachs, in the Stirling council area of Scotland. It runs between Callander in the east and Inversnaid on the banks of Loch Lomond in the west, passing along the northern shores of Loch Katrine and Loch Arklet. The path is suitable for walkers and cyclists; much of the route is also suitable for experience horse riders, although the middle section along the shoreline of Loch Katrine is tarmacked and so may not be ideal for horses.The path is listed as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and also links to two of the other Great Trails, the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way. It is also possible to link the path with two further Great Trails via the ferry across Loch Lomond from Inversnaid to Inveruglas, which is the terminus of both the Three Lochs Way and the Cowal Way. The path also links to National Cycle Route 7 at Callander.
Launched in April 2015, the path lies almost completely within the Great Trossachs Forest National Nature Reserve. The reserve is considered to be a "forest in the making", and is managed jointly by Forestry and Land Scotland, RSPB Scotland and Woodland Trust Scotland. The national nature reserve project aims to deliver a varied landscape that provides habitats for species that are otherwise rare in Britain, including black grouse, golden eagle, osprey, wildcat, pine marten, red squirrel, water vole and otter.John Muir Way
The John Muir Way is a 215-kilometre (130 mi) continuous long distance route in southern Scotland, running from Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute in the west to Dunbar, East Lothian in the east. It is named in honour of the Scottish conservationist John Muir, who was born in Dunbar in 1838 and became a founder of the United States National Park Service. The route provides a coast-to-coast route across Scotland, linking Muir's birthplace with Scotland's first national park, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, and Helensburgh, from where he left Scotland for the United States. It is suitable for walkers and cyclists although some sections are on rougher terrain and may not be suitable for road bicycles.The John Muir Way opened on 21 April 2014. Previously a shorter 'John Muir Way' existed only in East Lothian, but the majority of this older route has now been absorbed into the much longer new route. A shorter section of the older route from Dunbar to the Scottish Borders has been renamed as the 'John Muir Link'. In 2017 the route was designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. The Independent declared John Muir Way its Walk of the Month for February 2014. Between 240,000 and 300,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 5,500 walk the entire route.Kintyre Way
The Kintyre Way is a waymarked footpath through the Kintyre peninsula of Argyll and Bute in Scotland. It runs between Machrihanish near the southern end of the peninsula's west coast, and Tarbert at the northern end of Kintyre where the peninsula is linked to Knapdale, via Campbeltown. The way is 161 kilometres (100 mi) long, and is fully waymarked. Additionally there are distance markers at 1 mile (1.6 km) intervals along the route. The route is primarily intended for walkers, but most sections can also be cycled.The Kintyre Way is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. It can be linked to another one of the Great Trails via Tarbert, where there is a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry service to Portavadie, which is the start/finish point of the Cowal Way. As of 2018, it was estimated that between one and two thousand people completed the entire route each year.The Kintyre Way ultramarathon has been held annually along parts of the route since 2007. Originally held over a 108 km (67 mi) course between Tarbert and Campbeltown, a shorter 56 km (35 mi) route from Tayinloan to Campbeltown was later introduced. Due to the relative popularity of the two routes, the longer course is no longer run. The 2016 edition of the race featured in an episode of BBC Scotland's The Adventure Show. For 2019 the route of the race will be changed again, utilising a 51 km (32 mi) section between Tayinloan and Tarbert.Moray Coast Trail
The Moray Coastal Trail is a long distance path in north-east Scotland that along the coastline of the Moray council area. The route, which is 72 km long, runs between Forres and Cullen. It is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and connects with two further Great Trails: the Speyside Way at Spey Bay, and the Dava Way at Forres. The Moray Coast Trail can be combined with sections of these two routes to form a 153 km circular route known as the Moray Way, and also forms part of the North Sea Trail. The trail is primarily intended for walkers, but many sections are also suitable for cycling and horseriding. An alternative route for cycling, the Moray Coast Ride, shares some sections of path with the Moray Coast Trail, and forms part of the National Cycle Network's Route 1. About 23,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 1,000 complete the entire route.SNH recommend that the trail be walked west to east (from Forres to Cullen), due to the direction of the prevailing winds. In this direction the following settlements are passed: Forres, Kinloss, Findhorn, Burghead, Hopeman, Lossiemouth, Spey Bay, Portgordon, Buckie, Findochty, Portknockie, Cullen. Places of note along the route are the Covesea Skerries Lighthouse and Bow Fiddle Rock.Mull of Galloway Trail
The Mull of Galloway Trail is a coastal long-distance path in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. The route, which is 59 km (37 mi) long, runs along the coast from Glenapp near Ballantrae (where the trail links with the Ayrshire Coastal Path) to the Mull of Galloway. The path was developed by the Rotary Club of Stranraer, who maintain the route on a voluntary basis. It opened in 2012, and is now designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. It also forms part of the International Appalachian Trail.The northern section of the route, between Stranraer and Glenapp section was previously designated as the Loch Ryan Coastal Path, with the southern section to the Mull being added later. Waymarking on the northern section is still (as of 2018) distinct from the newer southern section.A marathon, also organised by the Rotary Club of Stranraer, is held annually along the southern section of the route between Mull of Galloway and Stranraer. A shorter 16-kilometre (10 mi) race is also run: this route starts in Sandhead to also finish in Stranraer.River Ayr Way
The River Ayr Way is a long-distance path in Ayrshire, Scotland. The route, which is 66 km long, follows the course of the River Ayr from its source at Glenbuck Loch to the sea at Ayr, where the trail links with the Ayrshire Coastal Path. The path was developed as part of the Coalfield Access Project, a funding package of £2.5m that was used to improve public access to the countryside in the former mining districts of Ayrshire. The route was officially opened in 2006 by broadcaster Fred Macaulay, and is now designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. As of 2018 about 137,000 people were using the path each year, of whom about 41,000 walked the entire route.An ultramarathon is held annually along the entire length of the route, running "downhill" from source to sea. A relay race is also run, allowing teams of two or three persons split the route into three sections. The three sections are:
Section 1: Glenbuck to Sorn, 27 kilometres (17 mi)
Section 2: Sorn to Annbank, 23 kilometres (14 mi)
Section 3: Annbank to Ayr, 14 kilometres (9 mi)Rob Roy Way
The Rob Roy Way is a Scottish long distance footpath that runs from Drymen in Stirling to Pitlochry in Perth and Kinross. The path was created in 2002, and takes its name from Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish folk hero and outlaw of the early 18th century. It traverses countryside that he knew and travelled frequently. The route crosses the Highland Boundary Fault, a geological fault where the Highlands meet the Lowlands. Views from the trail overlook Loch Lubnaig, Loch Earn, Loch Venachar and Loch Tay. The way is 127 kilometres (79 mi) in length if the direct route along the southern shore of Loch Tay and the River Tay is followed between Ardtalnaig and Aberfeldy. A optional loop also link these places via Amulree: choosing this option increases the length by a further 27 kilometres (17 mi) to 154 kilometres (96 mi).The Rob Roy Way was designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage in spring 2012, and also links to two further Great Trails, meeting the Great Trossachs Path near Callander, and the West Highland Way just north of Drymen. The Rob Roy Way also shares sections of route with Route 7 of the National Cycle Network, which also links Drymen and Pitlochry. Shared sections include the minor road on the south side of Loch Tay and the section following the route of the former Callander and Oban Railway, including Glen Ogle viaduct.Besides Drymen and Pitlochry, the way passes through Aberfoyle, Callander, Strathyre, Killin, Amulree and Aberfeldy.About 3,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 450 complete the entire route.Romans and Reivers Route
The Romans and Reivers Route is a long-distance path in southern Scotland, linking the Forest of Ae in Dumfries and Galloway with Hawick in the Scottish Borders. The route, which is 84 km long, uses forest tracks, drovers' roads and some sections of public road to link Roman roads across the border country of Scotland. It takes its name from these roads, and the fact that it passes through areas associated with the Border Reivers, the name given to cattle raiders along the Anglo-Scottish border between late 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The route is intended to be suitable for walkers, cyclists and horseriders, having been specifically developed to include features such as self-closing gates.The Romans and Reivers Route was originally developed by British Horse Society Scotland, and is now managed by the local authorities of the two council areas through which it passes: Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council. The route is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and links with four other Great Trails:
Annandale Way at Beattock
Borders Abbeys Way at Hawick
Cross Borders Drove Road at Hawick
Southern Upland Way, which shares sections of path with the Romans and Reivers Route around BeattockSouthern Upland Way
The Southern Upland Way is a 338-kilometre (210 mi) long distance coast-to-coast trail in southern Scotland. The route links Portpatrick in the west and Cockburnspath in the east via the hills of the Southern Uplands. It opened in 1984, and was the UK’s first officially recognised coast-to-coast long-distance route. The Way is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and is the longest of the 29 Great Trails. The Southern Upland Way meets with seven of the other Great Trails: the Annandale Way, the Berwickshire Coastal Path, the Borders Abbeys Way, the Cross Borders Drove Road, the Mull of Galloway Trail, the Romans and Reivers Route and St Cuthbert's Way.The path is maintained by the local authorities of the two main council areas through which it passes: Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council; a short section in the Lowther Hills lies in South Lanarkshire. It is primarily intended for walkers, but many sections are suitable for mountain bikers; some sections are also suitable for horseriders. About 80,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 1,000 complete the entire route.The Southern Upland Way forms part of the E2 European long-distance path, which runs for 3,010 miles (4,850 km) from Galway to Nice.Speyside Way
The Speyside Way (Doric: Strathspey Way; Scottish Gaelic: Slighe Shrath Spe) is a long-distance path that follows the River Spey through the scenery of Banffshire, Morayshire and Inverness-shire in Scotland. The route begins in Aviemore and ends at Buckpool harbour in Buckie, some 107 kilometres (66 mi) away. Some choose to walk the route from Buckie to Aviemore. There is a spur leading off the main route to Tomintoul bringing the total distance up to 130 kilometres (81 mi). In addition, there is a Dufftown loop option, and other less well-known routes (Badenoch Way, Dava Way, and Moray Coast Trail) can be worked in, all affecting the total distance walked. Sections of the route are open to cycling.The Way is clearly waymarked with a symbol showing a thistle in a hexagon. The route generally follows the valley of the River Spey, passing some of the distilleries that produce Speyside single malts. The final 5 miles (8 km) from Spey Bay to Buckie follow the coastline.
The route was established in 1981, and is managed by three authorities: Highland Council, Moray Council and the Cairngorms National Park Authority. It is listed as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and links directly to two further Great Trails: the Moray Coast Trail and the Dava Way. About 53,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 3,000 complete the entire route.Three Lochs Way
The Three Lochs Way is a 55 kilometres (34 mi) long-distance path in Argyll and Bute in Scotland that links Balloch and Inveruglas.
The path crosses the Highland Boundary Fault, which divides the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands, and is named for the three major lochs linked by the route: Loch Lomond, the Gare Loch and Loch Long. About 1,500 people use the path every year, of whom about 300 complete the entire route.The route was first conceived of in 1991 by Alan Day, secretary of the Helensburgh & District Access Trust. The trust began promoting the route in 2010, and have since undertaken work across the route to improve the signage and path conditions, leading to the route now being designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. The Three Lochs Way links directly to the Cowal Way (also designated as one of the Great Trails), which shares the section along Glen Loin between Arrochar and Inveruglas. The Way crosses the route of a second Great Trail, the John Muir Way, either side of Helensburgh. The West Highland Way, Scotland's first officially designated long distance trail can also be linked to the Three Lochs Way via a ferry over Loch Lomond from the start/finish point of Inveruglas, joining the West Highland Way at Inversnaid. By combining sections of the three paths and the ferry, a circular walk around southern Loch Lomond is possible.In April 2018 an ultramarathon was due to be held along the route of the Three Lochs Way, but was cancelled with less than 24 hours notice due to the company organising the event going into administration. Around 60 of the 700 people entered in the event chose to complete the course despite the lack of any organised support.West Island Way
The West Island Way is a waymarked long distance footpath on the Isle of Bute. The route opened in September 2000 as part of Bute's millennium celebrations, and was the first waymarked long distance route on a Scottish island. As of 2018 it was estimated that between six and seven thousand people were using the trail each year. The route is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage.
(England and Wales)
|Scotland's Great Trails|