Backpacking in Scotland: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in Scotland: A hiker in Scotland on top of a mountain enjoying a scenic view

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Scotland is ideal for nature enthusiasts. The diverse landscapes, clear paths, and proximity to stunning scenery make it perfect for adventurers who want to explore one of the most remote yet beautiful landscapes in the world.

In this post, we delve into the world of ultralight backpacking in Scotland, providing you with the essential information for your upcoming journey.

Included in our exploration are rankings of the leading 5 trails in two distinct categories: day hikes (covering less than 30 miles) and multi-day trips that offer resupply points at least every two days.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Scotland

  • What to expect: Backpacking in Scotland promises a remarkable journey through stunning landscapes, from rugged mountains to serene lochs. Trails, often well-marked, guide you through diverse terrains, revealing historical sites and traditional villages.
  • Essential gear: Be ready for rain, so bring waterproof gear. Wear layers to adjust to different weather. From our experience, having an insect head net is crucial.
  • Wildlife: Scotland is mostly safe, but remember that rare venomous snakes, like adders, exist. Red deer can get aggressive during mating season. Be cautious about ticks spreading diseases, and be prepared for pesky midges (tiny flies that can be annoying).
  • Wild camping: In Scotland, a law called the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 lets you roam and camp on open land in most places. But in parts of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, they have rules about camping.
  • Best times to go: The best times to go backpacking in Scotland are usually from late spring to early autumn, between May and September. During this time, the weather is milder, there are more daylight hours, and the landscapes are in full bloom, making it ideal for outdoor adventures. Late spring and early autumn also mean fewer crowds, providing a quieter experience with still-good weather.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 30 Miles)

Here are the top day hikes where ultralight gear truly enhances your experience:

  1. Ben Nevis Mountain Track (9.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Ben Lomond Mountain Path (7.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. West Highland Way: Kinlochleven to Fort William (15.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg Arete (11.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. The Quiraing Circuit (4.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Multi-day trips in Scotland with resupply every two days or more:

  1. The West Highland Way (95.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. The Great Glen Way (73.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Rob Roy Way (80.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. The Skye Trail (79.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Cape Wrath Trail (233.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

Scotland also has a temperate maritime climate, but with some regional variations. Here’s a general overview of the weather throughout the year:

  • Winter (December to February): Winters are cool, with temperatures typically ranging from 1-7°C (34-45°F). Snowfall is common, especially in the northern and mountainous areas.
  • Spring (March to May): Spring sees a gradual increase in temperatures, ranging from 6-12°C (43-54°F). It’s a season of blooming flowers, and daylight hours extend.
  • Summer (June to August): Summers are mild, with average temperatures ranging from 11-19°C (52-66°F). July and August are the warmest months, but temperatures rarely go above 25°C (77°F). Rainfall is variable.
  • Autumn (September to November): Autumn temperatures range from 5-12°C (41-54°F). It’s a season of changing colors, and rainfall tends to increase. Winds can also pick up during this time.

Prior to making gear selections, it’s advisable to review the annually recorded weather data in Scotland:

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High °F434546505561646461544843
Low °F343436364148504846413634
Rainy days181515131213131414171818
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.

FAQ

Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Scotland?

While backpacking in Scotland, you can have a campfire provided you follow some basic guidelines. Fires are permitted in most areas, but always check for any local restrictions. Use an established fire pit if there is one. Otherwise, clear a 10 foot diameter area of combustible material and don’t burn trash or anything with toxins. Make sure the fire is fully extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving it unattended. And of course, exercise caution – don’t overlook basic fire safety.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Scotland?

When encountering wildlife while backpacking in Scotland, it is important to admire animals from a safe distance and not disturb their natural behaviors. Give large grazing animals like deer, cows, and horses a wide berth and move slowly to avoid startling them. Be aware of adders in summer and keep dogs leashed and under control. Never feed wild animals. Back away if an animal shows signs of aggression. In general, educate yourself on local wildlife, hike in small groups, and make noises while walking to avoid surprise encounters.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Scotland?

Always check the weather forecast before your trip and be prepared for changing conditions, as the climate can be unpredictable. Proper clothing and rain gear is a must. Leave your route and estimated return time with someone trusted. Be sure to carry essential equipment like navigation tools, first aid supplies, headlamp/flashlight, water purification, and emergency shelter. Watch out for uneven terrain and boggy ground which can pose trip hazards. Take extra care near cliff edges and bodies of water. Be aware of tick-borne illnesses in spring and summer and check yourself thoroughly after outdoor activity. Most importantly, respect any warning signs and access restrictions, as remote areas do not always have immediate emergency support. 

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