Backpacking in Scotland: TOP 5 Multi-Day 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 offers immense variety for outdoor enthusiasts, from the rugged hills of the Highlands to the windswept islands of the Hebrides, including popular destinations like the Cairngorms National Park.

And that’s what this post is all about – backpacking in Scotland. We’ll provide tips to help you prepare for backpacking in this diverse country as well as showcase the TOP 5 multi-day trails in Scotland.

From rolling green glens to dramatic sea cliffs, Scotland’s landscapes provide spectacular backpacking opportunities. Whether you’re an experienced thru-hiker or new to backpacking in Scotland, the tips and trails highlighted in this guide will inspire your next adventure in this beautiful country.

Let’s get started.

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 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 Backpacking Trails in Scotland

Explore Scotland’s best scenic long trails for epic adventures:

1. The West Highland Way

A lone hiker walks along a road surrounded by dramatic, brooding clouds hanging over the Scottish mountains

Length: 95.4 mi / 153.5 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 13 963 ft / 4256 m
Location: Glasgow
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 23 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Traverse 95 miles of rugged Scottish wilderness on the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William. Follow old railway lines, traverse high mountain passes, and marvel at lochs, glens, and lush green valleys. Camp along the trail or stay in small towns and villages. Highlights include Conic Hill’s panoramic views, the expansive shores of Loch Lomond, the Devil’s Staircase descent into Glencoe, and finishing under the mighty Ben Nevis. Challenging but rewarding, with ever-changing scenery from forests to moors to mountains, it’s a classic Scottish thru-hike. Allow 5-7 days to fully experience this iconic trail.

2. The Great Glen Way

A solitary green tree stands in a grassy field with mountains rising in the distance on an overcast day in the scenic Scottish Highlands

Length: 73.2 mi / 117.8 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 10 298 ft / 3139 m
Location: Fort William
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 17 500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Hike from coast to coast across Scotland’s Great Glen on this 73-mile thru-hike from Fort William to Inverness. Pass deep blue lochs, rolling green hills, and historic battlegrounds. The well-marked trail follows old military roads, canal towpaths, and forest tracks through rugged yet stunning scenery. Highlights include majestic Ben Nevis, mythical Loch Ness, medieval Urquhart Castle ruins, and Caledonian pine forests. With changing terrain from loch-side strolls to mountain ascents, the Great Glen Way challenges hikers with a taste of the diverse Scottish Highlands. Allow 4-6 days to fully experience this point-to-point adventure across the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

3. Rob Roy Way

A serene green field stretches out to meet the calm, mirror-like waters of a scenic Scottish loch, surrounded by verdant hills

Length: 80.3 mi / 129.2 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 12 631 ft / 3850 m
Location: Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 22 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Travel through the Scottish Highlands on this challenging 80-mile thru-hike from Drymen to Pitlochry. Follow in the footsteps of folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor along rugged paths, forestry tracks, and quiet country roads. Pass lochs, glens, and forests surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. Highlights include Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, and Rannoch Moor. With changing terrain and some road walking, sturdy boots are recommended. Wild camp or stay in villages along the route. Allow 5-7 days to complete this point-to-point trek through iconic Scottish landscapes with historical connections to the elusive Rob Roy.

4. The Skye Trail

An aerial view from above shows a winding road traversing through the rugged, mountainous landscape of Scotland's Isle of Skye at sunset

Length: 79.9 mi / 128.6 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 13 248 ft / 4038 m
Location: Isle Of Skye
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 19 200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Traverse the rugged beauty of Scotland’s largest island on this challenging 80-mile thru-hike across the Isle of Skye. Pass stunning sea cliffs, ascend the iconic pinnacles of the Old Man of Storr and Quiraing, and marvel at views of the Cuillin peaks. Ramble through glens tucked between the Red and Black Cuillins before descending to Elgol’s dramatic coastline. With few services along the way, prepare for self-sufficiency. Pass through idyllic fishing villages to resupply. Allow 6-7 days to fully experience the magic of Skye on this unmarked but rewarding point-to-point trail across an iconic Scottish landscape.

5. Cape Wrath Trail

An imposing brown mountain peak juts dramatically into a gloomy overcast sky in the remote Scottish Highlands

Length: 233.9 mi / 376.4 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 43 021 ft / 13 113 m
Location: Fort William
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 56 700 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Embark on this grueling 234-mile trek from Fort William to Cape Wrath, one of Britain’s toughest and most remote thru-hikes. Traverse wild Scottish terrain devoid of trails or signs on this unmarked route requiring expert navigation skills. Ford rivers, traverse soggy bogs, and skirt cliffs along the dramatic northwest coast. With few resupply options, prepare to be completely self-sufficient. Expect solitude and sweeping vistas of rugged beauty. The Cape Wrath Trail’s difficulty should not be underestimated, but completing it offers immense reward for hardcore backpackers seeking Scotland’s wildest landscapes and a true adventure. Allow 2-3 weeks for this challenging yet magical odyssey.

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:

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

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Scotland is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for England and Wales.


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. 

Do U.S. citizens need a visa to visit Scotland?

U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit Scotland. As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland is covered by the visa waiver program that allows U.S. citizens to visit the UK for up to 6 months without a visa for purposes of tourism, visiting family or friends, or business trips. As long as they have a valid U.S. passport, travelers from the United States can enter Scotland without applying for a visa.

What essentials should I pack for a backpacking trip in Scotland?

Packing for a backpacking trip in the beautiful nature of Scotland requires choosing gear that will allow you to comfortably trek outdoors. Be sure to pack a quality tent, sleeping bag, and backpack to carry everything you need. Don’t forget essential navigation tools like a compass and map. 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.

Spread the word →

Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

Have any questions?

More Insights

Suscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay smartly informed with our weekly newsletter

Follow us

hikinglite logo white
© 2024 Hikinglite - All rights reserved

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe now to stay ahead of the pack with the most up-to-date outdoor content.