The other main advantage when hiking in Scotland is that many starting points are just a short distance from public transport hubs. Express-service trains to Scotland depart from London Euston and Kings Cross and provide a connection to the rest of the European road and rail network. If you're not sure what sort of Scotland hiking tours might suit you, here are some of the best routes to get you started.
Best long distance hikes in Scotland
1. West Highland Way
Perhaps the ultimate long-distance path is the 154 km West Highland Way. The starting point is in the Glasgow suburb of Milngavie, just 25m on local trains departing every 15m (during Peak times) from Glasgow city centre stations. Wind your way north and west along the banks of Loch Lomond, pass through imposing Glencoe and finish your Highland adventure in Fort William. Most walkers take five days to complete the entire route, and after a day or two sightseeing, just catch a train back down from Fort William to Glasgow.
2. Fife Coastal Path
On the other side of the country, the Fife Coastal Path offers a very different challenge. It's slightly longer than its West Highland cousin and takes hikers along beaches, cliffs and through quaint fishing villages. The beauty of the path is that you're never too far from civilisation, and it's easy to dip in and out of the route completing small sections as you wish. One of the nicest sections is the 13.5 km St Andrews to Kingsbarns path.
3. Clyde Walkway
Starting in the heart of Glasgow's West End, this 65 km path follows the banks of the River Clyde. Hike through the city's industrial history, explore Strathclyde Country Park then finish up at New Lanark, a world-famous 18th-century mill village. One of the most interesting sections of the walk is the 18 km stretch between Glasgow and Cambuslang, passing through Glasgow's former shipbuilding district, Glasgow Green and the gigantic Finnieston Crane.
4. Borders Abbeys Way
The 103 km long Borders Abbey Way is split into five sections of equal distance. It's therefore perfect for anyone who wants to walk the whole thing over a week, or just choose a section each weekend. The recently opened Borders Railway takes just 58m to complete the journey from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, and from there the choice is yours. Walking anticlockwise, the next stop is Selkirk, a historic Royal Burgh with connections to William Wallace and Walter Scott. Choose the other direction, and you'll finish in Kelso, a bustling market town with excellent bars, restaurants and independent food producers.
Best circular walks in Scotland
1. North Berwick Law
Perfect for a day trip from Edinburgh, the pretty seaside town of North Berwick is just 33m on the train from Edinburgh Waverley. A walk up the town's Law, or hill, is an easy couple of hours stroll from the town centre. At the top, you'll be rewarded with views across the Firth of Forth to Fife and Edinburgh. Before heading back to the capital, take time to browse around North Berwick's numerous independent gift and antique shops for that perfect Scottish souvenir.
2. Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail
Made famous by a certain wizarding film, the 380 metre long Glenfinnan Viaduct is over a century old. The walking route starts right by Glenfinnan station, served by regular trains west to Mallaig and south to Glasgow. The route is short at 4 km but the changes in gradient will challenge even experienced hikers. Don't forget the camera – you'll want to take shots of the viaduct, the monument and the coastal views.
3. Loch Garten
One of Scotland's best-known nature reserves, Loch Garten is in the heart of the Cairngorms. It's just a stone's throw from the steam railway at Boat of Garten which offers round trips in vintage style from the mainline station at Aviemore. The wildlife is the main draw of this area, and what you can expect to see will depend on the time of year. Spring is the season when the ospreys return and build their nests, and in winter red deer come down from the mountains in search of food.
Best hikes in Scotland for families
1. Ben Nevis
Hiking up the UK's highest mountain might not seem like a natural choice for a family day out, but with marked paths all the way up, it's a straight forward if strenuous climb. The route is 17 km up and down, and most walkers take around 8 hours in total. At the top, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're at the highest point in the whole of the British Isles. Hiking up the Ben with the kids in tow is best during summer months when the hours of light are longest and there is no risk of snow or ice.
2. Loch Ard, Aberfoyle
The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park is in the heart of the Trossachs and is where visitors can enjoy the Loch Ard Sculpture Trail. There are five different trails around Loch Ard, ranging in length between 3km and 16km. Pop into the visitor centre to pick up a trail map, take part in the educational activities or just grab a coffee and a scone in the excellent cafe. Despite the remote location, Aberfoyle is easy to get to by public transport. From Stirling – the nearest big town – take the B10 or C11 bus directly to the village.
3. Arthur's Seat
You can't miss Arthur's Seat, the huge extinct volcano towering over the city of Edinburgh. It's a steep but safe climb to the top, where you can drink in the views across the city and over to Fife. Holyrood Park is just a short distance from Edinburgh's Royal Mile and Castle, and an afternoon exploring is the perfect complement to busy sightseeing.
4. Kelburn Country Park
The Kelburn Estate is on the outskirts of Largs, a small seaside town popular as a day-trip destination from Glasgow. The grounds of Kelburn Castle have plenty to keep the kids busy, with sculpture trails, waterfalls, gorges and a secret forest maze. If the kids get bored of walking, there are several play areas to keep them occupied across the estate.
Scotland's diverse landscapes deliver both challenging walks for the serious walker, and gentle rambles for those who just want to enjoy the scenery. Whatever the time of year, it's easy to get off the beaten track and find your own little private corner of Scotland.