West Highland Way, Scotland
Best For: Anyone in decent hiking shape who wants a taste of the remote Highlands
Round-Trip: 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William
Opened in 1980 as the first of Scotland’s system of Great Trails, the West Highland Way (or Slighe na Gàidhealtachd an Iar) dives straight into the heart of the most rugged and romantic swath of the Scottish landscape. It cuts through the Highlands that kept out the Romans in ancient times and have helped the Scots retain their national character throughout history.
The trail can feel big and windswept at times, taking in the rocky peaks and rolling grasses of Glen Coe and climbing the Devil’s Staircase path on the Aonach Eagach ridge. But the route also takes in more subtle beauty, including the bogs of Rannoch Moor and the shores of bucolic Loch Lomond.
Along the way, it stops in villages such as Rowardennan, where hikers can spend the night in a warm bed, take time out from the trail to tour the loch, and perhaps dare to sample authentic Scottish haggis washed down with local Glengoyne single malt. And if this hike does not feel long enough for you, it just became a part of the International Appalachian Trail, so you could continue your trek from here up into Greenland through Canada and all the way to Maine, since these mountains are part of the same primordial range as the Appalachians in the U.S.
When to Go: Weather in Scotland can be notoriously bad, even in the summer, but warmer months are best, if not crowded.
Insider Tip: Though it’s not officially part of the way, the trail skirts along Ben Nevis, the highest point in the United Kingdom at 4,409 feet. Despite that distinction it’s a fairly easy diversion to spend a day ascending about 4,000 vertical feet from Fort William to the top via the Tourist Route.