Hiking in the Scottish Highlands: Expert advice on five challenging routes to the peaks
The Scottish Highlands are undoubtedly a paradise for walkers of all abilities: unspoiled beauty, vast landscapes and rugged mountains are in abundance. Covering more than a third of Scotland’s land area, the Highlands have a lot to offer when it comes to walking routes, so picking a few isn’t easy. Experienced local mountaineering guide Ben Dyson has some ideas for choosing the best of Scotland’s mountains though, as he candidly puts it: “I could probably list 500 more that wouldn’t disappoint you.”
1. Ben Nevis Mountain Trail Loop from Glen Nevis
Popular among hikers, the Komoot navigation app offers a host of community routes, with this trial loop of Scotland’s most famous mountain, Ben Nevis, being one of the most popular. At nearly 11 miles, the terrain demands very good physical condition and sure footing as walkers take in rocky, unpaved mountain trails and a decent amount of gravel.
Starting just off the Braveheart car park, the loop winds its way through the River Nevis valley, offering views of the UK’s highest mountain and a taste of what lies ahead. Highlights include the scenic Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe about five kilometers away and stunning views of the Caledonian Canal at kilometer four, before attention is required for the steep, zigzag ascent to the summit of Ben Nevi. Given its elevated position (4,413 feet), on a good day the vistas stretch for miles and can be amazing to see. Similarly, Ben Nevis is Britain’s highest mountain and is therefore prone to wild weather and deep snow well into summer. Combined with treacherous terrain surrounding the summit, unless you have a good experience under your belt (see safety note below), for the best experience it’s definitely one from a day hike. summer with good forecasts. The views are worth the wait. Being so well known, this Munro can get very busy, so picking a weekday or going early to avoid the crowds is recommended. On the descent, stepping into the rustic Ben Nevis Inn is a must for a welcoming and comfortable way to end the exploits of a long day.