Scotland's Great Trails

Scotland's Great Trails are long-distance "people-powered" trails in Scotland,[1] analogous to the National Trails of England and Wales or the Grande Randonnée paths of France. The designated routes are primarily intended for walkers, but may have sections suitable for cyclists and horse-riders;[2] one of the trails, the Great Glen Canoe Trail, is designed for canoeists and kayakers.[3] The trails range in length from 40 km (25 mi) to 340 km (210 mi), and are intended to be covered over several days, either as a combination of day trips or as an end-to-end trip.[2]

A typical waymark, on the Southern Upland Way.

In order to be classified as one of Scotland’s Great Trails, a route must fulfil certain criteria. The route must be at least 40 km (25 mi) in length, and be clearly waymarked with a dedicated symbol. It is expected that visitor services will be present along the way, and that the route will have an online presence to help visitors in planning their journey.[4] Trails are required to run largely off-road, with less than 20% of the route on tarmac.[5] NatureScot is the custodian of the Scotland's Great Trails brand, maintaining the official list and providing some finance and publicity, the responsibility however for creating and maintaining each route lies with the local authorities through which a route passes.[6] There are 29 routes, providing 3,000 km (1,900 mi) of trails in total.[6] Additionally, the northernmost 10 kilometres (6 mi) of the Pennine Way between the Anglo-Scottish border and Kirk Yetholm lie within Scotland, although are designated as one of the National Trails of England.

The route of each of the Great Trails is marked with coloured diamonds on Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25000) and Landranger (1:50000) maps; the SGT logo of a thistle within a hexagon is also used to highlight the routes at the 1:25000 scale.[7][8]


The Devil's Staircase on the West Highland Way, Scotland's first Long Distance Route.

The trails grew out of the Long Distance Routes (LDRs), which were proposed and financially supported by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and administered and maintained by the local authorities. The Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 provided the legal basis for the Long Distance Routes, but the first one was not opened officially until 1980. By 2010 there were four LDRs:[9]

Following the passage of the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003, the public has a right to responsible access to most land in Scotland, in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Access rights for new routes therefore largely no longer required to be negotiated and many named walks have been developed by local authorities, tourist organisations and guidebook authors. In 2010 SNH decided that it would not formally designate any further LDRs, but would instead encourage more locally-based proposals for new routes for long-distance footpaths.[10] Within this approach it was recognised that there was a need for a strong "brand identity" to aid marketing of Scotland’s longer distance routes internationally. Minimum standards would be applied in the selection of these branded routes, which would take account of factors such as:[11]

  • safety
  • attractiveness of scenery
  • trail surfaces
  • information
  • facilities and services
  • signage and waymarking
  • route definition and continuity
  • accessibility
  • access by public and private transport
  • route management

"Scotland's Great Trails" was chosen as the brand identity, and as of 2018 there were 29 officially recognised Great Trails.[6]


As of April 2018.[1]

Signage on the Fife Coastal Path.
Trail Distance (km) Ascent (m) Start/Finish points Description
Annandale Way 90 (or 85) 1150 Moffat & Newbie Barns Follows the valley of the River Annan from its source in the Moffat Hills to the sea in the Solway Firth.
Arran Coastal Way 107 390 Circular route Around the coastline of the Isle of Arran.
Ayrshire Coastal Path 161 1110 Glenapp, Ballantrae & Skelmorlie Along the length of the coastline of Ayrshire.
Berwickshire Coastal Path 48 1060 Cockburnspath & Berwick-upon-Tweed Along the length of the coastline of Berwickshire.
Borders Abbeys Way 109 1300 Circular route: KelsoJedburghHawickSelkirkMelrose A circular route in the Borders passing the ruins of many abbeys.
Cateran Trail 103 2470 Circular route: BlairgowrieKirkmichaelSpittal of GlensheeAlyth A route following old drovers' roads, minor paved roads and farm tracks in Perth and Kinross and Angus.
Clyde Walkway 65 720 Glasgow & New Lanark Along the course of the River Clyde.
Cross Borders Drove Road 82 2165 Little Vantage & Hawick A route across the Borders region of Scotland, following tracks formerly used to drive cattle southwards for sale in England.
Dava Way 38 146 Grantown-on-Spey & Forres Follow the trackbed of a closed section of the Highland Railway.
Fife Coastal Path 187 1865 Kincardine & Newburgh Along the coastline of Fife.
Formartine and Buchan Way 66 (or 68) 420 Dyce & Fraserburgh / Peterhead Follows the track of the former railway line the Formartine and Buchan Railway which closed in 1970. The path branches into two sections at Maud.[12]
Forth-Clyde/Union Canal Towpath 106 158 Bowling, West Dunbartonshire & Fountainbridge, Edinburgh Follows the towpaths of the Forth and Clyde and Union canals between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde.
Great Glen Canoe Trail 96 35 Fort William & Clachnaharry Follows the canals and lochs of the Great Glen.
Great Glen Way 125 1835 Fort William & Inverness Runs generally to the west of the canals and lochs of the Great Glen.
Great Trossachs Path 45 1165 Callander & Inversnaid A route through the forested hillsides of the Trossachs.
John Muir Way 215 2015 Fisherrow & Dunglass Named in honour of the Scottish conservationist John Muir, who was born in Dunbar in 1838 and became a founder of the United States National Park Service.[13]
Kintyre Way 161 3140 Tarbert, Argyll & Machrihanish A route across the Kintyre peninsula.[14]
Loch Lomond and Cowal Way 92 1810 Portavadie & Inveruglas Across the Cowal peninsula.
Moray Coast Trail 72 410 Forres & Cullen Along the coastline of Moray.
Mull of Galloway Trail 59 480 Mull of Galloway & Glenapp, Ballantrae Links the Ayrshire Coastal Path to the Mull of Galloway.
River Ayr Way 66 470 Glenbuck & Ayr Follows the course of the River Ayr.
Rob Roy Way 127 (or 154) 2325 Drymen & Pitlochry Links sites connected with the folk hero and outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor.
Romans and Reivers Route 84 1695 Ae & Hawick Much of the route follows former Roman roads in the Borders.
Southern Upland Way 338 7775 Portpatrick & Cockburnspath A coast-to-coast walk across the Southern Uplands.
Speyside Way 107 1245 Buckie & Aviemore (spur to Tomintoul) Follows the course of the River Spey form near its source down to the sea.
St Cuthbert's Way 100 2075 Melrose & Lindisfarne A route linking sites associated with Cuthbert of Lindisfarne in both England and Scotland.
Three Lochs Way 55 1560 Balloch & Inveruglas Links Loch Lomond, Gare Loch and Loch Long at the southern edge of the Highlands.
West Highland Way 154 3155 Milngavie & Fort William Scotland's first and most popular long-distance walking route.[15]
West Island Way 48 (or 52) 690 Kilchattan Bay & Port Bannatyne Located on the Isle of Bute, this was the first waymarked long-distance route on a Scottish island.[16]



  1. ^ a b "Scotland's Great Trails: the official guide". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "FAQs". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Great Glen Canoe Trail". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Arran Coastal Way recognised as one of 'Scotland's Great Trails'". Arran Coastal Way. 20 June 2017. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  5. ^ "SNH Commissioned Report 743: Mull long distance route: A socio-economic study" (PDF). Scottish Natural Heritage. 2014. p. 11. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "About Scotland's Great Trails". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Legend: 1: 25000 scale" (PDF). Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Legend: 1: 50000 scale" (PDF). Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  9. ^ SNH Commissioned Report 380. p. 5.
  10. ^ SNH Commissioned Report 380. p. 6.
  11. ^ SNH Commissioned Report 380. p.p. 87-97.
  12. ^ "The Formartine and Buchan Way". Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  13. ^ "The John Muir Way". Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Route information and maps". Kintyre Way.
  15. ^ "Scotland's Great Trails - The West Highland Way".
  16. ^ West Island Way


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