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LDPs Regional Summary

Scotland

Walking Routes & Trail-miles: 81 main routes / 8279 miles - 31 waymarked / 2149 miles

Areas: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll & Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney Islands, Perth & Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian

National Parks: Cairngorms, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

National Scenic Areas: Western Isles: South Lewis, Harris & North Uist; South Uist Machair; St Kilda; Orkney Islands: Hoy and West Mainland; Shetland Islands: Shetland; Highland: Assynt-Coigach; Ben Nevis and Glencoe; Cuillin Hills; Dornoch Firth; Glen Affric; Glen Strathfarrar; Kintail; Knoydart; Kyle of Tongue; Loch Shiel; Morar, Moidart & Ardnamurchan; NW Sutherland; Small Isles; Trotternish; Wester Ross; Argyll & Bute: Jura; Knapdale; Kyles of Bute; Loch na Keal, Isle of Mull; Lynn of Lorn; Scarba, Lunga and the Garvellachs; Perth & Kinross: Loch Rannoch and Glen Lyon; Loch Tummel; River Earn (Comrie to St Fillans); River Tay (Dunkeld); North Ayrshire: North Arran; Dumfries & Galloway: East Stewartry Coast; Fleet Valley; Nith Estuary; Scottish Borders: Eildon & Leaderfoot; Upper Tweeddale; Cairngorms NP: Cairngorm Mountains; Deeside and Lochnagar; Loch Lomond & The Trossachs NP: Loch Lomond; The Trossachs

World Heritage Sites: The Antonine Wall, Forth Bridge, Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, St Kilda

European Long Distance Paths (E-Routes): E2 variants Middleton in Teesdale to Stranraer

National Walking Trails: The original four Scottish Long Distance Routes - Great Glen Way, Speyside Way, West Highland Way, Southern Upland Way -  have been subsumed into the 28 walkable LDPs designated as Scotland's Great Trails (SGTs), see summary below. The Pennine Way (part) also extends into Scotland.

Resident population: 5 million

Regional Trails Summary - Scotland

Geographically Scotland divides essentially into three areas, with each boundary aligned very roughly south west to north east. Heading north from the Scottish borders these are: the Southern Uplands, the Central Lowlands and, furthest north, the Highlands and Islands. The Southern Uplands are agricultural plains, and rolling hills rising to about 2700ft (815m). These rounded hills had their origins in sediments laid down in a former ocean. The Central Lowlands lie between the two main Firths – sea loch estuaries – of the Clyde and the Forth, and between Glasgow and Edinburgh. They are home to most of Scotland's population, its major industries and its commercial centres. The Lowlands are the remains of a rift valley, like we see now in East Africa, where tectonic forces began to pull Scotland apart – there were volcanoes here, now eroded to the hills that pepper the landscape, such as Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. Separated from the Lowlands by the geological fracture of the Highland Boundary Fault between Helensburgh and Stonehaven, the Highlands and Islands form the remaining and largest part of Scotland's land area, about half. Here can be found Scotland's most dramatic and rugged landscapes - mountain ranges of sandstone and granite, remote peaks whose summits have a hostile, arctic climate, Scotland's two national parks, and also much of its commercial forestry. The main population centres are on the coast, at Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. Another fault splits the Highlands; this is the Great Glen fault with its line of Lochs including Loch Ness. South of the Glen are the great granite mountain massifs of the Cairngorm, Ben Nevis - Britain's highest summit at 4406ft (1343m) - and the peaks around Glencoe. These are the remains of long-past igneous intrusions and volcanoes. North of the Glen there are peaks of reddish sandstones, of gneiss, and on Skye are the distinctive Black Cuillins, peaks of volcanic gabbro.

Scotland has seen many glaciations, the ice wearing down the mountains and carving out the corries and the loch basins. Scotland's west and east coasts strongly contrast. Long sea lochs indent the west coast, separating the peninsulas that reach out far towards the Atlantic swells and that are often broken into island strings. Further offshore are many more islands – Scotland has almost 800, with only about 130 inhabited, with the main groups being the Orkneys and Shetlands. The east coast is smoother, but indented by the Firths of Forth, Tay, Moray and Dornay.

With this scenic variety, Scotland offers the walker a wide choice of walking styles, from easy lowland walks to backpacking epics across its beautiful, wild and remote hills. While there are many options for trailwalkers wanting to follow an established and perhaps marked route, they do not yet reflect Scotland's potential. Scotland has about a third of Britain's land area but a much lower density of trails, and there are very good reasons for this. Apart from its relatively small population, that leads to less local demand for trails and not having the resources to create them, the key is in Scotland's access traditions and in its undoubted attractions for the peak bagger. Access in Scotland has long been founded on a tolerance of walkers by landowners - permitting generally free access subject to sensible restrictions during the stalking and shooting seasons - rather than on a complex rights of way network in the remoter areas. With ever growing demands from walkers, the combination of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act (2003) and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code has provided statutory access rights for outdoor activities over most of Scotland's open ground. Walkers, however, should still carefully respect these codes and take advice before setting out away from the established trails. Scotland is also famous for its Munros (the 282 Scottish mountains over 3000ft) with Munro-bagging a major draw for the hillwalker keen to attempt these challenging and often untracked peaks. This combination of the Munros and of good informal access has lessened the pressures for trailwalkers' routes. However, the increasing pressure from walking tourists, and the growing realisation of the economic and health benefits of a well-connected system of promoted trails, is now leading to new walks being developed to build upon the prime routes already available.

For the competent navigator with time to plan their own excursions, in Scotland there is a fine network of hill paths that can be combined into all manner of other long distance expeditions. The Scottish Hill Tracks publication, from the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society, describes some 344 routes in all areas from the Cheviots to the Highlands. The Society has long been working to improve countryside access, recording known rights of way and many other routes, and in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) it maintains the National Catalogue of Rights of Way.

With the growing network of marked promoted LDPs in Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, the body that oversees and recognises the 'national routes' in Scotland has defined a new class of routes called 'Scotland's Great Trails' (SGTs), recognising the growing role of marked and promoted trails in Scotland as its LDPs network extends to complement its peak-bagging opportunities for walking tourists. These are nationally promoted trails, distinctively waymarked, largely off-road and with a range of visitor services. At least 25 miles in length, they are suitable for multi-day outings as well as day trips. Collectively there are now 29 different routes providing over 1800 miles of managed paths from the Borders to the Highlands, offering great opportunities to explore the best of Scotland's nature and landscapes and to experience its amazing history and culture. Of these trails 28 are walkable - one is a canoe trail - some of which are multi-user routes shared with cyclists and some with horse riders. A list of the 28 routes, further details and a downloadable SGTs network map are available at the dedicated SGTs website. The SGT's  revised 'thistle in hexagon' waymark (logo) is also shown on the SGTs website.

These trails are now also listed and identified here on the LDWA LDPs website, with summaries and outline mapping. For an overview map use the Search for Path option and select in the Path Type dropdown, 'Scotland's Great Trails' and 'Show Map' (there is also a 'list' option).

Formerly Scotland had only four 'national routes' recognised by SNH, termed 'Long Distance Routes', in total providing over 450 miles of quality walking. These were the Great Glen Way, Southern Upland Way, Speyside Way and the West Highland Way, covered briefly below. These routes are now included within the 29 current SGTs. These changes recognise the increasing significance of promoted walking routes in Scotland, complementing its peak-bagging traditions embodied in the Munros and attracting many more walking tourists to sample Scotland's many wild and varied landscapes. They include source-to-sea routes, coastal routes, historical trails, and mountains and lochs routes. Also, from England, the Pennine Way edges briefly across the border to its finish in Scotland.

Scotland's coastline has promoted walking routes along a significant part. On the east coast there is the Moray Coast Path; further south is the Fife Coastal Path that links the Firths of Forth and Tay; and on the East Lothian coast is the John Muir Way. On the west coast Ayrshire now has its own Ayrshire Coastal Path with famous golf courses en route. Apart from these mainland coastal routes, several of Scotland's wealth of offshore islands offer a promoted route. Off the west coast the island of Arran has its Arran Coastal Way. On the Shetlands the various Shetland Walks provide a range of coastal options as well as inland walking and for the peak bagger there are 19 Marilyns. The Skye Trail covers both coast and moorland, and the West Island Way circuits Bute. Two trails explore peninsulas along the west coast: the Kintyre Way snakes across Kintyre, with its famous Mull and exposed Atlantic coast. Just across the ferry to the Kyles of Bute is the Cowal Way extending as far as Loch Lomond and linking to the West Highland Way.

River valley routes include the Kelvin Walkway that links to the start of the West Highland Way. In Ayrshire the River Ayr Way follows the course of the river from its source to the sea at Ayr, and on the Falkirk/West Lothian border is the River Avon Heritage Trail. The Speyside Way follows this famous salmon river, from the Grampians through Strathspey, with some easy walking using disused railways. Another route nearby, the Dava Way, follows the former Highland Railway line.

One route takes in a World Heritage Site: the Clyde Walkway visits the historic village of New Lanark. The Forth & Clyde/Union Towpath ends very close to another Site, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh.

Figures from Scotland's history abound. The iconic environmental campaigner and a son of Dunbar, more famous for his pioneering conservation work in the USA, is remembered in the John Muir Way. In the border counties there are Ways dedicated to the authors John Buchan and Sir Walter Scott. Two routes with less worthy associations are the Cateran Trail, following in the footsteps of past cattle rustlers – the caterans, and the Rob Roy Way (Rob Roy Macgregor was Scotland's most notorious outlaw) from Drymen and heading east to Pitlochry. The Cross Borders Drove Road traces parts of an old cattle drovers' route from south-west of Edinburgh to Hawick. On a much more religious note, two routes in the Scottish borders, the Borders Abbeys Way and the St Cuthbert's Way, remember in turn the founding of these great abbeys and a past saint.

As the country of the Munro-bagger, Scotland perhaps does not need many Anytime Challenges and so far we only list one, the Moffat Mountain Marathon, a remote and demanding route in the Galloway Hills from Alan Castle, an LDWA member who looks after the LDWA's National Trails Registers.

For those attempting Land's End to John O'Groats, End to End options across Scotland are of interest. The Scottish National Trail, devised by Cameron McNeish, links with the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm; north of Drymen LEJOGers may use the more westerly West Highland Way or can continue on the easterly route of the Scottish National Trail.  The Great Glen Way is joined to Inverness where the John o' Groat's Trail can be joined.

Page version information: 16 May 2013 Updated for SGTs. 26 August 2017 Updated for SGTs, now 29/28 and dedicated website replacing previous SNH link.