Scottish National Trail

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Glen Loyne, on the trail

The Scottish National Trail is a long-distance walking route of 540 miles running the length of Scotland from Kirk Yetholm in Roxburghshire to Cape Wrath on the wild north coast of Sutherland. This is one of the longest of the national trails of the United Kingdom (second only to the 630-mile South West Coast Path). At Kirk Yetholm the trail begins where the Pennine Way concludes, offering the intriguing possibility of a long walk from Derbyshire's Peak District all the way to the cape.

The route was sponsored in its creation by GoreTex and so is also known as the GoreTex Scottish National Trail. It was devised and first walked by the outdoors writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish, utilising long-established footpaths for much of the distance strung together so as to provide a variety of walking condition becoming progressively more difficult as it heads north. It is not a direct A-Z walk but seeks to showcase some of the finest parts of the north. The walker who manages to reach the heart of the Highlands will be faced with finishing the walk with a tough stretch of backpacking on pathless ways through demanding terrain on the final leg to Cape Wrath.

The route

General description

The Tweed at Peebles

The Trail begins at Kirk Yetholm in Roxburghshire, the north end of the Pennine Way close by the Northumberland boundary. From, here it follows part of St Cuthbert's Way northwards to Melrose with its picturesque ruined Abbey, and then traces the course of the Southern Upland Way to Traquair in Peeblesshire, the hilliest of the shires on the Tweed. The route follows the bank of the River Tweed up to Peebles and from here it climbs over the Meldon Hills and across into Midlothian, over the Pentland Hills to reach the outskirts of the City of Edinburgh.

The trail follows along the towpaths of the Union Canal westward to Linlithgow and on towards Falkirk and the Falkirk Wheel, an incredible piece of modern engineering which lifts and lowers laden boats between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal 115 feet above. The path takes a dryshod route down to the Forth and Clyde Canal towpaths, and westward to the northern edge of Glasgow and to Milngavie; the start of the West Highland Way that strikes northward.

Ben Ledi above Callander

At Drymen in Stirlingshire, the trail moves off the West Highland to follow the Rob Roy Way to Callander, then becoming wilder as it enters Perthshire, to Comrie and over the hills to Aberfeldy and then Pitlochry. From Pitlochry the trail heads north through the Pass of Killiecrankie to Blair Atholl in the north of the county.

North of Blair Atholl is the first true backpacking country. The route heads to Glen Tilt and Glen Feshie through the Cairngorms National Park and on to the great ranges of Inverness-shire. The Corrieyairack Pass takes the trail over the Monadhliath Mountains to Fort Augustus in the Great Glen.

The path follows the Great Glen Way south-westwards for a few miles, rounding the end of Loch Oich then west through Glen Garry to the mountains of Kintail, on the edge of Ross-shire, where the path joins the Cape Wrath Trail.

The Falls of Glomach

The Cape Wrath Trail provides the rest of the route to the north, and it is a route with a well-deserved reputation for its harsh ruggedness: this is the toughest part of the trail, though with it comes the most dramatic scenery. The path passes the Falls of Glomach, Monar and the Great Wilderness of Letterewe beyond Kinlochewe. The route crosses wild country to Oykel Bridge and then north to Inchnadamph and into Sutherland. A final wild stretch is empty of habitation, until it descends to the sea and the beach at Sandwood Bay. From here a ferry is needed to the Cape Wrath peninsula, and it is a single path up to the final trailhead at Cape Wrath.

The Walkhighlands itinerary

Stage distance Grade Est. time
Kirk Yetholm to Harestanes 17.4 miles (28.0 km) 2 6-8 hours
Roxburghshire to Peeblesshire
Harestanes to Melrose 14.9 miles (24.0 km) 2 6-7 hours
Melrose to Traquair 18.0 miles (29.0 km) 2 6-8 hours
Traquair to Peebles 7.5 miles (12.0 km) 1 3 hours
Peebles to West Linton 13.0 miles (21.0 km) 2 5-6 hours
Peeblesshire to Midlothian
West Linton to Balerno 12.0 miles (19.3 km) 2 5-6 hours
Balerno to Slateford 5.3 miles (8.5 km) 1 2 hours
Slateford to Ratho 5.9 miles (9.5 km) 1 2-3 hours
Midlothian to West Lothian
Ratho to Linlithgow 13.0 miles (21.0 km) 1 4-5 hours
West Lothian to Stirlingshire
Linlithgow to Falkirk 9.0 miles (14.5 km) 1 3.5-4 hours
Falkirk to Kilsyth 11.2 miles (18.0 km) 1 4-5 hours
Kilsyth to Milngavie 13.2 miles (21.3 km) 1 5-5.5 hours
Milngavie to Drymen 11.8 miles (19.0 km) 1 5-6 hours
Drymen to Aberfoyle 10.9 miles (17.5 km) 1 4.5-5 hours
Aberfoyle to Callander 9.5 miles (15.3 km) 2 4.5-5 hours
Stirlingshire to Perthshire
Callander to Comrie 16.5 miles (26.5 km) 3 6.5-7.5 hours
Comrie to Loch Freuchie 18.6 miles (30.0 km) 3 8-9 hours
Loch Freuchie to Aberfeldy 12.4 miles (20.0 km) 2 4.5-5.5 hours
Aberfeldy to Pitlochry 9.3 miles (15.0 km) 2 4-5 hours
Pitlochry to Blair Atholl 8.5 miles (13.8 km) 1 3-3.5 hours
Perthshire to Aberdeenshire
Blair Atholl to Bynack Lodge 16.8 miles (27.0 km) 3 6.5-7.5 hours
Aberdeenshire to Inverness-shire
Bynack to Glen Feshie 13.2 miles (21.3 km) 3 5.5-6.5 hours
Glen Feshie to Kingussie 14.6 miles (23.5 km) 2 6-7 hours
Kingussie to Laggan 14.4 miles (23.3 km) 3 6.5-7 hours
Laggan to Fort Augustus 24.5 miles (39.5 km) 3 10-12 hours
Fort Augustus - Mandally 11.7 miles (18.8 km) 2 4-4.5 hours
Mandally to Poulary 12.1 miles (19.5 km) 3 4-4.5 hours
Inverness-shire to Ross-shire
Poulary to Loch Cluanie 10.9 miles (17.5 km) 3 5-6 hours
Loch Cluanie to Morvich 16.2 miles (26.0 km) 3 6.5-7 hours
Morvich to Maol-bhuidhe 14.0 miles (22.5 km) 4 6.5-7 hours
Maol-bhuidhe to Craig 15.1 miles (24.3 km) 4 6.5-7.5 hours
Craig to Kinlochewe 10.3 miles (16.5 km) 4 4-5 hours
Kinlochewe to Shenavall 17.6 miles (28.3 km) 4 7-8 hours
Shenavall to Inverlael 11.7 miles (18.8 km) 3 4-5 hours
Ross-shire and Cromartyshire
Inverlael to Oykel Bridge 21.4 miles (34.5 km) 3 8-11 hours
Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph 19.6 miles (31.5 km) 4 8-11 hours
Inchnadamph to Kylestrome 17.1 miles (27.5 km) 4 10-11 hours
Kylestrome to Rhiconich 18.5 miles (29.8 km) 4 9-11 hours
Rhiconich to Sandwood 11.8 miles (19.0 km) 2 4.5-5 hours
Sandwood to Cape Wrath 7.8 miles (12.5 km) 4 3.5-4.5 hours

Walking conditions

The trail is interestingly devised so that the walking becomes harder the further the walker progresses, from the easy meadow walks of the Tweed country to the sheer mountainous haul to Cape Wrath which only hardy backpackers should attempt.

The section through Roxburghshire and Peeblesshire follows a range of established, marked paths and any seasoned walker will enjoy it. Through the Central Lowlands there is much level walking along the canals. Next comes an introduction to what is to come, on the way through Stirlingshire, the path becoming more strenuous as it goes.

The Highlands are what the Highlands ever have been: wild, bleak and tough. Southern Perthshire has its challenges but it is from Blair Atholl that the route takes on the character of the mountains, and it is reckoned that the stretch across the Cairngorms will take three days of hiking and camping, notwithstanding that the paths are well established even if the rivers are unbridged.

The Cape Wrath Trail is a challenge in itself. This crosses some very wild country and appeals most to more experienced walkers and backpackers. Shelter and supplies are irregularly encountered and need advance planning; there are more river crossings which can become impassable in spate conditions. Following the route needs navigation skills and there are many pathless sections.


The trail being relatively new and untested, there are no reliable course records. The devisers reckon five weeks as a reasonable time to take the whole trail in one continuous go.

It is though not a simple route and may better be taken in sections. A guide has been published with logbook to those aiming to complete the whole trail, whether in one or over time.

Cape Wrath

Outside links

Long-distance footpaths in the United Kingdom

Cleveland WayCotswold WayGlyndŵr's WayGreat Glen WayHadrian's Wall PathIcknield WayNorth Downs WayNorfolk Coast PathOffa's Dyke PathPeddars WayPembrokeshire Coast PathPennine BridlewayPennine WayThe RidgewayScottish National TrailSouth Downs WaySouthern Upland WaySouth West Coast PathSpeyside WayThames PathUlster WayWest Highland WayYorkshire Wolds Way


  • McNeish, Cameron: Scotland End to End: Walking the GoreTex Scottish National Trail