There's a haunting beauty in some of Scotland's most desolate landscapes and hikers have taken advantage of the dramatic scenery for hundreds of years. Traversing the meandering pathways which criss-cross the hills and highlands of this rugged nation is known as 'rambling' and these days hundreds of official clubs and guided tours tramp the well-trod pathways of Scotland. From windswept coastlines to steep Munros, highland trails and picturesque fields, rambling in Scotland is one of the most authentic ways to explore the country.
For many visitors, Scotland's Highlands are a reminder of a time when close-knit clans controlled the surrounding hillsides and communities which made them their home. These days Highlands rambling is a popular pastime and one of the most scenic rambling routes takes you from the forbidding Black Wood through dense Scots' Pine forests along snow-capped ridgelines, before you reach the summit and its spectacular views over the Spey valley and the Cairngorms to the east. A quick detour leads to the ancient Pictish fort of Dun-da-Lamh, while the return leg descends down a well-walked path and offers snapshots of the bleak, brooding landscape below.
Rambling along the Borders
Once a bastion against English incursions, the predominantly rural Scottish Borders region affords plenty of opportunities to ramble. A number of small villages and royal burghs dot the otherwise pristine countryside and one of the most popular ways to explore the Borders is through a series of overnight walks. Boutique accommodation awaits travellers along trails from towns such as Selkirk through to Galashiels and between Melrose and Jedburgh, making the Borders an ideal place to explore on foot. Stroll through dense woodlands and heathered moors, take paths first trodden by retreating Romans and prepare to be enraptured by the melancholy beauty of this expansive region.
Scotland's Great Trails
So popular is rambling in Scotland that well-marked trails course the length and breadth of the country. Some of the best known are Scotland's Great Trails – four distinct long distance routes designed specifically for rambling. The Great Glen Way is the newest and generally terminates in the historic Highland town of Inverness. The other routes include the Speyside Way – which meanders along the picturesque River Spey for great stretches of its length, the Southern Upland Way – encompassing some of the famous loch scenery for which Scotland is renowned, and the West Highland Way – which passes Britain's highest mountain Ben Nevis along the way.