Scotland has a lot to offer families, from great camping to wildernesses that are just a stone’s throw from a warm bed in a B&B.
There are some fantastic estates that are open to the public, as well as some classic routes that you can comfortably take younger teenagers on without fear of misadventure leading to real problems!
Here we offer five multi-day hikes in Scotland that aren’t at the challenging end of the spectrum and then six for the family that may want a day or two’s walking as part of a bigger itinerary involving other things.
Camping holidays are perhaps the favourite family holiday for those who don’t always like to get sunburned and drunk wearing Union Jack shorts in Majorca.
In these five multi-day hikes you can bring your older children on a decent trek through some of the best scenery that Scotland has on offer.
Just because they are multi-day hikes doesn’t mean that you’ll be dragging your offspring over mountain after mountain and driving them to tiredness-strop-max every day, though we do offer one or two hikes that will make them sleep well every night.
Let’s get to it shall we?
So, your kids are either studying for their GCSEs or A levels and you’re after a chance to share with them your love of hiking with a view to inspiring them into some adventures of their own before university?
This eight day trek could be the ticket.
The West Highlands are one of the most stunning areas of the whole of Scotland and this trek is one of the most popular in the country as a result.
Taking in a range of landscapes from lochs to forest and yes, the West Highlands, you’re in for a treat with this one.
The walk starts in the lowlands and builds in intensity as you approach the Ben Nevis Range at the end of the walk in Fort William.
That’s a good way to go – you have a couple of days getting used to breaking camp, loading up and walking for a decent distance before you’re faced with climbs that are particularly hard-going.
Wilderness camping is possible on the route thanks to the excellent Right to Roam laws here but there’s always a bit of civilisation to head for should the strops get too explosive or you need to resupply.
And yes, if the idea of taking on 10 miles plus a day is too much, consider doubling the time – the only rule on this walk is you enjoy yourselves!
In the Firth of Clyde, the Isle of Arran is one of Scotland’s most southerly islands.
Many describe it as ‘Scotland in miniature’ thanks to its mountains and hills.
Just 10 miles wide by 20 long, it is miniature indeed but for that it holds a huge variety of things to take in.
Wildlife you may encounter on this walk are deer, seals, red squirrels, otters, eagles and a host of seabirds whitening the cliffs and piercing the air with their cries.
There’s a lot of human interest to be taken in too, with 12 villages along the way.
Being relatively small you’re never far from a bail-out route and should the withdrawals for iPads and Tik Tok get too ravenous you can always find somewhere to chill out and give your little ones their fix of communications.
Of course, you’re never too far from the ferry back to the mainland as well!
That said with no day on the trail too long this should be something you can enjoy with a relatively fit young teen, and you don’t need to camp anywhere on this route unless you really want to!
The Caterans were bands of cattle and sheep thieves that took their jobs seriously and brutally, and were held in fear by many a farmer in Scotland of old, particularly in the towns of Strathardle, Glenshee and Glen Isla in the 17th Century.
Droving routes are the highways where livestock were driven down from farm to market to be sold.
The Cateran Trail takes in droving routes that were used both by drovers and the notorious Caterans themselves and as such you are walking in the footsteps of those with quite a story.
Recently voted among the top long-distance walking routes in Scotland in a national newspaper, the Cateran Trail takes in the droving routes through deep forest, high moorland and across lush farmland as you explore this part of Scotland.
Being a circular route you aren’t ever far from a bail-out walk, and it is one where you have the choice of B&B hopping, campsite hopping or the odd night in the wilds with you and the ghosts of the ancient vagabonds to keep you company.
Just don’t brush your kids’s faces with a feather when they sleep after telling them of the ghosts as they may get a little freaked out!
For those who may consider taking younger walkers, all the gates on this walk are ‘multi-user’ so you could consider an off-road pram for the little ones to walk or not as they choose…
Loch Lomond and Cowal Way
The Cowal Peninsula sits on the Firth of Clyde, just an hour from Glasgow.
This accessibility means that there won’t be that many ‘Are we there yets?’ on your drive up to the trek! In return you will see all that Scotland has over five days – stunning waterways, hills, highlands and of course the lochs that add to the beauty of the scenery.
You start at the coastal town of Portavadie and along quiet roads, paths and tracks get to take in this microcosm of the country as you go.
It is a mountain biking route too, which means that while they may be at their limits on certain climbs, you as a walker won’t be very challenged much of the time.
You hit a lot of towns and villages as you go on this one, including Tighnabruaich, Glendaruel, Strachur, Lochgoilhead and Arrochar so there will be time to chill out and reconnect with the world every day.
You can B&B hop it or carry a pack and camp it too.
There is a baggage transfer service for those who want/need a bed to sleep in and don’t want to carry two people’s gear on their backs as they go!
Thanks to the deciduous forests along the route, you can make this a late summer holiday in September to see the colours changing as you go.
The midge count falls at that time of year – a particular advantage!
The River Annan is one of those hidden jewels that few know about and consequently in taking the walk on you will get to see an area few don’t.
That few know about it isn’t because it is less interesting – it just hasn’t been given the publicity that it deserves.
For those in search of a bit of quiet with their young ones in tow, this could be just the ticket.
The Solway Firth is just across the border from England so is very accessible for those who live south of the border yet want to disappear into the wilds of Scotland.
This is a river walk from source to sea but starts on Day 1 with a loop to the Devil’s Beef Tub, a range of four hills with a dark, foreboding valley between that is kept in shadow for much of the day.
That involves some 500 metres of climbs and descent in a day but you won’t be hitting climbs of those heights for the rest of the walk.
You will be presented with heather moorland as you go, as well as lush rural lowland and forest.
A shorter route takes in the nature reserve of Lockerbie and Eskrigg, and an opportunity to see flora and fauna that will colour your memories of this comfortable yet reasonably easy long distance walk.
In this section we are going to look at three of the best day walks that you can take with children who are just learning to stretch their legs but may find a holiday of day in, day out walking a bit of a push.
Some of these walks will keep adults quiet but none would be too hard for the average hill walker – even Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK!
Assynt in the north-west of Scotland is an alien landscape that some have described as akin to landing on Mars!
This strange, barren landscape far from the mad crowds that infest southern Britain is a good place to escape reality just by being there.
Though Suliven doesn’t even qualify as a ‘Munro’ in its height (it is a Graham, the next category down) it is still a challenging and awesome mountain to climb.
Many visit its steep sides just because it looks so other-worldly.
The walk we detail here is one of the tougher day walks thanks to the long, steep climbs but you won’t have any very technically challenging sections.
Your younger ones will have the stamina and strength to tackle this if they are active in sports and don’t sneak behind the bike shed for a sneaky smoke (as if you wouldn’t know!).
Even the names given to the two summits – the lower Meall Meadhonach and the higher Caisteal Liath – both Gaelic, give the mountain an almost otherworldly sense.
What you get from your exertions are some extremely long views as you look across the lowlands below.
On a clear day you’ll feel as if you’re on top of the world!
Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui
Another walk that will keep parents and children quiet at the end of the day, this is a walk that has some stunning views and rewarding climbs.
You can shorten the walk by a couple of miles by taking the funicular railway to the station near the top, and you will also find a cafe with supplies should you need a caffeine fix for the next phase of the walk!
You will need some navigation skills on parts of this hike as there is no fixed path – just some cairns you need to get between as visual references.
Cairn Gorm is the sixth highest mountain in the UK but the next peak – Ben Madui – is the second highest mountain after Ben Nevis.
You need to be a regular hill walker and your children sporty types to take this on, but fitness aside and a reasonable level of map reading skills should get you about safely.
There are no dodgy ridges or scrambles to master on the route, but the two ascents will take the breath out of you – and away when you get to the top of the two mountains!
The National Park is the largest in the UK and is home to the UK’s largest arctic wilderness with a range of terrains including heather moorland and the ancient Caledonian pine forest that are home to many species of rare plants and animals.
This makes for a walk that will appeal to everyone in your group!
Ben Nevis ‘Tourist Track’
The 1,344 metre high Ben Nevis is an iconic climb that can be managed by relatively inexperienced walkers on a good summer’s day.
Over 100,000 people manage the ascent a year so it is also one of the busiest in the UK.
Need we repeat that you should respect the mountain?
Many a walker has climbed hundreds of peaks in their career and never once had to get emergency services to get them down.
The longer you manage that record the better!
The lower levels of the walk, while steep at times aren’t too challenging.
Nearing the top however you may need to walk carefully over the stony parts.
At this stage you need your navigation skills, whether a walking app on your phone or paper map (as we recommend in a previous blog) as low cloud can shorten visibility and make the walk dangerous.
If you stumble off the Mountain Route you could find cliffs and other unwelcome obstacles and need that emergency support you really don’t want!
Respect the mountain and you and your kids will be rewarded with this one, and preferably without a bit about a flight in a helicopter your young ones can tell the friends about how cool a mountaineer you are getting them to the top of the highest mountain in the UK!
Walks for Shorter Legs
One of the immediate impacts of having children is that your long treks are temporarily over!
For the first few years this means you need to think of walks that are suitable shorter legs, and/or you can manage with the light of your life sitting and wriggling on your shoulders.
Here are three shorter walks where you can imprint on their impressionable minds the association of joy with high mountain peaks.
The other is a ramble around a forest with all the fun their growing minds need for a day out!
The Hermitage and Braan walk, Perthshire
Much of this walk is on National Trust Scotland land, so there is a cafe in the car park as well as toilets (though there is a 50p charge to use these) that are open between April and October.
The walk itself if four miles long – a stretch for the smaller people in the gang – but there is so much to take in on this short walk that they won’t be bored for long.
From Ossians Hall you’ll see the waterfalls with all the noise and excitement that brings for eyes new to such things.
You can wander in the Hall and explore too, but there’s also the Rumbling Bridge that will capture their imagination!
The Douglas fir forest can be quite dark at all times of years thanks to the tall trees taking away much of the light.
Under the canopy and within the deliberately built landscape you will see a range of wildlife as you wander – deer and birds are commonplace.
At certain times of year you will see salmon jumping to get up the waterfall, an added delight for eyes younger and older alike.
As with so many excursions to National Trust properties this is a fun day out that will entertain the family with younger members – definitely to be recommended!
The Old Man of Storr, Skye
A trip to the Isle of Skye should be on the list of everyone who wants to explore the UK.
Famed for its high, jagged peaks, it is one of those places you can enjoy even from the comfort of your car.
There are some of the hardest walks in the UK on Skye thanks to the danger and technical skills required to ridge walk certain some of those stretches.
This walk doesn’t tick that box at all!
Your loved little shorty will be able to manage much of this on their own two feet and you won’t be too affected by carrying them on your shoulders or in a papoose should they say the fateful words, “Daddy, carry!”
Typically it takes 45 minutes without breaks to climb up to the base of this rock stack – not a great pace due to its steepness – but you get to see one of the most photographed pinnacles in Scotland in return.
Yes, photographed – the downside to this is that like so much of Skye it is incredibly popular.
If you want a guaranteed parking space at the car park then it pays to be there reasonably soon after breakfast!
Most people are doing the same walk as you so there will be cars coming and going thanks to people spending around two hours at a time there.
The Falls of Bruar, Perth
In 1787 Robert Burns wrote a poem about this waterfall called The Humble Petition of Bruar Water for the local laird, the 4th Duke of Atholl.
For Scotland’s most important poet to be moved by this waterway it has to have something quite powerful doesn’t it?!
The same Duke was so impressed by his little natural jewel that he had a path made for him and is buddies to get up there to enjoy the view.
This is quite steep at times but short enough that you shouldn’t suffer too much with 15kgs of wriggling extra weight on your shoulders for a reasonable amount of time!
Another advantage of taking this walk on is that there is a restaurant at the car park for you to get any child related admin done and to enjoy a bite to eat while you’re there.
As such this is a good little bimble for families with a child old enough to be capable of sitting upright and holding onto your head!
The House of Bruar itself has an art gallery for you to enjoy, perhaps while little legs is having a nap, an added attraction to the visit up this way.
So there we have it!
We do hope we have inspired you to take your family on a trek to Scotland.
It isn’t all about pristine wilderness that can only be reached with days of hiking away from civilisation!
Even the multi-day walks are doable with a brood in tow and you can stretch your legs without getting too much in the way of rebellion!
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