Hiking along the West Highland Way.

The Active Scotland Itinerary: One Week in Scotland

Of course you could easily spend months and years exploring every inch of Scotland by car, train, boat or foot, but to begin with, one week in Scotland gives you ample time to do more than scratch the surface. You loved my Classic Scotland Itinerary for a week (find it here) so much, that I thought I’d turn it into a series of different week-long Scotland itineraries. First came the north-east Scotland itinerary which led you off the beaten track to some of Scotland’s finest beaches and castles (find it here). Now it’s time for my active Scotland itinerary which will inspire you to leave the well-trodden paths, and immerse yourself in the Scottish landscape!

This post contains affiliate links, which I may make a commission from.

 

Overview: An active week in Scotland

This is an 8 day / 7 nights itinerary, that can easily be extended with a weekend in the city, or combined with one of my other itineraries (see my top suggestions at the end of the post)!

After a warm-up day in Glasgow or Edinburgh, you begin your Highland adventure with a 4-day long-distance hike along the West Highland Way and end your week with two days of sea kayaking or boat trips around the waters of Oban. If you wonder what to expect, check out this post about the difference between sea kayaking and river kayaking.

PS: You don’t need a rental car for this tour – it’s actually easier to do by public transport, as the route includes a long-distance hike that is not a loop trail! It is therefore also great for (female) solo travel in Scotland as you can keep your costs low and still get the full experience!

Get your train tickets in advance and SAVE TIME!

   

Day 1: Warm up in Glasgow or Edinburgh

Whether you arrive in Glasgow or Edinburgh, either city has ample opportunities for an adequate warm-up day before your active adventure in the Scottish Highlands begins. If you arrive on a later flight and only have half a day to spare, check out one of Glasgow or Edinburgh’s many parks. If arrive early enough to really seize the entire day there are numerous ways to get out of the city and spend your first day in Scotland in the hills close-by.

Active things to do in Glasgow

Rent a Glasgow city bike and warm up your legs by cycling through Glasgow Green, along the Clyde or maybe following the Kelvin Way. You could even cycle all the way to Balloch on Loch Lomond and take the train back into the city.

Take a walk in Queen’s Park all the way up to the flagpole, crisscrossing the woodlands nature zone, around the pond and back up the hill. It’s not the biggest park in Glasgow, but the hilly woodlands really turn this into a great warm-up.

Take the train to Kilpatrick and go for a walk in the Kilpatrick Hills, or head to the Seven Lochs Wetland Park and a leisurely stroll from lake to lake.

Glasgow Travel Essentials:

Where to Stay in Glasgow | Hotels are super affordable – I summed up my favourites for all budgets here. AirBnB is a great option if you prefer your own place. You can use my referral to get £25 off your first booking!

Getting around Glasgow | Glasgow is a very walkable city, but you can get buses or the subway for longer distances between different quarters. Traditional black taxis can be a bit expensive, so I suggest to use private hire companies like Network Private Hire or the Uber!

The best restaurants in Glasgow | There are more restaurants in Glasgow than sand on the beach. For Scottish food try Two Fat Ladies in the City, the Red Onion (vegan menu available) or Gandolfi Cafe. I also love Sarti and Paesano (both Italian), Nippon’s Kitchen (Japanese, sushi) and Ranjit’s Kitchen (Indian curries). For a great food market, check out Platform, which is open every Friday to Sunday and is located in the Arches underneath Central Station.

The best pubs in Glasgow | Glasgow’s pubs deserve a city trip in itself. Try Sloan’s, The Pot Still, The State Bar or Babbity Bowster for a taster – and a dram!

 

Active things to do in Edinburgh

Climb Arthur Seat in the east of the Old Town. From up there you get not only a great view of the city, but it’s also a good way to get your muscles going.

Take the train to North Berwick and take a long walk along the coast and golf links.

Edinburgh Travel Essentials:

Where to Stay in Edinburgh | Hotels in Edinburgh can be quite expensive and hard to come by – especially in the summer months and even more so during festival season in August. I’ve summed up my favourite hotels in Edinburgh for every budget here. Again, you might consider AirBnB instead, but try to book a private room, rather than a whole apartment. You can use my referral link to get £25 off your first booking!

Getting around Edinburgh | Edinburgh is a very walkable city, but you can get buses for longer distances. Taxis can be a bit expensive, but there is also Uber!

My favourite restaurants in Edinburgh | There are so many restaurants in Edinburgh’s Old Town, it can be quite tricky to tell the real gems from the tourist traps. Some of my favourite restaurants (which all offer vegan options) include Civerinos, Holy Cow, Harmonium, Hula Juice Bar and Casa Angelina.

Bars & Pubs in Edinburgh | Some of my favourite pubs in the Old Town are Whistlebinkies and the Halfway House, one of Edinburgh smallest pubs!

 

The view over Edinburgh from Arthur Seat

Why not head out straight from the airport?

The advantage of spending your first day in or close-by one of Scotland’s main urban hubs, is that you still have the opportunity to hit the shops and buy supplies or equipment you forgot to bring for your upcoming adventures!

In the evening, take the train to Crianlarich for a good night’s rest before your adventure on the West Highland Way begins. Trains from Glasgow are direct, from Edinburgh you have to leave slightly earlier and change trains in Glasgow.

 

Hiking and kayaking can get your closer to nature than any road trip can - especially when you visit Scotland. Find out how in my active Scotland itinerary!

Day 2-5: Hiking the West Highland Way

In my opinion, there is no better way to experience the Scottish Highlands, than walking through them. Admittedly, a road trip can get you to some pretty epic viewpoints, but the ones you reach on foot are even more breathtaking and you develop a physical connection to Scotland, that no road trip can offer.

The West Highland Way is a popular long-distance hike in Scotland – probably the most popular of all LD trails here. It spans 96 miles, between Milngavie – a suburb north of Glasgow – and Fort William and takes around 7-9 days to walk in its entirety. As this would take up your entire week in Scotland, I’d recommend to only walk the northern half of the trail. That is still a distance of 50 miles, but it only takes 4 days of walking. You can do this as cheap (camping) or as luxuriously (B&Bs/hotels, restaurants, luggage transfer) as you’d like, just note that accommodation should be booked well in advance and midge nets are advisable when camping.

Book at SYHA Hostel in Crianlarich here!

 

Hiking and kayaking can get your closer to nature than any road trip can - especially when you visit Scotland. Find out how in my active Scotland itinerary!

1) Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy

13 miles, ~6 hours

The first day leads you through lush green woodlands and into the more barren Highlands. You come past the village of Tyndrum, where you can stock up on food and equipment at the local shops (last shop before Kinlochleven). Reaching Bridge of Orchy you can treat yourself to a nice meal at the scenic Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

Book at West Highland Way Sleeper hostel in Bridge of Orchy here!

 

2) Bridge of Orchy to King’s House

13 miles, ~6 hours

The second day is regarded as the most isolated section of the trail. After you pass Inveroran Hotel by Loch Tulla there is no sign of civilisation until you reach the Glencoe Ski Centre and King’s House 10 miles later. Along the way, stop for lunch at Ba Bridge. If you can’t get accommodation at the ski centre or King’s House, you can hitch or arrange a taxi to Glencoe village where accommodation is ample.

Book at Glencoe Independent Hostel here!

 

3) King’s House to Kinlochleven

8.5 miles, ~4.5 hours

Your third day on the trail is the shortest, but not necessarily the easiest. Before you lies the Devil’s Staircase, a short but steep ascent into the mountains. It is followed by a long steady descent towards Kinlochleven, which can seem endless. At Altnafaedh you can briefly leave the trail to get a picture-perfect view of Lagangarbh hut and Buachaille Etive Mor. If you arrive in Kinolochleven while its hot and sunny, take a refreshing dip in the river behind the Blackwater Hostel!

Book at Blackwater Hostel in Kinlochleven here!

 

4) Kinlochleven to Fort William

15 miles, ~7.5 hours

The last day is a long one – first comes a steep, but short ascent through a birch-tree forest, and then the trail winds up and down through the mountains until it finally descends towards Fort William. You will want to start your day nice and early (try to leave between 7 and 8 am) just so you reach Fort William early enough to treat yourself to a refreshing pint at the finish line before catching a bus or train to Oban. The bus only takes 1.5 hours, but the last one leaves just after 5 pm; the train takes longer, but offers stunning views and gives you a later option too.

Book at Muthu hotel in Fort William here!

 

Want more info on the West Highland Way? Check out my hiking guide!

 

Hiking along the West Highland Way.

Day 6-7: Sea kayaking in Oban

After giving your legs a rough time on the West Highland Way, it is time for an intense workout for your arms and back. Sea kayaking is a fantastic way to explore the Scottish coastline and the area around Oban offers some of the best kayaking waters.

Across the next two days you can either chose to do an introduction course or individual day trips, or spend a night away on a (self-)guided overnight kayak-camping trip. The options are endless and there are several kayak schools and rental companies in the area who can help you plan your time at sea.

I have been sea kayaking in Oban twice before and made great experiences with a company called National Kayak School. I tried their 2-day sea kayaking introduction course as well as a day trip to Loch Creran. They work with top-notch equipment and have experienced and knowledgeable guides to keep you safe and entertained. I can’t recommend them enough!

If you’ve had enough from paddling yourself, why don’t you join a boat tour to the Isle of Staffa, Mull or Iona?

Book at a hotel in Oban here!

 

you might also like: A useful travel guide to Oban

 

A Quick Guide to Oban, Scotland | Kayaking

Day 8: Goodbye Scotland…

…or connect from Oban to one of my other itineraries:

And if hiking and kayaking is not enough, check out these other 16 fun outdoor activities in Scotland!

Are you ready for an adventure?

***

Planning a trip to Scotland?

Find accommodation, book your rental car or a guided tour with Rabbie’s.

Book day trips to explore the country or get advance tickets for attractions.

Read up in a travel guide and prepare for hikes with OS Explorer Maps.

Get your rain gear in place and browse my packing list.

Book your Glasgow tour with me or let me plan your itinerary.

 

Hiking and kayaking can get your closer to nature than any road trip can - especially when you visit Scotland. Find out how in my active Scotland itinerary!
Pin this for later!

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

SaveSave

20 comments on “The Active Scotland Itinerary: One Week in Scotland

  1. THANK YOU! This is so helpful! But Google says it’s only a 4hr hike from Crainlarich to Bridge of Ochry? Would you recommend just walking straight to King’s House?

    • It took us 6 incl breaks which Google wouldn’t account for. You can walk further if you want to walk more miles, but for us 26 miles would not have been an option. It’s some up and down and a lot of the old military road used by the West Highland Way is built with smallish rocks – not the nicest to walk on for a very long time. How far you hike each day depends very much on your ability and motivation. To me, long distance hiking is about slowing down, so why rush?

      • Thanks! I think I’ll stick to your itinerary then. I couldn’t find accommodation in King’s House but there was some at Glencoe. But then would you recommend I still start the hike next day from King’s House?

        • Hi Shanice, we stayed in Glencoe too and hitchhiked back and forth to the Kingshouse – there are also local taxis though, your accommodation might be able to help you organise that. If you want to hike the whole WHW you have to go back to the Kingshouse to continue. The only other option to get back to the WHW from Glencoe is to take the bus to Kinlochleven, but then you’d miss a whole day of the trail. Why wouldn’t you want to return to Kingshouse?

          • I want to start from King’s House for sure then! I was just wondering if that’s the official trail and if it was doable from Glencoe. I reckon you can’t get a taxi when arriving in the King’s House area to go to Glencoe so that adds 4 hours of walking and I am going to do the hike solo (scary!) so hitchiking might be a little unsafe 🙂 I actually did find accommodation at the ski resort but it gets such bad reviews and is quite pricey at 65 a night. Still hesitating about that. Thanks again for your advice!

          • Oh, I see – yes, Glencoe is a few miles off the route. The official trail leads from Kingshouse towards the entrance of the glen, but when you get to Altnafaedh (where you can see the famous little white house) the trail leads up over the mountains and not into Glencoe. I’m sure that the hotel reception would be able to assist you by phoning a taxi from Glencoe and if you have to wait for a little you could have dinner at the hotel in the meantime. Personally, I have hitchhiked solo in the Scottish mountains before and felt safe, but it’s entirely up to you if you are comfortable with that.

  2. Elaine Alexander

    Do you have any recommendations for a female hiker who wants to spend two weeks in Scotland in April, but wants to take some day trips from Saint Andrews where her son is going to university? We will spend a 3 day weekend together but the rest of the time I wlll be on my own. I would like to do a solo hike in the West Highlands as well as take day hikes where I would begin and end my day in Saint Andrews as I do want some time with my son. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Elaine, thanks for taking the time to read my article and ask your question! Have you heard about the Fife Coastal Path? It sounds like the perfect option for you! It runs all the way around the East Neuk of Fife and St Andrews is along the way. I have heard that the sections from Buckhaven to St Andrews are particularly stunning, but I’m sure the sections towards Burtnisland and North Queensferry are also amazing, with the bridges in the background! The West Highland Way is a great option for further afield and it is connected to the rail and bus system at several points, so you don’t have to commit to the whole 96 miles! I hope this helps and you have a fab time hiking in Scotland! x

  3. Bansari Dedhia

    Hi…found your itineraries very interesting and informative….
    M planning a trip to Scotland for 2 weeks in may 2019 with my 7 year old daughter
    and husband….We are planning to travel by public transport and not renting a car..
    Can i do this efficiently in 2 weeks covering most scenic places and can you guide me through what places i can cover and how do i plan my itinerary for 2 weeks using public transport only….Thanks

  4. Pingback: Top 20 Things to do in Edinburgh * The World As I See It

  5. I REALLY need to do the West Highland way! Also kayaking – it’s on my list! Great post 🙂

    • Thanks! Both absolute muse do’s in Scotland if you ask me – still need to hike the southern half of the WHW though, so who am I to judge?!? 🙂

  6. Scotland has a very special place in my heart, because it was the first place I traveled to internationally. (Well, besides Canada, but I’m from Minnesota. So, Canada wasn’t much different from what I was used to.) I haven’t been able to go back to Scotland yet, but I think of it often. So, I love reading about it, especially places and things I haven’t experienced. I would love to hike the West Highland Way! The scenery looks incredible. I would definitely love to sea kayak in Oban, too! This is a great itinerary. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Erin! Hope you get to come back one day – and you definitely have to hike at least part of the WHW. The views are so incredible 😀

  7. I actually have plans to visit Scotland this September! This is so cool that you did this without a rental car and were super active. That is the kind of trip I need since I always seem to gain weight on vacation!
    -Kristin
    countdowntofridayblog.com

    • Haha that’s the best holiday then – although I tend to use all the physical activity as an excuse to eat cake…. Scotland is such a great place for outdoor activities – even if you only do sections of my suggestions!! Hope you have a fab trip – do you have specific places in mind yet?

  8. This looks incredible but energetic! You mentioned as being suitable for a solo female – would you feel that it’s safe to be walking alone?

    • Thanks for your comment – it’s quite an itinerary, but I was surprised how quickly my body adjusted to the walking. You really don’t have to be crazy fit for it 🙂 Anyways, Scotland in general is great for solo travelers, and I wouldn’t worry about walking the WHW on your own! There are lots of other walkers and the trail comes by many villages and little hamlets, and there are always options for hostels/B&Bs, restaurants/pubs and of course the luggage transfer service. It’s totally doable!!

  9. Awesome list! 🙂 I need to add Scotland to my list. Thanks for the guide!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *