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Scottish Walking Festivals

WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS… WALKING FESTIVALS IN SCOTLAND

Written by Linda Jackson

The natural beauty and biodiversity of Scotland is being celebrated during The Year of Natural Scotland – what better way to share the beautiful landscapes than to take a walking holiday in Scotland or join one of Scotland's walking festivals.

‘Growing in leaps and bounds’ is rather a strange choice of words to use when describing the popularity of walking but nevertheless it is very true, especially in Scotland where walking holidays and walking festivals are attracting increasing numbers of visitors and participants year on year.

From leisurely strolls to challenging mountain hikes, the Scottish walking festival routes showcase the very best of the country, highlighting the wealth of magnificent landscapes from dramatic Highland habitats and craggy mountains to protected lochs and wild coastal clifftops.

Being accompanied by knowledgeable country rangers, ecologists or experienced local guides, is a big advantage for participants who enjoy safe walks as well as being fed a wealth of local history and wildlife information. To uncover Scotland’s unique heritage and nature, and enjoy a range of invigorating walks in beautiful countryside with like-minded people, why not join one of these popular Scottish walking festivals?

Newton Stewart Walking Festival

The Newton Stewart Walking Festival (10-16 May) takes place in Galloway, near Knockinaam Lodge,  where there is hill walking as well as lower level routes to suit walkers of all abilities, trails are graded from easy to very strenuous to help you match walk with capability. In the Galloway Hills (part of the Southern Uplands) there are more than 40 summits to explore for the experienced and fit, but there are also easier trails through forests and less taxing hills.  Expect an abundance of florae and wildlife, waterfalls, scenic burns, and innumerable lochs.

Royal Deeside Walking Festival

The eastern Cairngorms National Park is the venue for Ballater Royal Deeside Walking Festival (18-24 May): it follows the upper or western part of the River Dee where Aberdeenshire scenery is remarkably diverse.

Royal Deeside is blessed with a number of forests owned by the Forestry Commission with excellent way-marked walks.  The Royal Deeside Walking Festival this year includes a renowned day-walk: a climb up Ben Macdui, crossing two old drove roads, a walk over Lochnagar, plus several Balmoral Estate and Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve low level walks.

Glen Affric Walking Festival

The Glen Affric Walking festival (24-27 May) is a chance to get away from the crowds in the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve (around 15 miles west of Loch Ness) where there are hidden tracks and historical Highland trails.

Options are journeys around, or ascending and descending, Munros (mountains over 3,000ft) and Corbetts (peaks between 2,500ft and 3000ft) in one of the most stunning glens in Scotland. Walks range from the low level Loch Affric Circuit and the RSPB Black Grouse Walk on the reserve at Corrimony to the high level RSPB snow grouse walk (Carn nan Gobhar, Glen Cannich).

Angus Glens Walking Festival

Taking place between 30 May and 2 June the Angus Glens Walking Festival will excite even the most adventurous of walker. Expect panoramic views of Fife, Dundee and Angus and a wide variety of walks every day, each accompanied by a ranger.

This year four new walks have been added to the programme, suitable for families to experienced hill-walker. Examples are Monikie Country Park (four miles northwest of Carnoustie), an easy-going route for all abilities; to Monega Hill, Little Glas Maol and Glas Maol – an extremely strenuous 10 mile circuit taking in two Munros and a Corbett.

The RBS Caledonian Challenge & Caledonian Hike

The RBS Caledonian Challenge (15-16 June) is a 54 miles/24 hours charity walk, and the RBS Caledonian Hike(15 June) covers 24 miles in 12 hours, giving walkers a shorter version of the Caledonian Challenge.

Starting point for the big Challenge is Gairlochy, a location just two hours from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen with the Caledonian Hike covering a lot of the same stunning scenery starting at Fort William and finishing at Glencoe.

On these charity adventure walks you’ll pass through some beautiful remote and rugged countryside, and experience imposing views of Ben Nevis and enjoy the beauty of Glencoe, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.


The Moray Walking Festival

In the north-east of Scotland five days of exhilarating guided walks are on the programme for walkers of all abilities in the Moray Walking Festival (20-24 June), in Scotland’s malt whisky country, which offers a rich assortment of landscapes from coast to mountain. Expect sandy beaches and scenic clifftops, an opportunity to spot Moray Firth dolphins, discover old railway tracks and take in ever-changing scenery.


Scottish Borders Walking Festival

Each day of the Scottish Borders Walking Festival (1-7 September) offers four or five different walks which will vary in length and difficulty, all groups will be accompanied by walk leaders.

Walkers can enjoy, for example, a moderate graded ‘Tasting the Wild, Foraging Walk’ of five miles, an easier walking route around Peel, Yair and Neidpath Hill, and a choice of Harder(13½ miles) and Moderate (7½ miles) trails on the John Buchan Way (a fourteen mile route between Peebles and Broughton, home of the famous author).

Blairgowrie & East Perthshire Walking Festival

Focussing this year on long distance, more strenuous walks, the Blairgowrie & East Perthshire Walking Festival(13-15 September) will include the iconic Lairig Ghru and a seldom-walked ancient right of way. To give a flavour of what this year’s festival will include (graded strenuous and extremely strenuous)  as per the schedule at the time of publication and new to the festival are the Rob Roy Way to Cateran Trail (9 miles) and Inverey to Glenshee walk (15 miles).

Cowal Walking and Arts Festival

More than 80 organised guided walks take place during the two week Cowal Walking and Arts Festival (October, date TBC) in the west of Scotland. Located on a scenic peninsula of outstanding beauty and cultural heritage, Cowal enjoys a rugged, mountainous and hilly terrain offering fantastic glen and coastline views. So for exceptional walking trails you’ll find plenty to choose from in this Scottish Highlands territory with its beautiful glens and lochs, just one hour from Glasgow.


Torridon Walking Festival

Mostly high level mountain hikes are offered on The Torridon Walking Festival (12-14 October) consisting of three days of bracing walks, fresh air, and awe-inspiring scenery. 

There are a couple of low level walks (through frozen glens and past frozen lochins) but mainly the mountainous environment offers ultimate winter walking adventures.

Opt for the guided challenging Liathach climb (984ft) to be rewarded with magnificent views of the Torridon area, it’s one of the best climbs or, for unprecedented views of the highlands, hike the mighty Slioch which looms over Loch Maree – it’s one of the ‘must do’ mountains.

Crief & Strathearn Drovers’ Tryst Walking Festival

Providing a perfect autumn break in Scotland, the Drovers’ Tryst Walking Festival(12-19 October) in Perthshire celebrates the 1700’s way of life of cattle farmers, but without the hassle of droving thousands of cows (Crieff was Scotland’s cattle-droving crossroads in the 18th century).

During this popular festival there is a range of activities for both adults and children but walking is at the heart of the festival, with guided walks geared up to all capabilities. There are old drove roads to walk, glens for a leisurely ramble, and autumn hues to enjoy in the changing Perthshire countryside.

Hebridean Island Cruises “Footloose” guided walks

Although not a ‘festival’ as such, Hebridean Princess – the world’s smallest luxury cruise liner – offers an alluring programme of six scenic seven-night “Footloose” cruises with guided group walking itineraries this year:

To Oban (scenic mainland walks and island vistas), Off the Beaten Track (spectacular scenery of Scotland’s west coast and islands), To the Isles (explore Inner and Outer Hebrides), To the North and Lewis (north west and Outer Isles), From Jura to the Uists (less trodden paths on west coast of Jura, Oronsay and Colonsay, spectacular landscapes Uists and Skye’s Trotternish peninsula), From Ardnamurchan to Glen Coe (remote wilds of Ardnamurchan and Morven, Glen Coe, stops on Mull, Ulva and Kerrera).

Catering for all abilities, walkers will enjoy trails alongside seashores and lochs, in hills and mountains… and a warming nip of whisky when you get back on board.


Year of Natural Scotland     

Scotland’s natural beauty and biodiversity is being promoted this year. The Year of Natural Scotland is designed  to encourage visitors to enjoy the Scottish landscape responsibly. The aim of this initiative from VisitScotland is to celebrate all that is good in Scotland - an easily accessible destination for active pursuits such as walking, cycling and golf.

Scotland’s larder of salmon, beef, trout and game is as world famous as its Scotch whisky - uisge beatha, the water of life. Scotland’s heritage of castles and monuments provide an awareness of the history and diversity of the Scottish landscape, as do the gardens, flora and fauna – all integral parts of ‘ Natural Scotland’ -  a kaleidoscope of nature just waiting to be enjoyed.

Luxury Scotland
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E: dorothy@luxuryscotland.co.uk

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