Walking out the Door
There is something immensely satisfying about a grand circular walk, leaving one way and returning another, as opposed to going out and back on the same path. In a way it feels like you are doubling your achievement, experiencing twice the landscape in the same amount of time. What is even more satisfying is being able to do this from the front door. No driving, no faffing around waiting for buses, and when your walk is complete you are into relaxation mode immediately whether that means a celebratory dram, a well-deserved chocolate cake or a much-needed hot shower.
With unfettered access to the outdoors and easily accessible wilderness Scotland is blessed with an abundance of these kind of walks, suitable for every level of fitness. Here is a selection of our favourite loops that feature mountains, moorlands, cliffs and beaches. The very best that Scotland has to offer.
Torridon is a big draw for hiking opportunities with The Horns of Alligin, Beinn Eighe and the Liathach Traverse all classic mountaineering days out, but there are numerous other low-level walks that are just as enjoyable without the exposure or commitment. The Diabeg Coastal Circuit is one of the best, at an estimated 4-5 hours it is certainly no pushover but it does at least have the benefit of being comparatively flat. Beinn Alligin is a luxury retreat sitting only 100 metres from the path, as you leave the front door you get a glimpse of what lies ahead. If you do the loop clockwise you start along the coast on a rough and rocky path that is occasionally overgrown with bracken but nonetheless offers terrific views over the sea. The path continues to hug the coast around to Lower Diabeg before climbing up to a loch on the only short road section before dropping gently back to the house. Now light the fire, take in the sunset from the lounge and relax with a drink, you’ve earned it.
The Tarbat Ness Loop starts and finishes in the old fishing village of Portmahomack. From here, going clockwise, the path follows the mostly grassy shoreline path along the headland till it gets to the majestic Tarbat Ness Lighthouse. Afterwards, as you follow the coast south you may be lucky enough to spot dolphins and seals as well as a variety of seabirds. At the village of Rockfield head inland for the last stretch back to where you started. Sunset Cottage sits right in the middle of Portmahomack, it is a brilliantly comfortable spot to come back to and as the name suggests to dine outside as the evening fades. Alternatively, The Oystercatcher, one of the most renowned seafood restaurants in the area is just a few minutes’ walk away.
The South Harris hills do not have the stature to qualify as Munros but what they lack in sheer height they more than make up for with their spectacular summits, mind blowing views and the splendid sense of wilderness you can feel when you walk all day without encountering a single other soul. By hillwalking standards, the route up Roineabhal does not feature a huge amount of ascent, the challenges instead come from the pathless, wild terrain where you will have to traverse miles of bare rock and heather. This hike is typically started from the church at Rodel but as St Clements View is a pleasant, short walk along the coast from here it makes perfect sense to leave the car at home for the day. The cottage has such comfort and views it may be hard to tear yourself away but the rewards of a day out in this gloriously bleak almost lunar landscape are well worth it.
The island of Eriskay is small enough to wander round in a day but for a quick tour of its highlights this gentle amble is ideal. Entitled The Beach and Hill Circuit it starts from the beach where Bonnie Prince Charlie first arrived in Scotland then explores the main village which was made famous by Whisky Galore, before climbing past a hill loch where you will get fabulous views across to Barra. One of the joys of walking from the door is the ability to stop for a beer mid-way through without worrying about driving. This walk is only a couple of hours long but as it takes you right past the famous island pub The Politician the temptation to stop for refreshments means it can often take significantly longer. The terrain is a combination of sandy beach, moors and minor road and without difficulty will take you right back to where you started on one of the most photogenic beaches in the area. Eriskay Views Cottage sits right above this beach and allows you to take in the majestic surroundings from first thing in the morning till last thing at night.