15 stunning Scottish river walks

Rural, Walking, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Kate A on 22nd January 2021

Scotland river walks

From gently meandering burns which wind their way through forests, meadows and peaceful villages, to crashing waterways carving their way through deep valleys on their journey to the sea, the rivers in Scotland are some of the finest in Great Britain.

We’ve rounded up some of the best Scotland river walks which showcase the country’s natural beauty. Including North, South and Central Scotland, these waterside wanders range from short strolls beside some of the major rivers in Scotland such as the Tay, Clyde and Spey, to long-distance hikes where you can get off the beaten track, so you’re sure to find a route that suits your walking abilities.

And if you need a cosy place to stay after your riverside adventures, click the button below to browse our full collection of holiday cottages in Scotland.

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River walks in North Scotland

River Dee

River Dee: Braemar riverside walk

One of the most attractive Scottish salmon rivers, the River Dee winds its way from the Cairngorm Mountains, and through Royal Deeside to reach the North Sea at Aberdeen. This circular riverside walk in Braemar takes in the confluence of the Dee and the Clunie, before gently climbing through birch woodland to return to the centre of the pretty village. Along the route, there are some mesmerising open views up the strath.

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Downie's Cottage, Braemar | Sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

River Don

River Don: Seaton Park

In a peaceful pocket of Old Aberdeen, you’ll find the River Don and this easy walking trail winds along its picturesque banks through Seaton Park. There are plenty of serene spots to relax and enjoy a little solitude, whether you rest on a bench or lay out a picnic blanket. And there are lots of opportunities for wildlife watching: keep your eyes peeled for grey heron stalking fish, dipper perching on rocks, and goosander diving into the calm waters.

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Headhouse Farm, Clatt | Sleeps 5 + 2 dogs

River Spey

River Spey: The Speyside Way

The best way to explore the second largest river in Scotland, the River Spey, is by following the Speyside Way. This long-distance walking trail loosely follows the course of the river for 66 miles from Buckie on the Moray Firth coast to Aviemore at the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains. Each section of the trail is alive with wildlife, ancient monuments, and some of Scotland’s most famous whisky distilleries (the clear water of the river is used to make the spirits).

Distance: 66 miles in total – can be broken down into smaller sections

Difficulty: Varies per section

Stay nearby: Guisachan, Craigellachie | Sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

River Ness

River Ness: Ness Island Walk

If you’re looking for Scottish rivers in the city, the River Ness is a tranquil escape from the bright lights of the capital of the Highlands, Inverness. A short walk along the banks of the river starting from the city centre will make you feel as if you’re right in the middle of the countryside. Head upriver and you will eventually stumble upon the Ness Islands, a collection of natural wooded islands that sit in the middle of the river, connected by charming footbridges. Find yourself a seat on one of the carved bench sculptures and pause to absorb the beauty and watch the world go by; you might even spot a seal bobbing in the water! The islands are also a part of the Great Glen Way, so if you’d like to extend your walk, just follow the signs.

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: River Lodge, Inverness | Sleeps 14 + 1 dog

River Affric

River Affric: River Affric Trail

In a wild Scottish land roamed by mountain hares, red deer and golden eagles, the River Affric powerfully surges between Loch Affric and Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain. After a burst of rain, the river rushes through the pinewoods and is an extraordinary sight to see. From the parking area, there is a short circular walking route around the river and through the woodland. The mountainous views are simply epic and, if you’re feeling adventurous, this is the starting point for some superb longer routes through Glen Affric, often described as the most beautiful glen in Scotland.

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Coire Cottage, Tomich | Sleeps 4

North Scotland cottages

River walks in Central Scotland

River Tay

River Tay: Fiddler’s Path

Flowing for 117 miles, the River Tay is the longest river in Scotland. As such, there are myriad scenic riverside walking routes to relish, but we’ve chosen to feature the Fiddler’s Path circuit in Dunkeld as it takes in some breathtaking sights and is suitable for most walking abilities. Drift along waterside walkways lined with leafy deciduous trees and carpets of wildflowers, past the atmospheric ruins of Dunkeld Cathedral. Returning on the opposite side of the river, the route passes below the crags of King's Seat where you may be lucky enough to see a golden eagle soaring above.

Distance: 5.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Pinegrove Cottage, Dunkeld | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

River Tummel

River Tummel: River Tummel Loop

In the heart of Perthshire’s ‘Big Tree Country’, not only does the River Tummel Loop take in one of the most enchanting rivers in Scotland, but it also features a dazzling waterfall. Proceeding from Pitlochry, the loop takes in both sides of the River Tummel and at the junction of the Tummel and the River Gary is the Linn of Tummel, a series of glassy pools and tumbling waterfalls. There are lots of great picnic spots here and if you time your visit just right you might see salmon leaping up the natural ladder in the falls.

Distance: 7 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Lower Oakfield, Pitlochry | Sleeps 10 

River Teith

River Teith: Doune Castle

Delve into Doune’s rich history on this short circular river walk in Central Scotland. This peaceful village enjoys a bucolic setting, dominated by one of the most iconic Scottish castles that has played a star turn in many a blockbuster. After visit the 14th-century Doune Castle, one of the Outlander filming locations, you can delight in a pleasant waterside stroll along the River Teith and the Ardoch Burn. Renowned for fishing, the River Teith’s water is also used for the manufacturing of malt whisky at the famous Deanston Distillery – you could easily extend your walk to add in a tour of the distillery if you fancy a wee dram or two.

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: The Jacobite's Rest, Doune | Sleeps 12 + 2 dogs

River Braan

River Braan: The Hermitage

Breathe in earthy woodland and the tang of pine needles as you wander beneath the swaying boughs of giant Douglas firs on this fabled walk along the banks of the River Braan. Featuring fairy-tale bridges, an ancient oak immortalised by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a hermit’s cave, and a series of cascades descending to Black Linn waterfall, you’ll soon see why this spellbinding spot has attracted many notable visitors over the years, including Queen Victoria. One of the National Trust for Scotland's best places to visit, this magical woodland trail at The Hermitage follows the rushing white water of the river to an 18th-century folly known as Ossian’s Hall where you’ll come face to face with the thundering falls crashing into deep, foaming pools below.

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Pinegrove Cottage, Birnam | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

River Avon

River Avon: River Avon Heritage Trail

For a little Scottish history, follow the River Avon Heritage Trail which hugs the babbling River Avon from Avonbridge to Inveravon. This 10-mile adventure meanders downstream through gorge woodland, alongside weirs and waterfalls, and crosses from bank to bank – chains have been installed to aid crossing some of the tributaries. Look out for ancient mills, spectacular viaducts, and the cave where William Wallace hid from the army of Edward I after the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. 

Distance: 10 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Carribber Lochside, near Linlithgow | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Central Scotland cottages

River walks in South Scotland

River Esk

River Esk: River Esk Walkway

Along the River Esk Walkway in Musselburgh, you can experience peace, fresh air and beautiful views. At the mouth of the river, you can observe wading birds feeding, listen out for the calls of eider ducks and, in the summer, see around 200 mute swans. Upriver, the scent of wild garlic fills the air in spring and there’s a good chance of spotting kingfishers and otters darting around the riverbanks, dippers nesting under the bridges, and salmon leaping up the ladder at the old weir.

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Roslin Chapel Cottage, Roslin | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

River Tyne

River Tyne: Haddington to East Linton

Beginning in Haddington – the traditional capital of East Lothian – this linear riverside ramble follows the banks of the River Tyne downstream to historic East Linton. The walk reveals a treasure trove of historic attractions, including a 12th and 14th-century church, a succession of old mills, and the crumbling 14th-century ruins of Hailes Castle. And if you don’t fancy retracing your steps back to Haddington, there’s a bus service in East Linton available for your return journey.

Distance: 6.25 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: The Byre At Brothershiels, near Edinburgh | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

River Tweed

River Tweed: The Tweed Walk to Lyne

Cutting through the heart of the Scottish Borders, the River Tweed weaves through a patchwork of deep valleys, sheep-grazed pastures and verdant rolling hills. One of the most famous rivers in Scotland, it produces more salmon caught to the fly than any other river in Britain. The circular Tweed Walk to Lyne from Peebles is a wonderful introduction to its beauty, passing Neidpath Castle, a 14th-century fortified tower house which has hosted many a Scottish monarch, including Mary Queen of Scots and James VI. Along the well-trodden path, you will also encounter oystercatchers, herons and green plovers feeding at the water’s edge, Neidpath Viaduct, and the odd fisherman wading thigh-deep in the river.

Distance: 7 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: The Castles Cottage, Peebles | Sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

River Clyde

River Clyde: Falls of Clyde

This captivating walk follows the River Clyde, one of the main rivers of Scotland, as it surges through a narrow gorge and over four rumbling waterfalls: the Falls of Clyde. Follow in the footsteps of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Sir Walter Scott as you traverse the Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve, where birdsong competes with the roar of the powerful cascades (more than 100 bird species have been recorded here). A highlight of the route is the peregrine falcon-watching platform from which you may spot fledgelings in the spring. The Complete Falls of Clyde circuit begins at the World Heritage Site of New Lanark and combines two shorter circuits on either side of the wooded gorge and a section of the Clyde Walkway to make a full loop.

Distance: 6.25 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Quercus – Biggar, Biggar | Sleeps 2 + 3 dogs

River Ayr

River Ayr: River Ayr Way

Featuring some of the best river walks in Scotland, the long-distance River Ayr Way traces the 44-mile length of the River Ayr from its source at Glenbuck Loch to the sea at Ayr. One of Scotland’s Great Trails, it can be walked via a series of smaller sections which encompass quaint riverside villages, historic sites and wooded gorges. A true Scottish classic, hikers could be treated to sightings of otters, badgers and hen harriers, the Catrine Voes Nature Reserve with historic reservoirs for Catrine’s cotton mill, and the impressive Ballochmyle Viaduct.

Distance: 44 miles in total – can be broken down into smaller sections

Difficulty: Varies per section

Stay nearby: Culzean Lodge, Turnberry | Sleeps 2 

South Scotland cottages

Stay with us in Scotland

Whether you’re visiting North, South or Central Scotland for some of these top river walks, we have a wide selection of cottages where you can relax and unwind after your escapades. Some of our self-catering cottages in Scotland are situated right beside the water’s edge, offering breathtaking views and an endless array of walking opportunities from the front door. Browse our full collection by clicking the button below.

Scotland cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.