The best coastal walking trails in Scotland

Coastal, Walking, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ed Roberts on 29th July 2020

Scotland walks

There are 29 Great Trails in Scotland, volunteer-managed long-distance walking paths that take in some of the British Isles' most dramatic and unforgettable scenery. Ranging from 24 miles to 210 miles, some of these trails require athleticism and ambition whilst some sections are suitable for an amiable wander. From peak to pasture, glen to burn, it's an unmissable way to see the country. Whether you plan to explore Scotland's Great Trails by foot, bike, kayak, canoe or horseback, you can be sure that you are seeing the very best of remote Scotland

This guide centres around our favourite coastal Great Trails. We have gathered a few together to inspire your trip and have listed a few handy tips for you to consider before advancing on the trail like distances and terrain. Many of these trails are suitable for wayfarers who have come to Scotland on holiday. Stay at one of our holiday cottages in Scotland, many of which are close to one of the Great Trails in our guide; they make for the perfect, restful backdrop to the walking holiday of a lifetime. 

Scotland coastal cottages


Ayrshire Coastal Path - best for sunsets

Distance: 100 miles (6 to 9 days)

Difficulty: Strenuous to moderate

Backed by the mountains of Arran, the Ayrshire Coastal Path is a truly magnificent route spanning 100 miles. The path begins at Glenapp and ends at Skelmorlie, following rugged coastline and thriving wildlife. The path passes through the pretty fishing villages of Ballantrae, Maidens and Dunure, so it’s worth stopping to take in the region’s unique culture. The path links to the inland Appalachian Trail that links the Mull of Galloway with Cape Wrath. 

Sections of the path are particularly arduous, as they take in steep clifftop paths, and rocky shores that get cut off by the tide, so check your tidal timetables before heading out between Girvan and Turnberry, and Culzean Castle and Ayr. As a contrast, the section between Ayr and Largs consists of a flat, paved promenade and sandy beaches which makes this stretch ok in particular for children and the elderly.  Being of a westerly aspect, the Ayrshire Coastal Path is great for sunset walks.

Stay at: Beechgrove | Sleeps: 10 guests plus 2 dogs

Berwickshire Coastal Path

Berwickshire Coastal Path - best for bird watching

Distance: 30 miles

Difficulty: Moderate (some strenuous rocky sections)

At 30 miles, Berwickshire Coastal Path is certainly more achievable than some of its gnarlier counterparts. Traditionally, it is traversed from the north end at Cockburnspath down to the English border at Berwick-upon-Tweed. The 100-metre-tall cliffs at Fancove Head are a spectacle and a great place to spot sea birds like razorbills, gannets, gulls and puffins. Another good place to bird spot is St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve which is home to some rare habitats and bird species. 

The Berwickshire Coastal Path intersects with the John Muir Way at Dunbar, one of the more famous inland Great Trails. Other great highlights include the village of Eyemouth where 189 fishermen lost their lives in a single storm during 1881, or Siccar Point, home to Hutton's Unconformity - which is said to be the world's most important geological site. 

Stay at: Quays Wall Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs

Forth Bridges 

Fife Coastal Path - best for views of the awesome Forth Bridges

Distance: 116 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The 116-mile-long Fife Coastal Path runs from the Forth Estuary in the south to the Tay Estuary further north. Clearly waymarked, the trail offers a range of walking experiences from easy to challenging, so you can find a stretch to suit you. The trail can be completed in eight to ten sections depending on your ambition. 

The course of the path winds past the fishing villages on the East Neuk of Fife like Anstruther and Pittenweem, the golfing links of St Andrews, the heritage docklands of Edinburgh and Leith, the historic Royal Burgh of Culross, Eden Estuary Nature Reserve, Crail Harbour and Tentsmuir Beach. Perhaps the most memorable sight on the Fife Coastal Path are the awesome Forth Bridges that span the Forth of Firth. It's one of Scotland's most iconic architectural structures.

Stay at: The Cooperage | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog

Great British Coast


Kintyre Way - best for stunning coastal views and cycling

Distance: 100 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to easy

The Kintyre Way is located (predictably) on the Kintyre Peninsula. Stretching 100 miles, this route is truly special. Explore hidden coves, secluded beaches and remote fishing communities on the Kintyre Way, which starts at Tarbert in the north and stretches to Dunaverty in the south. Views across the beautiful Firth of Clyde to Arran, Ailsa Craig and the Ayrshire Coast greet visitors walking the eastern coast of the Kintyre. From the west coast, you can see the islands of Islay, Gigha and Jura, while on clear days, you may just be able to see the coast of Northern Island too. 

The path wiggles its way through Tarbert, which is popular with those who love yachting; Skipness Castle; the seal haul-outs of Clachan and Tayinloan; Carradale; Campbeltown distilleries and the golf links of Machrihanish. Take a moment to admire the beauty of Loch Fyne as well as heritage sites such as Tarbert Castle and Dun Skeig Hillfort.

Stay at: Ocean Lodge | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog

Moray Coast Trail

Moray Coast Trail - best for dolphin spotting

Distance: 50 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Spanning 50 miles across pretty coastline and settlements in Moray, this long-distance route has so much to offer. The Moray Coast Trail passes glorious landscapes from rugged cliffs, caves and sheltered coves to fishing villages and sandy beaches. Moray’s coastline is home to an abundance of wildlife, making this trail truly special for nature enthusiasts. A lovely wild coast, you are never too far from a fishing village or small towns. Enjoy quaint fishing villages with stone harbours and cosy pubs in which to rest your feet. 

Sights and wonders along the trail that you may see include Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie, Burghead Headland and Pictish fort, Tugnet Icehouse, Findhorn, and the clifftops from which to spot dolphins, sea birds and other cetaceans. Kinloss Abbey, Roseisle Forest and Buckie Harbour are all also worth your time.

Stay at: The Beach House - Findochty | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog

More inspiration

If you're visiting Scotland's wild and varied coast, why not take a look at our guides to find more things to do?

Stay in coastal Scotland

Discover even more of Scotland’s Great Trails and browse our collection of cottages in Scotland to start planning your walking holiday. If you’ve been inspired to explore the Scottish coast, why not spoil yourself with a break at one of our self-catering holiday cottages? Our range of cottages in Scotland offer fantastic places to stay after a day of coast walking. Take a look at our collection of brilliant coastal accommodation to find your ideal home-from-home today.

Scotland coastal 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.