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5 of Scotland’s Best Trail Running Routes

There is a lifetime's worth of adventures to be had trail running in Scotland. From scenic glens and tranquil lochans to rugged mountaintops, we have it all. We might be a bit biased, but we think that some of Scotland’s best trail running routes are right here in the West Highlands.

They include world-famous locations like Ben Nevis, Glen Nevis, and Glencoe. If you’re a runner, then what better way to discover these places than lacing up your trainers and hitting the trail?

Here's our pick of Scotland’s best trail running routes, which can all be done using Fort William as a base. Check out the details and explore independently, or if you’d like us to show you the way as well as share the unique stories of these places with you, then get in touch.

Best for: Dramatic landscapes, a taste of the UK’s highest mountain

The Stats: 10km and 650m ascent, more route details here

Route Description: This out-and-back route follows an excellent trail through mixed woodland and pine forest up into the mountain landscape of Ben Nevis. Once you leave the forest, the trail climbs steadily through the Allt a Mhuillin Glen to reach the base of the dramatic and imposing cliffs that make up the North Face of Ben Nevis.

At the trail end, you will find the CIC mountain hut, which is the only refuge of its type in the UK. From here, enjoy the fun descent back the same way with views out over Fort William, Loch Linnhe, and the Great Glen.

An alternative return route is possible by taking the trail that heads west from the CIC Hut towards Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe and taking a vague trail that follows the line of the Allt Coire an Lochain back to the top of the forestry. This makes for great views and interesting, varied terrain. But, only take this if you are confident on rough, pathless hillside and don’t mind getting wet feet!

Trail Highlight: Reaching the awe-inspiring landscape of the north face of Ben Nevis and taking a moment to enjoy the dramatic surroundings.

Skill level required: Intermediate. The out-and-back route is easy to follow, but it is rough in places and takes you into a mountain environment where conditions can change quickly and you need to be prepared for all weathers.

Top tips: If it’s a warm day and you’re brave enough, there are some great little pools in the river for dipping.

Best for: Variety of scenery, mixture of trails, and impressive waterfalls

The Stats: 10km and 360m ascent, more route details here

Route Description: This is a circular mountain route from Lower Falls in Glen Nevis, taking in the wilder side of Glen Nevis and the famous Steall Waterfall and Nevis Gorge.

Starting from the Lower Falls carpark, take the trail on the south side of the River Nevis and follow it upstream. It climbs away from the river before dropping back down to reach Paddy’s Bridge. From here, stay on the south side of the trail and follow the less obvious trail, which is boggy in places along the dramatic edge of the river and through ancient pine forest.

After about 1.5km, the trail climbs steeply to reach a high point and breath-taking views across Steall Meadow to the waterfall. From here, descend steeply on the worn trail to meet the river and follow it to the wire bridge.

Cross the wire bridge, or ford the river if water levels are low, and return on the main Steall Falls path. After the Steall carpark, follow the road for 2km before crossing back over Paddy’s Bridge and re-joining the outward route for the final return journey.

Trail Highlight: The impressive Steall Falls and the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest are some of the best scenery in this part of Scotland.

Skill level required: Intermediate. Although easy to follow the trail for most of the route, there is an indistinct section between Paddy’s Bridge and Steall Falls which requires some route-finding skills. In high water, it can be dangerous to try to cross the river at Steall Falls, and the wire bridge requires a degree of physical strength and confidence.

Top tips: If you don’t mind wet feet, then this is an excellent route to do in the rain as the river, gorge, and waterfall are all the more impressive. It can be done as an out-and-back and is still very enjoyable if the river is impassable and you don’t fancy the wire bridge.

A much easier, but less interesting, alternative is to cross to the roadside of the river at Paddy’s Bridge and do the route out-and-back to Steall Falls from there on the road and main path. This avoids the tricky section but also misses some of the best trails and scenery.

Best for: Summit views, big mountain feel, technical ascents, and descents

The Stats: 13km and 1200m ascent, more route details here

Route Description: This is a circular mountain route from Lower Falls in Glen Nevis taking in the summits of Stob Ban and Mullach Nan Coirean. It is true mountain terrain but with good trails for most of the way, with some short rocky sections and a little bit of bog.

Stob Ban is steep and rocky with some exposed drops which you can stay well back from. Mullach Nan Coirean is more gentle in nature with plenty of runnable terrain. The route can be done in either direction.

Trail Highlight: The dramatic quartzite peak of Stob Ban is home to fascinating geology and stunning views across the Mamores mountain range and to Ben Nevis. The trail through Allt Coire A Mhuisgain winds through a remnant of old Caledonian Forest and in early summer full of wildflowers in bloom.

Skill level required: Advanced. This is a high mountain route and as such appropriate equipment, navigation, and route-finding skills are required.

Top tips: The steepest, rocky ground is on the northeast ridge of Stob Ban, so choose your direction depending on whether you prefer going up or down this sort of terrain.

Through the summer months, there is a regular bus service from Fort William to the Lower Falls carpark where this route starts and ends, so you do not need a car to access these mountains.

Best for: An easy leg stretch with a variety of stunning loch, forest, and mountain views

The Stats: 2.5km and 100m ascent, more route details here

Route Description: Well-marked easy trails around the side of the lochan and through the forest. Make it up as you go along and just enjoy exploring.

Trail Highlight: If you’re lucky enough to enjoy this route on a calm day, then the view of the famous mountain, the Pap of Glencoe, reflected in the lochan is a pretty special sight.

Skill level required: Beginner. This is a short, well-marked, easy trail. In fact, it is so lovely you might want to do laps!

Top tips: The woodland around the lochan was planted in the 19th century by Lord Strathcona to remind his Canadian wife of her homeland. It’s full of unusual species for the area, so step off the trail and see what you find. It's especially beautiful to visit these trails when the autumn colours are in full swing.

Best for: Stunning Glencoe scenery and wild mountain landscapes without having to climb very high.

The Stats: 15km and 600m ascent, more route details here.

Route Description: This trail is a circular route around the iconic mountain Buachaille Etive Beag, in the heart of Glencoe. Normally done anti-clockwise, you ascend the Lairig Eilde and descend the Lairig Gartain.

Trail Highlight: The highest point of the Lairig Gartain gives breath-taking views back down the glen and across to Loch Etive (as pictured above). Eilde is the gaelic for 'hind' or 'female deer' so keep an eye out for the large herds of red deer that often frequent this glen.

Skill level required: Intermediate. The trail is straightforward to follow for the most part, but there are some indistinct sections and it includes one significant river crossing.

Top tips: The full circuit includes 2km of boggy roadside trail which can be avoided if you have two cars. For a more adventurous finish away from the main trail, if you have the navigation and route-finding skills, you can return via the col between the two peaks of Buachaille Etive Beag and re-join the outward route. The Allt Lairig Eilde river can be uncrossable after rain, so it is best to go anti-clockwise, passing this at the start to avoid getting stuck here at the end of your day.

Want to experience one of these trails with an experienced local guide?

Get in touch and we'd be delighted to arrange a bespoke running day for you. Our guides know these landscapes like the back of their hand. Not only will they take care of logistics and lead the way, they will also help you improve your trail running skills and confidence all while sharing the amazing stories of the places you run through.

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