Each of the SGT trails
- is clearly waymarked
- runs largely off-road
- has a range of visitor services
- ranges in length from 24-210 miles (40-340 km)
- can be tackled as several short breaks, day trips or an end-to-end expedition
- may have sections suitable for cyclists and horse-riders, as well as for walkers.
NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) is the custodian of the brand “Scotland’s Great Trails” and it defines their specific criteria. These are explained in the FAQ above and currently only 29 routes are deemed to meet these.
NatureScot is not planning any changes to the list of trails until it has concluded a review of the brand. For further information, please visit this page.
Anyone and everyone! Most were originally designed primarily with walkers in mind, but many also offer brilliant opportunities for cyclists and horse-riders to get out, explore and enjoy Scotland’s great outdoors. And be sure to exercise your access rights responsibly, whether you are on foot, bike or horseback: this is spelled out by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Not necessarily. If you choose wisely, you can follow an SGT as your very first long-distance trail: everybody has to start somewhere. It would not be wise to choose a difficult trail or to go alone in winter, but there are plenty of SGTs that are well waymarked and can be split readily into manageable sections. Please read the trail page carefully, especially our section The challenge, before deciding if your choice is suitable. If you have any doubts, find out more and consider going with a friend or using one of the Support services.
From April to September there should be at least 12 hours of daylight, but be sure to allow plenty of time, and carry a headtorch and emergency whistle in case you get it wrong. Walking mainly off-road, you are unlikely to sustain more than 2-2.5 mph (3.2-4 kph) for hours on end, and on steep, broken or boggy ground you may travel slower still. Cyclists and other trail users will travel faster, but not all trail sections are suitable for them. However you travel, it’s important to plan conservatively and think through how to handle an emergency.
We advise everybody to carry a map and compass and to know how to use them. Although all SGTs are waymarked, the frequency and consistency of waymarking varies, and you may be misled, e.g. because a waymarker is covered by vegetation or a fingerpost has been rotated by animals using it as a scratching-post. If mist or low cloud descends, waymarkers may not be inter-visible. Always aim to know where you are and where you are heading, and be alert to the possibility that you have gone off-route.
The SGTs vary widely as to how much navigational competence they demand. The most demanding are those that traverse high ground, perhaps without a defined path, through remote countryside. Others are much easier to navigate: they stay low, follow clearly defined paths, military roads or canal towpaths. Others again combine easy sections with difficult stretches. Remember that bad weather, extreme fatigue and darkness can make following any trail difficult. And don’t forget that completing any long-distance route will require you to navigate through villages and towns to reach shops, food and accommodation/campsites.
In recent years, many stiles have been replaced by gates, but don’t assume that a trail will be free from obstacles. Most trails have sections that are more accessible than others. If knowing where they are is important to your plans, we suggest you email the Trail Manager to ask.
The answer depends greatly on whether you can keep your dog under close control when off the lead – reliably and at all times. Most dog owners can’t and don’t. If in any doubt, maintain your dog on a short lead (under 2 metres). Many trails have sections that pass through fields with livestock, and it is often difficult to find an alternative route. The challenge also varies with the time of year. During the months when lambing, calving and bird breeding takes place, extra care is needed. In Scotland, this typically means from early March to the end of June.
Also, remember that options for accommodation and evening meals will be greatly limited if you have a dog with you, and on some trails your only option may be to camp and cook for yourself.