5 great trail runs in Scotland | Where to trail run in Scotland | Tiso blog
Want to experience the counrty at a faster pace? Blogger and trail runner Fiona Outdoors speaks to some of Scotland's keenest trail runners to find out their best routes on our hills. If you have a favourite location for an off-road run, then tell us where in the comments and we'll feature these in a future post!
Trail running is a great way to keep up with your fitness goals while giving you the opportunity to explore more of what the country has to offer. As well as granting a huge amount of health and well-being benefits, running on a trail instead of city pavements is appealing for so many reasons. Escaping into the woods or or up a mountain gives you a natural experience that a road run often cannot, and a trail's softer surface gives your body a break, too, so long as you have the right gear!
With so many great places to visit in Scotland, we thought it would be best to give you a list of some of the best spots for trail running from the runners themselves.
Where: Glen Coe, Highlands Distance: 8.7 miles Start/Finish: A82 Car Park, Glen Etive Turn Off
Graham Kelly and Katie Hall met during the HOKA Highland Fling trail race last year. They have been pretty much inseparable since and have enjoyed many trail runs together. This run is on one of their favourite routes and heads through the valley between the peaks of the Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag before journeying north again on the western side of Beag.
Graham says: 'The round trip is simply amazing. It follows a good track and is surrounded by big mountains with incredible views over the Etive glen and loch.' Katie adds: 'I love, love, love this route. It’s so special.' See the Tour De Bookil route on Strava.
Where: Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh Distance: 11 miles Start/Finish: Flotterstone Inn
Ali Wyllie is an experienced long-distance trail runner and enjoys guiding people on running tours in Edinburgh and the hills nearby. She picks two trail routes in the Pentland Hills.
There are two options to this route. The Challenging Route (red) is ideal for runners looking for lots of hills. When you start out on the route take the first left leading up to Turnhouse Hill, followed by Carnethy Hill, Scald Law Hill and East and West Kip.
After conquering these peaks there is an amazingly fun descent to bring you out to Red Moss car park and along to Threipmuir Resevoir. From here you run round the west side of Threipmuir Resevoir and then round Harlaw Reservoir to reach Harlaw House Visitor Centre. Next is the steady climb up the valley between Harbour Hill and Bell’s Hill. The views at the top are stunning and a must-see. You then drop down back towards Flotterstone.
The Less Challenging Route (green) is for those looking for less hills but still want to enjoy some trails and breath-taking scenery. The route is in the opposite direction to the red trail and avoids the hills. Find out about Run the Sights and The Pentland Playtime
Where: North West Highlands Distance: 38 miles Start/Finish: Kinloch Hourn
Susie Allison is the author of Scottish Trail Running and has chosen this superb run on the wild Knoydart Peninsula. She describes it as an epic adventure.
She says: 'My husband and I did this route over a weekend and camped outside Sourlies Bothy. It is a great place to run and the scenery is breathtaking. There are so many fantastic places to run in Scotland so it is difficult to choose just one but this is a very memorable outing.' You’ll find the route detailed on pages 149 to 152 in Scottish Trail Running.
Where: Aberfoyle to Comrie Distance: Sections of 9.5 miles and 16.5 miles Start/Finish: Aberfoyle/Comrie
Jamie Aarons is a keen ultra distance runner. In only her second attempt at the famous 95-mile West Highland Way Race in 2015, she was the first woman and eighth overall. She has chosen two sections of another long-distance trail, the mighty Scottish National Trail as one of her favourite trail running routes.
For the past seven years, Jamie and her friend Carrie have been running a section of the 537-mile SNT between Kirk Yetholm and Cape Wrath. Each year, close to their birthdays, they run their age in miles. The last 'birthday run' was 35 miles from Aberfoyle to Invergeldie, with a double-back to where they had parked a second car to ensure they ran the total 35 miles.
Jamie, originally from America, says: 'This section of the trail is incredibly diverse in nature and views, with spectacular panoramas over valleys and hills. In particular, the waterfalls between Comrie and Invergeldie are spectacular. The terrain is varied with single track, forestry tracks, a bit of bog, some fields and some minor roads.'
The women were worried about a section of the route where they would need to cross a river. Jamie says: 'This river has sometimes been impassable due to high levels of water and we were very anxious about it. However, when we arrived we found there was a big new wooden bridge. We lay down and kissed that bridge because we were so happy!'
Jamie adds: 'I really love trail running because I like the idea that I can head off on a point-to-point journey with some snacks, spare layers, map and compass and see what Scotland has to offer.' In August, Jamie and Carrie will rejoin the route where they left it to run more birthday miles. Jamie says: 'We hope that by the time we reach our 40s will will have made it to Cape Wrath in birthday miles.' The run is 9.5 miles from Aberfoyle to Callander and 16.5 miles from Callander to Comrie.
Note: Several websites that offer descriptions of this route have not yet been updated to reflect that there has been a lot of work done on tracks, which have replaced the 'impassable river' with a big wooden bridge.
Where: Highlands Distance: 11km Start/Finish: Cairngorm Mountain Resort Car Park
Steve Fallon came to trail running after taking up Munro bagging. Indeed, Steve holds the record for the most rounds of Munros, currently 15, and often travels at running speed to reach mountain summits. He also guides people in the mountains. See Steven Fallon.
This is one of Steve’s favourite routes. He says: 'Despite being in the land of the UK’s sixth highest mountain and therefore enjoying stunning views from the summits and crests, you are actually not far from the popular visitor destination of Cairngorm Mountain Resort. For me, it’s a great trail running route for a summer’s evening.'
The route is not recommended for inexperienced hill runners because the terrain is rough and navigation can be challenging in mist. It also includes 820m of ascent. From the resort car park the route heads up the main track between the Funicular Station and the Day Lodge. Follow the signing for 'Cairngorm via Windy Ridge path'. You’ll climb Sron an Aonaich to reach Ptarmigan top station, from where a path (roped either side, then cairned higher up) is followed to the summit of Cairngorm. Steve says: 'The views here are pretty awesome and far-reaching.'
The route turns westwards to follow a faint path downhill. As the ground levels, the trail becomes more obvious. It swings and begins to rise above Coire An T'Sneachda. The route then drops and continues up Cairn Lochan, passing the top of Fiacaill Ridge on the way. Westwards, a few small cairns point the way down. Take care as there can be patches of snowy-ice even in the summer. As the ground levels out it becomes briefly sodden before you pick up a fine path to trace the route run back to the car park. See the route on Strava.
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