If presented with a question like “what are the world's most beautiful countries to visit”, you can bet that the vast majority aren't going to name many parts of the United Kingdom in the resulting list. This may be partly due to the fact that some people would struggle to point out the UK on a map of the world, let alone have knowledge of how great some of the countries within it may be, but also because much of the beauty in the UK is fairly hidden away from all but the most ardent of beauty-seeking outsiders. Wales may be a wonderful place. England has roving countryside, and Ireland the same, but it is Scotland that is probably the most well-known of the UK countries. Though often mocked for its average alcohol intake and alleged poor dietary considerations, Scotland is in fact a land of overwhelming natural splendour with highlands, snow-capped mountains, lush green scenery, and culture bursting from its seams. These properties make it one of the most popular destinations for walkers and ramblers looking for a good trek: here are some of Scotland's best.
Quinag is fairly well known for its wonderful 808-meter-high peak, but what people sometimes don't realise is that Quinag is actually a series of peaks of varying height, with the name itself referring its distinctive undulating shape, much like a milking pail. The fact that Quinag offers three separate Corbetts means that one could conquer them individually with ease on different days, or there's the other option: take them all on at once in one single day. This most definitely isn't a challenge for the faint-hearted rambler: these peaks are challenging and will push even experienced hikers towards - and occasionally out of - their comfort zone.
Once one reaches the dizzying peaks, the views are literally breath-taking; you can view all of the natural beauty that Scotland has to offer as well as look at landscape that is around 3.5 billion years old as well as look over some geological masterpieces that nature herself has crafted. Have a look at the Quinag Estate page for a great deal of information about the area.
Since Quinag is in a relatively remote location, it would be impractical for most travellers to try and arrive, conquer the peaks, and journey for hours back to their hotel or place of stay - there is some wonderful accommodation on offer in the local area for your consideration. Quinag Cottage is a luxury house in the nearby area that offers convenience and a base location for those wishing to spend more than one day's light out on the peaks.
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
It seems greedy of one relatively discrete location in Scotland to hog all of the natural beauty, but the wondrousness of Sandwood Bay cannot be denied. A much different experience to the dizzying heights of Quinag, Sandwood Bay is a walk that will surprise you with a beautifully serene and secluded beach that appears in the middle of what looks like nowhere. Walk over the sand and sand dunes to step on a beach that has seen a great deal of history (Vikings, Armada) but sees very little in the way of tourist activity which can often spoil a natural landscape.
Though the weather isn't always going to be ideal at Sandwood Bay, the landscape guarantees beauty to anyone who visits it. Expect to see cliffs, Cape Wrath, and a saltwater lagoon among other things of beauty. The peatlands are also home to a great deal of wildlife and offers diversity scarcely scene in other parts of Scotland or indeed the UK. The John Muir rust again handles this land, and the Sandwood Bay page offers up more information about it.
Overscaig Hotel would be an ideal example of convenient accommodation for those wishing to visit either Sandwood bay or Quinag. The hotel overlooks Loch Shin, with a dining room offering fantastic views of the Lochwhilst you dine on locally-sourced food and either contemplate your prospective walk through Sandwood bay or reflect upon the sights that you saw when at the highest peak at Quinag.
Ben Nevis, Invernessshire
You wouldn't expect to read a list of great Scottish walks without encountering what is probably one of the most famous features of the Scottish highlands: Ben Nevis. This mountain is 1344 meters tall and is consequently Britain's tallest mountain that simply begs for people to take on its dizzying height. There is more than one way to scale Ben Nevis as well: you can choose the north route, which is much longer and more for the experienced walker, or the path from Glen Nevis which is much easier and tourist friendly. Ben Nevis is often part of what people like to call the "three peaks challenge" along with Snowden and Scaffel Pike, and it is very deserving of a place in this trio of rambling challenges. One should be prompted to take great care in colder conditions, and if ice or snow is predicted then the proper equipment should be brought along to ensure the safety of yourself as well as of others.
Due to the popularity of Ben Nevis as a hiking destination, there are many options when looking for convenient accommodation. Places like Ben Nevis Inn are very popular, with this particular inn charging a mere £15.50 per person per night for basic accommodation and convenient access to the bar, restaurant, and most importantly, Glen Nevis.
The Trossachs Trail
You will struggle to find a place with more serenity and beauty than the Trossachs, an area comprised of many lochs, rivers, and forest area that is simply begging to be walked by those who appreciate the finest scenery that Scotland has to offer. You will be following the Trossachs Trail which takes walkers from Loch Lomond to Callander, travelling from west to east and encountering Lochs Achray and Venachar as well as green landscapes that inspired great works such as Lady of the Lake and Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott.
Walk Highlands has a great page for accommodation in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, with each cottage offering wonderful views or at very least convenient lodging whilst you rest and recover from what will likely be some extensive walking in the daylight hours.
The West Highland Way
This is possibly one of, if not the most popular long-distance walks in the whole of Scotland, as famous as Ben Nevis and almost as challenging. 151km is not a distance that should be sniffed at: it requires some serious patience but luckily, there are almost unbroken scenes of natural beauty the whole way. Starting in the heart of Glasgow will add another day on to the walk, which is an added bonus for people who know just how beautiful and rewarding this extended time in the Scottish highlands will be. You will get to witness the landscapes of the Campsies, the serene tranquillity of Loch Lomond, and eventually the more challenging yet quietly beautiful highlands that take up more and more of the scenery as you head further into the walk. The route concludes with the wonderful Glen Nevis by taking you through Fort William, and could even continue if you have the energy, merging into the East Highland Way.
Guided walks of the West Highland Way can be found on EasyWays, as can accommodation information and photos of what you are likely to encounter.