Historic castles and lively pubs, rolling countryside and crashing surf, Scotland is a hiker’s dream. Indeed, with its mix of glacially carved valleys and plenitude of low-lying peaks, Scotland is consistently ranked as one of the best places to hike in Europe.
An outdoor lover’s playground, Scotland is famous for its wilderness pursuits. In the summer, when the days are long, it’s everything from hiking to mountain biking to sea kayaking to fishing to surfing.
One of the most beautiful parts of Scotland is the Trossachs area around Loch Lomond, where this trip, the Rob Roy Way, is based. Easy to access from Glasgow, the central portion of Loch Lomond is so lovely that it was officially designated as Scotland’s first national park in 2002. The south is a mix of woodlands and meadows bumping against the island-dotted shoreline, while the northern half consists of deep lochs surrounded by 900-meter mountains. Delightful towns, filled with pubs, open-air markets, and enchanting castles pepper the region.
The Rob Way Tour
Arriving in Drymen, a small, but charming town in the heart of the Trossachs region, you’ll have the chance to settle into your hotel and dine at the Clachan Inn, a classic pub serving delicious Scottish fare.
Heading out the next day, you’ll travel along an ancient Roman aqueduct that will take you to the wool trade village, Aberfoyle, where you may see live sheep dog demonstrations. Exiting Aberfoyle’s back streets, you’ll ascend lovely forest service roads to a high moor with a spectacular single-track trail running across it.
That night you’ll arrive in Callander, one of the Trossachs most vibrant villages. The tour spends the night in an exceptional hotel there on the banks of the River Teith. The next few days feature great variety in terrain—from beaches to lochs to scenic vistas—carrying you eventually to Killin, a gorgeous spot on the Loch Tay, where the scenic Falls of Dochart cascade into the center of town. After a transfer to Acharn, you’ll traverse the Queen’s Way, glimpsing views of Taymouth Castle along the way.
One of the most beautiful days of the trip is the last one, where the tour travels from Aberfeldy, via a possible stop at Dewer’s Whisky, following the River Tay into Strathtay before winding down in busy Pitlochry, where the tour concludes.
Scotland has an elaborate ferry system, one which is subsidized by the government to keep fares affordable. Ferries make trekking in Scotland that much easier as you can hike down to the shore and return the way you came by boat. Or you can island hop among the country’s 700-plus islands just by using the ferry system.
The pubs of Scotland are a vibrant part of the culture. These are where the Scots grab a drink and a meal with friends as well as swap stories. Music, too, is an important component of pub life. Sometimes, bands will play, but more often than not, locals will bring their instruments and informally jam, singing traditional and contemporary songs. Many Scottish pubs have preserved their 18th or 19th century décor with timber-beamed ceilings and mahogany bars. There are several fun pub stops along this tour, including a favorite in Strathyre.
The Scottish microbrew industry has exploded in recent years and in most pubs, you’ll find a range of IPA’s and dark beers alongside more traditional lagers and bitters (or as the Scottish call them, exports). Historically, the strength of Scottish beers was indicated by price—the more alcohol, the higher the shillings—and you’ll still see that distinction made with some of the more traditional Scottish beer, with a range of 60 to 80-shilling brews.
Whisky is as synonymous with Scotland as its golf and its kilts. The spirit, made from a fermented grain mash, has been distilled in the country for over 500 years. Each region of Scotland has its own distinct flavor, from the smokier varieties of Islay to the more floral Speyside malts.
Food has come a long way from the fried fish, mushy vegetable days of the past. Not surprisingly, the seafood in Scotland is excellent, with delicious options for scallops, lobster, and salmon, as well as many other cold-water fish. The farm-to-table culture is alive and well, with everything from restaurants to pubs to food carts featuring local vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Even Scotland’s curious-sounding national dish, haggis, a mix of chopped sheep parts, onions, and oatmeal stuffed into the sheep’s stomach, can be quite good, with deep-fried varieties served by some street carts.
Who was Rob Roy?
The namesake for this trip’s route holds special significance for the Scots. In a country with a fierce history of clanship, feudalism, and battles with neighboring England, Roy or Robert Macgregor emerged as something of a Robin Hood. Nicknamed Roy for his fiery red hair (‘ruadh’ in Gaelic Anglicized to ‘roy’), he was a poor farmer who fought to the top to become a successful livestock trader. A skilled swordsman, he was made famous by his daring cattle raids in the Lowlands. Although he was ultimately caught and imprisoned, he was a hero to common folk and stood for the struggle against the aristocrats who owned disproportionately large swaths of land. His life was memorialized first by Walter Scott’s novel and then by a subsequent film, produced in 1995.
Traveling the Rob Roy Way is a fantastic introduction to Scotland. Scotland is a literal link between its history and the country today. It is filled with fun pub stops and surrounded by the natural beauty of its inland lochs and rising peaks.