Backpacker's Britain: Northern Scotland

30 short backpacking routes north of the Great Glen

By Graham Uney

The guidebook covers 30 multi-day backpacking routes in northern Scotland's highlands and islands. Routes take walkers along rugged coastlines from the Shetland Islands to the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, and across mountain ridges from northern Skye to Glen Affric. Routes of 2, 3 and 5 days.



January to March most routes snow-bound. April to June and September to December ideal. July and August bring plagues of midges!


Lerwick, Stromness, Stornoway, Ullapool, Gairloch, Torridon, Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig, Portree, Fort William


Wilderness backpacking routes of 2–5 days for the experienced hillwalker/wild camper. Good fitness and navigation skills essential.
Must See

Must See

Sleeping in the wilderness and waking to a sunlit dawn of cackling grouse on vast, open expanses of purple moorland.
11 Oct 2006
11 Aug 2010
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.7cm
  • Overview

    The Highlands of Scotland are one of Britain's great wilderness areas, particularly in the Far North. Backpackers venturing into these remote lands get a true sense of being away from it, and this book gives a superb starting point for those wanting to explore this wonderful mountain region. A total of 30 multi-day backpacking routes are described, along rugged coastlines from the Shetland Islands to the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, and across mountain ridges from the northern tip of Skye to the great trench of Glen Affric. Most routes take just 2 or 3 days to complete, but for those wanting an even wilder experience a handful of longer routes are also included.

    • Covers all the main mountain regions north of the Great Glen, as well as many magnificent coastal walks on the islands of Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Rum.
    • Accommodation information provided, as well as details of good camp sites, bothies and hostels for use during the walk itself.

    This is the third volume of Cicerone’s Backpacker’s series, and follows Volume 1: Northern England and Volume 2: Wales, both also by Graham Uney.

  • Contents

    How to Use This Guide
    Getting Around and Accommodation
    Safety in the Hills
    Access and the Backpacker
    Flora and Fauna
    The Walks
    Walk 1 Shetland – Esha Ness
    Walk 2 Shetland – Mainland South
    Walk 3 Shetland – Yell
    Walk 4 Orkney – Western Mainland
    Walk 5 Lewis – Western Mountains
    Walk 6 North Harris – Mountains and Moorlands
    Walk 7 South Uist – the Wild Eastern Coast
    Walk 8 Cape Wrath and Sandwood Bay
    Walk 9 Ben Hope
    Walk 10 Inverpolly
    Walk 11 Assynt from Inchnadamph
    Walk 12 The Munros of the Inverlael Forest
    Walk 13 Fisherfield and Letterewe
    Walk 14 The Applecross Peninsula
    Walk 15 The Fannichs Traverse
    Walk 16 Torridon from Shieldaig
    Walk 17 Coulin Forest from Torridon
    Walk 18 The Strath Carron Munros from Craig
    Walk 19 The Head of Strathconon
    Walk 20 The High Traverse of Glen Affric
    Walk 21 Beinn Fhada and A’ Ghlas Bheinn
    Walk 22 The High Traverse of Glen Shiel
    Walk 23 Shiel Bridge to Glenfinnan
    Walk 24 The Mountains of Knoydart
    Walk 25 Skye – the Black Cuillin Lochs and Bealachs
    Walk 26 Skye – the Red Cuillin
    Walk 27 Skye – the Trotternish Ridge Traverse
    Walk 28 Exploring Raasay
    Walk 29 Discovering Rum
    Walk 30 Through the Cona Glen

    Appendix 1 Useful Contacts
    Appendix 2 Bibliography
    Appendix 3 Walk Summary Table
    Appendix 4 Glossary

  • Updates
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    May 2007

    Page 6 - Warning

    The last sentence in the paragraph should read

    From a mobile, phone the international emergency number 112 – this will connect you via any available network.

    May 2015

    Route 8
    Sandwood Bay (p91)

    Thank you to John Cleare for providing us with information about Tom Patey and the first ascent of Am Buachaille. The sea stack was first climbed in July 1967 by Tom Patey and John Cleare but this was not how Tom lost his life. He died descending from the first ascent of The Maiden, a double stack off Whiten Head in May 1970.

  • Reviews
    'It’s an interesting point to note, but a fairnumber of us Scots are more familiar with European locations than we are with our own country. This may be, in part, due to the number of bargain holiday destinations abroad, but with increasing emphasis on ‘Scottishness’, Gaelic and our heritage, exploring our own country may just be creeping into the minds of many.

    And rather than take the easy way out by joining a coach tour of the ‘important’ bits of Scotland, or taking the car and staying at generic hotels and inns, there is always the option of roughing it a bit, and backpacking through the wilds to find out what this country is really like. Since this isn’t quite the easy option that can be comfortably handled by your local travel agent, a guide to how to partake of the great outdoors is a recommended first step. Such a guide has been produced by the experts in the field (if you’ll pardon the pun) at Cicerone Press, who recently published the third volume in their series ‘Backpacker’s Britain’. This volume concerns the Highlands and Islands of Northern Scotland and is comprehensively written by Graham Uney who operates Wild Ridge Adventures, a company specializing in just the very holidays to which I referred above.

    The book covers a total of thirty multi-day trips covering the area north of the Great Glen along with Skye, the Outer Hebrides and Orkney and Shetland. Before launching into descriptions of each particular hike, Uney comprehensively covers the dos and don’ts of backpacking, even down to the composition of a daily diet to make sure you’re not stuck in the wilds suffering from hunger knock.
    So if Torremolinos, Majorca and Tenerife leave you cold (metaphorically speaking), this may well be the time to kit yourself with the appropriate outdoor gear and go and find out just what a wonderful country Scotland really is.'

    (Ileach Newspaper / March 07)

    'The author Graham Uney has used his extensive knowledge to provide the reader with a really useful guide giving detail of Tourist Information, transport links, accommodation and supply points. Each day has a detailed description of the route and terrain leaving the reader in doubt what to expect.

    The book is aimed at anyone with a love of wild mountain and coastal walking. I liked the layout and overall feel of this backpackers guide and even if you don't contemplate walking the routes it is good enough to inspire you or give as a gift to a friend.

    Graham writes for a number of outdoor and wildlike magazine, his knowledge and expertise shows through on each page of this excellent guide.'

    (Strider / April 2007)

    'In my early days as a mountaineer, the Highlands and islands of Northern Scotland became a regular haunt of mine. For me, the mark of a good guidebook is one that makes you want to get out among the mountains, and Uney's guide has that in spades.

    The Highlands of Scotland are one of Britain's great wilderness areas, particularly the far north. Backpackers venturing into this remote area get a true sense of being away from it all, and this book gives a superb starting point for those wanting to explore this wonderful mountain region.

    The book is 'back-pack' size and attracively produced. The author writes well with a real love for both the area and the adventure. Browsing through his descriptions of the areas that I know best made me all nostalgic. Now, where's my Trangia.....?'

    (Irish Mountain Log / Spring 2007)

    Check out the reviews on the following websites:
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Graham Uney

Graham Uney

Graham Uney runs his own mountaineering business from his base in Bampton, at the foot of Haweswater in the lovely Lowther Valley. Through his business he offers a wide range of skills courses for walkers and climbers. During the winter months Graham works for the Lake District National Park Authority Weatherline service, climbing Helvellyn every day as Fell Top Assessor to take weather readings and to write a report on snow conditions to help keep walkers, climbers, and skiers safe. He’s also a full member of the Mountain Training Association, the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, and a full team member with the Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team.

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