You’ll probably not get a better sense of open space in a city setting or enjoy as much fresh air as you do while on Aberdeen’s esplanade.
It’s perfect for those just starting to stretch their running legs, and this completely flat surface stretches around three miles – just short of a 5k – from the old fishing village of Footdee in the south to Bridge of Don in the North.
You’ll likely feel a blast from the North Sea breeze on the route, which takes you past the fairground and ice cream shops of the esplanade to the wider open links space, where you’ll see ships manoeuvring at sea.
St Cyrus to Montrose, Aberdeenshire/Angus
If you are feeling really up for it, park your car at the cliff tops at St Cyrus beach and descend the sometimes tricky path to the nature reserve below. The views alone will be worth the extra effort. Head to Gurkha Bridge from where you’ll find a flat road run to North Water Bridge, which you can now cross after the old railway line was included in the National Cycle Network. From here, cross through Kinnaber Woods, where a lovely landscape of pine trees gives way to the sand dunes of the beach. Before you reach the shore, a gate to your right will lead you on a track to Montrose airfield. You’ll end up on the fringes of the town’s golf courses and coast. From Montrose town centre, you can get the bus back to St Cyrus – you will have done around five miles at this point. Or, you can just head back on foot - fast or slow - on the way you came.
Cairngorms National Park
The atmospheric ruins of 16th century Glenbuchat Castle is the starting point for a testing eight-mile run along Glenbuchat ridge, which sits on the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park.
This peaceful run takes you east from the castle over Glenbuchat Water. From there, head north at Buchat Bridge from where you will enter the glen. Continue anticlockwise around the glen with settlements such as Tombreck and Belnacraig marking the route. You’ll come to Little Fibriggs Hill which offers a decent ascent at 523 feet. The views are vast, taking in Mount Keen to the south, Ben Newe to the west and The Buck to the North East.
From here, you are less than two miles away from the original starting point.
Isle of Bute
Runners always like to sneak in some training during a trip to Bute. The varied routes on the island, which measures 47.2 square miles, can satisfy hard-training athletes and casual joggers alike. One noteworthy route is one that goes through Rothesay up Canada Hill, with views across Loch Ascog to be enjoyed. Head to the coast and head north through Ascog Bay back towards Rothesay. You will have covered just shy of six miles with a decent ascent. For something more sedate, a run around Scalpsie Bay on the west coast will afford you fine views of the Isle of Arran.
Clyde Canal/River, Kelvin Glasgow
The Botanic Gardens is a great starting point for any run, taking you through some fantastic green space set deep in the urban sprawl. For a six mile run, get onto Queen Margaret Drive then head left down Kelvin Drive. Join Kelvin Way near the Ha’penny Bridge and follow the river up to the locks on the Forth and Clyde Canal. The path will eventually start to loop round and you will see Maryhill Road on your right and the fire station. Turn right here and you’ll be on your way back to Queen Margaret Drive
For a shorter 1.5m route, head down the steps at the back of the gardens by the cafe and cross the bridge onto the river walkway. From here, head right and enjoy the long open stretch towards the site of the North Woodside Flint Mill. Keep going and enjoy the river sounds and green surrounds on the way. You will soon reach Kelvingrove Park.
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
It’s only three miles to the top and back from the east end of Princes Street, but running up Arthur’s Seat is not for the faint hearted - or the unfit.
However, getting to the top in once piece and being able to enjoy the views will feel like the best possible reward.
From Holyrood Park, head up the main walkway and aim left, heading to the back of the Crags. You will leave the walkway and begin to climb some steps with St Anthony’s Chapel up above you. Follow the path as it veers to the right and stay on the path to the summit. This is running with a bit of rough thrown in, but you’ll feel amazing by the end with one of the world’s best city’s at your feet.
West Sands, St Andrews
It’s famous for its starring role in Chariots of Fife but the West Sands doesn’t demand you to be a world record breaker. It is, however, a fantastic place to to get fit. The route is routinely described as always beautiful – and for good reason – but it can be tricky, depending on how the tides have left the sands. A good place to start is by the Old Course, from where you can head north for around 2.5m. The loop back can be built up in pace the stronger you get. Chances are you’ll catch a heckler singing the film’s Vengalis theme tune, but don’t let it get to you.