Walk of the week: Our top ten winter walks
We’ve compiled a top ten of our favourite wintry walks around Scotland for you to get out and enjoy.
The number of deciduous trees – including oaks, which used to cover this area in ancient times – make it a great walk for this time of year.
After climbing from the lochside, there is a great vantage point. And as the walk goes on, as long as your waterproofs work, a feeling of being in your own little world can make for one of the best chill-outs available in Scotland’s forests.
DISTANCE 6½ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 650ft.
TIME 2½ to 3½ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 57.
New Lanark, one of the most interesting industrial landmarks in Scotland, is a World Heritage Site due to its 18th century cotton mills.
Beyond New Lanark are the Falls of Clyde, always made more impressive after a big dollop of wet weather – no problem there then. Despite the crashing water, you can still hear the chirping of little birds. This is the kind of walk that proves it’s good to get outdoors in almost any weather.
DISTANCE 6 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 820ft.
TIME 3½ to 4½ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 71.
Braeriach, in the Cairngorms, is one mountain you would think better to go up in summer, when the days are long. It’s true that you will probably need a head torch for the start and end of the walk, as you walk along forest drives and low-level paths, but the idea of beginning at dawn and ending at dusk is surely a wonderful way to make the most of short days.
DISTANCE 15 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 3,500ft.
TIME 8 to 9½ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 36.
It’s not hard to understand why the Campbells based themselves near Dollar. The 15th-century stronghold of Castle Campbell stands defiant above a deep gorge – making advancing enemies easy to spot. Nowadays, the advantages of this place are the views. Looking out over the Forth Valley, often shrouded in mist on winter mornings, the Lowlands are laid out before you. Behind lie the Ochil Hills.
DISTANCE 4 miles (one way).
HEIGHT CLIMBED 560ft (one way)
TIME 2-2½ hours (one way).
MAP OS Landranger 58.
Cockleroy – meaning the hat of the kings – is not a particularly big hill, in fact it is below 1,000ft but to my young daughter it is “the mountain”. We can see the hill from our house, and so for us it has become a regular activity to walk up Cockleroy – me to look at views from Goat Fell, on Arran, to the southern Highlands and the Ochils, across the Firth of Forth; my daughter to try to spot home, school and the swimming pool.
DISTANCE 7 and a half miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 610ft.
TIME 3 to 4 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 65.
Woodlands are often shunned by walkers – you can’t see the views for the trees. But in winter, a time usually thought of as dark, the lack of leaves can open a wood up to daylight, low sun casting a beautiful pattern. With a burn to follow, a low-level walk at this time of year can also be seen as having a purpose. So, don’t huddle indoors, get out and enjoy what daylight there is.
As well as preserving the natural beauty of Quarrymill, the Gannochy Trust has also built some excellent wheelchair and pushchair-friendly paths. This walk follows some of them before ascending steep ground – to enjoy a good walk with wheels, stay close to the burn.
DISTANCE 1½ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 200ft.
TIME 1 to 1½ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 58.
The environmentalist, John Muir, was born in Dunbar and went on to found national parks in North America, becoming a pioneer in the drive to protect wild spaces. His memory lives on in East Lothian with the country park and a long-distance footpath named after him, which this walk follows for part of the way. In the United States his honours include being featured on a 25 cent coin.
If you want to contemplate all this, the wide open spaces of Belhaven Bay and the country park allow the mind to roam freely. If you just want a simple walk to enjoy nature without cluttering the mind, that is possible too.
DISTANCE 4 miles.
TIME 2 to 2½ hours
MAP OS Landranger
Creag an Tuirc was the ancient meeting place of the Clan MacLaren and a fine cairn marks the spot. What really catches the eye, however, is the impressive view down Loch Voil, framed by steep-sided mountains.
Balquhidder is probably best known for one of its sons. Rob Roy is famous, or infamous, far beyond Scotland and the outlaw’s mortal remains are buried in the kirkyard. Judging by some of the coins, ribbons and flowers left there, it appears to be a sort of pilgrimage for some to visit it. For others, however, it is simply an interesting diversion at the end of one of the best short walks in Scotland.
DISTANCE 2 miles
HEIGHT CLIMBED 400ft
TIME 1 to 2 hours
MAP OS Landranger 51
AS tributes go, the one on Peniel Heugh is pretty impressive. Its 150ft height on top of a 774ft hill means the Waterloo Monument can be seen from miles around and, for the walker, it makes a great viewpoint across the Borders towards the Cheviots.
It was built to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s 1815 victory, and without it you probably wouldn’t see people toiling up the hill. The effort is worth it, for this is a quiet corner of lush farmland, rolling hills and big skies.
The loch below the hill is a good place to spot wildfowl and, though you have to walk along a minor road, traffic is infrequent. On top of that, the visitor centre at Harestanes means waymarked routes make the walk easy to follow – green arrows at first, then red ones for the return.
DISTANCE 6 miles
HEIGHT CLIMBED 590ft
TIME 2½ to 3 hours
MAP OS Landranger 74
It is true that winters in this part of the country can be severe but the clear light can make it enchanting, especially with a lack of people around to spoil the solitude (and there’s little chance of getting stuck behind a caravan after September).
Farrmheall is a hill that is likely overlooked by most walkers, but as a vantage point it is stunning, with views over vast expanses of moor and hill that terminate suddenly at the cliffs of Cape Wrath.
The lack of paths on this route ads to the sense of remoteness. There are other dramatic mountains in the area but on most you will probably meet other walkers – not a bad thing but sometimes it’s nice to feel you have the whole place to yourself.
DISTANCE 3 miles
HEIGHT CLIMBED 1,190ft
TIME 2 to 2½ hours
MAP OS Landranger 9