What is Forest Bathing and How Do You Do It
So before we introduce you to some of Scotland’s majestic forests and magical woodlands, maybe you’re wondering what forest bathing even is?
Forest bathing originates from the Japanese practice of ‘shinrin-yoku’. Translated literally, it means forest bath. It involves sitting quietly in a forest or woodland and using your senses to mindfully connect with the natural surroundings, completely immersing yourself in them.
The idea is to calm the overactive mind and stress levels brought on by modern life. There are even studies that show forest bathing lowers cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure, and depression or anxiety symptoms – all of which benefit health and counteract illnesses. Worth a try, right?
The Japanese Art and Science of Forest Bathing
Forest bathing is the perfect way to embrace the wonder of Scotland’s incredible nature. Immerse yourself in the scents, sounds and sights of an incredible forest and feel your worries float away. Go one step further and take a forest bathing holiday to reap the full rejuvenation benefits.
1. Abernethy Forest, Cairngorm National Park, Highlands
Abernethy Forest, near Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands, is the largest area of ancient Caledonian Forest in the UK. These Scots pine trees exude a glorious pine smell to be enjoyed, with reddish coloured trunks and rich green foliage all year round. While you’re here, you can also stroll round Loch Garten and potentially spot some red squirrels, ospreys or capercaillies. Visit the RSPB Osprey Centre to learn more about the local wildlife.
2. Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Queen Elizabeth Forest Park is located in the stunning surroundings of Loch Lomond, near Aberfoyle. This 50,000-acre forest park encompasses mountain and moorland, forest and woodland, rivers and lochs – so there’s definitely enough space to find your own quiet spot! The forest is home to a rich variety of animal and plant life which you might spot as you wander, including buzzards, peregrines, deer and red squirrels. The attraction of the park lies in the peace and quiet, many magnificent views across the lochs and hills, and excellent facilities, which include the beautiful café at The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre.
3. Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway
Galloway Forest Park, located in the south west of Scotland near Newton Stewart, is the largest forest park anywhere in the UK. Although there are many activities and facilities available here, it’s also very easy to get away from the rest of the world amongst the vast expanse of trees. Home to ancient woodland, beautiful scenery and a wide range of wildlife, this forest is also a recognised Dark Sky Park, which means it’s ideal for stargazing. Enjoy picturesque forest trails, spot red deer and wild goats, follow in the footsteps of the infamous King Robert the Bruce, and why not picnic beside a peaceful loch?
4. Thornielee Forest, Galashiels, Scottish Borders
Thornielee Forest, near Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, is a quiet, smaller forest slightly off the beaten track. You can take a gentle walk on the Meadow Trail and spot butterflies or anthills on the edge of the pine trees. Or take the Cairn Trail to the top of the hill for wonderful views across the forest. On the opposite side of the road from the car park, you can sit on the banks of the River Tweed and enjoy the soothing sounds of the flowing water. Nearby is the ancient ruins of Melrose Abbey in the historic village of Melrose – definitely worth a stop.
5. Tay Forest Park, Perthshire
Tay Forest Park is situated to the north of Perth, near the charming village of Dunkeld. It’s home to a patchwork of scenic forest and some of the country’s tallest trees. Enjoy unforgettable loch and mountain views, and learn about legends of dragons and queens as you follow the paths. Also within Tay Forest Park is The Hermitage – a landscape originally designed in the 18th century to delight the Duke of Atholl. Wander through this fairy-tale Douglas fir forest, see the Black Linn Falls where the River Braan crashes down into pools below, and Ossian’s Hall which provides a viewing point over the falls.
6. Glengarry Forest, Fort William
One of Scotland’s best kept woodland secrets, Glengarry Forest features the River Garry running through it, and a combination of majestic Scots pine and deciduous trees giving the forest colour all year round. The river is home to otters and salmon, while red squirrels, black grouse, pine martens and the very elusive wildcats live among the trees. Enjoy gentle walks over bridges, past waterfalls and through the woodlands. You can learn about the original settlements here and the people’s way of life before they were moved during the Highland Clearances.
7. Contin, near Inverness, Highlands
Contin Forest, near Strathpeffer, is a peaceful birch, pine and spruce woodland. You can take gentle walking paths that wind under the tall pines, or take a climb uphill for views over Strathconon. The forest is home to many roe and red deer, red squirrels and even wildcats. Also at the north end of the park is Rogie Falls. These impressive cascading waterfalls can be viewed from a suspension bridge across the beautiful Black Water river, where you might spot some leaping salmon in late summer and autumn.
8. Glen Tanar pinewoods, Aberdeenshire
Glen Tanar is located in the south east of the Cairngorm National Park, near the village of Dinnet. The area is also known as Royal Deeside due to the River Dee, the nearby royal residence Balmoral Castle, and the region’s long-standing favour with the Royal family. A designated area of conservation, Glen Tanar is covered in Caledonian Scots pine forest, with heather shrubs and ferns decorating the forest floor. Amble along the edge of the Water of Tanar and cross its beautiful little stone bridges, a charming feature of this historic 25,000-acre estate. Look out for golden eagles, pine martens and red squirrels, which can regularly be spotted swooping or leaping amongst this peaceful forest.
9. Dunnet Forest, Caithness, Highlands
Dunnet Forest, near Thurso, is the most northerly forest area on the UK mainland. It’s an ideal stop if you are travelling the North Coast 500 as it’s directly on the route. This experimental cultivated forest is made up of pine trees, sitka spruce and sycamore, and there are some interesting features to see as you walk around, including a log cabin, sculptures, and a large wooden xylophone. The forest sits right on the edge of Dunnet’s beautiful beach, a large stretch of idyllic golden sand which you could also enjoy a walk along while you’re there. If you’re lucky, you may even get the beach all to yourself!
10. Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, Renfrewshire
Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park sits on the west coast of Scotland, near the city of Glasgow. This vast park area was originally a Victorian shooting estate, covering 108 square miles. It offers a range of landscapes to explore including woodland, lochs, hills and heather moorland, with the convenience of several visitor centres or facility points around the park. There is mixed woodland and conifer forest areas, which are home to ospreys, hen harriers, roe deer, tawny owls, foxes and otters. A range of walking routes are available to follow, with several them taking in the various woodlands.
11. Beecraigs Country Park, West Lothian
Within easy reach of Edinburgh, near the historic town of Linlithgow, Beecraigs Country Park is a sitka spruce woodland which covers just under 1000 acres. The park features in season 4 of Outlander, where outdoor scenes were filmed depicting the beautiful North American wilderness in North Carolina and Virginia. The park offers a visitors’ centre and café, as well as an animal attraction area where you can get close up to red deer, Highland cows and sheep.
12. Brucefield Estate, Clackmannanshire, Central Scotland
Brucefield Estate is a beautiful and largely untouched country estate with a rich landscape and architectural history, and unique ancestry. The estate offers carefully curated hideaways for between two and four people where you can find out more about the history and wildlife of this very accessible part of central Scotland. The estate is a mosaic of habitats including woodlands, heather, mossy wet woodlands and fields that covers 1000 acres in easy to reach central Scotland.
Now that you’re all set to go forest bathing in Scotland, embracing all that the natural world has to offer, you might want to discover what other ways you could enjoy Scotland. Read more about forest and woodlands in Scotland, and where and when to spot wildlife. You could also get ideas for a Scottish wellness break.