The crisp winter days and chilly nights are here in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean we have to ‘coorie’ away indoors all the time. In fact, our winter weather makes for some incredible conditions and scenic family-friendly moments to get out and explore the outdoors. Grab your cosy jackets, warm hat and gloves, and some weather-appropriate shoes, and let’s go walking!
Are you planning to head for the Scottish hills this winter? If so, then check out Mountaineering Scotland’s #ThinkWINTER guidance and make sure you have the appropriate skills and equipment before you go.
1. The Touchstone Maze at Blackmuir Wood, Strathpeffer
This quirky wood is located just 30 minutes north of Inverness in Strathpeffer and is home to the fascinating Touchstone Maze. This interesting creation was built using 81 stones from quarries across the Highlands and islands and reflects Scotland’s complex geographical landscape. Follow the winding spiral path around the stones and admire the various types and features of the rocks, which are all unique to the various areas of the Highlands.
Blackmuir Wood is a great spot in the Highlands for a winter walk with the family, featuring the Red Kite Trail; a short and easy circular route boasting spectacular views of Ben Wyvis and the opportunity to spot kites and buzzards soaring overhead.
2. Knockan Crag Nature Reserve, Assynt
Knockan Crag Nature Reserve is an incredible spot on the map, with ancient geological stories and mysteries to tell. Venture along the Knockan Crag Trail loop which offers the chance to see wildlife up close and is suitable for all skill levels. Keep an eye out for the rock art around the reserve (pictured above) which feature stunning sculptures made from rock fragments native to the area. This part of the north west Highlands is often known as the ‘place where continents collide’. Visit the North West Highlands Geopark where you can learn more about the geology of the area and the Moine Thrust, which was created by the force of two continents crashing together many millions of years ago.
Knockan Crag is open all year and facilities include a car park, toilets, visitor centre and trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
3. Ness Islands and Whin Park, Inverness
Whin Park located in the south of Inverness on the banks of the River Ness is a great spot for a family day out. Featuring an adventure playground, a boating pond and narrow-gauge railway – there’s plenty to keep the wee ones entertained. The park is also a beautiful spot for a snowy winter wander, with local shops and amenities nearby too.
Why not explore the nearby Ness Islands too? This group of islands along the River Ness are connected by suspension bridges that were built in the Victorian times, and the area features many short and gentle walks to enjoy too.
4. Loch an Eilean Circular Walk, Aviemore
Part of the magical Cairngorms National Park, Loch an Eilean is a popular family favourite in the Highlands. This unique loch boasts a little island of its own which also features an old ruin. Head around the circular walk which boasts incredible Caledonian pine forests, serene mountain views and an easy terrain for the little ones to enjoy. If you’re brave enough, dip your toes in the fresh mountain water, try your hand at skimming stones, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, or bring a bite to eat and tuck in whilst admiring scenic views of the loch. Why not explore the popular Loch Morlich nearby too? There are various routes and trails you can follow which encompass both scenic lochs.
5. Warebeth Beach, Orkney
Let’s head even further north to the beautiful Orkney isles. Uncover this tranquil spot on the south west coast of mainland Orkney for a crisp walk along the beach. Warebeth Beach boasts enchanting views of the Hoy Hills, and is a great spot on the map to let the kids run wild and explore all the coastal nooks and crannies on the beach. Did you know, if you visit the beach after particularly stormy weather, you could uncover treasure from as far away as North America and the Caribbean?
6. Northton Beach, Harris, Outer Hebrides
Many Outer Hebridean beaches have been confused with, or compared to, Caribbean oases – and at Northton Beach, it is easy to see why. Located on the Isle of Harris, this long stretch of sandy coastline is met by a medieval chapel at the headland of Traigh na Cleabhaig. Wrap up warm and head out for a coastal wander this winter.
7. Lerwick Explorer, Shetland
Start your exploring in the historic capital of Shetland, Lerwick, where the route explores the older part of the town and harbour, before passing around the headland of the Knab boasting some incredible coastal scenery and views. There is also the chance to see a well-preserved and restored broch along the way.
8. Calgary Art Trail, Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull is a glorious island gem located off the west coast of Scotland. Follow along the Calgary Art Trail where you can admire pieces of art and sculptures dotted around the woodland that aim to inspire and educate about art in nature. Start at the Calgary Café & Gallery where you can explore the woodland walk and cosy in for afternoon tea and cake afterwards.
9. Loch Ard Sculpture Trail, Aberfoyle
In Aberfoyle, near The Trossachs, explore the Loch Ard Sculpture Trail – a unique and family friendly experience. As you wander along the trails, keep your eyes peeled for an array of sculptures which represent a number of different animals and birds that appear as part of the natural food chain in the forest. Along the trail, there are also five sound posts featuring sound recordings of toad, deer stag, great spotted woodpecker, buzzard, and jay birds.
10. North Queensferry Coastal Circuit, Fife
Head to Fife and enjoy a scenic coastal wander around North Queensferry, taking in spectacular views of the bridges up close. Starting off from directly under the Forth Rail Bridge, follow a section of the lovely, waymarked Fife Coastal Path before heading inland to explore more sights, wildlife and a unique industrial landscape.
11. Lady Mary’s Walk, Crieff
This popular route in Perthshire is a family favourite when it comes to walking. The Lady Mary’s Walk runs along the banks of the River Earn and boasts a picturesque setting amongst a dense forest of mature oak, beech, lime and sweet chestnut trees. It’s a great option for a sheltered winter wander through the trees, featuring a play park at the end of the route, as well as there being many well-placed seats and viewpoints along the way. Lady Mary’s Walk has also been upgraded to make it accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs.
If you fancy a wee bit extra on your walk, why not head up Laggan Hill? At the end of the walk, you can take the path up to Laggan Hill, which will take you through mixed woodland and opens up to awesome views of the countryside.
12. Beecraigs Country Park Loop, West Lothian
Head west of Edinburgh to Beecraigs Country Park – the perfect one-stop-shop for an exciting family day out. Venture along the loop walk for a gentle incline to the top of the hill, where you’ll be met with incredible panoramic views over West Lothian and Edinburgh. The park is also dog-friendly, so make sure you bring along your family pooch for a fun winter walk.
13. Crombie Country Park, Dundee & Angus
Take a walk in Crombie Country Park to soak in some scenic Angus views whilst keeping an eye out for the elusive local wildlife that make their home here. Featuring 200 acres of woodland, it’s the perfect spot to let the kids roam free, with over 7km of trails, including the Discovery Trail where you can uncover Crombie’s social and natural history. Kids will also love the adventure playground, with nearby picnic and barbeque areas for when you’re feeling peckish too.
14. Pressmennan Wood, East Lothian
Pressmennan Wood isn’t just any wood. It is said that the woods and lake here are home to some strange mythical creatures known as ‘Glingbobs’ and ‘Tootflits’. Wander around this beautiful part of the countryside and see if you can find any of their fairy houses along the trail.
Another place you can spot fairies and mythical beings is Fullarton Fairy Trail in Troon. Follow the trail through the woods and see how many fairy houses, fairies and elves you can spot.
15. Harestanes Country Park, Scottish Borders
Situated on the historic St Cuthbert’s Way, one of Scotland’s most popular long-distance paths, Harestanes Country Park boasts some of the most beautiful walking trails in the Scottish Borders, whether you’re after an energetic hike or a leisurely stroll. Enjoy the stunning setting of the Teviot Valley with a variety of walking trails to choose from, as well as a play park, café, and gift shop to enjoy too.
16. Threave Garden Estate, Dumfries & Galloway
This diverse garden is one for all seasons and even features an osprey platform and bat reserve. Located in Castle Douglas, Threave Garden Estate is a beautiful haven for wildlife and creates the perfect setting for a winter walk, with a secret garden, rockery and walled garden to explore. The estate offers woodland trails and routes to wander along, with viewpoints, a nature reserve and the River Dee to admire along the way. It’s a great spot in the south for a day out with the family.
17. Dalkeith Country Park, Midlothian
This country gem located just outside Edinburgh is one to explore. Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian is a local favourite for families and dog walkers alike, with 1,000 acres of trails, grass, waymarked paths and woodland to explore, it’s the perfect spot for the kids to run off all that energy. Whether you fancy a riverside amble or longer walk on the green route, keep an eye out for local wildlife that make their home here, and make sure to stop by the playparks before you leave.
18. The Gruffalo Trail, Ardkinglas
Are you familiar with The Gruffalo? Of course you are! Ardkinglas in Argyll is home the nostalgic Gruffalo Trail where you can wander along the short walk which features a variety of extracts from the popular children’s book for the wee ones to find. Spend as long or as little time here wandering through the woods – see if you can spot the fairy houses and stop by the Old Mill too.
19. Cramond Promenade, Edinburgh
You can’t go wrong with a wander by the sea. Cramond Promenade in Edinburgh is a popular walking spot for locals and tourists alike. With a seafront setting, magnificent views of the Forth Bridges and a view of the sea as far as the eye can see, it’s easy to see why. At low tide, make a trip out to Cramond Island via the walkway, play in the sand and stop for an ice cream, if it’s not too cold. You can’t beat a crisp winter walk by the sea in Scotland – make sure you wrap up warm, it can get a bit nippy!
We hope this has inspired you to get outdoors and explore Scotland this winter – just make sure to wrap up warm and plan ahead before you set off. These are just a few of the places you can go, why not share your favourite spots or new endeavours on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and use #VisitScotland or #OnlyInScotland.