Walking and wellness go hand in hand. Fortunately, there’s a place where you can enjoy the best forest, mountain and coastal trails for free – Scotland!
Whether it’s part of a dedicated wellness retreat or just a day out in between other pursuits, Scotland is a walker’s dream.
Forest Walks in Scotland
1. Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway
The largest Forest Park in Britain, Galloway Forest Park has a fantastic selection of trails ranging from gentle woodland strolls to more mountainous adventures. Head for one of the park’s three visitor centres, such as Kirroughtree, to find scenic circuits and activities. Galloway Forest Park is also the UK’s first Dark Sky Park – the perfect place for a spot of glamping. See the stars like you’ve never seen them before and catch up on restorative sleep in one of the darkest places in Europe.
2. Craigvinean Forest, Perthshire
Craigvinean Forest is a beautiful part of Perthshire, originally designed in the 18th century as a pleasure ground for the Dukes of Atholl. What a place to enjoy the peaceful sights and sounds of the trees as you practice forest bathing – a Japanese form of nature therapy. It involves practicing yoga and tai chi in the forest, or simply walking mindfully, paying close attention to the sensation of your feet on the forest floor.
3. Cardrona Forest, Scottish Borders
Cardrona Forest hugs the hillsides on the south side of the Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders. It is one of many Scottish Borders walks that will have you falling in love with the area. Discover relaxed walking trails that take you into the calming atmosphere of the forest. The Pikes Knowe Trail, for example, will take you deep into the forest to discover the remains of Cardrona Tower and the Iron Age fort at Castle Knowe. There are plenty of places to rest along the way, an ideal time for meditation and relaxation.
4. Tay Forest Park, Perthshire
It’s not only a natural, serene feeling that spending time in the forest gives you. Did you know that breathing in the organic compounds trees emit – phytoncides – can help improve your immune system? Put this theory to the test in Tay Forest Park, where you’ll find big trees and Highland Perthshire’s iconic Queen’s View.
5. Argyll Forest Park, Argyll
You will love a trip to Argyll Forest Park, with its rugged scenery, waterfalls and lochs. The forest is a wonderful place to walk your dog, which is a great wellness activity. Did you know the companionship between pets and owners is good for mental health and that dog-walking increases confidence and self-esteem?
Mountain Walks in Scotland
6. Eaval, Outer Hebrides
Eaval is the highest hill on North Uist and the perfect place to start a digital detox. Although only 347 m high, it provides gorgeous views of the Outer Hebrides. Disconnect your devices and head for the mountains – our digital lives are all-consuming and addictive so it’s no surprise that switching off from tech now and then allows you to recharge and calm your mind.
Time: 4-5 hours
7. Stac Pollaidh, Highlands
Another way to unwind on a mountain walk – or any walk for that matter – is to listen to music. Studies have shown that calming music helps to relax muscles and lower blood pressure. So, pick some chilled out tunes for your playlist and head for the famous peak of Stac Pollaidh, with its many pinnacles and steep gullies. Just remember to keep your wits about you as you make your ascent.
Time: 2-4 hours
8. Ben A’an, The Trossachs
A mountain walk is your chance to enjoy stunning views and that special feeling of being surrounded by nature. Savour the sights and sounds of the mountains on a trip to Ben A’an, one of Scotland’s most popular small peaks. The craggy summit of Ben A’an is a fantastic viewpoint that looks out over the heart of the Trossachs. Try a calm breathing exercise at the top as you take in the scene.
Time: 2-4 hours
9. Conic Hill, The Trossachs
Wellness isn’t all about self-care, it can also involve helping others too. Don’t just take our word for it – acts of kindness are even recommended by the NHS for mental wellbeing! Many organisations offer volunteering opportunities in Scotland’s wild places. One such initiative is path maintenance on Scotland’s hills and mountains. Tie in a visit to Conic Hill with a path repair project and you might just feel the good vibes.
10. Ben Nevis, Highlands
For those of you who like a mighty challenge, why not try climbing the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis? One way to build self-esteem and confidence is to give yourself a challenge, like running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Achieving these milestones has been proven to help us deal with stress better. Located in the north west Highlands, this is a long and arduous climb, but by anyone’s standards a great achievement.
Standard route distance: 17km
Standard route time: 7-9 hours
Coastal Walks in Scotland
11. St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire
Take a walk to St Abb’s Head, a dramatic clifftop route that takes in seabird nesting areas and a lighthouse which has been in operation since 1862. Let the sound of the waves soothe and clear your mind, lowering your stress levels. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the secrets to feeling happy and well. Not only will a seaside walk tire your body out and have you feeling ready for bed – sea air, which is rich in oxygen, is like a natural sleeping pill.
12. Mull of Galloway, Dumfries & Galloway
The 59km Mull of Galloway Trail has some transcendent sea views to boost happy feelings. You might not be able to walk the whole route, but even a short section should hopefully increase feelings of wellbeing. This is a great way to explore the south-west corner of Scotland.
13. Loch Ness 360 Trail, Inverness-shire
Wellness walkers heading to Loch Ness may be hoping to catch sight of a rare Scottish phenomenon: the sun! One of the hidden benefits to a coastal walk is sunshine, something that, like the Loch Ness Monster, is often a little bit shy round these parts. But you don’t need blazing sunshine to soak up that precious Vitamin D, you’ll absorb it even through clouds. The sunshine vitamin has many health benefits, including regulating mood and warding off depression.
14. Isle of Berneray, Outer Hebrides
Explore the coastline around the Isle of Berneray for its beauty and its potential for exercise. You might not have thought about it but walking on sand, with your feet sinking in, requires more effort than normal walking and is therefore better exercise. So, pick a beach, any beach, and start strolling!
15. Fife Coastal Path, Fife
The Fife Coastal Path is a fantastic place to enjoy the sounds of the sea, stopping off at points of interest as you go. From nature reserves to historic towns like Buckhaven and St Monans, the Fife Coastal Path is an excellent place for a walk. Salt spray in the air, crashing waves, birds drifting overhead – taking a seaside walk should invigorate all of your senses. Research has shown that the sound of water creates a form of white noise which helps us feel less distracted and more relaxed.
Hopefully we have inspired you to strap on your walking boots and head out into the Scottish countryside. Walking is a free and fun way to stay fit and well, and there are brilliant walks to be found all over the country. Now, go on, take a hike!
Other things you might like: