You don't have to hike for miles in the countryside to enjoy beautiful scenery, fresh air and exercise! Scotland's cities are not just highly walkable, but they host an abundance of natural beauty which you can enjoy in spacious parks, waterside walks and urban green spaces.
A city walk is also by far the best way to discover the hidden treasures, architectural heritage and outdoor attractions of Scotland's cities. Take inspiration from these guides to urban routes you can take in and around Scotland's cities.
Take a circuit around Scotland's third-largest city. Poised on the edge of the North Sea, Aberdeen has spent four decades as the beating heart of the United Kingdom's petroleum industry. Times may be changing but Aberdeen still packs plenty of cosmopolitan panache. Here you will find an enviable array of restaurants, bars and shops spread throughout its old and new towns, alongside striking landmarks, many of which are hewn from the city's glittering, locally quarried granite. Follow a leisurely route around some of the city's most beloved architectural markers; along the esplanade of its gently sloping beach; before returning via the tree-lined banks of the River Don.
Aberdeen is the perfect launch pad for exploring Aberdeenshire.
What can you see?
- Aberdeen Beach. Take in beautiful views of the Aberdeenshire coastline. Watch paddle boarders and surfers riding the waves and, if you're really lucky, a dolphin breaching the surface.
- Donmouth Nature Reserve. A natural sanctuary where the River Don flows into the sea. Look for bird species including oystercatchers, redshank, goldeneye, turnstones and the odd seal.
- Brig o' Balgownie Bridge. Dating from the 12th century but largely reconstructed during the 17th, this charming cobblestoned bridge is among the oldest in the UK with quaint stone cottages on one side and the River Don flowing beneath.
- Seaton Park. Enjoy 27 hectares of green open space. From here you can follow the Cathedral Walk to St Machar's. In summer the route is lined with flowers.
- St Machar's Cathedral. Step inside the magnificent St Machar's, a rare example of a fortified cathedral and gaze up at the heraldic ceiling. Part of William Wallace is thought to be buried here.
- High Street. Return to the bustle of the city as you wander the city's main historic thoroughfare, pausing along the way to take in the Neo-Gothic Town House with its fairy-tale turrets, and the equally magnificent University of Aberdeen's King's College which dates from 1495.
- Marischal College. Welcome to the second largest granite structure in the world. With its ornate spirals piercing upward, it ranks among Scotland's architectural wonders.
With over 90 parks dotted around the city, Glasgow is spoiled for walks. Perhaps surprising for what was an industrial powerhouse of the Victorian era. Now one the UK's most intriguing cities, what better way to get acquainted with it than by taking a leisurely stroll through its famous Kelvingrove Park and a short distance beyond to experience its architectural gems and some of its many natural, tranquil spaces. As you will quickly discover, it more than lives up to its ancient Gaelic name of 'the dear green place'.
You can follow Kelvin Walkway. Either start or end in the park and follow the banks of the River Kelvin, crossing under Kelvinbridge until you eventually emerge at the Botanic Gardens. Long-distance walkers can continue as it joins up with the West Highland Way.
What can you see?
- Kelvingrove Park. Located on both banks of the River Kelvin, this 19th century sprawling public park is as impressive as it was at the peak of the Industrial Revolution.
- Glasgow Botanic Gardens. A perfect detour on a cold day, step inside the huge Kibble Glasshouse for a blast of humidity and the incredible sights and scents of the exotic flora inside.
- The Mitchell Library. Built in neoclassical style in 1891, one of Europe's largest public libraries is also one of Glasgow's most distinctive landmarks, its green copper dome dominating the city skyline.
- Stewart Memorial Fountain. Continue you way past carefully tended flower beds to reach this magnificent water feature built to honour the memory of Lord Provost Robert Stewart who was responsible for bringing the city a supply for fresh water from Loch Katrine. The masonry depicts images of the Trossachs where the loch is located.
- The Kelvingrove Bandstand. Dating from the 1920s, this bandstand is encircled by an amphitheatre and was recently restored in time for when Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games.
- Park Circus. The final section of this walk takes you along one of the most coveted (not to mention expensive) streets in Glasgow. This gently sloping Victorian terrace is home to one of the city's most prestigious postcodes.
Inverness is the perfect base when it comes to exploring the many iconic trails, mountains and glens of the Scottish Highlands, but you don't need to leave the city to enjoy some truly special walks that bring together wonderful views, remarkable heritage sites and enchanting natural surroundings.
What can you see?
- Leakey's Bookshop. The Old Town of Inverness is home a diverse array of historic buildings. But perhaps most intriguing is this former 18th century church. Step inside and browse hundreds of second-hand books that line the walls from the floor to the ceiling. You will feel as though you've stepped into the pages of a Harry Potter book.
- Victorian Market. Just off the High Street is the Victorian Market which dates from 1890. Here you will find dozens of unique, independent shops. The entrance's original Victorian clock, red steel arches and hanging lanterns add to the vintage vibe.
- Castle Viewpoint. Admire the city from above from the highest vantage point on Inverness Castle. The castle itself isn't open to the public but its tallest tower is. Climb the steps to the summit and take in the River Ness as it twists and turns with Highland peaks looming high on one side and the Moray Firth on the other.
- Ness Islands. Want to take a revitalising stroll through a beautiful forest? Head upriver a short distance along the riverbanks and you will encounter a cluster of small islands located in the middle of the River Ness. To reach them all you need to do is cross one of the elegant suspension bridges which connect to the embankment. Strolling along the myriad of footpaths among the tall trees, you won't believe you're still in the city.
- The Caledonian Canal. Did you know one of Scotland's greatest walking routes runs through Inverness? Walk a small section of the Great Glen Way by following the path that runs along the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal. The low-level and flat terrain makes for a leisurely stroll and offers plenty to see in both directions.
- Craig Phadrig. If you have enough energy, finish your walk with a climb to the summit of the highest peak in Inverness. Take one of the several paths that wind through the trees for a bird's eye view of the city and the surrounding landscape including the Beauly Firth.
The 'Fair City' of Perth combines the cosmopolitan energy of Scotland's larger cities with the quaintness of a country market town with natural beauty and solitude just steps away. Explore the beautiful period architecture and cobblestoned streets spanning centuries of history as you weave your way in and out of its spacious parks and riverside walks on the banks of the magnificent River Tay.
What can you see?
- South Inch. One of two spacious public parks that border the city centre, the South Inch spans around 31 hectares with the banks of the River Tay on one side, the Victorian and Georgian townhouses of Marshall Place on the other, and forested hillsides all around.
- Fergusson Gallery. One of Perth’s most striking buildings, this former cast-iron water tower is now an art gallery. From here, cross Tay Street to the riverbank and pass underneath the railway line. Climb the steps to the right to reach the pedestrian walkway over the Tay.
- Moncreiffe Island. Take a moment to watch the swift-flowing currents of the River Tay and admire Moncreiffe Island which sits in its middle. It has been the setting for King James VI Golf Course since 1897.
- River Tay Public Art Trail. Once you reach the other side of the river, follow this footpath which connects a total of 20 sculptures which draw inspiration from the unique history, nature and artistic heritage of Perth.
- Bellwood Park. Follow the trail to Millais Viewpoint, an artwork inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais' famous work ‘Autumn Leaves’.
- Norie Miller Riverside Walk. Return to the riverside and pass under the Queen’s Bridge to reach Norie Miller Park. Admire spectacular plant specimens including some 950 species of Scottish heather.
- Perth Bridge. Cross back over to the other side of the Tay via what is known locally as the ‘Old Bridge’ which dates from 1771.
- North Inch. Next up is the largest of Perth’s two ‘Inches'. Follow the path along the riverbank, admiring the elegant townhouses on the far side, and pass by the Black Watch Museum.
- St John Street. Located off the High Street, this pedestrianised street is crammed with beautiful historic buildings. On the left is St John’s Kirk, Perth's oldest building, and on the right, the impressive former Central Bank building and Beales Department Store (formerly McEwens). Facing down the street is the Salutation Hotel, reputedly the oldest established hotel in Scotland, where Bonnie Prince Charlie once stayed.
- Tay Street. Turn left onto Tay Street. Head back toward the South Inch, taking in the grand Sheriff Court, St Mathews with its towering spire, and the cluster of small sculptures next to the railings overlooking the river.
- Queen’s Bridge. Walk along the middle of the bridge to gaze across the Tay one last time before retracing your footsteps and returning to the South Inch.
Just an hour's drive north of Edinburgh, there are few cities as walkable as Stirling. Located atop a leafy crag of an extinct volcano, its Old Town with its antiquated buildings and cobbled streets that snake their way up the ramparts of the restored palace are a joy to explore. But wander a little further off the beaten track of this little city and you will find there is so much more to it than just its castle and the National Wallace Monument.
Stirling's provincial size makes it quite hard to get lost in. As you leave the train station, simply walk upward in the direction of Castle Walk and you will soon reach the Old Town.
What can you see?
- The Back Walk. To the left of the Municipal Buildings is a small winding path that rises uphill and leads you around Stirling Castle. Laid in the 18th century, this urban walkway is the oldest publicly maintained road in Scotland. Follow the route along the old city walls up to castle.
- Gowan Hill. Make a detour to the summit for spectacular views of the Wallace Monument and the Ochill hills. Look for the fabled 'Beheading Stone', a boulder once used for executions.
- Stirling Castle. No visit to Stirling is complete without stepping inside its beautifully restored palace. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here, as were several other Scottish monarchs. Reach it from the Back Walk via the Ballengeich Pass.
- Argyll's Lodging. Located just below Stirling Castle stands this Renaissance-style town house. It is now a museum replete with gorgeous period furnishings and original decorative paintwork. Return to the Back Walk via the Upper Castlehill road. It continues around the base of the Castle Rock before returning up to the Old Town.
- Church of the Holy Rude. This is the second oldest building in Stirling after the castle. Step inside to admire the beautiful arches and stained glass windows.
- The Settle Inn. Rest your feet at Stirling's oldest alehouse which has stood since the 1700s.
- The Engine Shed. Stirling's new town isn't picturesque like its old town. But attractions like the Engine Shed, the home of Scotland's Building Conservation Centre, make it worth the visit. This hand-on museums explores the technologies used to preserve buildings using 3D models and and AR app.
- Lover's Walk. Head down Forth Street in the direction of the River Forth until you meet this riverside walkway. Stroll along the banks of the River Forth, pausing to take in one of the finest views of the Wallace Monument.
- Riverside & Cambuskenneth Abbey. Venture to the outskirts of Stirling and explore this peaceful neighbourhood across the River Forth. Here you will find a beautiful old Augustinian monastery from the 12th century. It was abandoned during the Scottish Reformation and today only the tall campanile tower survives. To reach it head in the direction of Queenshaugh Drive before turning onto Riverside Drive before crossing the modern Forthside Bridge.
Following the opening of the V&A Dundee, Scotland's first design museum, this little coastal city on the banks of the Firth of Tay is one of the most exciting destinations in Scotland right now. Briming with heritage attractions - not least the RRS Discovery - galleries, independent shops, and excellent bars and restaurants, Dundee is busier than ever! But it's also a place where you can escape from the hustle and bustle, with plenty of walks in and around the city that showcase its splendid natural setting. Here are just some you can explore.
What can you see?
- Camperdown Country Park. On the edge of the city find a tranquil escape from the frantic pace of urban life. This scenic parkland is so spacious that there is always a new path to discover. There are frequent bus services connecting it to the city centre making it highly accessible.
- Dundee Law. The walk to the top of Dundee's highest peak is at its most spellbinding just as the sun is rising or at dusk. From 572 feet above the city, survey an endless skyline stretching across the Tay and beyond. Begin at Discovery Point or the train station and simply head in the direction of this ancient volcano and former Iron Age hill fort. Just take care when climbing the steeper sections.
- Monikie Country Park. Set on the fringes of Dundee, this spacious park encompasses 50 acres including two former reservoirs connected by a myriad of shady wooded paths, and a bird sanctuary. The choice for walkers is huge, ranging from self-led trails to guided routes, all of which guarantee striking scenery and tranquility.
Scotland's capital is wonderful to visit. But sometimes you might want to escape the hustle and bustle. Luckily there are plenty of places and routes in and around the city where can experience a different side of Edinburgh at your own pace. As you will soon find, Edinburgh is a walking paradise with its cobbled closes, secret gardens, and huge number of parks. So put on those comfy shoes and escape the city without ever leaving as you meander along the most scenic trails, pathways, and streets in Edinburgh.
Find out more about Walking in Edinburgh.