Travel

Let’s go for a win­ter walk

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Contents -

ONE of the best things about liv­ing in Scot­land is how close you in­vari­ably are to coun­try­side, coast­line and cas­tle. No mat­ter which part of the coun­try you live in, great walks with stun­ning views are right on the doorstep.

And there’s no bet­ter time to pull on your walk­ing boots than over the fes­tive pe­riod, es­pe­cially the days be­tween Christ­mas and New Year when cabin fever can all too eas­ily set in.

Scot­land looks par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful in win­ter, a fact I couldn’t fail to no­tice as I tra­versed the coun­try to re­search Scot­land’s In­sider Guides for this mag­a­zine.

Over the last six months I’ve walked for miles up and down high streets, through wood­land, on beaches, up hills, learn­ing about the his­tory and cul­ture of each place along the way.

You’ve helped too, of course, send­ing ex­cel­lent rec­om­men­da­tions, hints and tips about places to visit, trails to take, cafés in which to sam­ple the scones.

With this in mind, I’ve com­piled 11 of the best walks from my trav­els, any of which would boost phys­i­cal and men­tal health over the hol­i­days. So, whether you’re look­ing for a short don­der with fam­ily and friends, or a few hours of fresh air and soli­tude, wrap up warm and get out there.

The Darn Walk, Dun­blane to Bridge of Al­lan

Which ever way round you do it, this an­cient path­way by the River Al­lan makes for an en­joy­able am­ble at any time of year. It also passes through one of Robert Louis Steven­son’s favourite spots, which pro­vided in­spi­ra­tion for Ben Gunn’s cave in Trea­sure Is­land.

Lo­cal res­i­dent Judy Mur­ray, mother of tennis cham­pi­ons Andy and Jamie, loves this walk. “The three-mile path­way, which dates back to Ro­man times, is one of my favourite things to do in Dun­blane,” she told us.

“If you start at Dun­blane Golf Club, you come out close to Bridge of Al­lan’s fa­mous ice cream par­lour, the Al­lan Cafe. Per­fect! And you can al­ways get the train back.”

The West Sands, St An­drews

On a crisp win­ter’s day there are few places I’d rather be than walk­ing along the un­in­ter­rupted beach and dunes of the West Sands. It takes a good cou­ple of hours to walk from the Old Course to­wards Leuchars and Tentsmuir, and back.

No mat­ter what the weather this beau­ti­ful stretch of sand is pop­u­lated with dog­walk­ers, run­ners and kite surfers keen to blow away the cob­webs – it’s nearly al­ways windy – and soak up the views, which are still re­mem­bered by many for their star­ring role in the clos­ing cred­its to the Os­car-win­ning film Char­i­ots Of Fire.

Af­ter­wards, you’ll be ready for a cuppa. The café at the Bri­tish Golf Mu­seum (british­golf­mu­seum.co.uk), right next to the 18th hole of the Old Course, has great cof­fee, ex­cel­lent scones and some of the best views in Scot­land.

Stone­haven to Dun­not­tar Cas­tle

Perched on a gi­ant rocky head­land that al­most seems de­tached from the main­land, Dun­not­tar Cas­tle is surely the most spec­tac­u­lar of all Scot­land’s coastal ru­ins.

It takes around 90 min­utes to walk from the town up to the cas­tle and back, and ac­cord­ing to Es­ther Ballesteros, no visit to Stone­haven would be com­plete with­out mak­ing the trip at least once. “The views are just amaz­ing,” she said. “Aside from the cas­tle it­self and the beau­ti­ful cliffs, Stone­haven War me­mo­rial is also re­ally in­ter­est­ing. And it’s an easy route for peo­ple of all ages and abil­i­ties.”

The cas­tle it­self (dun­nottar­cas­tle. co.uk) is al­ways worth ex­plor­ing, as are the an­cient rocks on which it sits, thought to have been formed 440 mil­lion years ago.

Lin­lith­gow Palace and loch

This easy cir­cu­lar walk, which cov­ers 2.25 miles and takes about an hour, is per­fect for fam­i­lies and pro­vides ex­cel­lent wildlife-spot­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties, de­spite be­ing close to the town.

Su­san Knox had a week­end break in Lin­lith­gow ear­lier this year. She said: “I would al­ways rec­om­mend a walk around the loch to blow the cob­webs away. It’s one of the largest nat­u­ral fresh­wa­ter lochs in the area and of­fers un­par­al­leled views of the palace.”

Nairn to Caw­dor

Nairn has much to of­fer vis­i­tors, not least its fa­mously beau­ti­ful beach. But I’ve cho­sen this lin­ear six-mile walk along the River Nairn to Caw­dor, since it of­fers an al­ter­na­tive view of the town, and passes through some lovely coun­try­side. It takes around two hours to get to the vil­lage, and if you have time, Caw­dor Cas­tle makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing cou­ple of hours. Time it right and you can catch a bus back to Nairn.

Two view­points walk, Oban

Though its name means “lit­tle bay” in Gaelic, Oban’s shore­line is ex­pan­sive, as are the vis­tas to the moun­tains and is­lands be­yond.

This ex­cel­lent four-mile, 2.5 hour walk ex­plores the cen­tre of town and takes in the prom­e­nade be­fore climb­ing up to two ex­cel­lent view­points: MacCaig’s Tower (known lo­cally as “the folly”) and Pul­pit Hill.

When you head back down into town, stop by at the Seafood Hut (also known as the Green Shack) at the CalMac Pier for some of the fresh­est crab, mus­sels and scal­lops you’re ever likely to eat.

Jed­burgh to Kelso

If you’re look­ing for an all-day walk, this an­cient trail through the rolling coun­try­side of the Bor­ders fits the bill per­fectly.

Get an early start for this 12-mile stretch of the Bor­ders Abbeys Way, which takes in two rivers – the

Main im­age: Dun­not­tar Cas­tle Above: Lin­lith­gow Palace in West Loth­ian

Tweed and the Te­viot – the Water­loo Mon­u­ment, Wal­lace’s Tower and Roxburgh Cas­tle. At the end of the walk sit the ru­ins of Kelso Abbey.

End with a pint of IPA and a hearty burger in The Cob­bles (the­cob­bleskelso. co.uk) on Bow­mont Street.

Cor­rieshal­loch Gorge, Wester Ross

Around 20 min­utes from Ul­lapool sits one of the most spec­tac­u­lar sights in Scot­land. Granted, you’ll need a good head for heights to get the most out of Cor­rieshal­loch Gorge (“unattrac­tive cor­rie” in Gaelic), which is 1.4km in length and 60m deep.

The Vic­to­rian sus­pen­sion bridge al­lows for dra­matic tree-lined views of the River Droma as it plum­mets through wa­ter­falls, while the sur­round­ing wood­land na­ture trails of­fer great walk­ing and bird-spot­ting po­ten­tial. If you’re lucky, you might even see a golden ea­gle. Al­low around an hour for the walk. Go to nts.org.uk for more de­tails.

The Birks of Aber­feldy

This lovely cir­cu­lar walk, im­mor­talised in song by Robert Burns, re­mains one of the most pop­u­lar walks in Perthshire. It can be steep in parts, but the gorge of the Moness burn, wa­ter­falls and views across to Strath­tay are more than worth the ef­fort.

Back in Aber­feldy, the Habi­tat Café, right on the Square, is the place to go for a tasty bowl of soup or cof­fee and cake.

Tober­mory to the light­house

If you’re on Mull over the fes­tive sea­son, be sure to pull on your wellies for this three-mile walk from the is­land’s main town, through woods to the pic­turesque light­house at Rubha nan Gall. From there you’ll be re­warded with won­der­ful views over the wa­ter to Ard­na­mur­chan.

On your way back, pop into the ex­cel­lent Tober­mory Dis­tillery (Tober­mory dis­tillery.com) for a tour and a dram.

North Ber­wick to Gul­lane

Treat your­self to a fish sup­per from North Ber­wick Fry on Qual­ity Street, then work it off with a stun­ning three to four-hour shore­line walk to neigh­bour­ing Gul­lane. The walk it­self is around seven miles, but fac­tor in some time for sand­cas­tle-build­ing and rock-pool­ing, for the per­fect day out. Be care­ful, how­ever, to avoid high tide. When you reach Gul­lane, you can jump on the bus back to North Ber­wick.

McCaig’s Tower on Bat­tery Hill over­looks the town of Oban

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