If you’re travelling to Scotland to enjoy the great outdoors then you’re in for a treat.
We’ve done short walks, long walks, coastal ambles and uphill struggles with our children throughout Scotland, from the wild highlands to the sheltered coves of the south west coast.
What you will notice straight away, wherever you decide to walk or cycle, is the lack of crowds. Unlike walking in popular scenic spots in England, you can go for miles and miles north of the border without seeing another soul, which makes the wildlife and the scenery even more magical.
We’ve walked down miles of vast sandy beaches and had the sands to ourselves; something we’ve never done on the south coast! Wherever you base yourselves, pop into the local Tourist Information Centre for local trails which are suitable for buggies, or pack your baby carrier or sling to give yourself total freedom to explore.
Here are two of my favourite family walks in Scotland, which little legs can manage and won’t leave you gasping for breath!
The Hermitage, Dunkeld, Perthshire (OS Explorer map 379)
This easy walk is just 5 miles and, apart from a bit of a climb in the middle, mostly flat. Start at the car park near Inver, and head for the banks of the Tay. You follow the riverside path through lovely woodland for about 3km, then climb steeply for a short distance into Craigvinean Forest, a woodland of enormous Douglas firs. The track then descends to the Hermitage, an ornamental woodland garden dating from the 1750s, where you will find a Hermit’s Cave and Ossian’s Hall, providing a viewpoint over the Falls of Braan; it’s just magical! The walk is so sheltered that it’s great whatever the time of year.
Rockcliffe to Kippford, Dumfries and Galloway (OS Explorer map 313)
This 4 mile circular walk has been described as one of the finest walks in Scotland. Just over the border from England, you’ll find views across to the Isle of Man and down to the Lake District. Start in the car park in Rockcliffe and follow the signs, keeping the Solway Firth on your right. This beautiful circular walk follows the Muckle Walk & Jubilee Path through old woods and there’s the option of a nice drink and bite to eat half way! The path, with its many benches and seats, is very clear; just keep going straight ahead!
You’ll find good cycle routes all over Scotland. Away from the central belt there’s very little traffic so cycling on roads is usually a quiet affair. If you want off-road cycling then you have plenty of choice; Scotland leads the way in Britain for purpose built cycle trails in Forestry Commission land. The 7 Stanes project (www.7stanes.gov.uk) has set up seven centres of excellence for mountain biking in southern Scotland and you’ll also find trails in forests throughout the country. If you’d prefer a flat railway path and a leisurely peddle then you’ll find traffic free cycle routes around Edinburgh and Glasgow. For a full day out there’s a traffic free route from the heart of Glasgow, via a railway path, canal and river, up to the banks of Loch Lomond. Every highland glen and island has cycle maps you can pick up in local tourist information centres and there are plenty of places you can hire bikes, baby seats, tag-alongs and trailers.
Walking or cycling in Scotland, however ambitious or lazy you’re feeling, is always magical. Hope you get great weather and a fine view to go with the lungfuls of clean air. Take along a bit of shortbread and a nip of whisky to keep you going…