Glencoe Lochan, West Highlands

 

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Total distance –  2.5 Kilometres

Ascent –  110 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined, clearly marked footpaths. No difficulties.

Nearest town – Fort William

Over 100 years ago, Lord Strathcona built the Glencoe Lochan for his Canadian wife to remind her of her own country. Fortunately, my wife is Scottish so this is one expense I won’t have to worry about. Anyway, all I can afford is a paddling pool and I don’t think my wife would appreciate that as a birthday present. What my wife does appreciate however, is a good walk in a spectacular setting and Glencoe Lochan Walks certainly offers this.

There are three short walks (denoted red, blue and yellow) which you’ll find displayed on the noticeboard at the Glencoe Lochan parking area and this is where you start the walk. As they all are short walks it’s easy enough to do a combination of all three.

From the car park follow signs for the blue route. This path ascends around 80 metres through the forest to the higher ground on the eastern side of Glencoe Lochan. At the highest point of the path there’s a lovely viewpoint with a picnic table, so make good use of it before the path takes you straight back down to the loch. Take the loch path in an anti-clockwise direction and when you’ve walked about halfway around you’ll see a yellow post. This is the Woodland Walk which takes you in a 1 Kilometre circuit through the forest and back to the loch, then on to the car park.

Glencoe Lochan Walk

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Allt na Criche, Fort Augustus

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Total distance –  2.5 Kilometres

Ascent –  120 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths and forest tracks. No difficulties.

Nearest town – Fort Augustus

Formerly Kiliwhimin, Fort Augustus was established following the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. It’s a picture postcard town next to Loch Ness and is perhaps best known for hosting one of the most spectacular of the Caledonian Canal’s series of lochs. Allt na Criche lies just outside Fort Augustus and there’s a great little forest walk circuit that affords excellent views of Loch Ness.

Start the walk at the clearly signposted Allt na Criche car park which is about 1.5 Km north on the A82 outside Fort Augustus. If you choose to go anti-clockwise (like us) you start by walking north up a fairly steep footpath clearly identified by a post with a white stripe (These posts clearly mark the route throughout the walk). Within a couple of hundred metres you will see a waterfall to the right of the footpath. The footpath then takes you directly to a wide forest track with a bridge over the waterfall to your right. However, you’re not going over the bridge here. You’re actually turning left onto the forest track and on to the Great Glen Way. This track provides great views of Loch Ness. and gently winds and ascends for a distance of about 800m until you come to another post with a white stripe turning  left down onto to a narrow footpath. This takes you through a dark forest to another wider forest track leading you back to the car park.

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Camusdarach Beach,Morar, Highland

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Total distance –  3.1 Kilometres

Ascent –  10 metres

Walking conditions – Sand and rock underfoot. No difficulties.

Nearest town – Mallaig

My wife was born and bred in a west of Scotland seaside town and is therefore an expert on the Gulf Stream. Being regular visitors of Largs my wife never misses the opportunity to inform me that the abundance of palm trees is a result of the Gulf Stream. I must confess that I am now losing the ability to display surprise and wonder at these revelations. Fortunately, our recent trip to Morar allowed my wife to enlighten me on a Gulf Stream fact that I am less familiar with. As it turns out the beautiful silver sand of Morar originates from the other side of the Atlantic and is transported by the Gulf Stream. And what a sight!

For this particular walk you don’t really need a route map as it’s basically a walk along one of the most breath-taking and magnificent beaches in Scotland. But for what it’s worth, we set off at the car park which is next to the public toilets on the B8008 a few hundred metres west of the A830 on the south bank of the estuary of the River Morar. From there, follow the short, sandy footpath straight to the beach. At this point, just turn left and walk across the sand in the direction of Muck, Rum and Eigg which you’ll see in the distance. Depending on the tide you’ll be able to walk for about 1 kilometre or so until the coastline bears left in a SW direction. At this stage you’re as well climbing a few feet onto one of the rocky outcrops for sandwiches and an uninterupted view of the islands. It’s then just a case of retracing your footsteps back to the car.

Make sure you visit the village of Morar whilst you’re there. If you’re lucky you might catch the Jacobite steam train at the station. And just next to the station across the level crossing, if you take the footpath to the left it takes you on a quick 30 metre ascent up to a fantastic viewpoint featuring a large cross.

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Screel Hill, Palnackie, Dumfries and Galloway

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Total distance –  4.9 Kilometres

Ascent –   340 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths and forest tracks. No difficulties.

Nearest town – Dalbeattie

Many walkers living within the Central Belt are instinctively drawn to heading north when they fancy a rugged ascent over rocky outcrops, having associated southern Scotland with rolling grassy hills. But that’s not the full story as anyone who has ascended Sceel Hill can attest to. Every one of its 344 metres is well-earned but also well rewarded.

Set off from the Screel Wood forestry car park which is located about 4Km north of Auchencairn on the minor road just off the A711. You’ll walk up a winding forest track for a few hundred metres. As you emerge from the wood you’ll come to a track junction. Take the signed footpath directly in front of you through the trees and plants. After about 300 metres you’ll reach a bench next to a forest track. This is an ideal spot for a tea break. Cross over the track and keep following the footpath which eventually takes you to the crest of the hill. Continue 1Km along this undulating ridgeline with fantastic views of the Solway Firth until you reach a large cairn at the summit. The simplest way to return is by descending south to the footpath that takes you in a ESE direction and quite easily onto the forest track on the southern slope of the hill and back to the car park.

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Tarbet to Arrochar, Argyll and Bute

 

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Total distance –  3.8 Kilometres

Ascent –  50 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths. No difficulties.

Nearest town – Arrochar

Question: What can be better than walking a path linking Loch Lomond to Loch Long with clear views over-looking the area?

Answer: Realising when you reach Arrochar that some genius and visionary has recently opened a chippy and there are fish suppers galore!

The footpath to the chippy starts under the bridge at Tarbet Rail Station. The route couldn’t be any more straight forward. The path makes an initial short ascent then skirts along the side of Cruach Tairbeirt and parallel to the A83 for around 1.2 Kilometres. The path then bears right then takes you down to Arrochar and said chippy. Take your fish/sausage/black pudding supper to the edge of Loch Long and marvel at the Arrochar Alps. Then about turn and make your way back to Tarbet Rail Station.

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Burns Country Walk, Ayrshire

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Total distance –  10.6 Kilometres

Ascent –  30 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and pavements. No difficulties.

Nearest town – Ayr

In any West of Scotland Maternity Unit, prior to being allowed home with your new-born baby you are obliged to sign a pledge committing to taking your child to the Ayrshire Coast at least once per year until they reach adulthood. If your wife is from an Ayrshire seaside town this commitment also forms part of your marriage vows. So far we have made good this pledge several times over as the Ayshire Coast is a fantastic destination for all. There’s beaches, parks and chippies galore. So why not take all of this, add in some Scottish Heritage and a good walk. Here’s how……

Park near Wellington Square, Ayr next to the Low Green and walk along the promenade towards Alloway whilst ensuring to point out Arran, the Heads of Ayr and Paddy’s Milestone. After about 2 kilometers you will see a footbridge crossing the River Doon. Do not cross it, but instead go left and follow the path up the east bank of the River Doon. After about 500 metres you’ll see a Spar shop next to a main road. Cross the road and take the entrance to Belleslie Park. There’s a number of excellent attractions including a play park and a walled garden. From there walk through track across the golf course and over to the B7024, which is just across from Rozelle Park, then go right. This will take you directly to Burns Cottage. By continuing along this road for another few hundred metres you will pass by Alloway Parish Church, the Burns National Monument and Memorial Gardens, and on to the Brig O’ Doon, as described by Burns in the Tam O’ Shanter poem. It’s a lovely spot. The Brig O’ Doon House Hotel beside it is an excellent place to eat and not as expensive as I had feared. For the return journey walk back the way for about 500 metres and turn left onto Greenfield Avenue which leads back to the River Doon down at the Spar shop. Then make your way back to the coast, walk along the promenade and all the way back to Wellington Square where a fantastic playpark and some good chippies await you.

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Pollok Country Park, Glasgow

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Total distance –   3.6 Kilometres

Ascent –  40 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and tarmac roads. Buggy compatible. No difficulties.

Time required – 1 to 2 hours

Nearest town – Glasgow

Pollok Country Park is the home to the Burrell Collection. So you might think that as the Burrell Collection is closed to the public until 2020, that there’s no point visiting Pollok Country Park. Well think again! It’s a great park with numerous paths and tracks, a great play-park, not to mention Pollok  House. It’s particularly good if you have  very small children with the buggy being the preferred mode of transport. All marked walking routes are buggy compatible and there are three of them. These walks are defined as the yellow route (0.7 miles), the blue route (1.4 miles) and the red route (1.9 miles). As there are a series of tarmac paths and dirt footpaths it’s really entirely up to you to wander about where you like.

On our particular recent day out we parked in the car park to the rear of Pollok House. We then walked along the tarmac road in a north-westerly direction then pretty much went the way of the red path. We stopped and had our sandwiches in the play-park across from the building that hosts the Burrell Collection. I demonstrated how to use a trampoline to best effect, then we made our way back to the car-park at Pollok House.

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Douglas Circuit, Lanarkshire

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Total distance –  6.2 Kilometres

Ascent –  200 metres

Walking conditions – Grassy and dirt footpaths which can be quite muddy in places. Some walking along single track roads (little or no traffic). No difficulties.

Time required – 2.5 to 3.5 hours

Nearest town – Lesmahagow

Make sure you’ve got a map and compass for this one, just in case you make a navigational error in the wooded area.

Douglas is home to the distinguished Cameronians Regiment, which after almost 300 years of service was disbanded in 1968. Renowned for their extremely fast marching pace, the Cameronians could have easily completed the 6.2 Kilometre Douglas Circuit in full kit within the hour. However, I’d have to say that in such beautiful, green, rolling landscape with a number of seats and picnic benches along the way, I’d recommend that you stroll around the route at a leisurely pace, eat your sandwiches at Castle Dangerous and enjoy the fresh air. Unfortunately for the Cameronians undertaking a forced march, the options of sandwiches and picnic benches would probably not have been available to them.

Driving into Douglas follow the parking signs and park at Douglas Valley Church. Start the route by walking past the church on the left hand side and then go down the stairs. Then walk over to St. Brides Church and a football field should come into view on the lower ground. You’ll see an opening onto the football field next to the tree line with a blue footbridge about 400 metres beyond, which is where you’re heading. The footpath is quite faint over this grassy field. Once you’re over the bridge the path is more distinct and heads up towards the forest on the high ground. When your in the wood keep to the footpath on the right. It soon turns into a wider forest track. After about 350 metres take the path veering right. The track then goes straight for about one Kilometre then a sharp right takes you downhill, past Gardens House, over a bridge and on to Castle Dangerous. Keep walking  and you’ll see the Cameronians memorial as well as the Stable Lake on your right hand side as you make your way back to the car park.

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Drymen to Balmaha, via Conic Hill, Loch Lomond

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Total distance –  11.9 Kilometres

Ascent –  390 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and pavements. No difficulties.

Time required – 3.5 to 5.5 hours

Nearest town – Drymen

It was summer 1993 and an attempt by me and two friends to complete the West Highland Way. At the end of Day 1, we set up camp in Balmaha (camping there was entirely legal in those days). At that point, I was unaware that my friends had decided that they’d had enough of the West Highland Way and were hatching a plan to abandon me in the very near future. On the morning of Day 3, they did exactly that and jumped on the boat over to Ardlui. I carried on regardless. Despite the betrayal, I remember the whole episode with a bemused fondness. Twenty or so years layer, I thought that I’d take my wife and kids on part of that route. Was I abandoned on this occasion? No chance! I had the car keys.

A bus is required for this outing to save you having to walk all the way back. Buses between Drymen and Balmaha operate every couple of hours during the daytime, and it’s entirely up to you whether you want to start the walk from either Drymen or Balmaha. Most people would agree that the more enjoyable way is starting from Drymen. But be careful, if you do start from Drymen you’ll need to be sure that the kids will have enough energy after walking about 8 Kilometres to ascend almost to the top of Conic Hill before dropping down to Balmaha.

From the bus stop in the centre of Drymen walk on the path beside the B858 going east for around a Kilometre before turning left on to the dirt footpath that is clearly signposted as part of the West Highland Way. Indeed, from here on as you’re on the West Highland Way, the whole route is clearly signposted. For the next few Kilometres or so you’ll be walking on dirt footpaths and forest tracks in mostly wooded wooded areas and then onto open ground. At the 8 Kilometre point you will come to a bridge over the Burn of Mar which is at the foot of Conic Hill. From here it’s pretty much an unrelenting 200 metre ascent to almost the top of Conic Hill. The path skirts to the right past the summit missing out the last 30 metre ascent. However, if you’ve still got the energy, getting to the top of Conic Hill is absolutely worth it. Keep on the path and head straight back down to the car park at Balmaha. Here you’ll find an excellent visitor centre and if you cross the road you can feed the ducks in Loch Lomond or nip into the Oak Tree Inn for refreshments.

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Crammond Island, Edinburgh

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Total distance –  8.6 Kilometres

Ascent –  50 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and a single track roads. No difficulties.

Time required – 2.5 to 4 hours

Nearest town – Edinburgh

Barnton and Crammond are two of Edinburgh’s leafiest suburbs. So it should come as no surprise that the scenery is marvellous. This is particularly the case along the River Almond and out into the Firth of Forth. Fortunately for us outdoor types there are no high walls nor electric gates to keep the peasants out, so we can wander freely in this land of captains of industry, well-known authors and other privileged types.

There are a number of places you can park near to the River Almond with varying distances to Crammond Island. We chose to park beside a play-park just off Brae Park because the kids wanted to play, there was good parking and it allowed for a good stroll along the banks of the River Almond. Either way, make your way to the River Almond (East bank) and head north along the well-defined footpath. Continue along past Crammond Boat Club and soon after that, you’ll arrive at Crammond Beach. You’ll see the Firth of Forth together with the causeway leading to Crammond Island, and in the summer months, an ice cream van as well.

The flat concrete causeway to Crammond Island is about 1.1 Kilometres long and you’ll be across it within 15 minutes. But before you continue please note that the causeway will be completely submerged at certain times of the day so make sure you know when the tide will be going in or out. There are notices at the causeway providing information on this. If all is well, walk straight across and onto Crammond Island. There are military fortifications immediately to your front dating back to World War 2. It’s also well worth taking the path to the other side of Crammond Island where there are more fortifications. This is a lovely short walk along a dirt footpath through undulating grassy terrain with brilliant views of the Firth of Forth.  Please note that there tends to be a lot of broken glass at these fortifications. This is largely due to hedonistic teenagers partying overnight, so best to keep a hold of the children here.

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