With fitness trackers among the most popular Christmas presents in 2015, and thoughts now turning to the January diet and exercise regime, the National Trust for Scotland is highlighting some of its stunning sites as perfect places for testing the new tech.
The conservation charity looks after 188,000 acres of Scotland’s countryside from the stunning and wild St Kilda in the West, to St Abb’s Head in the East. With most sites open all year round, and with routes and rambles available for a wide range of fitness levels, walkers don’t have to travel far to find stunning spots to smash those step targets.
The Trust has picked out ten sites for winter walks, choosing a selection from across the country with differing levels of difficulties and through a range of landscapes.
Steve Callaghan, Assistant Director for Countryside & Islands said: “From mountain backdrops, woodland walks and coastal views, the Trust has a wealth of local landscape on your doorstep to explore this winter. With those outstanding views, you’ll reach your step target in no time.”
Walkers are reminded to check conditions before heading out, and to make sure that they are properly equipped and that they have the skill and fitness levels for their chosen routes.
The Trust’s ten sites to reach 10,000 steps:
GREY MARE’S TAIL NATURE RESERVE, Moffat Valley Water, Dumfries & Galloway DG10 9DP on A708 – Open all year.
Described by Sir Walter Scott in his poem Marmion, this is a spectacular place with the titular waterfall cascading into the Moffat Valley Water and the landscape unfolding over steep slopes to Loch Skeen and the peak of the White Coomb. http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Grey-Mares-Tail-Nature-Reserve/
HOUSE OF THE BINNS ESTATE, Linlithgow, West Lothian EH49 7NA, off A904 – House closed, Estate open 0730 – 1930hrs daily.
The Dalyell family have lived on this estate since 1612 (and renowned Parliamentarian Sir Tam still resides in the House) and it was here that General Tam Dalyell formed the Royal Scots Greys regiment in 1681 (later to find lasting fame at the Battle of Waterloo). The grounds offer woodland walks, a panoramic viewpoint of the First of Forth and a recently discovered Neolithic burial chamber. http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/House-of-the-Binns/
HILL OF TARVIT GARDEN AND ESTATE, Cupar, Fife KY15 5PB, off A916 – Mansionhouse and Golf Course closed, Garden and grounds open 0900hrs – sunset.
Nestling on a hillside in the Fife countryside, the early 20th century Hill of Tarvit mansion is set among Lorimer-designed gardens comprising of formal lawns, yew hedging and paths which extend to the wider grounds and a hilltop viewpoint. http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Hill-of-Tarvit-Mansion-and-Kingarrock-Hickory-Golf/
CULZEAN COUNTRY PARK, Maybole, South Ayrshire KA19 8LE, on A719 – Castle closed, Country Park and walled Garden open 0930hrs – sunset, Home Farm restaurant open daily 1100 – 1500hrs.
Culzean is simply astounding. The Robert Adam designed castle constructed between 1777 and 1792 replaced a much earlier structure and part of it served a lifetime abode presented to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in gratitude for his role as supreme commander of allied forces in WWII. It was also played the part of the home of the fictional Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man. The extensive grounds include the Swan Pond with its fabulous new children’s play area, routes to rocky, volcanically formed beaches with views over to Ailsa Craig and allegedly haunted sea caves and plenty of woodland walks.
THE HERMITAGE, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, off the A9 – Accessible all year round (weather permitting).
Once part of one of the most important 18th century picturesque landscapes in Scotland, an attractive woodland walk leads though spectacularly large Douglas firs (including one of the tallest trees in the country) to the amazing folly, Ossian’s Hall, overlooking the Black Linn waterfall. Follow in the footsteps of notable visitors of the past including Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and Turner, as you wander around this magnificent designed landscape with its dramatic natural features.
HOUSE OF DUN GARDEN AND ESTATE AND MONTROSE BASIN NATURE RESERVE, Montrose, Angus, DD10 9LQ, on A935 – House closed, garden and estate open 0900hrs – dusk.
The beautiful Georgian House sits in formal gardens with parkland and woodland beyond. You can explore and enjoy the Victorian walled garden and wooded den, before venturing further afield to the Montrose Basin Local Nature Reserve.
DRUM CASTLE GROUNDS, Drumoak, by Banchory, Aberdeenshire AB31 5EY, off A93 – Castle open certain weekends only, grounds open all year round.
Drum is one of Royal Deeside’s top historic attractions, just 10 miles from Aberdeen. It is one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses and is set beside an ancient oak woodland. You can explore the estate through three way-marked walks, an arboretum and the Old Wood of Drum (a Site of Special Scientific Interest). William de Irwyn was gifted the Royal Forest of Drum and the Tower of Drum by King Robert the Bruce in 1323. The tower has benefitted from various improvements over the centuries, including a Jacobean mansion house extension in 1619 and Victorian adaptations, such as the impressive library converted from the lower hall. A new art gallery has been opened in the castle and this is hosting a specially curated collection of contemporary art on loan from Aberdeen Art Gallery until February 2016 entitled Human Presence. The pieces are being temporarily homed in a newly created gallery at the castle while the city centre attraction undergoes a major refurbishment. Check website for opening information.
GLENCOE AND DALNESS, Glencoe, Argyll PH49 4HX, on A82 – visitor centre open 1000 – 1600hrs, site accessible all year (please watch out for avalanche warnings if climbing!)
The most famous Scottish glen is also one of the country’s most dramatic, with forbidding mountains, thundering waterfalls and sparkling lochs. Internationally famous for its amazing landscape, its natural and cultural heritage, the scenery of Glencoe has been fashioned by millions of years of geological and geomorphologic processes; it is now regarded as some of the finest ‘wild’ landscape in Scotland. The drama is also reflected in Glencoe’s history, both real and imagined – myths, massacre (13 February 1692 – the Massacre of Glencoe. On that cold, bloody night, 38 unsuspecting MacDonalds were killed as they slept by soldiers who had billeted with them for 12 days) and movies (James Bond’s home in Skyfall and the scene of 633 Squadron’s daring-do) are all now part of the fabric of this magical, mysterious place.
Walkers and climbers are drawn from all over the world to tackle its many mountaineering routes, including eight Munros, while animal-lovers come to catch a glimpse of Scottish wildlife including red deer, golden eagles and pine martens.
BALMACARA ESTATE AND WOODLAND WALK, Balmacara, Kyle, Ross-shire IV40 8DN, on A87 – Visitor centres closed, Estate and woodland walk open 0900hrs – sunset.
Covering 6,330 acres on the Lochalsh peninsula, this traditional Highland crofting estate is a diverse mix of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes.
It encompasses croft and farm land, woodland, moorland, villages, coastline, saltmarsh, lochs and offshore islands, and offers stunning views across the water to the mountains of Skye and Applecross. The estate is also packed with fascinating archaeological and historic features, including two Scheduled Monuments – the open-air church at Plockton village and the crannog on Loch Achaidh na h-Inich. Plockton, a planned village dating from 1801, is a designated Conservation Area and well worth a visit, as is Balmacara Square, where you can see the estate’s original 18th-century steadings, mill house and ice house.
BRODIE CASTLE GROUNDS, Brodie, Forres, Moray IV36 2TE, off A96 – grounds open all year.
The 16th century castle has a 71 hectare estate with landscaped gardens, a large pond, a walled garden, a woodland walk, an adventure playground and a nature trail with observation hides for watching wildlife.