Winter walking has an all-encompassing beauty of its own and is the perfect thing to do with your friends or family after the Christmas period.
Scotland is blessed with many astounding landscapes and beautiful views, and this is never truer at winter. So, let the crisp air fill your lungs, Jack Frost nip your nose and the glistening views of wintry Scotland fill you with joy, with one of the National Trust for Scotland’s favourite Christmas walks…
Threave Garden & Estate, Dumfries and Galloway
There are plenty of trails and woodland walks to enjoy across this hugely diverse 648-hectare estate. Encompassing farmland, forests, wetland and a two-mile stretch of the River Dee, it is a garden for all seasons and a haven for year-round wildlife. And much of the action can be viewed from five easily-accessible hides overlooking the River Dee.
A magical combination of light, sound and texture makes winter a particularly perfect time to visit. Whether it’s the distant honking of whooper swans, the whistling call of a pintail duck, the barking of a fox at dusk, or just a fine mist hovering over the marshes – there’s an element of power to Threave at this time of year.
Killiecrankie is a place where history and natural heritage combine: it played host to the Battle of Killiecrankie – one of the goriest battles in Scottish Jacobite history – and is a rich historical conservation area, which cleaves a pass where the Highlands meet the Lowlands.
The raging River Garry flows along the floor of Killiecrankie’s magnificent wooded gorge – the Pass of Killiecrankie, where tree-lined slopes are home to a variety of wildlife, flora and fauna. During the winter months, reduction in foliage brings a greater sense of space and scale, allowing visitors to see more of the landscape and wonderful wildlife.
Listen out for the dipper, a bird which starts its courtship in winter with a song that sounds like the babbling water in which it feeds.
Blankets of snow also reveal how alive the outside world remains: highlighting the tracks of pine martens, red squirrels, foxes, badgers and a variety of birds.
Despite not always being a place of tranquillity, the views are breath-taking. It’s the perfect place to contemplate nature and the past, while enjoying the beauty of winter.
The Hermitage, Perthshire
Walk through towering Douglas firs to the folly of Ossian’s Hall, and gaze over the Black Linn Falls to see where spray from the surging River Braan has dispersed ice crystals over rocks and trees, creating a winter wonderland.
As you stroll along the banks of the River Braan, breathing in the earthy woodland and tang of pine needles, you’ll see snow chutes created by otters as they slide into the water on their bellies. Also, look out for the totem pole hidden in the woods and red squirrels darting about in the tree tops.
Ben Lawers, Perthshire
While there are a number of advanced walking routes at Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve, there are also less energetic ways to enjoy the mountain landscape.
Waymarked trails on the lower slopes offer superb views of the summits and over Loch Tay, with the chance to see the most celebrated collection of rare mountain plants in Britain, as well as over 500 different types of lichen.
A winter visit might be rewarded by the amazing sight of mountain hares dashing across the hillside in their brilliant white cold-weather coats, or red deer as they stand out prominently against the snowy landscape. Listen out for ravens too, which make plenty of noise during their acrobatic displays.
Glencoe, The Highlands
Dramatic mountains, rare beauty and haunting history in the heart of the Highlands. Glencoe National Nature Reserve has long been one of the most famous places in Scotland, known equally for its awe-inspiring views and sorrowful past.
A seasonal highlight is a walk along the edge of Loch Achtriochtan for some of the best views of the winter birdlife. Whooper swans join from Iceland, while dippers and goldeneye ducks are still present searching for food under the icy water.
As the weather gets colder and the tops of the hills are blanketed in snow, red deer move lower in search of food and can often be seen browsing the lower slopes of the Glencoe hills.
Ben Lomond, Drymen
Scotland’s most southerly Munro has a dignity and magic that has, for centuries, drawn artists, beauty seekers, hikers and climbers alike. Today, it is one of the most popular summits in Scotland.
As you climb the summit you will experience uninterrupted views of the glassy Loch Lomond like no other. While the adventurous ones reach the summit (appropriately kitted out of course), others can explore the low-level Hidden History Trail to discover the mountain’s human history.
The Munro and the surrounding area still retain the sense of wilderness that Rob Roy – Scotland’s famous Jacobite outlaw – experienced when he roamed here over 300 years ago, so you can expect to be transported back in time and get a sense of what a winter walk would have felt like in days gone past.
The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage – from coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness – and encourages people to connect with the things that make Scotland unique.
Every day, the hundreds of thousands of members, donors, volunteers and staff at the charity help to protect Scotland’s natural and national treasures for us all to enjoy.
By becoming a National Trust for Scotland member you are helping to protect Scotland’s history for future generations and will enjoy a wide range of benefits including unlimited access to it sites and properties, and free parking. To join the charity in what it does, for the love of Scotland, click HERE.