Top Picks – Woodland Walks

It has been a difficult few months with COVID-19 limiting us to walks which could be reached from our front doors. In some ways this has been enlightening and we have been able to find beautiful places close to home we didn’t know existed, or learned to appreciate that it is not always necessary to go far to find somewhere we can relax. Whatever your experience during lockdown, the news that the 5 mile travel limit has now been lifted will no doubt be welcome and you’ll be eager to go back to that place you have missed so much, or explore some places you’ve never been. Take a look at my top picks for woodland walks across Scotland!


AYRSHIRE

Lainshaw Woods, Stewarton: A scenic and varied circular walk which follows the Annick Water on it’s journey through Stewarton, as well as taking in some residential areas and quiet roads. You will experience the town’s popular Lainshaw Woods, beautifully maintained by a dedicated volunteer group.

Ayr Gorge Woodlands Reserve, Failford: The ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Scottish Wildlife Trust Ayrshire. Here you will find two route options giving you the opportunity to explore this beautiful area. 

The River Ayr Way – Catrine to Sorn: Following the River Ayr Way along a pleasant woodland trail to Sorn, you will walk through the Catrine Voes and Woodlands Local Nature Reserve and past the historical Catrine Weir. Enjoy the view across to the majestic fourteenth century Sorn Castle.

Old Auchans House, Dundonald: Wandering though this delightful woodland, the impressive remains of Old Auchans House seem to appear out of nowhere.  Now a category ‘A’ listed building, the mansion dates back to the 16th century and has been home to the Wallace, Cochrane and Montgomerie families over the years. There are two circular route options, both of which start and end at Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre. 

Lanfine Estate, Darvel: A semi-loop through a spectacular woodland, passing alongside the infamous wild boar family en route. A mixture of surfaced tracks and earth footpaths.

FIFE

Red Squirrel Trail, Devilla Forest: Take a short walk around this peaceful forest between Kincardine and Dunfermline. Devilla covers a massive 700 hectare area and is home to the red squirrel thanks to the plating of Scots pine trees back in the 1950s, which create the perfect habitat for them. While you are there look out for The Standard Stone, an ancient relic linked to MacBeth, and also take a detour to see the remains of Bordie Castle. On a warm day take a picnic to enjoy  at the lochside. 

Calais Muir Wood, Dunfermline: This is a short walk around a scenic woodland area. A popular place with local dog walkers, the gravel track is also perfect for a stroll with the pram. Easily accessible from the neighbouring residential areas of the town if you wish to extend the length of the walk, or park right beside it – your choice! 

The Dean, Cairneyhill: This semi-circular route takes advantage of the nearby West Fife Cycle Way and network of connecting farm tracks and rights of way to reach the impressive Dean Plantation. Once there you will experience Pitfirrane Dean – a deep gorge, before returning to the village via woodland footpaths and the quiet Pitdinnie Road. 

Blairadam, Kelty: Blairadam Forest on the southern tip of Perth & Kinross is a bit of a maze! This is a walk which shows off the variety possible within it. Pass the impressive Blair Adam House and walled garden from which the forest takes its name. Cross farmland, enjoying the views of Loch Leven and Benarty Hill. Venture off-the-beaten-track on muddier ground beneath Cowden Hill (option to avoid – see route). Meander along the Kelty Burn through beautiful woodland. Perfect! 

SOUTH LANARKSHIRE

Cleughearn Forestry Walk, Whitelee: A pleasant walk around one of the quieter areas of forestry within the UK’s largest onshore windfarm. Starting at the parking area just off Ardochrig Road (near Strathaven), you soon find yourself on a mossy track through the trees. In this area it is possible to spot jay, bullfinch, merlin, peregrine, roe deer, and occasionally goldeneye ducks on the ponds! 

The Falls of Clyde, New Lanark: Best experienced after a period of sustained rainfall, this section of the River Clyde is pretty spectacular. Starting in the historical village of New Lanark, the track forms the last section of the Clyde Walkway and is basically a woodland walk with viewpoints to the waterfalls along the river. 

HIGHLANDS

Divach Falls, from Drumnadrochit: Divach Falls (pronounced ‘Jeevach’) can be reached via a short 300m walk from the car. But that’s no fun! So try one of these longer routes instead and see a bit more of the area while you are there.

Plodda Falls: Simply jaw-dropping! Experience how a bambling burn – Allt na Bodachan – is peacefully flowing through the forest one minute and then without warning is suddenly hurtled 46m vertically down a rock face. Possibly the most impressive waterfalls I have ever seen!

Fairy Glen Falls, The Black Isle: A short linear walk through the aptly named Fairy Glen, near Rosemarkie.  Follow the Markie Burn to not one, but two pretty waterfalls hidden away in the most tranquil of settings. 

Have you enjoyed any of these routes before or have others to suggest? Leave a comment to encourage other people to try them 🙂

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