Showing posts from February, 2015

Walk: Creag Bheag & a red squirrel hunt

Highland | Monadhliath | Half day walk | ★★★

Creag Bheag is a shapely little hill with a plethora of cairns, separated from the snowy Monadhliath mountains by Loch Gynack. Head downhill from the summit and you'll have a great chance of spotting a few red squirrels.

📌 Walk: Creag Bheag & a red squirrel hunt ★★★
Start / finish at car park off Gynack Road, Kingussie village centre, G.R.: NH 756007 ///donation.flames.cello

▶ 7 km / 4 mi | ▲ 270 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Creag Bheag (487 metres, sub-2000')
Terrain: Slightly wet path on ascent, excellent but steep path for descent. Clear forestry paths and tracks lower down.

On our visit

Wildlife: Red squirrel upon departing Kingussie. Treecreepers busy... treecreeping in Tom Baraidh forest. Sheep.
Weather: Cloudy with the odd glimpse of brightness. Rain threatening, but held off until the last few minutes. Breezy on the summit, but a few degrees above freezing. Covering of slushy snow on north-facing slopes.

Route & …

Treezone (Aviemore)

Highland | Rothiemurchus | Ropes course | ★★★★

There are numerous ways to pass the time in the Glenmore area even in the winter - just as well really, given the number of days high winds cause CairnGorm Mountain ski centre to close. But while its blowing a gale at the Ptarmigan Restaurant it's usually calm amongst the Caledonian pine forest... which is where Treezone is conveniently and scenically located. A bit cheaper than many of the "big name" ropes courses dotted around the UK (you know which ones we're talking about), but just as good - and there's another one on Loch Lomond. You start out on the lower Treecreeper course, then progress to the higher Buzzard course if you enjoyed the first one. The latter is certainly difficult enough if you're vertically challenged, such as this reviewer. Put it near the top of your list, whatever the time of year.

Location & info

📌 Treezone (Aviemore)★★★★
By the B970, Rothiemurchus, 1 mi south of Aviemore, G.R.: NH …

Falls of Truim

Highland | Glen Truim | Waterfall | ★★★

The Falls of Truim are an easily accessible, worthwhile stop off if you're heading along the A9 between Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore. An old road bridge and pine woods make for a characterful setting, with narrow paths on both banks giving access to several viewpoints. The falls are a set of rapids rather than a single drop, with countless potholes and pools carved out by centuries of river erosion. Just up the road is Crubenbeg House - one of the friendliest and most luxurious B&B's we've ever had the pleasure of staying at.

Location & info

📌 Falls of Truim ★★★
By minor road, just off the A9 4 mi south of Newtonmore, G.R.: NN 680923 ///daytime.vows.riverboat
Always open | Free

Anything else? From the car park at G.R.: NN 681922 ///sometimes.prancing.lions, head north on a short gravel path before crossing the road and turning left onto a narrower side road. Follow the road a few hundred metres to the bridge above the falls, with …

Walk: Loch an Eilein & a sneaky side-hill

Fife | Glenmore Forest Park | Half day walk | ★★★

Loch an Eilein is probably one of the busier spots by Highlands standards... but Highland Scotland happily has a different definition of "busy" to most other places. Even on a weekend, we didn't see anyone else for the entire walk except at the car park. A picturesque loch or two preceded by a short, steep ascent to Ord Ban, a little hill with sweeping views over Strathspey, the Cairngorms and the Monadhliath. Apparently a short detour to Kennapole Hill to the south is worthwhile too, but we didn't try it. Did I mention there's a ruined castle on an island in the middle of the loch? Not even a grey, dull day can take away from that... much.

📌 Walk: Loch an Eilein & a sneaky side-hill ★★★
Start / finish at Loch an Eilein car park (seasonal charge), minor road end 3 mi south of Aviemore, G.R.: NH 897084 ///thumbnail.wakes.organist

▶ 9 km / 6 mi | ▲ 310 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Ord Ban (428 m, sub-20…

Walk: King & Castle atop the Ochils

Clackmannanshire | Ochil Hills | Full day walk | ★★★★

The Ochil Hills barely reach 700 metres above sea level, but provide some of Scotland's most varied walks. This one includes dramatic gorges and waterfalls, rolling moorland summits, lush farmland, a disused railway line, a couple of towns and a picturesque castle as the icing on the cake. If that's not enough, the route passes right by Sterling Mills Outlet Shopping Village (leave your more retail-minded partner here?).

📌 Walk: King & Castle atop the Ochils ★★★★
Start / finish at layby on A91 by the Devon Way, midway between Tillicoultry and Dollar, G.R.: NS 939974 ///cycles.harvest.surprises

▶ 15 km / 9 mi | ▲ 720 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: King's Seat Hill (648 m, Donald) | Features: Tillicoultry; Castle Campbell; Dollar Glen; Dollar
Terrain: Devon Way is a tarmac cycleway. Very steep ascent above side of Mill Glen with some difficult route finding; good dirt path in Dollar Glen. Faint, grassy hill paths hig…

Five Sisters Zoo

West Lothian | West Calder | Zoo | ★★★★

It's not flashy, it doesn't have pandas, and the potholes in the car park are bigger than some of the animals. But Five Sisters Zoo is a viable alternative to the more popular and expensive Edinburgh Zoo. Highlights include a walk-through aviary, a great new reptile house and some "big name" animals including brown bears, arctic wolves, newly-arrived lions and numerous monkeys. The Scottish wildcat puts in an appearance too. The middle of the site contains a playground and small fairground rides, but you don't need to be, or have, a child to enjoy the rest of the place.

Location & info

📌 Five Sisters Zoo★★★★
Gavieside, 1 mi north of West Calder, G.R.: NT 023643 ///puppy.thickens.storming
Open daily | £12.95 adult / £10.45 child

Bangour Village Hospital

West Lothian | Dechmont | Abandoned hospital | ★★

Ever woken up one day and felt like visiting an vast, abandoned psychiatric hospital? Head to Bangour Village Hospital, which has lain derelict since 2004. Up to over 3,000 patients lived here at any one time, and the site is correspondingly massive; 960 acres takes a long time to explore fully. Especially striking are everyday items in amidst dystopic surroundings: rusting bus stops, a huge church, and dozens of derelict villas which used to house patients. Smaller details are equally chilling: faded signposts in NHS hospital fonts, or the scrawling red graffiti on one of the villas: "My mum put me here!"

Location & info

📌 Bangour Village Hospital ★★
Off the A89 1 mi west of Dechmont, G.R.: NT 031708 ///steer.fussy.films
Always open | Free

Anything else? Park at the old entrance to the campus on the A89 at G.R.: NT 033705 ///ground.handicaps.ruins. From here, walk down the access road to reach the hospital's heart. Acc…


City of Edinburgh | Cramond | Village | ★★

Cramond is almost part of Edinburgh yet at the same time a world apart. 5 miles from the city centre, it's a sleepy suburb with a central cluster of sights for the casual visitor, backing onto the Forth. Just uphill from the tiny harbour lies historic Cramond Kirk, while beside it are the remains of a large Roman Fort. Probably the biggest attraction once you've checked the tide times is a wander across the mile-long causeway to Cramond Island, from which there are excellent 360° views towards Edinburgh, along the Forth and out to all its other islands... notwithstanding the plentiful litter :(


📌 Cramond, Kirk, Roman Fort ★★
City of Edinburgh. Main village car park is at G.R.: NT 190771 ///open.notice.ducks
Always open | Free

🚶 The interesting part of the village is tiny. Cramond Island and Laurison Castle are each about 1 mi walk away, the former by a tidal causeway. There is no easy access to Dalmeny House or the coast path…

Walk: Callander - crag & cascade

Stirling | Callander | Half day walk | ★★★★

Just above the bustling tourist town of Callander lie Callander Crags, with spectacular views of the Trossachs hills, lochs and forests from the top. Combine them with a visit to Bracklinn Falls (best in spate) with its striking modern footbridge for a great half-day circuit, and consider yourself unlucky if you don't spot a red squirrel or two.

📌 Walk: Callander - crag & cascade ★★★★
Callander Crags car park, Bracklinn Road, 10-min walk northeast of Callander town centre, G.R.: NN 633082 ///scorch.ripen.ocean

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 470 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits:Callander Crags (343 m) | Features: Bracklinn Falls
Terrain: Straightforward path to the falls. Forestry track to road near Coire Eas na Caillich. 1 km of minor road, then rough and steep path on straight-line ascent / descent of crags, improving for return to start.

Route & map

Car park - Bracklinn Falls - Coire Eas na Callich - Callander Crags - western edge of Calla…

Ski: Nevis Range

Highland | Fort William | Ski centre | ★★★★

Scotland's swankiest lift system, its highest slopes, views of Ben Nevis and the sea (well, a sea loch), and a notable absence of queues. What's not to like? Okay, it's a shame about that wind-affected access gondola and the long drive from the Central Belt, but Nevis Range definitely deserves more recognition from the numerous skiers who choose to go elsewhere.

Scroll down for a more in-depth guide.

Location & info

📌 Nevis Range★★★★
Off the A82 5 mi east of Fort William, G.R.: NN 172774 ///agreeable.requires.height

Average winter season: Late December to April, conditions permitting
Day lift pass: £35.50 adult / £23.50 child for 2019/20 season
Equipment hire: £24.50 adult / £18.50 child for 2019/20 season

Don't miss...

The Back Corries - a huge expanse of steep, expert terrain accessed from near the summit and sporadically served by the Braveheart Chair. Unmarked, not always patrolled and often with large cornices to negotiat…

Pass of Glencoe (A82)

Highland | Glencoe | Scenic road | ★★★★★

Every time we pass through it our jaws unhinge. Glencoe hardly needs introducing as one of Scotland's most dramatic and famous glens, its fame done no harm by awe-inspiring views even from the car. Approaching from Bridge of Orchy to the south, the A82 climbs via wide hairpins onto a fast road across the barren expanse of Rannoch Moor, dotted with lochans which are often frozen in winter. Gradually, majestic peaks begin to rise out of the flat landscape ahead: Glencoe ski centre on Meall a' Bhuiridh to the left first. The crowning jewel is next in line: Buachaille Etive Mòr, possibly Scotland's most iconic mountain and amazing even from the tarmac. The glen narrows beyond with further Munros towering on either side. After a series of sharp bends and a steep descent past a waterfall, the rocky walls relent a little before you arrive at Glencoe village on the shore of Loch Leven.

📌Pass of Glencoe (A82) ★★★★★
Highland. Western summit is…