Our Top Walks for the Festive Season

Posted on 07th Dec 2021 in Outdoor Education, Community, Trips, ESMS

Great Walks to Enjoy With Your Family Over the Festive Season  by ESMS Outdoor Learning Manager, David Ogilvie

Getting out for a walk is a simple but great way to spend time together as a family. It keeps us fit and healthy and is an easy way to spend quality time with friends and families and create some great memories over the festive break. Some initial ‘getting over the doorstep challenges’ will exist for many families but persistence here reaps rewards, and each time, it does get a little easier!

Once you are out, pretty much whatever the weather, you will all have a great time chatting, laughing and looking around you. Remember to wear suitable clothing and it is always a great idea to chat about a route, time, distance, venue etc prior to going, that way no-one person can be singled out for a bad route choice!  

ESMS families live all over Edinburgh, the Lothians, the Borders, Fife and beyond, so I have suggested some great walks in all of these areas and even a few further afield, for those of you who may be travelling to visit family and friends over the festive season. 

The Borders 

The recent storm Arwen has resulted in many of the popular forests of the Borders being closed to the public with no indication yet of when things may begin to re-open. It would be a good idea to check beforehand on sites such as https://forestryandland.gov.scot/visit/activities/walking to check out any local access restrictions. The hills of the Borders are beautiful and often written about by the great bard himself, Rabbie Burns. There are many suitable walks for all here: Scottish Borders (Walkhighlands) 

East Lothian 

Again, the recent storm has ravaged the East coast and has sadly damaged a lot of trees, and therefore path networks, especially by the coast near Dunbar in the John Muir Park. Rangers are working hard, alongside an army of volunteers to clear the area and try to restore these beautiful Scots Pine woodlands. There are many walks in East Lothian, from a short walk on the stunning beach at Seacliff (a family favourite of family Ogilvie at all times of the year – remember your 3 x£1 coins for the parking) to an ascent of North Berwick Law or Traprain Law to sections of the John Muir Way. Walking (visiteastlothian.org) 


Our Captial city is a wonder – a bustling urban conurbation surrounded by hills and sea with plenty of punctuations of open space and green areas within the city itself. There is little wonder it is such a popular place to live! There are some fantastic walks signposted in this article. 17 Walks in Edinburgh to Get Your Step Count Up! (everythingedinburgh.com) 


Fife is an amazing place to walk. For those who live there, you will be aware already of the rich landscape reaching from the coast inland to hills and farmland. The Fife Coastal trail is a great place to start. On a sunny day the Southerly aspect and views over the Forth estuary to Edinburgh and the beach, town and cliff top walks offer plenty of opportunity for all. Fife Coastal Path - Fife Coast & Countryside Trust (fifecoastandcountrysidetrust.co.uk) 

West Lothian 

West Lothian is a hidden gem for walks and exploration. From Hopetoun Estate and its manicured front lawns, the woodlands and deer park beyond to the John Muir Trail along the coast, Beecraigs for a woodland stroll with lochs, hills and wildlife or a walk around Historic Linlithgow Loch - West Lothian has lot to offer. The southern (and much less frequented) Pentland Hills offer longer walks for more experienced and kitted out walkers. Routes such as the Cauldstane Slap leading to East and West Cairn Hills are fabulous and can often be done without seeing another soul.  Western Pentlands Hillwalk (osmaps.com)Beecraigs Country Park - West Lothian Council 


A visit to the Granite City will allow you to stroll along the coast to the North and, equally as quickly, into the hills and glens to the west. The coastline to the south of the city is stunning but much of it is not for walkers as it is a seabird and climbers paradise, given the rugged and steep cliff along much of the coast. A couple of fabulous beaches to stroll along are those of the Forvie National Nature reserve and Balmedie Country Park.  

At Forvie, you will find a circular inland and coastal walk from near Newburgh to the historic village of Collieston. Lunch in Collieston is an ideal pause in the middle.  Forvie NNR - Visiting the reserve | NatureScot 

Balmedie is a little closer to the city itself and offers simple and ‘blow away the cobwebs away’ walks across the sands. Balmedie Beach Visitor Guide - Accommodation, Things To Do & More | VisitScotland 

Inland, a highlight of the area is an ascent of Bennachie (Ben-a-hee). This is an absolutely stunning walk through rich and wildlife diverse Caledonian Pines over heather slopes and up to the summits of Mither Tap (518m) and (for those with good legs on the day) to the slightly higher summit of Oxen Craig (529m) to the West. A real bucket list walk! 

Stirling & The Trossachs 

This stunningly beautiful area is easily accessible from the main southerly conurbations of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. As may be expected the area is peppered with beautiful walks from very short, picturesque river and loch walks to long and remote walks both in hill and forest. A couple of short, easy and relatively flat gems are: 

The Rob Roy Way along the old railway line from Callander to Strathyre, via Loch Lubnaig and the Falls of Leny. https://www.robroyway.com 

Bracklin Falls near Callander – a short and very easy walk to a lovely spot. The car park for the short walk is clearly signposted in Callander at the east end of the town. 

If you are up for more of a challenge then have a look at Ben A’an on the north shore of Loch Venacher. The views from the top are fabulous and it feels like a proper wee mountain! Take care if it is cold though, as the path can become very icy beside the burn. Ben A'an (Walkhighlands)

The forests of Loch Ard and Loch Achray also have some fantastic walks around lochs and hills. These walks are good for days where it is cold as they offer shelter from the wind and provide some spectacular views. Please make sure you check on the Forest and Land Scotland website before visiting as, at time of writing, all forest access is closed due to damage caused by Storm Arwen. Aberfoyle - Forestry and Land Scotland 

A walk is a COVID safe way to meet up with others, share stories and presents with each other – what is not to like about that? Remember to dress suitably, and if walking in a more remote area make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are expecting to be back so that if you have any problems you know that a trusted person is watching out for you. 

Have a fabulous Festive Break and I hope that the information above helps you to get out and active over the break come sun, rain or (hopefully) snow! 

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