From gentle coastal strolls to challenging treks, there’s no shortage of great scenic walks in the north and north east. Notch up your 10,000 steps and more on these popular walking routes.
To help get you through another week of the summer holidays, we have created a clickable map of walks that make a nice day out for the family. And hopefully lead to a quick go-to-sleep time for late birds!
Here are the destinations on our map in more detail.
One for nature-lovers, the ancient Aberdeenshire landscape around Bennachie is home to red squirrels, roe deer and many species of birds. There’s something here for all ages and abilities. Mither Tap is a challenging hike of steep, rough terrain but with stunning views at the top. For a gentler pace, try the 2.5-mile colony trail or simply enjoy the beautiful forest on the discover trail – don’t forget to pick up crayons for the wildlife rubbing posts.
Forvie National Nature Reserve
Discover the rich tapestry of sand dunes, mudflats and heathlands that make up this very special landscape. It’s a perfect ecosystem for all kinds of wildlife, especially seals, diving terns, eider ducks and fulmars. The colours and textures change with the seasons, from spring-flowering primroses to purple orchids and jewel-coloured heathers. There are a variety of walks signposted from the reserve near Newburgh in Aberdeenshire, and nearby Hackley Bay is not to be missed.
The Balmoral Cairns
For something a bit different, take a day out to discover the 11 burial cairns at the Balmoral Estate, including Scotland’s very own pyramid. The cairns were erected by the Royal Family, and the monument to Prince Albert from his ‘broken hearted widow Victoria R’ is a staggering sight. The walk also features beautiful scenery and fine views over Deeside.
A gentle walk from the picturesque village of Kincardine O’Neil will take you to this hidden gem waterfall. Part of the Deeside Way, the path cuts through open fields, burns and woodland before arriving at the secluded but dramatic Dess Waterfall.
Roseisle Forest and Dunes
This gentle 3.5km walk takes you through Moray’s Roseisle forest, where an abundance of wildlife is waiting to be discovered among the towering pine trees. From there, follow the path to Roseisle beach and dunes, which has an abundance of wartime relics including pillboxes and anti-tank defences.
Old Aberdeen Trail
The countryside doesn’t have the monopoly on great walks! This trail explores the quirks and character of Old Aberdeen. At 2.5km it’s a relatively short walk, but packed with interesting spots including a medieval cathedral, 15th century college, World War Two pillbox, botanic garden and lots of public art.
This fascinating Ross-shire monument marks a sad time in Highland history. It was commissioned by retired Commander-of-India Sir Hector Munro, who wanted a monument inspired by the Gate of Negapatam, Madras. This was at the height of the Highland clearances and local legend claims that Munro rolled stones to the foot of the hill to give local men more paid work. The Fyrish Monument is a challenging hike but the stunning views from the top are well worth the effort.
Discover Thomas Telford’s famous Caledonian Canal, which cuts along the Great Glen from Inverness to Fort William. Starting at Dochgarroch locks – at the Inverness end – this gentle 4.5-mile walk takes in the yachts and boats of the busy canal, the peaceful Loch Ness waters and lush woodlands. Perfect for a Sunday outing with the family.
Whaligoe Steps and Cairn of Get
Is this the most dramatic harbour in Scotland? The tiny bay at Whaligoe in Caithness can be accessed only by descending down more than 300 steps carved into the cliff-face. Once upon a time, fishwives carried creels full of fish up these treacherous steps. For a safer family walk, park at the Cairn of Get car park and follow the marked pathway through fields and boardwalk to reach the cairn itself, a dramatic bronze age burial site. You can then retrace your steps back or continue on to the Whaligoe Steps and the excellent cafe on site.
Get out and explore the atmospheric forest of Ord Hill. This near-three-mile path is a relatively easy walk with some gentle ascent. The forest is wonderful to explore on foot and kids will particularly like the mysterious vitrified forts. Archaeologists to this day can’t explain how or why our ancestors melted or ‘vitrified’ these large stones together into forts. At the top of the climb, take a rest and enjoy panoramic views from the Black Isle beauty spot across Inverness and the Beauly Firth.
Old Man of Hoy
Discover the wild beauty of Orkney with a walk on Rackwick Beach to the iconic Old Man of Hoy. Rackwick Beach has an other-worldly quality, with its towering red cliffs, heather fields and fine golden sands. It’s the starting point of a gentle walk to the 450ft sea stack that attracts climbers from around the world.
Loch An Eilein
Found in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, Rothiemurchus is one of the most picturesque locations in the UK. Loch an Eilein translates as ‘loch of the island’, with a 13th century ruined castle, abundant wildlife and lush forest. There’s a good range of trails taking in the loch, mountains and ancient pine trees. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrel, Scottish crossbill, crested tit and ospreys.
A perfect crescent of fine white sand and turquoise sea, Achmelvich lies three miles north west of Lochinver. Starting from Achmelvich Car Park, this 3.7-mile walk hugs the coastline on a dry grassy path. It takes in an old mill and hidden cove, and you can venture a bit further to discover the hermit’s ‘castle’. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the porpoises, dolphins and even minke whale who make their home in this beautiful corner of Sutherland.