BEN CHONZIE, PERTHSHIRE

This is a great starter Munro, easy to follow tracks and paths take you up to brilliant views encompassing the Beinn a’Ghlo range to the north east, north to Ben Lawers and east to Ben More, while the Trossachs lay to the south west with the Campsies and Ochils further round to the south.

As ever at this time of year, be sure to be prepared for winter conditions and be ready to turn back – it will always be there for another day.

Also, make sure you keep up with the latest coronavirus restrictions, even a walk up a wonderful mountain is not worth the risk.

DISTANCE: 7½ miles /12 km.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 2,350ft / 716m.

TIME: 4 to 5 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 51.

PARK: At the western end of Comrie turn off the A85 at the Deil’s Cauldron restaurant (following a sign for “Glenlednock”). There is a parking area 4½ miles down the minor road, on the right.

THE ROUTE: To start the walk, follow a track on the right leading from the parking area away from the road. On reaching some cottages at Coishavachan go right, in front of them, and then through a large metal gate.

On the other side of the gate go left and follow a track up the Invergeldie glen. After a few hundred yards the track crosses the Invergeldie Burn before going through a metal gate and then turning sharp right to climb more steeply.

After passing through another metal gate the track drops down to re-cross the burn, below a small dam, and then climbs up again on the other side.

At a fork in the track go left and climb up onto heather-clad moorland. After fording a small burn via stepping stones ignore a track going off to the left and keep straight on, climbing up to the broad southern slopes of Ben Chonzie.

About a mile further on (before the top of the ridge has been reached) look out for a small cairn on the left of the track – on a right hand bend.

Go left here, onto a boggy path which fords a small burn and then heads steeply uphill.

Ignore sheep tracks crossing the path and keep going up, bearing right after a while.

Eventually you reach some stone grouse butts and beyond them a line of old metal fence posts. These lead up, turning sharp right after a few hundred yards, to the summit and its large stone shelter.

Take plenty of time to enjoy the view before retracing your steps to the start.

RIVER FESHIE, CAIRNGORMS

This route takes advantage of two marked trails, making a figure of eight loop centred on a car park, meaning you can cut the walk short.

You also pass the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail – a series of wooden carvings made by a self-taught sculptor who wanted to reflect what it means to be human.

A perfect family walk in the shadow of the mountains of the Cairngorms.

Make sure you keep up with the latest coronavirus restrictions, even a walk in beautiful countryside is not worth the risk.

DISTANCE: 3 miles / 5km.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 400ft / 122m.

TIME: 1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 35.

PARK: The Forestry and Land Scotland’s Feshiebridge car park – a quarter of a mile west of the bridge on the B970.

THE ROUTE: Leave the far end of the car park by a path next to an information board. At a track go right and shortly afterwards it is possible to detour left to see the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail. Otherwise, stay on the track, ignoring a turning down to the right.

Bear right just before a field to drop down a grassy track and after about 80 yards go right, down a path towards the River Feshie. The path swings right to follow the river upstream – before you reach a small building, the “Feshie Bridge river gauging station” which monitors water flow. After this the path leaves the river and rises to the car park.

To continue the walk, go left and follow a path which starts at a yellow waymarker, on a hairpin bend at the end of the car park. Follow the path up above the river and then drop down closer to it to reach Feshiebridge – it is worth dropping down to the rocks and pools below the bridge before you reach the road.

Cross the road, but not the bridge, and follow a track on the other side which goes to the left of some houses and continues upstream. Follow it for about two thirds of a mile to a point just before a metal gate in a stone wall – go right here, up a grass path with a yellow waymarker at the bottom. The path goes up the side of the stone wall then turns right to pass through young, mixed woodland and then forestry pines.

At a track go right and follow it for about half a mile where you look for a path going into the trees on the right (there is another yellow waymarker just along it). This drops down to a minor road which you cross and bear slightly left to follow the drive taken earlier, down to the car park.

10 of the best autumn walks

The trees have stopped producing green chlorophyll, making the yellows, oranges and reds come through. But don’t moan about the chillier weather causing this as it can increase the red hues as the chemicals in the leaves break down. Now is the time to get out there and enjoy one of the best displays in nature. Here are ten of the best walks for all the family to see the autumn in all its glory, from Glasgow to Golspie, the Borders to the Highlands.

BIG BURN, GOLSPIE

DISTANCE: 2½ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 200ft.

TIME:  1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 17.

PARK:  From the A9 at the north end of Golspie, after the Sutherland Arms and Sutherland Stonework, go left before a bridge. A narrow track leads to a car park.

IN SUMMARY: The Big Burn Walk from Golspie in Sutherland is one of the best short walks in the country. A wooded glen, narrow gorge and tumbling waterfall combine to make for a perfect stroll. Views include the 100ft monument built in 1834 to the First Duke of Sutherland on top of Ben Bhraggie. The Duke, and the Countess of Sutherland, oversaw the eviction of an estimated 15,000 tenants during the infamous Clearances.

BIRKS OF ABERFELDY

DISTANCE: 2 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 600ft.

TIME: 1 to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 52.

PARK: From the centre of Aberfeldy, take the A826 Crieff road. After a few hundred yards you reach a stone bridge where you should turn right to enter a car park for the Birks of Aberfeldy.

IN SUMMARY: Immortalised by Robert Burns, the Birks of Aberfeldy have inspired countless visitors. Again, a mix of burn and a wooded gorge provides a great sight and keeps the legs working as you ascend to a bridge over a waterfall which throws water straight down below you. The recent wet weather means this walk is at its very best because the Moness Burn is running high, making plumes of spray from its waterfalls billow up into the sky.

FALLS OF CLYDE, NEW LANARK

DISTANCE:  6 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 820ft.

TIME: 3½ to 4½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 71.

PARK: Reach the main car park for New Lanark World Heritage Site by following brown signs from the A73 in the centre of Lanark.

IN SUMMARY: New Lanark, is one of the most interesting industrial sites in Scotland. This World Heritage Site preserves the cotton mills of the 18th century. Beyond it are the Falls of Clyde, surrounded by huge trees currently displaying an array of vibrant colours. Many just walk up one side of the river and return the same way but it is possible to make a six mile circuit.

THREE BRETHREN, BORDERS

DISTANCE: 9 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,300ft.

TIME: 4½ to 5 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 73.

PARK: The Lindinny car park is just before Yair Bridge on the A707, 4½ miles from Selkirk.

IN SUMMARY: Misty mornings in the Borders are a regular feature of autumn. Walking up the rolling hills you can emerge out of the gloom and be rewarded with a sunlit carpet of cloud. Even without the mist, when the sun is low in the sky the view of the seemingly endless Southern Uplands from the summit of the Three Brethren is something to be savoured. The three 9ft cairns which stand over the trig point were erected at the start of the 16th century by the lairds of Yair, Selkirk and Philiphaugh to mark the boundary of their land.

GLEN TANAR, DEESIDE

DISTANCE: 5 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 310ft.

TIME: 2 to 2½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 44.

PARK: Near the Glen Tanar Estate visitor centre, just over three miles from Aboyne.

IN SUMMARY: Glen Tanar has wonderful pinewoods which are home to the capercaillie and crossbill. Mixed woodland also abounds and is filled with the song of other birds. A number of waymarked routes lead you round the estate which means you can pass the old St Lesmo’s Chapel, the Knockie Viewpoint and the Water of Tanar – try the longest, “Old Pines”, route for the full experience.

CALLANDER TO FALLS OF LENY

DISTANCE: 5 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 150ft.

TIME: 2 to 3 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 57.

PARK: Callander Meadows car park is off the main street, opposite the Dreadnought Hotel.

IN SUMMARY: The Callander to Oban railway stopped running in 1965 but the track bed is now a great way to get enjoy some easy walking amid wonderful scenery. Once Callander is behind there are fantastic views of Ben Ledi ahead before the turbulent Falls of Leny are reached. The gorge through which the foaming water is forced is bordered by woodland which is currently putting on an autumnal display to match the performance of the river, aptly named Garbh Uisge (Gaelic for rough water).

POLLOK COUNTRY PARK, GLASGOW

DISTANCE: 2¾  miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 115 ft.

TIME: 1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 64.

PARK: From the country park’s entrance on Pollokshaws Road follow the main drive all the way to the end to reach the Riverside Car Park, near Pollok House.

IN SUMMARY: This beautiful wide expanse of open space is covered in deciduous trees, creating a vibrant show at this time of year. It is also a good place to find conkers, meaning little ones can be occupied as you head up an avenue of limes and round to a wood and pond which once formed part of the Old Pollok Estate.

RIVER NORTH ESK, EDZELL

DISTANCE:  6 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED:140 ft.

TIME: 2½ to 3½ hours.

MAP: OS Landrangers 44 and 45.

PARK: You should find a space on Edzell’s High Street, near the Post Office. Otherwise, head for the north end of the town to find a car park on the left, just over a mini-roundabout.

IN SUMMARY: A riverside stroll amid huge, gnarled trees in the the Angus Glens culminates in the dramatic rapids and waterfalls of a deep gorge. The poetically named Rocks of Solitude is a good place to watch salmon – but do watch out for the drops if with young children. Red squirrels can also be seen scurrying about as they prepare for winter.

KILMARTIN GLEN, ARGYLL

DISTANCE: 3¼ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: Negligible – one slope leading in and out of Kilmartin village.

TIME: 1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 55.

PARK: At the Kilmartin House Museum in the centre of the village, 8 miles north of Lochgilphead on the A816.

IN SUMMARY: Kilmartin Glen has a tranquility which makes it a perfect place for a stroll as the light begins to get lower in the sky. The ethereal beauty is enhanced, especially when a light mist lingers, by ancient chambered cairns which can be explored along the way.

INCHEWAN BURN AND THE HERMITAGE, BIRNAM

DISTANCE: 6 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 750ft.

TIME: 3½ to 4 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 52 or 53.

PARK: There is plenty of parking in the centre of Birnam but you can also arrive by train – the walk starts at Dunkeld and Birnam Railway Station.
IN SUMMARY: The Hermitage near Dunkeld is a popular autumn destination, especially when the River Braan is full and waterfalls pound the rocks below a canopy of trees. By starting at the Inchewan Burn, flanked by beech outside Birnam, the anticipation of ever dramatic scenery is increased. After the Hermitage, the aptly named Rumbling Bridge is crossed before farmland gives views over Strath Tay.

Gullane Bay walk

Gullane Bay from the Gullane Bents car park

A version of this appeared in Scotland on Sunday on January 12, 2020.

The seaside at this time of year can be a wild place, and that is what makes it special. This has to be one my favourite family walks when the days are short but want a bracing walk with plenty occupy everyone.

A good expanse of sandy beach gives way to low rocks and a small headland before pinewoods begin the return. Throw in a bit of history and a crisp, cold winter’s day and you have a good outing.

I took the family here just before Christmas, and then returned at the start of the year – despite the cold, a bit of rock pooling meant the demands for a quick return had to be heeded!

You can extend the walk by continuing along the coast, passing sandy bays and more rocky outcrops before eventually reaching Yellowcraig, with the island of Fidra just offshore. This may prove too much for some, in which case a linger on the coast can be just as exhilarating if not as tiring on the legs.

DISTANCE: 3½ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 130ft.

TIME: 1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 66.

PARK: Follow a brown sign for Gullane Bents from the west end of the town’s main street. At the end of Sandy Loan go left to reach a car park above the coast. £2 parking charge.

IN SUMMARY: From the shore side of the car park drop down a path which starts between a pay and display machine and some information boards. This leads to the long beach of Gullane Bay, where you go right to follow it to its end. A path then runs just above the shore and past some low dunes. Keep close to the high tide line before reaching some low ruins – this was St Patrick’s chapel and was in use until the early 16th century.

Leave the shore at this point and go around to the right in front of the ruins, then right again at a junction to walk along the edge of a dense pine wood. The path is then more of a track as it enters the trees. Just before the end of the wood go left at a fork to follow a path over open ground. This bears right and climbs a bank to reach a slightly more defined path. Go left then, shortly afterwards, turn right in front of a fence. On the other side of this are the hallowed links of Muirfield golf course – one of the most famous in the world.

At a junction of paths go left then keep on the main path, which heads further inland. The path becomes surfaced before turning right and reaching a very large grassy area. As the path (now a track) bends left you can see the car park. Leave the track on the right at this point and follow a grass path to the beginning of the walk.

Five brilliant Christmas walks

Make time to get out into the fantastic Scottish countryside this Christmas. If you are lucky it will be covered with snow. And, you will be left feeling energised, as well as having an excuse for mulled wine and mince pies!

MEALL A’ BHUACHAILLE, THE CAIRNGORMS

DISTANCE: 5½ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,607ft.
TIME: 4 to 5 hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 36.
PARK: Take the B970 from Aviemore, then go through the Rothiemurchus forest to Loch Morlich and park at its eastern end in the Glenmore visitor centre car park.

IN SUMMARY: The Cairngorms in winter may seem like a place for skiers, snowboarders and ice climbers, not hill walkers. But Meall a’ Bhuachaille is a great, popular hill which takes you up high and gives a fantastic panorama of the shattered cliffs and ridges of the Northern Corries. The Ryvoan Bothy at the bottom of the steepest part of the walk is a perfect spot to have a break, amid a great expanse of open moorland and mountain.

EAST LOMOND, FIFE

DISTANCE: 2½ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,250ft.

TIME: 1½ to 2½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 58 and 59.

PARK: There is plenty of parking in the centre of Falkland.

IN SUMMARY: East Lomond is only 1,391 feet high but you will need to fill your lungs to clamber up its steep upper slopes. Usually grass covered but perfect for sledging in snow, they lead to a great viewpoint taking in both the Southern Uplands and the Highlands to the north. The walk starts in the pretty village of Falkland which itself is Christmassy enough to visit in itself, with a Renaissance palace and little shops, tearooms and pubs.

BEN VRACKIE, PITLOCHRY
DISTANCE: 6 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 2,100 ft.
TIME: 4 to 5 hours.
PARK: Turn left at the Moulin Hotel, about a mile from the centre of Pitlochry along the A924, then go right a couple of hundred yards later. The car park is at the top of the single track road on the right.
IN SUMMARY: Not a Munro but a proper, pointy mountain, Ben Vrackie dominates Pitlochry and offers a great way to burn off the Yuletide excess. The views over the central Highlands are superb and made even more memorable if you finish the day in the cosy inn at the Moulin Hotel near the start.

LOCH AN EILEIN, CAIRNGORMS

DISTANCE: 4½ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: Undulating (about 400ft in total).

TIME: 2 to 2½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 36.

PARK: Take the B970, Cairngorm road, from Aviemore. Turn right after about three-quarters of a mile, following a sign to Insh. Just over a mile down the road go left, following a brown sign to Loch an Eilein, and a car park a mile further.

IN SUMMARY: Loch an Eilein is a picturesque spot all year round but in winter a silence blankets the surrounding Rothiemurchus Forest, whether there is snow or not. The fairytale setting is completed with a castle out on the water, dating back to the 13th century. It was once said to have been home to the notorious Wolf of Badenoch. A circuit of a second loch – Gamhna – adds a sense of wilderness to the walk, below the high mountains of the Cairngorms.

BIRNAM HILL, PERTHSHIRE

DISTANCE: 4 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,150ft.

TIME: 2½ to 3½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 52.

PARK: You can arrive by train at Dunkeld and Birnam Railway Station but there is also parking in the centre of Birnam. IN SUMMARY: Birnam Hill is tougher than it looks with steep going, especially towards the top, but it is ideal for winter because it does not usually get covered with deep snow and a walk up and down only takes a few hours. Shakespeare used it famously in Macbeth and the stunning views do indeed include Dunsinane in the Sidlaw hills.

*Versions of these walks have appeared in Scotland on Sunday.

CALLANDER CRAIG AND BRACKLINN FALLS

Falls higher up the Keltie Water near Scout Pool

A version of this article is in the September 2019 edition of The Scots Magazine

CALLANDER CRAIG AND BRACKLINN FALLS, TROSSACHS

By Nick Drainey

Length: 6.5km (4 miles)

Height gained: 320m (1,050ft)

Time: 2 to 3 hours

OS Landranger 57

Parking: Arriving in Callander from the direction of Stirling turn left off the A84 just after a sign for the Roman Camp country house hotel. Bracklin (CORR) Road then leads up out of the town, past a car park on the left and up to one for Bracklinn (CORR) Falls, on the right.

The route: As a teenager I took a friend to the Lake District in an attempt to convert him to the joys of hillwalking. Striding Edge seemed like a good place with plenty of wow factor and as we sat on the rocky ridge the view was astounding.

What sticks in the memory, however, is what happened after I had greeted some fellow scramblers with a cheery “hello”. When they had made their way to the summit of Helvellyn my friend asked if I knew everyone on the mountain as I had said hi to each of them and they had replied equally politely.

Fast forward a decade or two (or maybe three) and my children have asked the same question, and again been told that is just what you do in the outdoors, away from the hustle and bustle of streets and pavements.

But what is the etiquette when it comes to talking to other folk walking by a burn, on a hill, mountain, or even a ridge?

On a walk to Bracklinn Falls the other week a quick hello, or nod of the head, was all that was needed for a coach party from Germany – if I had tried to start a conversation I may have been linguistically challenged, as well as at risk of being thought of as odd.

As I followed the Keltie Burn upstream and stopped to admire more falls near Scout Pool it seemed I could have started a conversation but the couple who had reached the little bridge from the other direction decided to head off with a “lovely day, isn’t it”, I think to leave the viewing spot to me – a very nice gesture and high on the scale of politeness.

As the steeper slopes of Callander Craig were reached one of the great etiquette conundrums faced me as I approached a chap descending. Do I gasp out a breathless “hi” or try to give the impression I was in no way out of breath. I shamefully went for the latter, even if it was a little strained.

I stopped at the wonderful summit cairn – built in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Cairn and rebuilt 100 years later. The view from here is excellent, especially the imposing bulk of Ben Ledi to the west.

As I picked up my rucksack to set off, a middle-aged guy appeared and despite my best, most jovial “hello” I only received a weak smile and a little grunt on reply. Worrying I may be in trouble for excessive jollity I scuttled down the ridge but soon realised the reason for the gentleman’s taciturn nature. In front of me was a lady, presumably his wife, loudly telling a child to “stop complaining about everything, daddy has brought us up here so the least you can do is try to look happy”. I thought better of saying anything and just gave a consoling sort of smile which probably made me look a little unwell. Thankfully, for the rest of the way down I didn’t see a soul – sometimes a walk on your own with no human distraction can be the best thing.