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.

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