Walking on your own is a great way to immerse yourself in the countryside, no chitter chattering to disturb wildlife or interrupt the enjoyment of distant views.

However, on my birthday I wanted to take the offspring with me, as well as the other half, so a solitary ramble was out, as was anything resembling a high mountain.

Sometimes picking a route can be bewildering such is the wonderful choice on offer across Scotland. But on a day of beautiful winter sunshine, I decided that home is best and the objective of the great little hill above Linlithgow – Cockleroy – was set.

As we explored potential homes for bears and owls, and moderated arguments about who would be first to reach the top, the woodland gave way to open hillside and what is known in our family as “the dangerous bit”. It is actually the tiniest of rocky outcrops beside the path but when the children were not much more than toddlers it presented a formidable obstacle.

It was with a tinge of sadness that I realised now they had reached the grand old ages of six and nine, they could scamper over it with ease, even when dragging a fallen branch.

Maybe I should have picked a more strenuous hill? Not a bit of it. The top was soon reached and with brilliant clear weather the views extended from Arran in the west, across the Forth to the Trossachs and Ochils and then east to Bass Rock.

More highlights were to come when the remnants of a Christmas selection box were produced and the task of spotting out house far below began.

On the way down thoughts quickly turned to birthday meals and being close to home meant a roast beef and a glass of red were not far away – always a good thing.


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