The Best Family Winter Walks In Scotland

Winter is arguably the best season to enjoy all that Scotland has to offer. Frosty mornings and snow-covered hills make for awe inspiring sights, and the change in season marks the perfect time for families to get outdoors and explore the changing landscape.

path through marsh

Getting outside in winter is incredibly important for children. Not only do they get to experience the outdoors from a new perspective, but walking is a great opportunity to show the importance of being active all year round. The time spent together provides valuable bonding time for families, and a chance to learn more about the natural world. Not to mention, the exercise helps to burn off some of that excess energy from Christmas treats!

There are plenty of wonderful walks and activities for the whole family to enjoy across Scotland this winter, so make sure to bundle up and get exploring. Check out some of the top winter walks for families below.

Castle Fraser Estate, Inverurie
The breathtaking castle and grounds at the Castle Fraser Estate look like they have been taken straight from the pages of a fairy tale. Although the castle itself is closed from late October, the grounds are open all year round, and a number of short, family-friendly trails make this the perfect place for a winter ramble. The peaceful grounds are a haven for wildlife, and with the National Trust’s Digital Ranger app, children will be able to learn all about the animals, flora and fauna to be found on the estate.

Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
Holyrood Park in Edinburgh is home to a range of walking trails suitable for every family. For older children or more seasoned walkers, try scaling Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s very own volcano, for a great bird’s eye view of the historic city. For those looking for something a little less strenuous, Salisbury crags offers a gentler walk for little legs. Whatever route you choose, be sure to visit the Royal Mile afterwards to soak up some festive spirit!

mother and daughter on trail

Falls of Clyde, Lanark
The Falls of Clyde reserve is famous for scenic walks, breathtaking waterfalls, and the wide range of nature to be found. Over 100 types of birds have been spotted here, making it a perfect day out for budding ornithologists. Challenge your family to see how many bird species they can spot, and log your sightings on the BirdSpotter website. Keep your eyes peeled for the rare lesser scaup duck, or even the distinctive hoopoe.

Scottish Deer Center, Bow of Fife
The Scottish Deer Center is set over 55 acres of the Fife countryside, making the perfect place for a family day out walking. The Deer Center is home to 14 species of deer, otters, wildcats, birds of prey and even a wolf pack. There are plenty of educational activities run year round by the park’s expert keepers to keep the little ones interested, with opportunities to learn about (and meet!) resident animals. What could be more magical than meeting a real life reindeer at Christmas!


Top Photo: Path through Marsh at Uath Lochans in Glen Feshie, Scotland. Photo by John Holmes.

Bottom Photo: Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of the group of mountains in Edinburgh, Scotland which form most of Holyrood Park. Photo by Mariusz Jurgielewicz.

Elkhorn Slough White Pelican

The white pelican stretches
the size of a man with its wings

and the black remiges
appear from hiding,

the mating horn
on the bill like a banner

pulled across the sky
declaring the intent to mate

crossing the Elkhorn sanctuary
while four kayakers

paddle with muddied oars
mouths open in awe

like hungry chicks
waiting for beauty to fill them

By Jeff Burt

 pelican extending its wings


Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California. He has work in Atticus Review, Per Contra, Clare Literary, and Clerestory.

Click here to visit the Elkhorn Slough website.

Photo of White Pelican by Kit Sen Chin.

Discover a Rail Trail

Rail Trail along forest meadowWhenever we want to experience an excursion on a different walking track, we go in search of a rail trail. These trails are shared-use pathways, recycled from abandoned railway corridors, and set aside only for walking, cycling or horse riding. Rail trails link country villages and small towns. They meander through scenic forests and picturesque rural settings, just as railways did in the past. Following the routes of most rail trails, one will cut through hills, walk under roads, over embankments and across gullies and creeks. Despite the changes in terrain, the trails are comfortable to walk on. This is because the gradient on which the trail was originally constructed had to accommodate a large locomotive, pulling a long string of railway cars.

When a railway closes, the rails are removed but the bridges and cuttings still remain. These are often rebuilt and strengthened to be structurally sound. Signs provide easy-to- follow directions, and guide booklets are always available. Rail trail travellers are also well catered for. Wineries, cafes, B&Bs and small nearby villages accommodate the longer overnight journeys that people sometimes make.

Apart from being lovely places to hike through, rail trails also function as linear conservation Bright Pink Christmas Orchidcorridors, protecting native plants and animals. In December 2013, our Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Ranger, Peter Kleis, discovered a rare Christmas orchid, the Dipodium punctatum. The Queensland Herbarium advised, ‘this Australian native terrestrial orchid is a saprophyte—a leafless plant—that lives and feeds on decaying wood, similar to a fungus.’ The orchid will die if it is removed from its environment, and is a fine example of the special surprises that can be encountered while walking a rail trail.

We love where we live because a short remnant of a rail trail leads directly past the back of our home. Across from this unsealed walkway stretches the Samford State Forest, filled with native vegetation and wild birds. Sitting on our open back veranda with coffee and a snack, we wave to couples pushing strollers, children on bicycles, walkers and horse riders. Everyone enjoys this peaceful pathway.

Rail trails exist world-wide, so research one near you and rather than ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ it, get right out into nature and experience it.


Visit Mary’s Website: Nature As Art and Inspiration

For more information about Rail Trails in Australia visit the Rail Trails site at RailTrails.org.

 

Triple Falls Portrait

Bare rock protrudes
Extends the mountain side
Moss, lichen cling
Little River cascades
Down three rocky tiers
Waterfalls churn
Pummel granite slabs
Thunder reverberates
Through the valley
Mist, spray permeates
Prism droplets sparkle
Water grinds stone
Forms shallow pools
Tree limbs overhang
Provide shade
Wind sprinkles leaves
Float on the surface
River meanders
Dodges boulders
Black racer glides
Startles wading bathers
Rainbow trout hide
Elude fishermen’s flies
Eastern sweet shrub blooms
Fruity fragrance drifts
Arouses hikers’ senses

By Suzanne Cottrell

Author at Triple Falls


Suzanne Cottrell, an Ohio Buckeye by birth, lives with her husband and three rescue dogs in rural Piedmont North Carolina. An outdoor enthusiast and retired teacher, she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, and Pilates. She loves nature and its sensory stimuli and particularly enjoys writing and experimenting with poetry and flash fiction. Her work has appeared in The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, The Remembered Arts Journal, Plum Tree Tavern, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Three Line Poetry, Haiku Journal, Tanka Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Women’s Voices Anthology (These Fragile Lilacs Literary Journal), The Pop Machine (Inwood Indiana Press), and Nailpolish Stories, A Tiny and Colorful Literary Journal.

Photo is a portrait of the author at Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest in North Carolina, USA.

A Tryst with Nature at Chilika Lake

island in chilika lake, Orissa, IndiaSometime back, when I travelled to Chilika Lake, a lagoon, I got a unique chance to educate children as well as experience nature, both of which I adore. It was a nature camp and I was sent there officially to educate the children about nature and its significance. It is always cool to teach children, especially those at elementary and secondary school level. They are charming, inventive and most importantly, mischievous.

As part of the nature camping programme, we are advised to stay within the limits of any protected natural landscapes, viz-a-viz wildlife sanctuary, reserved forest or national park. We stayed in the midst of a lavish green backdrop encompassed by a variety of species, resident of Chilika. The ever-soothing early morning breeze flowed alongside the twittering and chattering cries of birds and little creatures.

Chilika Lake is the biggest tidal pond of Asia found along the Coromandel Coast of peninsular India. Being declared one of the six wetlands under the Ramsar convention, it offers a great deal of scenic beauty. Furthermore, this picturesque locale is a safe haven for diverse aquatic life forms such as birds (both waterfowl and waders), fish, crabs, etc.

Illumination of sky
With a crack of dawn
The never ending horizon
Never to be missed

We organized a birding trip to the nearby island, Nalbana. Boats were arranged for the trip. Nalbana is a wonderful island with vast life forms situated at the heart of Chilika Lake.

The children jumped in joy as the boat surged through brackish water and moved forward. We tried to arouse their interest by showing them some beautiful creatures like Irrawaddy dolphins, seagull, gull-billed tern, pied kingfisher, white-bellied sea eagle, etc. The children were given binoculars to observe the birds. Some of the kids were curious, questioning the open-feather stance of a bird. It was a cormorant. Unlike other water birds, cormorants do not have wax coating around their feathers. So it stays under the sun with its feathers open to get dry. This in turn looks striking and attracts students, birders and photographers. The children were so thrilled watching the hunting behaviour of terns and kingfishers.

Hovering along the airstream
With her eyes glued
Dives and captures him in a flash

As we paddled through the lake, we saw a huge flock of ruddy shelducks taking off, sensing us (strangers). Northern pintails, shovelers and gargeneys accompanied them shortly. It was beyond belief to spot all these wonderful creatures at the same time. The children looked absolutely thrilled.

After an hour long journey, we reached the island. The forest officials briefed us about the island and its significance. Nalbana Island was declared a bird sanctuary in 1973. It serves as a massive wintering ground for birds. One can see over thousands of birds systematically foraging the mudflats during the season. The best part about this island is that it vanishes during the monsoon season due to heavy showers and resurfaces back once the water recedes.

The children were taken to the watch tower, where they got to watch the birds through high range spotting scopes. Watching the peculiar behaviour pattern of larger and smaller birds, the children’s curiosity was aroused. The larger birds include greater and lesser flamingos, herons, egrets, pelicans, storks, ducks and ibises. The smaller birds include stilts, terns, sandpipers, ruffs, snipes, lapwings, coot, teal, etc. They even saw a few raptors like sea eagle, kites and falcons.

Brahminy Kite flying over the waterAs they were curiously screening the birds through the spotting scope, one of the children shouted out in alarm. He informed us that he had spotted a bird which had a white head with dark eyes and sharp beak pointed downwards, brownish feathers and pale yellow coloured legs with talons. It was clear that the bird he was describing was the Brahminy kite; we were startled by his acute observation. He continued further that the bird had repeatedly fallen into the water while attempting to take off. He sounded very concerned about the bird and its condition. We responded quickly by taking a look at that bird through the scope and witnessed the same scene as narrated by the boy. Immediately, we informed the forest officials, who after observation told us that the bird was injured. The feathers were wounded because of which it was struggling to fly. Without wasting much time, their team rushed to the spot and rescued the bird.

Book of Indian Birds coverThe Forest Ranger and Divisional Officer appreciated the boy for his intuitive observation and quick thinking. They presented him the famous book The Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali and encouraged him to do bird watching regularly. It was pleasant surprise for the boy and also for the entire group.

Overall, it was an enchanting experience in Nalbana both for the children and us educators. It was one of my most unforgettable experiences of my life with children and nature.



T R Gowthama: An Environmental Educator by profession, writer by passion and a nature enthusiast by heart. He is a creative lad, serious researcher, an avid learner and traveller. In fact, most of his writings are inspired from his real life and travel. He loves writing and writes on topics that inspire and interest him, which can be accessed here (http://creatikaa.blogspot.in/). He is also an amateur photographer, whose lens doesn’t stop to click moments of life, which can be accessed here (http://www.snapometer.blogspot.in/). You can reach him at creatikaa.blog@gmail.com

Photo of Chilika Lake, Orissa, India by Dr Ajay Kumar Singh

Photo of Brahminy Kite by Jitinatt Jufask