Doune Castle, Stirlingshire

Time: Under an hour

What's makes it special: Despite the castle being besieged by Outlander fans (and the odd Monty Python aficionado) the walk along the Teith is pleasantly peaceful.

DOUNE Castle is a busy spot these days with Outlander fans from across the globe in search of the location for Castle Leoch. Give them the slip by turning left at the castle and heading down a path along the Ardoch Burn to its confluence with the River Teith. Follow the path round beside the Teith – wide and slow here, and a popular spot for families to take youngsters paddling – until you loop around the other side of the castle.

You'll often hear French and other continental accents amongst visitors taking the air – just as you would have done hundreds of years ago when this was an important castle before the Union of the Crowns.

Keep going along the riverside and pass through a kissing gate. The path joins with the busy A84 at the bridge and there is a pavement that takes you back into town or you can retrace your steps back to the castle. There's parking at the castle – though it can be busy at peak times and the path, while suitable for baby buggies, is too narrow for wheelchairs.

Pit stop: There's a handful of pubs and cafes in Doune. The Woodside does traditional bar meals with homely dishes such as steak and ale pie.


The Knapps, Kilmacolm

Time: An hour or so

What makes it special: Views.

THINK of Kilmacolm, the tiny, leafy village in Inverclyde, and you may think of its beautifully self-indulgent four by fours, its stunningly colourful golf jumpers and the heady smell of new money, character lines that perhaps explain why the village was besieged by King James IV of Scotland in 1489.

But Kilmacolm can also boast the Knapps, a beautiful little loch surrounded by heather and grass and larch trees that could well have anticipated the arrival of MGM’s Brigadoon in 1954.

In winter, a mist forms over the loch that’s almost spiritual. In summer children run as wild as rabbits. The Knapps is a place of a searing tranquillity only broken occasionally when a free-range dog barks at the sight of fish splash.

The Knapps is the place to go to escape, to walk the two miles circumference and with each step cast off the problems of the week gone by. It’s a place for lovers and children to hold hands, for bored couples to try and remember why they don’t hold hands anymore.

Now, I don’t walk, in general, but I can delight in the Knapps because it is watched over by the biggest, grandest house in the village, Wimborne, 120 years old.

cotland's favourite gentle strolls: Part Two

From the Knapps I can look over and imagine its one-time owner, the indefatigable Bill Mills skiing down the hill, getting grumpy at Guy Fawkes’ when the rockets would frighten his Great Danes, or simply standing in his garden, in awe at “The most terrific view imaginable.” And he wasn’t wrong.

Pit stop: Finestra Cafe, in the centre of the village.


Cumbernauld Glen

Time: Anything from half an hour to a whole afternoon

What makes it so special: A beautiful town park and woodland you can explore for hours … and it’s part of a Scottish movie legend to boot.

SO, hands up if you're familiar with this little piece of Cumbernauld. Anybody? No?

Well, actually, yes. I’ll bet that just about all of you have been here. Remember the scenes in Gregory’s Girl, when John Gordon Sinclair met Clare Grogan and they lay under a tree and did that funny hand-dancing? Well, that was filmed here, in one of the true gems of Cumbernauld.

It’s a great place to visit, with a rolling meadow dotted by grand trees that’s just begging for a picnic and a ball to be thrown for a dog, bounded by woodland with a network of paths which plunge down steep hillsides and along rivers and streams in the glen itself.

Keep an eye out for hidden paths that disappear into the woods or over unexpected little bridges. And do turn off and take that interesting-looking byway – it really is impossible to get lost.

You can spend hours here just wandering around … and the next time you come you’ll find more places you didn’t notice first time round.

Park at the top of the hill next to the (sadly-soon-to-be-ex) Cumbernauld Theatre and you’ll even get a good work-out on the way back up from the bottom of the glen.

Pit stop: Nearby Cumbernauld Village has all the amenities you’ll need … it even has a brilliant ice cream parlour if you have children/grandchildren in tow.


Calum’s Path and Fladda circular, Raasay

Time: 2-3 hours

What makes it special: Taking in the stunning views towards remote, white-cottaged, island of Fladda, whilst knowing you are on a path painstakingly built by someone, Calum Macleod, lighthouse-keeper, postie and the man behind the famous Calum’s Road.

THE drive to the start of this walk – walkable itself – has history. The two-mile stretch leading up to the car park at Arnish is the famous Calum’s Road, built in the 1960s and 1970s, using only pick-axe, wheelbarrow and shovel by a single man.

Sweeping through tortuous hills and boggy moorland, it was his attempt, executed over 10 years, by Calum Macleod to create a literal lifeline for his remote community in the north of the island and an easier connection for his daughter going to school on Skye. The community at Arnish, however, still dwindled and he and his wife were its last inhabitants.

Scotland's favourite gentle strolls: Part Two

But less well-known is Calum’s Path, also known as Raasay Post Road, built by Calum and his brother, under contract from the local council during three winters from 1949 to 1952, for £35 each per season. This rocky path, etched into a steep hillside that sweeps down to the sea, was, effectively, his training ground for the road.

A visit is possible, if the tide times are right – check beforehand and add extra time for the walk – across a slippery, seaweed-covered causeway to the island of Fladda. A circular route brings the hiker, sweeping round past a lochan and taking in views of Skye, to the former township of Torran.

Pit stop: For some years there has been only one bar and cafe on the island and that resides in the magnificent, airy Raasay House, an outdoor centre looking out over Skye. But, if you book ahead, you could also get yourself a whisky and chocolate tour at the Isle of Raasay distillery, a new addition to the island which doubles as a hotel.


Milngavie to Mugdock Country Park

Time: Hour and a half

What makes it special: A dog lover’s dream across moor and through woods.

THOUSANDS of people come from all over the world to walk the West Highland Way. This jaunt takes in a fair part of the first leg. Take the train to Milngavie from Glasgow and follow the signs for the Way.

The first stretch takes you by the river, leading to a gentle climb up to Drumclog Moor. From here follow the river along another flat stretch until you see a sign pointing the way to Mugdock Country Park.

The path can be steep in places towards the end, but comfort yourself that it will all be downhill on your return. The popularity of the route with walkers and dog owners alike means the place can become Sauchiehall Street-busy at peak holiday times, so go early morning or evening to avoid the crowds.

Pit stop: At Mugdock you can dine in Caulders Garden centre, or have something lighter at the Stables Tea Room or Charlie’s coffee shop and bar. Water for dogs is always available in the courtyard. There is lots to do at Mugdock, from hiring a bike to exploring the many trails and the playgrounds, meaning you can easily make a day of it, finishing with an evening meal in Milngavie.


North Glen Sannox to Lochranza coastal walk

Time: Four hours

What makes it special: A tranquil shore-side ramble offering glorious views and an array of natural wonders.

THE Arran Coastal Way encompasses the island but this beautiful stretch has the advantage of being entirely off-road and mostly on the level, with good paths and just a few rocky places requiring a little more care.

Take the bus to the North Glen Sannox picnic area then strike off along the signposted path, beginning in partially cleared woodland that's garlanded with wild honeysuckle in summer.

Out on the open shore, there is so much to see: endless ocean views, flowers at your feet and abundant wildlife, from dolphins and deer to the eagles soaring over the hills above.

You'll pass the ruins of 18th-century salt-pans and houses, now poignantly mellowed by age and vegetation. Beachcombers can scour the pebbled shore for shells, sea-glass and the occasional bit of washed up nautical paraphernalia.

Scotland's favourite gentle strolls: Part Two

The path can be muddy after rain and you'll need to tread carefully at An Scriodan rocks (the website says "minor scrambling" is required), but even this once challenging section has been significantly improved.

Approaching Lochranza, you'll pass Hutton's Unconformity: peculiar, layered rocks cited as evidence of 18th-century geologist James Hutton's revolutionary theories about the earth's formation.

Pit stop: Roughly halfway round is the abandoned Laggan Cottage, now a walkers' bothy but a nice place to picnic while imagining what it would be like to live here, with only passing seals for neighbours. Once in Lochranza, you can fill up at the distillery or hotel while awaiting your return bus.


Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

Time: Four hours to all day

What makes it special: A verdant city centre walk affording spectacular views – for the energetic. A loch at either end, each with a convenient car park, and another in the middle, a palace and a parliament nearby, crowned with rugged cliffs ... what's not to like?

MOST people only explore the centre of Holyrood Park, but it's a shame to miss out Duddingston Loch at its western extremity, a nature reserve noted for wildfowl, herons and the Skating Minister.

Park in the car park here, and after a short uphill walk along Queen's Drive, you are rewarded with a pleasant downhill stroll where you will pass families, dog walkers and students messing about with frisbees, kites and their ilk.

A short detour will take you to the Scottish Parliament, Dynamic Earth and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Head back to the park and amble on to explore St Anthony's Chapel before resting at St Margaret's Loch, populated by ducks and swans as unheeding of the traffic as a 12-year-old plugged into headphones.

For the return leg, follow the path in a clockwise direction, and take the time to climb Arthur's Seat for breathtaking views of the capital. Clamber back down and return to the car park, taking in the man-made Dunsapie Loch on the way.

Pit stop: At the Duddingston end, try the venerable Sheep Heid Inn, which claims to trace its roots back to 1360.


Whitelee Windfarm, Eaglesham Moors

Time: It’s vast but you can choose to walk for hours or simply take a 45-minute stroll from the visitor centre around the nearest turbines

What makes it special? Peaceful and safe walk in a dramatic, turbine-filled landscape.

THE windfarm has been part of our lives since our boys were wee. We’d shrug off the sleep deprivation, wrap them up in layers of fleece, bundle them into pushchairs and head off along the tracks for bracing fresh air.

It’s accessible and fairly flat, but you should stick to the trails – surrounding areas of blanket bog are wet and soft with hidden ditches and drainage channels. The views from the viewpoint and the cafe are stunning.

Now our boys are older, we take part in sponsored welly walks for the school, or pack up the bikes and enjoy traffic-free cycling. Going in at the Ardochrig end gives a different perspective, more of a forest walk, but often maintenance work is carried out here so check in advance and always be vigilant: it is Europe’s largest onshore windfarm, with 215 turbines, after all.

It’s also just a great place for solace, space and room to breathe.

Pit stop: The cafe in the visitor centre is good for coffee and cake, or a soup and sandwich.


Bangour Village Hospital grounds, West Lothian

Time: Between 40 minutes and two hours to all day

What makes it special? Striking architecture and a fascinating history.

IT is 15 years since the final patients departed and Bangour Village Hospital closed its doors for good. When the idea to build it was conceived in 1897, this former psychiatric facility was viewed as revolutionary.

I grew up with Bangour as a neighbour. My late father worked as a psychiatric nurse here. In the past year, the 215-acre site has been sold to property developers who plan to build more than 900 houses. Very soon Bangour, as it has stood for more than a century, will be no more.

Located less than five minutes west from J3 of the M8, there is free parking at the main gate. The grounds are popular with dog walkers, runners, cyclists and amateur photographers alike. Warning: stick to the paths and don’t try to enter any of the buildings as many are unsafe.

The first patients arrived in 1904 and it was officially opened two years later. In marked contrast to the Victorian era when mental illness was poorly understood, Bangour was set up on a village system of patient care, encouraging self-sufficiency and with few physical restrictions. Facilities once included a farm, bakery, workshops, recreation hall, church, library, school and shop.

Wandering round the criss-crossing network of paths, many of these buildings still exist in varying states of decay but as time passes, nature is steadily reclaiming large swathes. There is woodland with mature trees home to wildlife such as rabbits and deer. It is a beautiful and tranquil spot.

Pit stop: Dobbies Garden Centre is around a mile east along the A89. I’d also recommend the excellent Williamson's Garden Centre and Coffee Shop, just a minute further along the road, for homemade soup, sandwiches and cakes.


Back Walk, Stirling

Time: 60-90 minutes

What makes it special: The views and the history and the workout for your legs.

WHO remembers Henry Campbell-Bannerman now? The Liberal Prime Minister (and the first Prime Minister to be actually called Prime Minister) won a landslide in the 1906 general election, passed the Trade Disputes Act which protected unions from being sued for going on strike, introduced free school meals and generally was a good egg. These days if he gets a mention at all it’s as a pointless answer on Pointless.

Still, if you are in Stirling, where he served as MP for four decades, you can doff your cap to his statue on Corn Exchange Road. The statue also marks the start of Stirling’s Back Walk, a path that takes you travelling back in time.

It is also, it should be noted, depending on the route you take, a bit steep, although the lower path starts with a sedate stroll below the city walls, past the Albert Halls (where some of us went to graduate back in the dim and distant 1980s), past the bowling green and the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum (currently undergoing something of a renovation which means the cafe is closed, worst luck).

And then you start to climb. And climb. And climb. It’s a short but steep hike, zigzagging up the side of the volcanic plug towards Stirling Castle.

Scotland's favourite gentle strolls: Part Two

The walk takes you past the Stirling Highland Hotel (once the old high school), the 17th-century Cowane’s Hospital (currently the subject of a major restoration project), and, if you step away from the path, the Church of the Holy Rude. Oh yes, and then there’s Stirling Castle, which, is, admittedly, a bit hard to miss.

The path itself loops around the Old Town cemetery, which offers views down on the King’s Knot (dating back to the 12th century). Walk up the steps to the castle esplanade where you can turn one way and see the Campsies and the Trossachs. Turn the other for the Ochils.

From Ballengeich Road, cross over to the Gowan Hill where executions were carried out in the medieval era. The beheading stone is still on display. From here you can look out over Stirling Bridge and the Forth valley. If you look down and to your right you can probably see where I used to live. There is no plaque to mark those years (1988-1993), but there’s still time I suppose. A statue is probably a little too much to expect.

Pit stop: After all that you’re due a caffeine break. Walk down from the castle to Friar Street where Unorthodox Roasters has taken over from the late, lamented Sable & Flea.