The Christmas period is often a time of excess. And when you’ve eaten (or drunk) a little too much, it can be tempting to just vegetate on the couch for days on end while flicking channels and reaching for the biscuit tin. But getting fresh air is important, even in winter, with time outside proving a great way to boost your mood. If you don’t fancy a mammoth hike, but more of a short walk, then here are some of the best across Scotland.

Dean Village and the Water of Leith, Edinburgh

Most of us will have walked up Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill while in Edinburgh. But what about taking a stroll around the lesser-visited Dean Village? This curious, charming “village”, which looks straight out of a postcard, is in fact located in the heart of Scotland’s capital city. Starting in the centre of Edinburgh, it doesn’t take long to reach Dean Village, with its collection of 19th-century cottages and brightly painted houses.

You can then head down towards the river, stopping to take some Instagram-worthy photographs before continuing along the Water of Leith path as far as you feel like. If you’re feeling fresh you can follow it out of the city centre towards Balerno and Currie, or in the opposite direction towards Leith, where you will be spoiled for choice with coffee shops in which to get yourself a sweet treat as a reward.

Falls of Falloch, near Crianlarich

All of the views, but none of the effort: the Falls of Falloch is a perfect walk for those who are feeling a bit lazy. You simply need to park up in the designated car park (signposted off the A82) and then stroll along a short path to reach an opening where you can see the waterfall. Arguably, it looks at its best in winter, when the extra rainfall makes the water incredibly powerful albeit slightly intimidating.

You can view the waterfall from the path itself but there’s also a dedicated, rather special viewing platform designed by John Kennedy and constructed from steel rods. Named Woven Sound, it contains extracts from the diary of poet Dorothy Wordsworth at the end of its caged viewpoint, the details of which will encourage you to properly embrace the surroundings rather than just snapping a picture and walking away. Be warned though that while beautiful it can be slightly frightening to look down through the walkway and see a sheer drop to the water below.

Southerness Beach, Dumfries

This wide, sandy beach is quiet enough that you will have the place mostly to yourself, yet it falls within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offers some views out towards Cumbria and beyond. You can even spot dolphins or seals in the water if you are lucky, or at least a couple of seabirds.

Inverewe Gardens and Estate, Poolewe, Wester Ross

Gardens and estate open daily from dawn until dusk, and entry is £10 into the honesty box. Peaceful, picturesque and easy to walk around, Inverewe Gardens provides the ideal spot to soak up some nature without having to expend too much effort. The gardens are also a bit of a natural phenomenon, as species that shouldn’t grow in this part of the world are flourishing, thanks to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream and some clever planting design. As well as admiring the plants on display, the position of the garden on the banks of Loch Ewe means you might also be able to spot coastal birds, seals and even otters. To extend your walk further, head for the trails that lead around the Inverewe estate, where your four-legged friends are also welcome (although the gardens are for assistance dogs only).

Mugdock Reservoir, Milngavie

If you are feeling a bit lethargic after days of over-eating, you might not fancy struggling up a steep hill on your post-Christmas walk. You’ll be pleased to hear, therefore, that there is hardly any incline whatsoever in the loop around Milngavie’s two adjoining reservoirs. Whether you choose to tackle Mugdock or Craigmadddie or both, you will be greeted by a flat, pleasant circuit that is particularly popular over the Christmas holidays.

You can stroll three miles round one reservoir, or six if you want to do both, with woodlands at the edge of the Mugdock Reservoir for those who want to extend their walk further. And when you finish, you can head to Bulland’s Coffee House on Milngavie’s Mugdock Road for a warming drink.

Duff House to the Bridge of Alvah, Banff, Aberdeenshire

Built in 1735, the three-storey Duff House is a Category A-listed structure that is considered to be one of the finest buildings in the north of Scotland. The interior is currently closed due to Covid, but you can still marvel at the architecture and landscaped grounds of the house before venturing on a two-mile walk to the impressive Bridge of Alvah. It takes about 45 minutes to get from the car park of Duff House to the bridge itself, but you will encounter some notable points of interest in the route through the woods to get there. Kids will love spotting Duff Ice House (which served as a rather grand refrigerator for the house itself) and a bit further along, a striking neo-Gothic mausoleum. Looking particularly beautiful in the snow, this 18th-century tomb was built by the second Earl of Fife to house the remains of his ancestors. From there, you can continue through the woodland before reaching the Bridge of Alvah.

Loch Faskally and the Salmon Ladder, Pitlochry, Perthshire

There’s no shortage of picturesque walks in Perthshire, the “Big Tree Country”. But if you are looking for one that isn’t too taxing, try this leisurely loop that leads from Pitlochry out to Loch Faskally and back again. Start at the Port-Na-Craig suspension bridge and cross the River Tummel towards the famous Festival Theatre, making your way past the Fish Ladder and Dam. Admiring the views of the loch as you go, the path then leads through some pretty woodland before crossing Loch Faskally on the Clunie Foot Bridge and winding back to the village along the water’s edge. A great option for blowing away the cobwebs without too much effort.

Gleniffer Braes, near Barrhead

On a clear, December day, Gleniffer Braes at Barrhead offers one of the best views in Greater Glasgow. If you park at the designated car park near to Caplethill Road, you only have to walk a couple of yards before being greeted with a sweeping panorama out across the south of the city. Beyond that, the park has plenty more to explore for those feeling up to it with the wider Gleniffer Braes Country Park boasting woodland, marshland, a large reservoir and its very own herd of Highland cattle.

Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve, Auchindrean, Ullapool

Corrieshalloch Gorge means “ugly hollow” in Gaelic but don’t let that put you off. In fact, the gorge is one of the most impressive in the country, a mile-long canyon through which the River Droma weaves it way towards the coast. There is a short (but steep) hike down to the gorge itself, where you will find a beautiful suspension bridge which allows you to soak in the spectacular views. A word of warning – if you don’t like heights, give this one a miss.

Dean Castle Country Park, Kilmarnock

The star of this Ayrshire park is the 14th-century Dean Castle, an impressive structure used in the filming of the TV mega-hit show Outlander. It’s currently being renovated, but there are plenty of signposted trails and country paths to explore for a pleasant wintry walk with the option to tackle a trail in its entirety or in a smaller, hangover-friendly chunk. One of Ayrshire’s best free attractions.

All walks are subject to local restrictions