Cold, dark, and a bit miserable, winter in Scotland isn’t always very pleasant. But if you can drag yourself out from under the duvet to go for a walk, you might find that a wintry stroll is the best way to shake off a post-Christmas slump. And if the chill does get too much, we’ve picked some excellent coffee shops to warm up in afterwards.

DUCHESS WOODS AND THE GINGER BREADMAN, HELENSBURGH

With the potential for the weather to turn quite dramatically at this time of year, less experienced walkers may wish to ease themselves in with a straightforward stroll. And the Duchess Woods in Helensburgh offers exactly that: a picturesque, well-maintained local nature reserve that’s just a stone’s throw from the centre of the town. You can easily lose an hour wandering around the dense woodland – a haven for any stick-mad dogs – which looks particularly lovely if there has been a dusting of snow. Then, once you’ve had your fill of fresh air, head back into the town and make for the Ginger Breadman café, located on Sinclair Street. It might be small and family-run, but this café has achieved a very rare five-star rating among the notoriously hard-to-please users of TripAdvisor. The highest praise was reserved for their sourdough bread, home-made cakes, and consistently excellent service.

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NESS ISLANDS AND VELOCITY CAFÉ, INVERNESS

Loch Ness gets all the tourists, but the River Ness is a wonderful spot for a stroll. It cuts through the heart of Inverness but never gets too busy, particularly if you head further along the river towards the Ness Islands. This collection of natural islands sits in the middle of the river and form a three-mile route to loop around them, with charming Victorian suspension bridges providing a picturesque crossing route. A visit in winter means the islands will be quieter than in the height of the picnic season, but they still provide a great vantage point over to Inverness Castle and the city beyond. From there, take the 25-minute walk to the Velocity Café in the city centre. This a veggie/vegan cafe does excellent soup as well as a particularly well-regarded cappuccino.

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DEAN VILLAGE AND CAFÉ BRAW, EDINBURGH

With its collection of nineteenthcentury cottages and brightly painted houses, Dean Village looks like it should be in a Disney film, not in the heart of Scotland’s capital city. This curiously lovely area of Edinburgh is well worth a visit if you haven’t been before, with the option to then follow the riverside path of the Water of Leith as far as you 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 and cafes. But for those remaining in the city centre, try Café Braw: a no-frills coffee shop that is highly popular with locals.

LOCH MORLICH CIRCULAR AND THE BOATHOUSE CAFÉ, NEAR AVIEMORE

The Cairngorms National Park is nothing short of spectacular in winter. But with regular news reports of walkers needing rescued while trying to traverse its hills, it isn’t particularly hospitable at this time of year. Fortunately, the well-maintained paths around the circumference of the beautiful Loch Morlich allow you to admire the scenery from a much more accessible terrain. With its unusually sandy beaches, pine forest trails and views of the snow-capped mountains, there are a truly wonderful mixture of Scottish landscapes on offer at the loch. A circuit of its circumference is just 6km – and flat throughout – but if you want to enjoy a warm drink afterwards the Boathouse Café is situated right beside the car park.

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LOCHAN SPLING AND THE STATION COFFEE SHOP, ABERFOYLE

First romanticised by Walter Scott, and perennially popular with tourists thanks to its label as the ‘Gateway to the Trossachs’, Aberfoyle sees no shortage of walkers. But while it plays host to thrill-seekers at the Go Ape tree-top adventure course, the village also offers some altogether more relaxed walking routes in which to get out and enjoy nature. One is the circuit of Lochan Spling, a small loch that offers a pleasantly flat 90-minute walk from Aberfoyle’s main car park. Simply follow the forestry track out the back of the village towards Inversnaid, and you will soon reach the shores of the lochan and some charming metal sculptures on the water. Once you’ve completed the circumference of the lochan, retrace your steps back towards the delightful Station Coffee Shop, where you can refuel and warm up.
 

CASTLE SEMPLE LOCH AND VISITOR CENTRE, LOCHWINNOCH

One of the toughest parts about winter in Scotland is that it gets dark so early. But at Castle Semple Loch, just outside Lochwinnoch, you can use this to your advantage by enjoying a spectacular early sunset over the water. There are various walking routes to take around the loch and the wider Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park – one of the best is to follow the path along the water’s edge before heading upwards into some pleasant woodland. From there you can visit a great vantage spot at the top of a small hill, before descending back down and aiming for the grand ruins of the Collegiate Church. Once you’ve paid the church a visit, follow the old railway line back to the loch – timing it to enjoy the sunsetwhile sipping on a hot coffee from the on-site visitor centre.

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LINN PARK AND THE DERBY CAFÉ, GLASGOW

The sheer scale of Linn Park is somewhat baffling, given that it is located in the heavily populated southside of Glasgow. You can easily lose several hours following the network of riverside, forestry and wild meadow paths within the park, enjoying panoramic views across the city one minute and getting lost in thick woodland the next. A particular highlight is the Snuff Mill Bridge, near the Cathcart entrance to the park, which looks like it comes straight out of a fairy-tale storybook. From there you can walk along the banks of the White Cart River all the way to the park’s opposite entrance at Netherlee. A short distance further and you will reach the iconic Derby Café, with an array of sweet treats and hot drinks to reward yourself for a walk well done. One word of warning though, some of the uphill paths in the park get very icy in winter, so be sure to watch your footing and wear sensible shoes.

SEATON CLIFFS AND BUT ’N’ BEN, ARBROATH It can be tempting to avoid the sea wind on a cold day. But if you brave a trip to the spectacular Seaton Cliffs, on the edge of Arbroath, you will find the bracing sea air – and remarkable views – to be the perfect antidote to many weeks spent indoors. These red sandstone cliffs look almost otherworldly, jutting out into the sea in a series of fascinating formations. You can admire the inlets, arches and sea caves that stretch along the coast, enjoying some endlessly interesting photo opportunities on a clear day. If you follow the coastal path further along to the village of Auchmithie, which itself sits at the top of a cliff, you can reward yourself with a warming coffee in the But n’Ben.

LOCH VENACHER AND VENACHAR LOCHSIDE, TROSSACHS

On the right day you would struggle to find a prettier place in the whole of Scotland. Loch Venachar’s combination of forest tracks, frosty hillside and frozen lochans make it the perfect spot for a chilly winter walk. You can start at the public car park at the end of the Invertrossachs road, on the loch’s southern shore, before heading up above the loch along a path full of frozen puddles (which kids will love sliding around on). From there you’ll look across the loch to Ben Ledi before passing some spectacular Sitka Spruces and emerging at a fairy-tale lochan hidden in the trees. It is a small enough body of water that it will often freeze overnight in the winter, so be sure to snap some envy-inducing pictures before following the track down its meandering path to the lochside. From there, it’s a gentle (but beautiful) route back to the car park. You can refuel in the most delicious fashion at Venachar Lochside, which offers everything from coffee and cake to evening dining with spectacular views across the loch.

BELHAVEN BEACH AND ESPRESSO BLACK, DUNBAR, EAST LOTHIAN

November doesn’t necessarily scream ‘beach weather’. But, if you do brave a wintry trip to the seaside, then you will be rewarded by the invigorating air, lack of noisy children, and early evening sunsets dipping across the water. The Belhaven Bay stretch of Dunbar Beach is especially good, with expansive golden sands and clear views across the Forth Estuary. And when you finish, ducking into the warmth of a cafe (try Espresso Black on the High Street) creates an almost giddy excitement at being able to feel your toes again.