Six family friendly winter walks in Edinburgh and the Lothians

At this time of the year it can be hard to find the time, and weather, to get some fresh air. But if you squeeze in a wee walk with your little ones both you and they will be re-energised. Keep them going with interesting stories along the way – historical or fairy tales. And if little legs are tiring, take along a bag of sweets! Here, outdoors writer Nick Drainey picks five of the best. Nick writes walking columns for Scotland on Sunday and has his own website View from the Hill

 

COCKLEROY, BEECRAIGS COUNTRY PARK, LINLITHGOW

DISTANCE: 2½ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 430ft.

TIME: 1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 65.

PARK: Beecraigs Country Park visitor centre is signposted from Linlithgow’s High Street. Go up Preston Road and turn left a mile from the edge of the town. Take the next right to reach the car park, on the right.

The slopes of Cockleroy (pictured) are a popular sledging spot, so take something to slide on if there is snow on the ground. Otherwise, enjoy the walk up from the country park’s visitor centre, past a huge playground at Balvormie (this may delay the walk for quite a while) and up on to the hill which has a viewfinder to help you pick out landmarks including Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth

 

PRESSMENNAN WOOD, EAST LOTHIAN

DISTANCE: 2 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 50ft.

TIME: 1 to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 67.

PARK: Leave the A1 at the Thistly Cross roundabout outside Dunbar and follow the B6370 for three miles, to Stenton. Go left at the end of the village (in front of a primary school) and just less than a mile down a narrow country lane go left again, following a brown sign for Pressmennan Wood down a track. There is a car park at the end of the track.

Cared for by the Woodland Trust this wood is a great place for a short winter stroll and children are entertained thanks to the work of Robin Wood who has carved little homes in trees for the woodland creatures of his imagination. These elusive beings are called Glingbobs and Tootflits and include Odon Poolittle, Bombi Noffnuff and Jenfrey Hoolups – enough to keep wee ones occupied all the way.

 

POLKEMMET COUNTRY PARK, WEST LOTHIAN

DISTANCE: 4 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: Negligible.

TIME: 1 to 1½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 65.

PARK: Leave the M8 at junction 4a west of Whitburn and follow the B7066 towards Harthill. Polkemmet Country Park is on the right, after the series of roundabouts next to the junction.

IN SUMMARY: At Polkemmet Country Park the work of 19th century plant hunter David Douglas is there to be seen with grand fir trees lining the burbling River Almond but on the edge of the park is the Polkemmet Horn - used by many parents driving along the adjacent M8 to indicate to their offspring where Teletubbies live. It is actually an art installation and can be easily walked to.

 

BLACKNESS AND WESTER SHORE WOOD, FIRTH OF FORTH

DISTANCE: 4 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 150ft.

TIME: 2 to 2½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 65.

PARK: Drive to the centre of Blackness village and go right at the bottom of the hill. After about 50 yards there are parking spaces on the left.

IN SUMMARY: From the 15th century fortress of Blackness Castle (possibly popular with the grown- ups as it was used for the hit US TV show Outlander) you can walk along the shore to Wester Shore Wood and on to the edge of the pretty village of Abercorn and its ancient church, with a return along the top of the wood making for a great circular walk.

 

DIRLETON’S BEACHES, EAST LOTHIAN

HEIGHT CLIMBED: None, except a clamber up a sand dune.

TIME: 1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 66.

PARK: There is a car park in the centre of Dirleton, off the B1345, opposite the Castle Inn pub.

IN SUMMARY: The pretty village of Dirleton, with its castle, green and pub is a lovely spot and a good place to start a walk down to a couple of beautiful beaches. Starting with a stroll across farmland, you are soon walking across dunes and down to golden sands with a view out to the island of Fidra with its lighthouse – said to have inspired Treasure Island. After the long sweep of Broad Sands you return via the dunes and woodland.

 

ARTHUR’S SEAT

DISTANCE: 2 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 755ft.

TIME: 1.5 to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 66.

PARK: Use the pay and display car park next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Turn right at the bottom of the Royal Mile and follow the road round, going left at a roundabout then left into the car park.

IN SUMMARY: At this time of year Edinburgh is busy and the streets can be thronged so it can be good to get a little peace and quiet now and then. Arthur’s Seat, towering over the city, is the obvious place and a great viewpoint. Starting from the Palace of Holyroodhouse you get an easy and obvious path all the way up.

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