When you think of Scottish adventures, you probably think of triumphantly reaching the top of Ben Nevis, or hiking through the rugged hills and scenic valleys of Glencoe.
And those are undoubtedly some of the most enduring images of Scotland’s dramatic scenery, but you don’t have to travel hours into the wilderness to find a quintessentially Scottish adventure – every city has a taste of the wilds waiting for you in its bounds. For every distant Munro, there’s an enduring wild space hiding among the brick and glass environments of our cities. With this list, we’ll be recommending five of our favourite adventures within Scotland’s biggest cities.
Kinnoull Hill, Perth
The views from the summit of Kinnoull Hill almost don’t look like they belong in Scotland: a fairy tale tower perched on a dramatic cliff edge, surrounded by woodland and overlooking a winding river far below. In fact, Kinnoull Hill is only two miles outside Perth’s city centre, and part of a lovely three hour walk up the hill and through the woods. There are lots of paths to explore through the woodland, including paths suitable for cyclists and horses for a different kind of adventure. The area rarely gets busy, and you can always find a quieter path if you’re looking for your own pocket of peace. You can walk right up to the tower, which, although it looks like part of a medieval castle, is actually an 18th century folly, inspired by German castles around the Rhine Valley. There is a large stone table beside it, perfect for a picnic or rest stop. There is also an arboretum within the Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park, with a diverse collection of trees from towering forest trees to some ideal for your back garden.
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
At the eastern edge of the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat lies like a crouching lion, overlooking Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament. This 250m tall hill literally can’t be missed – it’s visible from all over the city! This hill is, in fact, part of an extinct volcano in the city centre, which last erupted about 340 million years ago and eroded to leave behind the jutting rocks of Calton Hill and Castle Rock. There are multiple routes to the top of Arthur’s Seat, where you can enjoy 360⁰ views of the city below you, including one that involves a steep scramble up rocky paths and steps carved into the side of the hill for a direct and challenging walk. The walk to Arthur’s Seat takes about two hours in total, but you could spend several hours exploring the rest of Holyrood Park, including walking along the crumbling Salisbury Crags and skirting the small and beautiful Dunsapie Loch. We can recommend starting very early in the morning to climb in the dark, reaching the top as dawn breaks for spectacular views of the sunrise.
The Necropolis, Glasgow
Beside Glasgow Cathedral, just east of the city centre, the 37 acre Necropolis is spread out. This multi-denominational Victorian cemetery was established in 1832 and over 50,000 people were buried there, from famous Glaswegian businessmen to many ordinary Glaswegians. Designed to show off the wealth of Glasgow, many Victorians has huge monuments constructed for their burial site, including some designed by leading architects, like Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and Charles Rennie Macintosh. Despite the many monuments, the Necropolis feels quiet and wild, with long paths winding past trees, green spaces and a huge variety of wildlife. You will find fantastic views over Glasgow from its highest point, beside the grand memorial to John Knox. Most ordinary people’s graves don’t have a stone, but if you’re curious or looking for distant Glaswegian relatives, you can find the details of every person interred here in the Mitchell Library archives. Take about two hours to walk around it and enjoy this piece of quiet in Scotland’s largest city.
Ness Islands, Inverness
The Ness Islands are part of a beautiful walk along the banks of the River Ness. These quiet wooded islands can be reached in 20 minutes from the city centre, and you quickly forget that you are in this large Scottish city among the tall trees and still waters. You can take shaded paths along the river bank until you come to the islands, which are connected by Victorian suspension footbridges. There is an abundance of wildlife in the area, and the river is home to salmon, otters, and even seals nearer the river’s mouth. An excellent hour long walk will take you to the islands, using the bridges to cross over to the other bank to enjoy different views of the river from the other side on your return. If you’re walking with little ones and want even more adventure, you could incorporate a stop at Whin Park for their adventure play areas, boating pond and miniature railway.
Dumyat is one of the smallest Ochils, a range of hills stretching from the edge of Stirling to Perth, but also has some of the best views. This makes it an excellent introduction to hillwalking for those who don’t want to venture too far from the cities. The walk takes 2-3 hours in total, following a path that steadily climbs to the top, where you’ll find a fantastic summit view of Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument below. For anyone who prefers a challenging climb, there is another route to the top, with a steeper climb and obscured path, requiring some experience in hill navigation to reach the summit. This is a great walk to do around sunset, as the views become more dramatic when illuminated by the setting sun.
There you go, as promised, five adventures hidden amongst the urban centres of your Scottish cities! Have you discovered any of these already? Which are top of your to-do list? Let us know in the comments, as always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts.