This National Walking Month, we’re celebrating some of the amazing walking opportunities on Scotland’s great National Nature Reserves (NNRs) – here are some of our top woodland walks to get you inspired!
May is one of the best times of year to enjoy our amazing native woodlands. This year is proving to be a great year for blossom with the blackthorn, hawthorn and wild cherry laden with blooms. The bluebells are also spectacular, carpeting the woodland floor with their deep rich blues, mixed with the fresh greens of spring.
Enjoy the seasonal colours in some of our wonderful woodlands of Taynish, Clyde Valley Woodlands, Ariundle Oakwood, Muir of Dinnet or Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserves (NNR).
Scotland’s oldest and richest forest lies hidden in dramatic gorges throughout the Clyde Valley. Since the last Ice Age, rivers have gouged deep clefts in the soft sandstone. Ancient woods of oak, ash, rowan and hazel now grow here. Clyde Valley Woodlands NNR is made up of six of the best of these woodlands.
Explore the many paths through these spectacular ancient woodlands, or better still, find a quiet spot and sit awhile; it’s always best to simply let the wildlife come to you. In spring the woodlands are rich in wildflowers; the bluebells are particularly vivid. If you’re quiet, with luck you may see badgers, roe deer, otters, great spotted woodpeckers, kingfishers, peregrine falcons, dippers and much more.
Our trail guide describes six walks in the reserve, whether you visit the waterfalls of the Falls of Clyde, the quiet gorges of Cartland Crags and Cleghorn Glen or enjoy the spectacular views over the Avon Water at Chatelherault.
Lying within the Cairngorms National Park, on Royal Deeside, Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve (NNR) is a mosaic of wetlands, woods and moors. It’s a great place for wildlife.
The woodlands here are young, most of the trees are less than 60 years old, but the woods are rich in wildlife. Spring spreads a pale green mantle of new leaves on the birch and aspen woodland. Scattered rowan, willow, alder and aspen grow throughout the wood. Delicate celandine, primroses, cowslips and wood anemone carpet the ground. Resident birds are beginning to breed and summer visitors, such as swallows and willow warblers, are arriving back from Africa.
Follow the Loch Kinord trail (6.5km) through Muir of Dinnet’s woodland with beautiful views across the loch. Or take one of the shorter trails to explore the Vat or Parkin’s Moss – each trail sharing a unique part of this wonderful reserve.
On the Sunart Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, Ariundle Oakwood NNR is just a fragment of the once-immense oakwood that stretched from Portugal to Norway. This precious section of ancient woodland is now very rare. Feast your eyes on all the shades of green you can imagine, with mosses, lichens and liverworts flourishing on every possible surface. Listen for bird song from the diverse species that live among the trees. And from shrews to red deer, badgers to wildcats, you might even spot something larger as you explore.
Take a trail through the woodland to the north, past a ruined croft, with excellent views over the glen. Another trail meanders alongside the river, or join them together for a beautiful 5km walk.
Taynish NNR lies at the end of a hidden peninsula. The peaceful oak woodlands are interspersed with grassland glades, heath, saltmarsh and shoreline. The reserve provides a truly amazing landscape that’s teeming with wildlife. Trees have stood here for more than 6,000 years. A magical mosaic of mosses and lichens drapes from the trees and carpets the ground.
Spring brings white wood anemones, the unforgettable haze of bluebells and yellow primroses. By May, there are lots of resident wrens and migrant willow warblers, and the woodlands are alive with song. For a glimpse into this wonderful woodland, Peter Cairns (nature and conservation photographer), has captured this year’s bluebells in full bloom.
Explore the woodlands by following the Woodland Trail (5km), a mostly level and well surfaced route around this remarkable northern “rainforest”. It includes a path to Taynish Mill picnic area and shore (400m). If you are feeling more energetic, the Barr Mòr Trail (3km) is strenuous with some steep climbs, but it gives a great view from the top
Ancient woodland cloaks the slopes of Beinn Churalain, which rises steeply above Loch Creran. Get a taste of an Atlantic rainforest as you follow the woodland trail up through Glasdrum Wood NNR.
With ancient oaks, ash and hazel trees this temperate rainforest is even rarer than tropical rainforest. Ferns sprout from rocky crevices, while lichens and mosses cling to branches. In spring and summer the wood is also filled with the chorus of bird song. Wrens, chaffinches and wood warblers are a few of the birds you can see and hear. Butterflies flit among the flowers that grow in open spaces that the sunlight can reach. More than 20 butterfly species live among the woodland glades and open ground of Glasdrum Wood NNR.
Follow the woodland trail (1km) through the ancient mossy woodland and enjoy views to the south and west across Loch Creran.
You can find out more about National Nature Reserves across Scotland on our website. Or have a look at the Woodland Trusts Visiting Woods or Forest Land Scotland for some more inspiration on woodlands to visit.