Getting Out in Scotland’s Great Outdoors

We all need a change of scenery every once in a while, and escaping the city can be a great way to shake up your mental health and take a break from studying

Feature by Becca Inglis and Dylan Tuck | 02 Sep 2019

Be it stunning mountains, beautiful beaches or breathtaking views, Scotland boasts some of the most gorgeous locations in the UK (not that we’re biased at all). Yet, sometimes, getting about can prove a stumbling block in itself. With cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow being heavily pedestrianised, many students lack access to a car with limited direct access to the great outdoors. But fear not, for good transport links mean that you can see the best of Scotland’s nature, either by train, bus, bike or on foot. 

Exploring Scotland on foot

Thankfully for those who live around the Central Belt of Scotland, there are a number of pleasant places outside city-life that can be explored by pedestrians. In Glasgow, a three-hour stroll down the Kelvin Walkway leads from the city centre to the small town of Milngavie, where there’s a lovely river walk at the start of the West Highland Way. Although maybe don’t try and add that into your route, what with that infamous hike being just, ooh y’know, 96 miles long. 

In Edinburgh, the trek along the Union Canal out to Ratho is achievable in a little under three hours, with a great deal of picturesque scenery throughout the journey too. Or, for some nature plonked firmly within the city, you can climb the iconic Arthur's Seat if you fancy something a bit steeper.

Cramond and Uddingston by bike

It’s a blessing that Scotland’s major cities are so well-endowed with fantastic cycle paths and bike lanes to help cyclists get around easier. Edinburgh is so well-linked, that you can get from one end of the city to the other by bike in no time at all, with the paths being largely off-road too.  

One of the best places to head to is Cramond. After getting off the main cycle path, you’ll find yourself biking in parallel with the sea before reaching the small village of Cramond and having access to one of Edinburgh’s not-so-hidden treasures: Cramond Island. The pathway to the Island is cut off upon the tide rising, so make sure you’re well prepared – surprisingly, you can’t cycle your way through a full tide.

While there are no beaches in Glasgow (sad face), there are similar cycle-safe pathways to help cyclists out of the city. The route from the city centre to Uddingston is a particularly recommendable choice for both novice and avid bikers, being majorly off-road and thoroughly littered with greenery – which seems quite apt considering that the route begins at Glasgow Green. 

Trips by bus

Lying just outside of Edinburgh are the easily-spotted Pentland Hills that dominate much of the city’s skyline. There’s a plethora of different routes and walks to be explored over the hills and luckily, getting to them is made simple. Catch either the no. 4 bus to Hillend or the 10 towards Bonaly, both of which land within walking distance of the big, bad hills.  

For another coastal escape that’s a bit further afield, head to Gullane beach, which is accessible by getting a bus from Edinburgh’s city centre out to the wonderfully-named Goose Green. From there, a short walk along the coast takes you to a beautiful beach with sandy cliffs aplenty.

Balloch, North Berwick, The Trossachs 

ScotRail might not be everyone’s favourite all year round, but they do offer great routes to many of Scotland’s scenic places. Edinburgh has direct lines to the east coast, with North Berwick a greatly recommended destination for those after a bit of peace and quiet while also not being stuck for things to do. With stunning sea views, a boat trip to the Bass Rock that is, quite literally, the shit – the lump of rock made white by vast amounts of inhabiting birds' poo – a walk up Berwick Law, or even just some fish and chips on the beach. If you feel like going further afield, you can even catch a bus across St. Abbs, the town now known for appearing as ‘New Asgard’ in Avengers: Endgame, although don't expect to see Thor necking pints while you're there. 

Where Edinburgh goes east, Glasgow offers western access – and a lot of it too. One of the best trips that are both affordable and rewarding in beautiful settings, is the short trip over to Balloch, right at the bottom of Loch Lomond. Here, you’ll find Balloch Country Park and a series of trails around the Loch that are widely accessible and not too demanding. If the sun is shining down, this lovely little spot becomes even better. Add to that the fact that it's also super close to Glasgow with only a 50-minute train ride separating you from the Trossachs, and there are no excuses for missing out on some Balloch bliss.