5 great winter trail running routes in Scotland
A new and updated edition of the popular Scottish Trail Running guide has been published this month. The author, Susie Allison is a keen runner based in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire.
She has detailed 70 tried-and-tested routes for the off-road runner on paths and tracks across the whole of Scotland, including the islands.
The guide takes runners, from beginners to experienced ultra addicts, on a journey of discovery that starts in suburbia and crosses every kind of runnable terrain to reach remote glens and far-flung islands.
- All routes checked and updated
- Maps and profiles updated where affected
- Improved descriptions
- 68 new photos
- Electric Vehicle charging points now included
I asked Susie to suggest five great routes for winter running taking into consideration the weather, terrain and likely exposure.
5 of the best winter trail running routes in Scotland
Braid Hills, Edinburgh
Start/finish: Braid Hills Dive car park
Distance: 3 miles (4.5km)
Terrain: Gravel track and paths
Winter road travel can be challenging and Edinburgh residents are fortunate to have quite a few off-road running options within the city limits.
One of these, a short circuit, starts at the Braid Hills Golf Course Clubhouse. The route follows a bridleway around the perimeter of the golf course.
This generally provides good footing, although it can be muddy in places.
A gradual climb leads to a trig point with a panoramic view over the city and surrounding countryside.
Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat, the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law, the Pentlands and the Southern Highland hills can all be seen on a clear winter’s day.
The Braid Hills circuit is linked by paths to Hermitage of Braid. These paths can then be followed into the city, or out along the Braid Burn to the Pentland Hills.
Mugdock Country Park, Stirlingshire
Start/finish: Mugdock Country Park Visitor Centre
Distance: 2.5 miles (4km)
Terrain: Gravel, grass paths and tracks
On the north side of Glasgow, Mugdock Country Park offers a large network of easily accessible trails.
A straightforward circuit goes around Mugdock Loch and past the ruin of Mugdock Castle, ransacked twice in the 17th century and more recently destroyed by fire in the 1960s.
Runs can easily be extended up to 25km or more on trails heading towards the Campsie Fells.
The main tracks in Mugdock Country Park are surfaced and provide sure footing even in wet winter weather.
Away from the main tracks there are many smaller and muddier woodland trails to explore.
Start either at the Visitor Centre or run in along the West Highland Way from Milngavie, which has train and bus links.
Eildon Hills, Scottish Borders
Start/finish: Pant Well, Bowden
Distance: 6 miles (10km)
Terrain: Trails and earth paths, which can be slippery when wet.
When the higher hills are snow covered or the focus of winter storms, these isolated peaks provide an alternative opportunity for that “on top of the world” summit satisfaction feeling.
The triple peaks of the Eildon Hills occupy a commanding position in the middle of the Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders.
A range of runs can be constructed over and around these small summits, starting either in Melrose or Bowden.
While some trails are surfaced, the smaller earth paths can be muddy and slippery in wet weather. This run takes in all three tops and on a clear day the view from each is superb.
Warm up and refuel in Melrose or in the nearby village of Lilliesleaf.
Culbin Forest, Morayshire
Distance: 8 miles (12km)
Terrain: Forest tracks, sandy beach
Subtly hued lichens carpet the sandy floor of Culbin Forest and along with evergreen pines, they provide colour at any time of year, summer or winter.
Track junctions are helpfully numbered and waymarked trails lead to a treetop viewing tower. (Forest maps can be picked up at the main Forestry Commission car park near Wellhill, a few miles north of Forres.)
Culbin is one of Europe’s largest sand dunes. The conifers were planted in the 19th century in a successful attempt to stabilise the inhospitable, shifting and un-navigable sands.
Today, Culbin’s forest tracks are peaceful places to run, walk or cycle. Don’t forget to run out of the trees to the shore of Findhorn Bay, where brightly painted houses shine in the low rays of the winter sun.
Loch Ossian, Highlands
Start/finish: Corrour Station
Distance: 9 miles (14km)
Terrain: Gravel and stony track
What could be cosier after a winter run than warming up in front of a blazing fire? The hostel on the shore of Loch Ossian, run by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, cannot be reached by car and the closest transport is a train ride to Corrour Station, which is 2km from the hostel.
The 10km Landrover track around the loch is a flat, straightforward trail run that can be turned into a full day outing by climbing the hills on either side, or to the summits of the Corrour Munros.
A winter weekend spent at this remote hostel is highly recommended. Loch Ossian is breathtaking at dawn when its still waters reflect the sky and low sun rays bring out the pink-orange of the Scots pines on its small wooded islands.
Scottish Trail Running 2nd Editions is priced £15.99 at Pesda Press. It would make a great Christmas present for a running pal or relative.