By Eilidh Cameron, a photographer and explorer, discovering Scotland's hidden havens
The Scottish landscape provides incredible walking opportunities for everyone, no matter their fitness level and capabilities.
Here are five of my favourite walks to consider for your next adventure:
The first of my five fantastic walks is the hardest, but you'll be grateful for your efforts as you witness some of the most spectacular views in the Hebrides. If you've ever sailed to Mull, you'll be familiar with the sight of Dùn da Ghaoithe, it's the mountain the towers above the southern entrance of the Sound of Mull and Craignure. Standing at 766 metres (2,513ft), this is Mull's second highest mountain and only Corbett. Despite its height, it is a relatively easy hill walk and begins just south of Craignure.
The first half of the walk simply follows a rough road which leads up to a couple of masts. Even from the start of the walk, the views looking towards Duart Castle and The Firth of Lorn are incredible. As you get higher, away from any tree line, the landscape really opens up, giving grand views across to Ben Cruachan towering over Oban. The road ends after the second mast and from there you climb up the hill to the first summit. Even in the snow, this wasn't too challenging compared to other hill walks I've done. The vista down Loch Linnhe is exquisite, particularly with the mountains blanketed in snow. The calm surface of the loch was beautifully etched with all the tidal currents, leading your eyes through the landscape all the way to Ben Nevis. We just had to stop here to admire the view and fuel up before crossing the ridge to the summit of Dùn da Ghaoithe. The winds really picked up as we crossed the ridge and it became clear how the mountain got it's name. I just love how descriptive the Gaelic language is. Crossing this final section took less than thirty minutes and we were soon at the summit. It would probably have taken less if I hadn't had to stop every couple of minutes to take pictures of our Labrador, Feorlinn, having the time of her life in the snow. The ridge walk offered views across to Mull's beautiful mountain landscape, across to the hills of Morvern and up the Sound of Mull towards Tobermory.
By the time we reached the summit, the sun was beginning to produce the light that makes photographers, like myself, very excited. However, cloud was slowly creeping in from the west and, by the time we started walking back across the ridge, Mull's only Munro, Ben More, was swamped by cloud. Not wanting to get caught out in the cloud, we decided to head back down, but not before I captured some images of the beauty before me. The North and East Highlands were glowing in the late afternoon light and I noticed to the South we could see Loch Fyne and Arran beyond. I grew up in Mid Argyll, so I found this pretty cool.
We arrived back at the car with cold noses and tired legs but also great satisfaction. Altogether, the walk took us around six hours but that included spending a lot of time capturing the views, stopping for snacks and playing with the dog.
My grandpa first took me up this hill when I was 10 or 11. As a keen photographer himself, he often walked up here to photograph the view that he called 'the best in Argyll'. He could see I was becoming more and more interested in photography and wanted to share this view with me, especially since it was only about five miles from my front door. Upon reaching the summit, I was completely captivated by the views which stretch over Moine Mhòr and out to the Isles of Mull and Scarba. My love of photography really blossomed from this day and I would still say it's one of my favourite and most photographed locations in Scotland.
This is not a tall hill by any means, standing at just over 200m, so you don't need to be especially fit to get up here. The walk begins from a forestry car park above the Crinan Canal. From the carpark, you walk up a road through the forest until you reach a sign that directs you to the summit of Cruach Mòr. This is a short but steep climb, on a well worn path. As you near the top, you'll spot a trig point and, beside it, a little bench which is perfect for sitting with some food while you take in the view. Straight out from here, you'll look over the sinuous curves of the River Add which weave through Moine Mhòr before spilling out onto the quiet sands of Crinan Ferry and Loch Crinan. Further out lies Mull and the imposing Ben More. Spin to the right and you'll spot Duntrune Castle, Kilmartin Glen and the mighty Ben Cruachan. Spin to the left and you'll see the Sound and Paps of Jura. I love walking up here on a summers evening to watch the sun beams dance across the landscape before sinking down behind the islands.
I'll be honest, when I first heard of the Lomond Hills, I presumed they would be located near Loch Lomond. However, they are in fact within Scotland's first Regional Park in The Kingdom of Fife. Interestingly, the hills are the remains of an extinct volcano which was formed over 400million years ago. I climbed East Lomond while working on a photographic project with Welcome to Fife in the autumn of 2021. My dad came along to assist me on this trip and I was delighted that he was able to climb the hill with me. I really hope that I am still able to climb hills when I am 71.
We started the walk from the beautiful village of Falkland. This village became very popular after Outlander was filmed here, but it has a rich history that stretches back much further than even the period of time Outlander was set. On route to the base of the hill we walked past the magnificent Falkland Palace, which was said to be adored by Mary Queen of Scots. The first section tracks up through beech woods, it's a steep ascent with sections of steps. I think we were both pretty glad to get above the tree line where the ascent levels out a bit momentarily, and at least here you have stunning views to distract you from the steepness of the track ahead. The final 50 meter stretch to the summit requires a last push but, as always on hill walks, it's completely worth it. I love the satisfaction of reaching the top. The summit is pretty flat and grassy, so, on a nice day, it's perfect for relaxing and taking in the views with a picnic. Falkland looks beautiful from above, as does the surrounding farmland and moorland. You can see all way to the Forth Estuary but my favourite view from here looks across to the neighbouring hill of West Lomond, the highest point in Fife at 522 meters. After spending a little time at the summit, we headed back down to the car. But, for those who have energy left in the tank, there's a track that leads you over to West Lomond.
I've been taken for walks on Westport Beach since before I could walk. My nana and papa lived nearby so it was a standard Sunday outing when I was a wee girl. The whole of the Kintyre Peninsula is spectacular but this beach is the jewel in the crown. The glorious golden sands stretch for almost seven miles, and are bordered by the biggest, best sand dunes in Argyll and the wild swell of the Atlantic. The imposing headland of the Mull of Kintyre lies to the south of the beach and twelve miles beyond lies the Northern Irish coastline. Looking north and west, you'll see the Hebridean islands of Jura and Islay.
The beach is the perfect place for a walk in almost all weathers. I love seeping up the power of the sea during a winters storm, I always feel so energised after a walk on a windy day. With no land to the West until you reach North America, the waves can get monstrous in turbulent weather. In contrast, Westport can also be the epitome of serenity on a summers evening. Picture this scene; it's a warm June evening, past 10pm and the sun is slowly melting towards the horizon. The beach and dunes are turning an evermore vibrant shade of iridescent pink as the minutes pass. The sand still feels warm from the heat of the day as you wander along the shoreline, the waves lapping gently around your feet. Seabirds glide on the wind thermals and the odd seal pops it's head out the water. Then, when the sun finally drops below the horizon, the sky explodes with a kaleidoscope of colours. During times of stress or difficulty sleeping, I take myself back to those nights where I've watched the sunset from this beach to help me relax.
Tràigh Ghael is arguably the most secluded and beautiful beach on the island but getting there is a bit of a mission. The beach is located on the South coast of the Ross of Mull, miles from any road. To reach the beach, you have to negotiate a rough track through the untamed landscape of Tireragan Nature Reserve. The nature reserve is made up of upland heath, bog, grassland and ancient native woodland and is extremely boggy throughout the year. I would recommend undertaking this walk during the summer months when it has dried out a little.
The scenery on the walk is beautiful with views over to Erraid and Iona. The track passes two ruined townships, Tir Fheargain and Breac-achdh. Both dating back to the early 19th century, but there is evidence of human inhabitance here dating back 4,000 years. The beach is not far past the second settlement, there's just a steep woodland area to scramble through which then opens up to the white sands and turquoise waters of the bay. Due to the remoteness of the location, the beach is usually deserted.
On arrival, we went for a swim, but, I'll be honest, it was freezing! The water felt a lot colder than other parts of the island. It did feel good to wash off all the mud and sweat. After our swim, we lay on the beach and soaked up the heat of the sun. There was no evidence of other human life anywhere, which even on the islands is a rarity. While sitting on the beach, we watched a pod of bottlenose dolphins pass by and a couple of inquisitive seals kept their eyes on us. We weren't prepared with food or equipment to camp during this visit but I'm hoping for a good spell of weather this summer to return to this wee piece of paradise.
I hope this has given you some inspiration for some adventures in 2023. All the walks mentioned above can be found on the WalkHighlands website. The website gives detailed guidance and grid references for start points.
. . . . .
Images from Eilidh Cameron. Follow Eilidh Cameron's adventures on Instagram at @eilidh__cameron and check out her photography business at EilidhCameronPhotography.com.