Winter wonderland: Ten magical walks for the festive season
From Narnia to Neverland, take inspiration from these sparkling Scottish walks.
In the biting-cold regions of eastern Siberia there's a phrase used for the sound made when your breath turns to sparkling crystals in the freezing air.
In the vast winter realms, the native Yakut people call it "the whisper of the stars".
There is something magical about nature in winter. The feel of leaves, coated in frost, crunching under your feet, the snap of twigs and the cool northern lochs, smooth as mirrors, reflecting the sky.
Scotland has already thrown on her winter wardrobe and that makes for great woodland and mountain walks, straight out of a winter wonderland dream.
Plus there's always the prospect of a hot cocoa or maybe something stronger at the end.
Take a look at some of our country's best walking routes, including loch view wanderings, city trails and woodland pathways to suit the whole family.
1. The wonderland walk
If you're looking for something with that extra sparkle, Loch Morlich is the place to go.
There is the walking route right round the loch, offering stunning views of the Cairngorm Mountains, which look especially majestic dusted with snow.
Situated in the heart of Glenmore Forest, a winter walk here will feel like you have stepped into the pages of your very own fairy tale.
View the route here.
2. The Lord of the Rings walk
For true adventurers seeking a winter quest (Hobbits optional), this stunning hike around towering Stac Pollaidh is a must.
As Visit Scotland recommends, with sweeping views over the wintry landscapes of Assynt you can also add on a short (but steep) climb for breathtaking views across to Suilven and the Summer Isles.
And there is always time to stop for elevenses at the Fuaran Bar in nearby Altandhu.
Read more about what you can experience here.
3. The Narnia walk
This is the walk that will make you feel like you've gone through the wardrobe into Narnia.
Cardrona Forest offers three great trails through the winter forest.
The Burn Trail is an easy access route along the Kirk Burn, the Kirkburn Trail offers beautiful views of the Tweed Valley and Wallace's Trail is a circular route that passes the remains of Cardrona Tower, which dates from the 1500s.
Just pack some Turkish delight and watch out for the Snow Queen.
Here are some of the best ways to get there.
4. The Bambi walk
For walkers with little legs, the Scottish Deer Centre is perfect.
Although not strictly a walk, it is good for a wander.
An outdoor wildlife park covering 55 acres, there is plenty of room to run about and meet the park's star residents.
Children can hand-feed the deer and will love keeping an eye out for Bambi and Thumper.
There are also beautiful walks up at Beecraigs in West Lothian, just north of Bathgate, which has its own deer enclosure - and a few Highland coos too!
5. The Outlander walk
Looking for that romantic Jamie Fraser experience?
Described by tourism bosses as an "Outlander effect", a number of Scotland's castles, museums, battle sites and historic attractions have had a boom in visitor numbers.
Castle Fraser in Inverurie has had a 15% rise in visitors after the series launched.
It's like a winter fairy tale in the grounds of this stunning castle.
Although the castle itself is closed from late October to March you can explore the beautiful grounds all year round and follow two great trails, the Alton Brae Trail and Miss Bristow's Trail.
Read more about Castle Fraser here.
6. The loch walk
When winter comes sometimes what you really want is the calm peace of still waters.
This enchanting route begins with a stroll along the edge of Clatteringshaws Loch, a freshwater reservoir in Dumfries and Galloway.
The trail takes you to visit Bruce's Stone, which commemorates Robert the Bruce's victory at the Battle of Trool in 1307.
You can then return to the visitor centre to begin the Loch View hike through winter woodland, reaching a stunning vantage point over the loch.
Check out the Loch View trail.
7. The Neverland walk
For all those who believe in the magic of following the second star, this magical place is well worth a wander.
Abriachan Waterfall in the Highlands is part of Abriachan Garden Nursery, a hilly woodland walk and garden centre by Loch Ness.
This spectacular photo of its frozen waters was taken in the winter, though you can also imagine mermaids playing in it in the spring.
8. The monster walk
Here be monsters! Thanks to its large size and legends of mythical sea creatures, Loch Ness has much to offer walkers during the winter.
There are many shorter and beautiful woodland walks on either side of the loch.
Further north, Glenurquhart is the gateway to the magnificent Glen Affric and is always worth a wander.
Plus, if it gets a bit too nippy outside there are always the whisky distilleries.
Glen Ord and Tomatin are among some of the best distilleries near Inverness.
Take a look at some of these great Loch Ness walks.
9. The Hogwarts walk
For Harry Potter fans, Edinburgh is a must. With its old cobbled streets and magical air, just wandering about makes you think of Diagon Alley.
One top walk is up to Calton Hill for beautiful views of Scotland's capital.
When the snow lies on the hill and the sun goes down, the view of Edinburgh Castle from there feels like you're looking at Hogwarts, twinkling above the city.
Check out what other people have to say.
10. The Olaf walk
Do you want to build a snowman? Then this is one great place to head too once the flurries begin to fall.
The Knockan Crag trail takes you through an epic landscape, which can look like a scene straight out of hit film Frozen in the winter.
There are spectacular views over Assynt up here and the trail includes sculptures and poetry as well as places to sit and a treasure hunt for younger children.
Read about the Knockan Crag trail.