10 all-weather winter destinations
The outdoors is the perfect place to get away from everyday life and just lose yourself in nature. But what do you do on those changeable Scottish winter days, when we can experience up to four seasons in one day?
We’ve put together some of our favourite destinations that are perfect for a visit, no matter the weather. From cafes to warm yourself with a hot chocolate to wildlife hides where you can go deer spotting, there’s something for all ages and interests.
1. Barnluasgan, West Argyll
Barnluasgan is the ideal place to start your discovery of Knapdale’s many highlights. In drier weather enjoy the views from under the sheltered tree canopy around Loch Coille Bharr and pass by the old deserted township at Kilmory Oib.
For those rainy moments you can hide out in the Barnluasgan Information Centre, open all year round. It has plenty of information about the beavers that were reintroduced to the UK in 2009 after being extinct for over 400 years. Visiting at dusk or dawn will increase your chances of spotting one, but if you’re not lucky enough to spot one, you'll certainly see some of their handiwork!
Mull’s forests are wonderful places to see an array of flora and fauna, and the shelter of a viewing hide means that no matter the weather, you can spot some of the island’s rich wildlife.
A short drive north of ferry port Craignure, the Fishnish Community Hide is an ideal stopping off point on a wet day to spot birds and even marine life like seals. Next to the hide is an impressive 18 foot totem pole, carved from the tree used to nest in by two sea eagles, Skye and Frisa, from 2004 to 2006.
At the northern end of the island, the Loch Tor hide looks out over Quinish forest. Located on the way to the lovely Calgary Bay, the hide is perfect for spotting otters, sea eagles, deer and much more.
3. Red Deer Range, Galloway
Located in Galloway Forest Park, the Red Deer Range was established in 1977 to give everyone the chance to see Scotland’s largest mammals up close in their natural environment. Watch the deer from the viewing area, or if there’s a spot of rain from the shelter of the hide.
During the autumn, Red Deer grow a thicker coat of hair which helps to insulate them over winter, so you can still see them no matter what time of year it is!
4. Glentress, Dumfries and Borders
Just an hour away from Edinburgh, Glentress has plenty to offer both indoors and out. There are walking trails, amazing mountain biking facilities and treetop adventures to be had when you want to get some fresh air and explore the area.
On those wet weather days, head into the Gateway Building, where there are changing facilities and lockers for bikers, and the Wild Watch room which is packed with information about the local wildlife. In spring and summer you can spot ospreys via the webcam to their nest and get up close to bees with our observational hive. For some hearty and hot food, the Peel Café is a few minutes walk away and is open year round.
5. Kirroughtree Visitor Centre, Galloway
There's always something different to see and do at Kirroughtree, whatever the time of year. When the bad weather sets in, the visitor centre here has plenty to keep the whole family entertained.
The centre has lots of information about the creatures that live in the trees, waterways and open hills. A short walk from the centre you’ll find the sheltered Wild Watch Hide, a perfect place for spotting red squirrels all year round.
If you’re feeling peckish after some wildlife spotting, the café sells hot and cold food and drinks.
6. Allean Forest, Tay
Highland Perthshire is composed of exciting and dramatic landscapes steeped in history – and none more so than the mountains and glens around Loch Rannoch, Loch Tummel and Loch Tay. Allean Forest is a great introduction to the archaeology of the area, with two sites to visit. Discover a restored 18th century homestead above the car park, or travel back another thousand years at the remains of an ancient Pictish fort overlooking Loch Tummel.
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, the Queen’s View Visitor Centre is only 400m from the car park at Allean, the perfect place for a warming bowl of soup or a hot chocolate.
7. The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, Cowal and Trossachs
Set in the stunning Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, The Lodge has plenty to offer when the weather is less than inviting. Perched high on a hill above Aberfoyle, the centre’s café has one of the best views in Scotland, looking out over the beautiful forest park.
For another chance to spot red squirrels, the easily reached hide allows you to stay dry while looking for wildlife. Alternatively, you can stay indoors and watch the live CCTV footage in the visitor centre.
There are also plenty of walking trails to explore if you’ve brought your warm winter coat with you!
8. Glenmore Visitor Centre, Inverness, Ross and Skye
Found in the picturesque Cairngorms National Park, Glenmore Forest Park is filled with beautiful forests, rounded mountains, lochs with sandy beaches, and an abundance of wildlife. There’s a range of watersports to try out on Loch Morlich and walks for all ages and abilities.
If the weather isn’t being very forgiving, Glenmore Visitor Centre is the perfect place to stay warm and learn about the area and its history. There’s also a café with paninis, baked potatoes and other filling foods to keep the whole family happy!
9. Loch Katrine, Cowal and Trossachs
(c) VisitScotland/Kenny Lam
The Trossachs is a glorious place to visit at any time of year, with stunning views, walking and cycling, and trips out onto the loch itself. The loch is the site of Sir Walter Scott’s famous poem The Lady of the Lake, resulting in Scott being the namesake of the steamship that now takes visitors on regular cruises. There are sailings all year round, with a reduced service in the winter season.
There are toilets, refreshments and shopping at Trossachs Pier, where you can take a stroll or hire a bike – there are tandems and electric bikes on offer as well.
10. North face, Lochaber
If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to brave the elements, Scotland’s highest mountain is the perfect place to watch the stormy weather. The North Face trail starts just outside Fort William, and climbs steeply to viewpoints looking out onto the towering cliffs of the North Face of the Ben.
Whether squalls of rain are blowing in, clouds are racing by overhead, or snow spindrifts are whipping off the summit – watching the power of elements from the safety of the waymarked trail will help you appreciate our winter weather. When you’re done, there are various cafes to warm up in a short drive away.