Urban forests around Glasgow and Edinburgh
A forest adventure is often closer than you think. If you’re one of the over 1 million people that call Edinburgh or Glasgow home, you may be surprised to know there are several forests on the doorstep to your city, just waiting to be explored. With recent research suggesting that people who live near and relax in their local woodlands are three times less stressed than their less fortunate urban neighbours, there's never been a better time to build a walk on the wild side into your routine.
The forest can mean different things to different people – a place to discover, a place to relax, a place of quiet contemplation. Watch our video to find out what the forest means to some of our regular forest visitors…
Read on to find out which forests are a mere hop, skip and a jump from your own front door…
Forests close to Edinburgh
Just a seven-mile bus ride from the heart of Edinburgh, you’ll find the charming Lord Ancrum’s Wood. It’s a popular spot with dog walkers and those studying at the nearby Newbattle Abbey College. Spend an afternoon exploring the lovely paths, relaxing by the river and make sure you listen out for the local wildlife. To get there, hop on the bus number X95 from Edinburgh bus station and get off opposite Newbattle Cemetery.
Craigmillar Castle Park
This 62 hectare site is managed by the City of Edinburgh Council and features parkland, woodland and plenty of open space to run around. Craigmillar is one of several forests to benefit from our sister organisation Scottish Forestry's Woodlands In and Around Towns (WIAT) initiative, which aims to encourage more people to use and enjoy their local woodlands.
The once historic site - it dates back to the 1300s – was neglected during the last century and eventually became used as a dumping ground. There were several fires, one of which wiped out over a thousand trees. However, thanks to WIAT, today the woodland has been transformed. You’ll find an adventure playground, a programme of outdoor learning events and a true sense of community. You can also see the majestic outline of Craigmillar Castle peeking between the trees.
An easy bus ride from Edinburgh city centre, this forest offers a welcome escape from the pace of the big city. The X62 bus from Edinburgh city centre will drop you just across the road from Glentress’ entrance. While this forest is popular with mountain bikers, both beginners and experts, you don’t necessarily need two wheels to get around. Pick from a plethora of trails and relax in the welcoming café afterwards with a warming cuppa.
Forests near Glasgow
Lying to the south east of Glasgow, you’ll find 40 hectares of mature woodlands managed by the City Council. There’s plenty of open space to run around and a network of paths if you fancy exploring.
Castlemilk is another forest improved by the WIAT programme and has become a fantastic place to visit, enjoyed greatly by the local community. There are events on at this forest throughout the year, from the Halloween Pumpkin Parade to educational nature walks.
With epic views of the Campsie Fells, this hidden gem is tucked away close to Glasgow Fort retail park in Easterhouse. You’ll find this tiny piece of countryside in the heart of the city, with raised bog land with gorgeous, water-loving plants all around.
With a network of about 4 miles of paths, all wide, smooth and mostly flat, this is a great place to explore on foot, by bike, on horseback or with buggies and pushchairs.
Nestled in north west Glasgow, Drumchapel Woods comprises of four separate woodlands – Garscadden Burn Park, Garscadden Wood East and West, and Cleddans Burn. Here you can attend a free event, or simply enjoy some good old fashioned fresh air.
Wildlife lovers can spot water voles and the butterflies that flit between the wildflowers at Cleddans Burn, while the ancient oaks of Garscadden Wood provide the perfect backdrop to a leisurely walk. In spring, bluebells carpet the forest floor.
Collectively, Drumchapel Woods have also benefitted from the WIAT programme. The 5km of paths have been upgraded, and there are frequently community events – such as the Branching Out programme for adults using mental health services.
A thrilling adventure park on the outskirts of Glasgow, Cuningar Loop was specifically designed to keep the kids entertained, and to get them trying out new experiences, with the opportunity to sample a wide range of outdoor sports, from bike riding to bouldering. The emphasis is on structured adventure play, but there are also a wealth of opportunity for exploration and wild play.
Fitness fanatics will want to check out the woodland workout trail, with various exercise stations dotted throughout the woods. The entrance also boasts a magnificent sculpture by Rob Mulholland, representing the transformation of what was once derelict ground into this family-friendly open-air space, and a series of installations known as the Cuningar Stones, by artist James Winnett.
If all that exercise sounds exhausting, there are all-abilities trails winding through the trees and next to the water, all with wide, flat paths and mixed terrain, and equallysuitable for wheelchairs, buggies, and plenty of seating for tired mums and dads. Cuningar also boasts the title of 'Scotland's first outdoor bouldering park'. So visit Cimb Scotland to find out the basics, and get ready for a fun, physical day out!
Fantastic forests and wonderful woodlands are just waiting to be discovered.
Do you have a favourite forest near Edinburgh or Glasgow? Let us know in the comments below...