Category Archives: Family Outings

Dalkeith Country Park – Walk Report – July 2021

With one thing and another, it had been a few weeks since our last family outing. We made plans to visit Dalkeith Country Park last weekend with our extended family.

Dalkeith Country Park is laid out over 1000 acres to the south of Edinburgh. It has a brilliant adventure park for the kids, a variety of trails and walks through some incredible woodland – they claim that some of the trees are 900 years old – and a lovely shopping/restaurant area in the old stables. www.dalkeithcountrypark.co.uk.

We arrived in the late morning and after the usual faffing about getting boots/wellies on and the dog sorted out we headed out on the Old Wood Walk route. There are several routes to choose from, varying from about 20 minutes in length to over 2 hours and 8km. We thought we would try the Old Woodland walk as it has the option to extend the walk part way through and we wanted to keep our options open.

Route Map of Dalkeith Park
Dalkeith Park Route Map

We set off from the Restoration Yard, which is kind of the main hub for the shops, café and things and headed loosely north east towards the river. Knowing that this route was colour coded in purple, it was nice to see a purple way marker at the less than obvious start of the walk. We took the path into the treeline and contoured around the hill following the trail. It takes you under some of the high ropes course, which looks awesome. I think the cost for that comes in at around £20-£30 if that is your thing.

Dog walking in the woods
Max leading the way into the woods

Watching out for anyone dropping anything on our heads, we turned left and climbed up the small bank, giving a view out over the campsite. To be honest it didn’t look like much, but I think campsites never do! Its all about what you make of it once you’re there. We moved on and the trees started getting older from here on, mainly oak trees (funny that, considering the name of the chosen route).

Through the gaps between the trunks, we could see open grass lands on both sides, however the eye catching features were the trees themselves. Many were split in incredible positions, hollowed out or had been struck by lightening. It was great to see. So much so in fact that I forgot to take pictures of some of the more impressive ones.

We followed the marked path through the trees, undulating with the terrain and taking it all in. I remember thinking it was much quieter than I had expected, only meeting two other groups with their dogs. Following the course of the river to our right, we eventually ended up at a corner where two rivers meet. This is where the River Esk forms from its two tributaries, the North Esk and South Esk, its known as “The Meeting of the Waters”.

It was really interesting to see the way that the two different streams of water interacted with each other. It was helped that the South Esk – the river that we have been following to this point – was a brown colour, whereas the North Esk was much bluer in colour, meaning you could see, for a short time, the two different streams of water running together.

Again, we moved on following the path to a bridge across the river. This was the point at which we could extend the walk by crossing the river or continuing back to the central part of the park.

We decided to head back towards the kids park and Restoration Yard as we needed to pick up the kids and rescue Gran who had stayed with them. We passed by the ruins of an old stone bridge crossing the river, which quite cool to see. The pillars that were left were massive, I can only imagine how impressive that bridge would have been back when it was built and functioning.

The path twists and turns its way southwards, keeping the river to your right through a variety of woodland terrains. There are quite a few grassy sections through tall ferns, and some steeper sections that are more gravelly. All of this leads you right back to the river side before gently climbing as you move forwards.

Montagu Bridge towards the end of the walk.

Towards the end of this section of the walk, you pass by Montagu’s bridge, which I guess is the replacement for the aforementioned ruined bridge, that was built in 1792. Its really quite the sight from through the trees. If you skirt to the right of the path here, you can actually walk through the bridge and come out on the lawns of the Palace. However, the true route calls for you to keep left, climb up a steep slope, turning to the left when you reach the road and follow this past Dalkeith Palace, then left back to the car park and amenities.

I quite enjoyed this short little walk, Max had a blast too. I would recommend for little legs as apart from one short (15m) section there are no steep inclines and there is a fair bit of interest in the flora and fauna to keep minds occupied. We will definitely be going back to tackle a few of the longer loops in future.

Devilla Forest – WALK REPORT – June 2021

The next instalment of our family adventures, we spent a day last weekend exploring the delights of the Devilla Forest in the Kingdom of Fife. There is a lot to see in the Devilla forest, but we decided on the smaller loop of the Red Squirrel Trail. Red Squirrels are known to inhabit the forest and seeing them in the wild is a big draw for many visitors. Clearly, you are not guaranteed to spot the squirrels, and taking a walk around the trail is a pleasant way to spend an hour or so even if they are not spotted on your walk.

The walk starts from the carpark just off the A985 to the east of Kincardine. There is space for about 30 cars or so here, which even on a hot June day seemed to be enough. It was busy, but not completely packed. Once we had got ourselves sorted out, the whole crew headed into the treeline to begin the walk. We had the baby in his carrier again on this walk – its certainly something that I would recommend having if you are thinking about taking small children into the countryside as it keeps your hands free to do other things, they are also comfortable for you and your child. Check out our family picture later in the post to see how comfortable. Here is a link to the one we use as I really like ours and it has given us the ability to get back out and away from the places that are pram friendly.

Walking path in the woods
Heading off on the start of our walk

There is a relatively large sign at the start of the walk, detailing not only the Red Squirrel Trail, but also the various other pathways, ponds, lochs and point of interest in the forest. There are about 8 or 9 things listed here, but we didn’t take a picture unfortunately. Plenty of things to keep us interested on this walk and potentially many others in the coming weeks/months. The walk is listed as a moderate walk online, but to be honest I think this is quite a harsh grading. The path is good and well maintained (as you can see in the picture) and relatively flat. It is also less than 2 miles from start to finish, which is not that far all told. I would grade it as an easy walk overall, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Well maintained path in the forest
Path threading through the trees

The path winds its way through the old pine trees and low bushes of the forest, crossing many small culverts and dry stream beds, using a short section of board walk at one point. The path was dry and a little dusty, Max loved it, bombing up and down and running all over the place. I am sure the smells of the wildlife, were fun for him.

Overall, we were heading in a westerly direction into the sun. However, the shade of the pine trees and the temperature of the air (the car was reading 24 degrees C when we left) made for pleasant and easy walking. Everyone was already feeling the calming influence of walking in the forest, its great when you can get to unwind like this.

Child hiding in a log shelter
Exploring the log shelters

After a few stops for pictures, we started coming across shelters that people had built, leaning logs and sticks up against the trees. The kids thought this was great and wanted to explore them all, which of course they did at high speed and volume – they probably scared off all the squirrels!

After a while, we happened upon the loch that you circumnavigate on the walk and found ourselves a picnic bench. I’ll be honest, even though our youngest is only 8 months old, he is bloody heavy! It was nice to sit by the loch side let Max take a dip whilst the kids played, ate and refuelled. We took the chance to feed the baby whilst keeping an eye on proceedings.

After our food stop, we followed the left hand branch of the walk, looping around the loch in a clockwise direction. Here, the path rises slowly to the top of the ridge line, giving you a view, through the trees, southwards towards the firth of Forth and across to Grangemouth and Falkirk. The kids decided they wanted to explore this view and went off track through the brush to the edge of the tree line to get the best view.

View of the Firth of Forth
View south towards the Forth, with Grangemouth in the distance.

After taking in the views, we returned to the track and followed it around the loch, meeting several other walkers, dogs and bikers on the way. If there was one thing that I were to complain about on this walk is that having walkers and bikers on the same path network could be potentially problematic. We didn’t have any issues, but I can foresee a time where children/dog and bikes collide due to the speed of the bikes and the lack of speed of the rest of the path users. I have nothing against mountain bikers, I think it is a cool hobby that I would enjoy if I ever get the time/chance, but I think that the pathway planners could consider segregating the two types of traffic. Clearly, this is my observation from one afternoon, but it must be worth considering?

Family by the carved totem pole
Even Max behaved for this one…

We looped around back towards the picnic bench, where there was a carved totem pole which had three local animals carved into it – an owl, a woodpecker and a squirrel, in case you were wondering – and we stopped for the obligatory family photo.

After the photo stop, it was a quick march back to the car to pack all of the stuff and the kids back in. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable walk for the kids (and the adults) with good weather, lovely countryside and fresh air. Devilla Forest is definitely on our list of places to visit again as there are loads of other paths and trails to explore, not to mention that list of 8 things that we saw at the start.

Thanks for a great visit – we will be back!

This page contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you. However, I have not been paid to promote any product above any other, so opinions are my own and un-biased.

Carron Valley Reservoir – WALK REPORT – June 2021

As lockdown eases, the weather is warm and the nights are light and long, we made the decision to try and have more short evening adventures with the kids. We added to the brood late last year, so this is the perfect time to take the entire family out and into nature. It’s a great break from homework, screen time and brings us all closer to nature and to each other.

The target this evening was to take a walk near the Carron Valley Reservoir, in the middle of the Campsie’s, just to the west of Denny. The kids were excited to take our first real adventure with the new baby carrier, as it meant we were not stuck to the paths and where the pram could get to.

Heading into the woods from the carpark

After a short drive up through Kilsyth, past the start of a previous walk up Tomtain, we parked up at the carpark to the eastern end of the reservoir, near the dam. Which charges £2 for 3 hours of parking. I didn’t see any way of anyone checking who had paid and who had not, however, I don’t mind paying a little to support the conservation of the wildlife and local flora. After the usual faffing about getting organised, as well as organising 3 kids and a dog (4 times the usual faff) we headed off into the trees towards the dam looming through the trees.

We even had Charlie along for this excursion, who was sitting comfy in his new carrier. After a short walk through the woodland, the trees got a bit denser and the air a little cooler. We let the dog off the lead and the kids away off the path to explore and see what they could find. Loosely following the winding path up towards the access road for the dam itself.

Right at the base of the dam the trees are much closer together, giving this short section of the walk a different feel to the rest. We could have been anywhere, but we’re in reality only 10 minutes from the car park. The kids thought it was great, space to explore, but we could keep them in sight so they wouldn’t feel lost.

A short climb up to the height of the dam and we joined the dam access road for a short stretch before keeping right and following the obvious footpath between the road and the edge of the reservoir. On looking closer at a map later on, the road actually goes all the way to the other end of the reservoir to Todholes car park. I’ve got my eye on that spot for the start of another walk in the coming weeks.

First view of the reservoir

A few meters along the path and the view across the reservoir opens up for the first time. Looking ahead you can see Miekle Bin, the highest point in the Campsies, and across the reservoir to Cairnoch Hill and Craigannet Hill. Both of which are now firmly on the list to explore with the family. They aren’t big high hills, but they looked great in the evening sunlight across the water.

We followed the footpath, stopping often to take in the views along the southern shore of the reservoir. It was not too busy, a few walkers out with their dogs or just enjoying the evening sunshine.

After a couple of kilometres, we reached the end of our walk, to a picnic bench situated on top of a small rise on a bluff out into the reservoir. We headed down to the stony beach to sit, let the dog have a swim and skim some stones, one of the kids (and my) favourite activities. As a kid is there anything better than the making the biggest splash you can with a stone?

Final destination picnic bench

After about 15 minutes the midges started to congregate around us and we decided to pack up and make our way back to the car following the same route, but in reverse. Of course, we couldn’t help but stop at a few smaller beaches on the way to chuck a few more stones in, at least before the cloud of midges caught up with us.

All in, it took just under 2 hours for the whole walk. The perfect way to unwind after work, school and a day in the life of a busy family. We all enjoyed it so much, plans are already underway for our next adventure!

Can I hike with children?

Yes! Absolutely. Taking children out into nature is a key part of their personal development as they grow up. Picking the right route and day to get the best weather is important. Make sure to keep it interesting and take plenty of breaks. Sometimes a little bit of bribery for the picnic at the top might be required.

In this post, I am going to look at hill walking with children of various ages. As a dad of three, I have a little experience when it comes to this. Now my kids are not mountain goats, they haven’t done 20 Munro’s by age 9, but they all have been out in the hills with me at some point. I know that many people wonder “what is the right age to take them out?” or whether it is too early or not, so here is my opinion from my experience.

Hill Walking with a baby (0-1 years)

Climbing hills with a baby can be thoroughly enjoyable and a great day out for you and baby. However, there are several pitfalls and things to consider when planning a day out with the little one.

First off babies are unpredictable. They might all of a sudden in the middle of the walk decide that they no longer want to be in the carrier and start screaming until you take them out. Now you are left with a crying baby in your arms, half way up a hill miles from anywhere, not ideal. To combat this, I have always started with small walks using the carrier (we use an Osprey carrier, which is great) around the local area. Once we have managed half an hour without a melt-down, I would then maybe try a visit to a local country park or something for up to an hour. If there are no issues, I would then go a bit further and a bit longer until they are completely happy in the carrier.

Babies also need to be fed often. This can add time onto your carefully crafted route card and proposed start/end time. As with everything to so with children, things take longer. Make your peace with this fact and move on. Babies also cannot regulate their body temperature particularly well and you will need to be sure to check them regularly to make sure they are not too hot or too cold.

In summary, hill walking with a baby is possible, but in my experience, detracts from the possible enjoyment of the day. Having a small baby at home is hard enough, but couple that with the outdoor environment and it can be too much for some. I would suggest keeping things local so you can bail out and get home easily for at least the first 6 months.

Hill Walking with a toddler (1-3 years)

In much the same way as babies, toddlers take a lot of looking after outside. Whether that is on uneven ground, or racing off too far ahead or even the fact that they have no fear, you’ll need eagle eyes if you are heading out with a toddler. I’ve seen reports of kids as young as 3 years old climbing some pretty serious hills (the Cobbler is the one that surprised me the most) but in my experience, you are still introducing them to the wonders of the outdoors at this stage.

As the child get more comfortable on their feet, small walks to the shops or walking the dog etc is going to be enough for most. My daughter (now 3) can handle relatively hills walks of up to an hour. Any more than that though and she starts to moan. So for me, this stage is more about woodland walks, exploring, adventuring and generally building confidence in the outdoors, rather than peak bagging. I am fortunate enough that where we live, there are hills ranging from 100m up to 450m or so easily reachable. That gives a nice level of progression up the heights and severity to the higher hills a the top end of this bracket.

Hill Walking with small children (3-7 years)

If you like mountains, then this is the stage where things get interesting. We took our son walking in the borders at this age and he loved it. The hills we selected were small enough to be manageable, but challenging enough that it was an achievement to reach the top. The focus here was on picnics at the summit, lots of laughing and playing games on the way. As they get quicker up hill, you will be able to focus more on the act of hill walking rather than distracting them from it!

We also started giving our children a rucksack to carry at this point too. Nothing too heavy, but maybe a light jacket and a bottle of water. We also gave him the map, so he felt fully invovled in the day and could start appreciating the navigational aspects of hill walking and decision making. Our son really got into the responsibility of carrying the map and would force us to stop for regular map checks. I remember one forced stop when we could see the trig point!

But the one thing I do remember, was that these breaks were important. Without them a couple of hours walking could have been boring. But we used the regular stops to top up on snacks, take layers on/off and generally keep things light hearted through out the day.

Hill Walking with children (7-13 years)

This is the top age bracket that I will talk about here as this is where my oldest currently is. Our walks now are all about discovery and adventure. The question is not now do you want to go for a walk, but do you want to go on an adventure. Who doesn’t want to do that!

We try to choose routes that have interesting features on them. A ruined building, cool rock formations, Roman ruins (where I live, there are some of these to be found) canals/rivers to try and find different wildlife etc. We will always try and set ourselves a mini treasure hunt type thing to find 5 different types of birds or similar. The other option is to go Geocaching, which is great fun too.

I’m writing this in February, and there is quite a lot of snow around, but this summer I plan on taking our eldest our for his first Munro or Corbett. We will see how we get on, but one thing I do know is that we will have a lot of fun trying. I’ll probably look to one of the hills I have written about in my post on hills for beginners.

This page contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you. However, I have not been paid to promote any product above any other, so opinions are my own and un-biased