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Forest Bathing in Scotland

Alix M Campbell

Contributor

Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku has been around in Japan since the 1980s, where it has become a powerful tool in the areas of preventive health care and healing. The good news is that you don't have to travel all the way to Japan to take advantage of the calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits of mindfully walking through woodland. These four magical forests in Scotland are the perfect place to lose yourself in and recharge your batteries.

Abernethy Forest, Scottish Highlands

Abernethy Forest National Nature Reserve contains the largest amount of native Scots Pinewood in one area and is considered one of the oldest forests in Britain. This unique woodland is one of the last remnants of the Caledonian pine forest that used to be found in the entire country, and it stretches over 5,796 hectares. It’s home to animals like red squirrels, badgers, wildcats or red deer.

Next to soaking up the fresh air in calming surroundings, you can also watch different varieties of birds here like the Black Grouse, Scottish Crossbill, Goldeneye, Greenshank or Osprey. April until July seem to be the best months to visit the forest to see the abundance of birds, insects and plants, but coming here anytime will help you unplug from the stresses of daily life and focus on all of your senses in this natural environment.

How to get there: The park is located 16 km east of Aviemore between the villages of Nethybridge and Boat of Garten off B970. If you’re travelling by train, take the stop Aviemore and jump on bus 34 (40 mins). 

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Scottish Highlands

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park wows with breathtaking views of lochs, rugged mountains and wooded hills. It’s the perfect setting for an immersive “bath” in a forest. The 48,590 acre-large park offers a variety of mountain paths, cycle trails and forest walks to lose yourself in and they range from gentle to more strenuous. In case you’re tired from moving around in fresh air, you can relax in the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre’s café and enjoy incredible views.

Whether you want to take a long walk and observe wildlife, visit magnificent lakes like Loch Lomond at the parks eastern border or decide to discover the woodland by bike or horseback, the magical ambiance is likely to put a spell on you, no matter what season you decide to visit.

How to get there: The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre can be found 1.6 km north of Aberfoyle on the A821, and you can locate it by following the signs. Travelling by public transport, bus lines B10 and C11 have stops nearby the park. From Stirling Train Station it’s a 63-minute bus ride to the park.

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway

Covering an area of 77,400 hectares, Galloway Forest Park offers visitors three centres as well as picturesque forest trails and an array of wildlife to observe. Watch out for wild goats and red deer.

Whether you enjoy peaceful walks, some easy cycling or more demanding mountain bike trails, this park offers enough space to breathe and just “be” in nature. There’s also an option to go rock or ice-climbing in the park, and you can even follow the footsteps of national hero Robert the Bruce, who heroically fought for Scotland’s independence.

This park is also known as Dark Sky Park because it gets so dark at night you can perfectly see the stars, which makes it one of the best places for stargazing in Europe. Sit back and soak up the views and enjoy the tranquillity of this magnificent place comprising of lochs, mountains, hills and woodlands.

How to get there: Arriving by car, you can see signposts for the Kirroughtree Visitor Centre from the A75 at Palnure, about 2.4 km east of Newton Stewart. You can reach Galloway Forest Park also by means of public transport, with stops nearby of bus lines 500 and X75.

Tay Forest Park, Perthshire

Tay Forest Park is a patchwork of different types of forests spread across the most scenic parts of Perthshire with incredible viewpoints, dramatic landscapes and some of the tallest trees in the country. The park stretches over 41,600 acres and combines nature and diverse wildlife with rich history. Visitors can discover legends about demons, dragons, saints and queens along the woodland trails around Loch Tummel and Loch Tay.

If you’re looking for serenity, this place lets you take in the unforgettable views while waking up all of your senses. History buffs will frolic at the sight of a farmstead from the 18th century in Allean Forest, and art lovers will appreciate the wildlife sculptures near Loch Rannoch.

You might want to finish your stroll in nature with a visit to The Queens View Visitor Centre for a mixture of cosiness and panoramic views. The picnic site in Dalerb invites you to re-charge your batteries in nature, if you prefer so.

How to get there: You’ll get there by following signs for Killiecrankie, then Kinloch Rannoch from the A9. Queens View Visitor Centre is located about 11 km along the B8019. Local bus services run from Pitlochry.

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