Youâ€™ll never walk alone â€“ at least not at one of these great events, previewed by Arusa Qureshi.
Whether youâ€™re a seasoned rambler or just love to get out in the fresh air, walking festivals can be a highly beneficial form of exercise and entertainment. From exploring gorgeous landscapes to meeting like-minded people, there are many reasons why such festivals have become so popular in recent years. Itâ€™s not just about the walking; thereâ€™s the added bonus of discovering new and exciting places as well as the fun involved in adventuring. So why not join in on the trend and get fit and healthy in the process?
As the weather starts to get slightly warmer in April, the Islay Walking Festival is a perfect introduction to the world of walking festivals, providing a whole week of activities plus a wide variety of routes.
The festival, from 12-17 April, will suit beginners as well as those hoping for a real challenge. For example, on the first day, join walk leader David Wood for a circular walk on the Oa, which follows the coast, taking in the waterfall bay of Port an Eas, heads round the Mull of Oa and then back towards Cragabus. The walk is brilliant for views to Northern Ireland and the Mull of Kintyre when the weather is clear. For something much more strenuous, try the walk from Bunnahabhain to Bholsa, which is about 12 miles up through Margadale Glen.
In May, head to Galloway for WalkFest, the award-winning Newton Stewart Walking Festival, which is one of the biggest such events in Scotland. Galloway itself is magnificent for its unspoiled landscape and endless routes, but walkers will also enjoy the plants and wildlife. With more than 40 summits, there are challenges for those that want them, but there are also smaller hills and forest trails for more leisurely walks which are excellent for truly appreciating the scenery.
Heading a little north and west, the Isle of Arran hosts its mountain festival from 15-18 May. Arran has soaring peaks, lush woodlands and an interesting history, which you can explore in the company of experienced guides, on routes designed to get you up close and personal with wildlife and make the most of the coastline. The programme gives an endurance rating and a technical rating for each walk, allowing walkers to get a better idea of what they can manage. The emphasis is on fun â€“ expect this one to be extremely welcoming and friendly.
From 4-7 June, the Angus Glens Walking Festival is a well established event that will really add to your appreciation of the outdoors. Let experienced mountain leaders guide you through the stunning Angus landscape while countryside rangers and estate managers delve into the history of the area and its wildlife. Youâ€™ll get the opportunity to walk along Jockâ€™s Road, said to be Scotlandâ€™s oldest right of way, or up one of the many Munros. This year, there will be one â€œall abilitiesâ€ walk in the programme which is suitable for all levels of fitness including first-time walkers, families and wheelchair users. This will be led by the Angus Council ranger service and will focus on the natural and human history of the area.
A little further down the events calendar, there are two worthwhile festivals to keep an eye out for in September. The Scottish Borders Walking Festival, from 6-12 September, will be taking place in Galashiels this year. It started in 1995 in West Linton and has since moved around the area annually, with different Bordersâ€™ communities taking turns to host. The full programme usually includes 3-5 walks per day of varying lengths and a programme of evening entertainment perfect for unwinding.
The Harris Mountain Festival, from 12-19 September, is a fantastic celebration of the islandâ€™s mountains and coastline. If white sandy beaches and turquoise seas are your thing, this may be the walking festival for you. Roam along 45 miles of path, up the highest peak in the Western Isles and gain an insight into Harrisâ€™s strong Gaelic culture. Last yearâ€™s programme will give you a taste of what you can expect.
Crieff and Strathearn Droversâ€™ Tryst walking festival, from 10-17 October, takes you to Strathearn and surrounding areas of Perthshire for walks that range in difficulty. Take on some Munros, ramble through the glens or even walk old drove roads for a chance to experience an ever-growing festival that was established over a decade ago. Try geocaching or do some bird watching and practise your wildlife photography. Thereâ€™s also a great mountain biking event, the Hairy Coo, and evening social events that include live traditional music, films and drama. The Droversâ€™ Tryst could be an excellent autumn break for anyone seeking a balance between relaxation and excitement.