Please note, this is an evolving list which will be updated as we go along.
Lockdown changed something in me. Quite a few things actually, but one of the main things was this longing I had (and continue to have) to be out of the city in the wide open spaces we have so close to us. Somewhere up high, with views for miles. I do go by myself sometimes, but since lockdown ended it’s also something we’ve started to do more often as a family. The kids are sometimes enthusiastic; sometimes less so. Just like me I guess!
It can be a bit daunting if you haven’t ever done it before with your kids. I run a wee meetup group during the better weather months where we head out so if you are looking for some back up drop me a wee email or a message on either facebook or instagram and I’ll let you know when we are next heading out.
Tipitty top tips
My top tips for walking up hills with kids and just getting started with hills are as follows:
- You don’t need any expensive equipment. A rucksack & sensible shoes are fine for getting started. Mine wore wellies or trainers for a lot of walks before spending extra money on walking specific footwear.
- Dress for the weather.
- Tops of hills are windy most of the year so jumpers/jackets/hoods are a necessity no matter what the weather.
- Take plenty of snacks & water.
- A mini rucksack for slightly bigger kids is a great idea so the adults don’t have to carry all the water!
- Expect and plan to stop many times when you’re walking with little kids.
- Always take an “emergency” Freddo (or alternative) for the top of the hill. Some days bribery will be the only thing left in your deck.
All of these hills are within driving distance of Glasgow, and all are suitable for little legs (age 3+ mainly). Some have higher ascents, some longer distances, some are easier & some a bit more tricky. We’ve done all of these when the kids were age 3/4/5 so all are definitely doable with wee ones.
Loudoun Hill in East Ayrshire is a great wee hill for little legs. It’s 316m high & it’s not a long walk – took us an hour & a half round trip with a lot of playing on rocks & logs and a stop for snacks at the top.
Park at the wee car park by the Spirit of Scotland monument. (Follow the brown signs – google maps took us to a random farm road at the other side of the hill.)
When you’ve parked, head down past the monument, over a wee turnstile and a bridge & follow the grassy paths up towards the hill. The path takes you round to the right, past an old ruined farm building. Eventually the path disappears & you just need to pick a spot to head up the grassy side of the hill. This last bit is quite steep & there are some boulders at the very top that little kids will need to scramble up. And then that’s you at the trig point! (The way down was a bit trickier for the wee man but a hand hold to get past the steep bit & he was sorted.)
Lovely views from the top out towards Arran, and if you look north you’ll be able to make out Whitelee Windfarm.
It’s not a difficult walk & perfect to get little legs moving. Prob my kids fave wee hill so far. (Because it’s shorter & quicker than any of the others we’ve done.)
Great as a first hill to see how you go!
- Total distance: Just over 1km
- Elevation: 316m
- Duration: Roughly 90 minutes depending on how much playing is involved en route.
- Difficulty: 2/10. Loudoun Hill is a quick and pretty easy walk. Most of it is a very gentle climb. The last 5 minutes are quite steep. The 4 year old needed a hand to hold on the way down this part just to keep his balance, but apart from that he managed it no problem.
This is a not too difficult walk maybe 15 mins out past Milngavie that takes you up a hill to The Whangie, a huge rock formation. You can walk right through this massive tear in the earth from one end to the other.
Legend tells that the rock formation was caused by the devil whipping his tail as he came bombing it round the hill, raging that he didn’t get an invitation to a party Jenny the witch was throwing. (Bit dramatic really to slice rocks in a tantrum, but we can’t chose what makes us angry I guess…) The kids loved hearing these stories and ended up pretending it was a giants house for about 2 hours at the top.
The trail starts at Queensview car park. It’s a well worn path & easy to follow. It starts with a bit of boardwalk and then follows the side of the hill on the way up. Eventually you’ll come to a fork in the path where you can continue round the side of the hill or head up over the top (leading round to the right eventually). This part is a loop and whichever way you choose you will end up at one end of The Whangie. (The path does get pretty muddy at points so waterproof shoes are handy.)
There’s lots for kids to explore and lots of rocky bits to climb up here. Views for miles too all the way across to Loch Lomond and the hills beyond.
- Distance: 4.5km
- Elevation: 300m
- Duration: It took us roughly 90 minutes to get to The Whangie at 4 year old pace, with plenty of time to roll about on the grass, have snacks and get stuck in boggy bits. The walk back down is always much quicker but in full we spend about 4 hours here each time we’ve gone as the kids have so much fun playing and exploring at the top.
- Difficulty: 3/10. The Whangie is a pretty easy walk. After the initial 10 minutes, although it is a constant climb, it is a very gentle climb. Our just 4 year old managed it without even a complaint about tired legs so it’s definitely not difficult.
The Campsies – Crichtons Cairn en route to Cort-ma-law
The hills in Campsie Glen are the perfect hills for little legs to climb. They’re also probably the closest to Glasgow and so if we’re up for a hill these tend to be where we head. Park at Campsie Glen car park, cross the road and head up the hill opposite. I *think* that where we usually end up walking to is Crichton’s Cairn, but I’m not 100% certain yet what this hill is actually called. It’s on the way to Cort-ma-law, which is a longer walk (something like 9km round trip) and higher climb (531m).
Anyway, this hill in the Campsies is the perfect hill for little legs to climb. It’s grassy the whole way up (can be a bit soggy in places but you can usually make your way around the sog). If they fall it’s very likely they’ll land on grass.
Taking our time & having a couple of breaks, it took us just under an hour to get to the first cairn you come to up here. If you keep going you could walk to quite a few more, but we headed back down after a drink and a Freddo at the top. Plus a seat to appreciate those beautiful views. The walk back down is always way easier. Took us 20 minutes tops.
You can also head down to the Campsie Fells from the car park. We found some great wee spots last time we were there exploring so I’ll do a separate post about how to find those.
Parking is free at the Campsie Glen car park. You can also park at the very bottom down in Lennoxtown & wall up from there if you want to make it a longer climb.
Elevation: 463m (ish)
Duration: It took us roughly 90 minutes to get to the cairn taking it at kids pace. The walk back down is way faster. They like running down some of the gentler slopes and pretending there are trolls/dinosaurs chasing us so last time it took us about 20 minutes to get back to the car.
Difficulty: 2/10. Not super high or super difficult. There are quite a few false peaks though which annoys the kids no end. They’ve managed this hill many times since they were about 3.
Easy enough for us adults & the big one (obviously with some sweating) but more tricky for the wee man. He still did it, but he struggled a wee bit towards the top with sore legs. He did have enough energy to basically run back down the whole hill (that magic Freddo at the top always works) so it was still doable for him.
The trail starts at the car park in Balmaha. You head up the hill firstly through some woodland. Then when you get through the gate the whole hill opens up in front of you. Stop half way up for lunch with a view (you’ll know where I mean when you see it). When you get almost to the very top you’ll have to scramble up the last bit over some loose rocks. Totally worth it when you get right up there.
The hill itself can get quite busy. There’s a constant trickle of people heading up & down. It’s easy enough to keep your distance, but just be aware that you won’t be alone up there!
Those views from the top though. You can see almost the whole of Loch Lomond. (I never really appreciated how big Loch Lomond actually is before.) It’s beautiful.
There’s plenty of parking for Conic Hill, but it can get quite busy so I’d advise heading out early if you’re planning on doing this walk. Take some change. The car parks around Stirling council are all £3 for the day. (Note: If the car park is full, do not park on the road. You will block the road and you will definitely get a parking ticket. Either wait for a space, or move on. There are plenty other places to see.)
- Total distance: 3.5km
- Elevation: 250m
- Duration: In total this walk took us about 3 hours with a stop for lunch, snacks and a detour/explore at the top.
- Difficulty: 3/10. This walk starts on an easy gradient but after you get out of the trees it is pretty steep, and there’s a wee scramble at the top. The kids managed it, but the 4 yr old needed a wee bit of help towards the top.
Ben A’an is probably my favourite wee hill in Scotland. It’s a picture perfect mini mountain situated in the Trossachs, roughly an hours drive from Glasgow. It isn’t an easy stroll but the views from the top are exceptional and it’s a beautiful walk to get there.
There’s a car park at the bottom (sadly it’s quite small though compared to the hill’s popularity & you will get a ticket if you park along the road, so I’d just wait for a space if you can). There’s a really clear path across the road from there all the way to the top.
It doesn’t start easy (my least fave bit – think of it like an intense warm up…) but once you pass the wooden bridge over the little burn it starts to even out a bit. There are some big stepping stones & various bits along the nice flat middle that the kids like to explore along here. Then when you reach the trees you start heading up again.
There’s a good spot for snacks & a beauty of a view out over Loch Katrine when you get through the trees before you get to the steep, rocky bit. This part isn’t easy for little legs but it’s very doable. The wee man did it almost age 4 & just needed a wee help up some of the steps.
From the top you can see Ben Venue across the glen & Loch Katrine surrounded by beaut woodland below, and Loch Venachar in the distance.
Take your time & let the kids enjoy it as you go. The juice is most definitely with the squeeze on this wee gem of a hill.
- Total distance: 3.7km / 2.25 miles
- Ascent: 340m
- Duration: Around 4 hrs with young kids.
- Difficulty: Moderate. About a 4/10. This is a pretty steep hill in some parts and it isn’t the easiest climb if you have little legs (including myself in that) because a lot of the rocky ‘steps’ are pretty high. The smallest (aged almost 4) needed a bit of help at points but coped pretty well the rest of the way.
Here’s a good hill if you fancy a stretch of the legs. Located between Lanark and Biggar, Tinto is Lanarkshire’s most prominent hill, standing at a height of 707m. (The ascent is 490m though because you start at 200m above sea level.) It’s surrounded by the rolling hills and farmland of South Lanarkshire with beautiful views from the top. There aren’t any hills around there that come close to the height of Tinto Hill so you really can see for miles on a clear day.
We found this one more difficult than Conic & Ben A’an (it’s double the height of Conic). Fakes you out a couple of times with some false summits as well. (Kids were not impressed with those.) It’s a 3.5km hike to the top & took us nearly 2 hrs to reach the cairn (stopping loads). Only took us about 40 mins to get back down though!
There’s a good car park at the bottom and a really clear path from there all the way to the top. It starts with a pretty gentle climb but there are a good few steep bits on this walk. Gets the heart rate up but nothing we couldn’t manage. When you get to the top there’s a a huge cairn and lots of shale/loose stones.
There are loose stones along the path too which can be a bit slippy if you don’t have the right footwear. It wasn’t at all when we did it because it had been dry for so long, but if it’s been wet weather the path can also get a bit muddy.
I really enjoyed this walk, and apart from a couple of bits on the way up, so did the kids. It is higher & definitely feels more difficult than most of the others we’ve done with them, but they managed it no problem (age 4 & 7 for reference) with a bunch of stops and some haribo bribery. Not without a little bit of moaning, as you’d expect when the legs start to get a wee bit tired…
Hard work but a great wee day out! That sense of accomplishment they get when they reach the top is the best too.
There’s also a lovely wee cafe at the car park (the Tinto Hill Tearoom) serving up cakes and bakes, hot and cold food & drinks. Perfect place to grab a bite and a seat after a good walk!
- Total distance: 7km
- Ascent: 486m
- Duration: Around 3.5 hrs
- Difficulty: I’d give it about a 5/10 difficulty. This is a pretty steep hill in some parts and it felt longer than the others on this list.
Views over Edinburgh, out to the Firth of Forth & you can see all the way to North Berwick and beyond on a decent day. Not too difficult – one of the easier hills on the list. The kids really enjoyed this one.
An easy grassy hill to add to your list. This ancient extinct volcano is situated in the middle Holyrood Park & is the highest peak in Edinburgh.
We headed up the path from St Margaret’s Loch. It’s a good, clear, well used path from here all the way to the top of Arthur’s Seat. There are more difficult routes up that are a bit more rock climbey as you get to towards the top but they’re not very suitable for a gung-ho 4 yr old, so we stuck to the path!
Views over the city, out to the Firth of Forth & you can see all the way to North Berwick and beyond on a decent day.
Check out the pretty ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel and the swans in St Margaret’s Loch. If you head round the other side of Holyrood Park check out the bird sanctuary at Duddingston Loch. There is loads of green space here to enjoy, so take a picnic and make a day of it.
If you’re driving you can park in the car park near Holyrood Palace on Queens Drive. It is metered. Take the train to Edinburgh Waverley and then Holyrood park is approx a 20 minute away.
Parking available. Good clear path. Climb not suitable for wheels. Good for dogs.
Double up with Our Dynamic Earth, a brill interactive exhibition/museum just a few mins walk from the car park on Queens Drive for a wee indoor-outdoor adventure day! Or if you’re feeling energetic, you could head up Castle Rock (the big lump Edinburgh Castle sits on), Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat and do all 3 peaks of Edinburgh in a day.
- Total distance: 2.5km
- Ascent: 251m
- Duration: Less than an hour to get to the top with young kids.
- Difficulty: 2/10. It is steep in a few parts but it’s not a difficult hill. Another good wee easy starter hill.