Hiking. It’s easy to get started, free and available to most of us. You normally don’t need special or new clothes (though a pair of sturdy walking shoes is a good idea) and you don’t need to learn a new skill.
Walking helps you find out more and connect with your local area. Luckily, you don’t need to go far to experience incredible views and relaxing surroundings. You can find all kinds of green spaces, hidden gems in and around the campus, and some of Scotland’s most breath-taking walks are right on our doorstep. Being outside can also lower your stress levels instantly!
Discover what’s waiting for you at the University of Stirling as our community share some of their favourite hiking spots in and around Stirling.
Lucy’s favourite: exploring the woods
The Hermitage Woods are the dramatic woods and steep crags, known as Witches Craig, that overlook the campus to the north. They offer a network of paths perfect for you to enjoy a quick lunchtime stroll or take a longer walk up Dumyat, the most westerly of the Ochil Hills.
There are entry points from Hermitage Road and across an old drover’s road once used for driving livestock. Some think that the road may also have been a corpse road which allowed for transporting corpses between remote communities and churches.
As you enter the woods you leave the campus, crossing into something wilder and more untamed. In the spring the woods are carpeted with bluebells, while in autumn they blaze with red, gold and orange. At the top of the crags you’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the University, Stirling Castle, Stirling and the Carse of the Forth.
Explore the woods and you’ll find the slightly mysterious and forgotten remains of the Hermitage, old mossy dry stone dykes, and the occasional roe deer flitting through the trees. Hermitages were built to allow hermits to seek solitude and peace, often for religious purposes, but this one may have been a folly.
Be warned: the paths in the woods can be muddy after rain so you should wear appropriate footwear and clothing. You should also be aware of steep cliffs and that the remains of buildings can be dangerous to explore or approach.
Amy’s favourite: Alva Glen
Located just a few miles from the University, in the neighbouring county of Clackmannanshire, lies the beautiful glens of the Hillfoots. The Ochil Hills, of which Dumyat is just one of the many amazing peaks, provide a great variety of walking trails suitable for more leisurely strollers or hillwalkers alike.
My top recommendation would be the beautiful Alva Glen. The walk from the base of the glen takes you along a beautiful path which follows the water, opening up at the top with views across the Forth Valley. Continuing up the zig zag path will take you to the entrance way to Smugglers Cove, which you can either descend down to or choose to finish off your walk down the front of the hill where you will finish just above the Alva Golf Course, just beside where you began your walk.
For the more adventurous, you can use the glen paths to start off your journey to conquer the popular Torry, Nebbit or Craighorn hills. If you choose to do these hill walks, make sure you plan your route in advance and are prepared with all the necessary hill-walking equipment including a map and be prepared for changing conditions.
The stunning Alva Glen walk is a great way for you to experience the “Wee County” just on your doorstep, learn more about the Hillfoots woollen mill history and take in the beautiful nature of the surrounding area.
Matt’s favourite: Lewis Hill/Sauchie Crags
Tucked away out of sight from the city, this is one of Stirling’s hidden gems. A climb up Lewis Hill offers breath-taking views of Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, as well as further afield to the Trossachs, and a birds-eye view of the North Third Reservoir below. On a clear day, there’s also a view of the Forth Bridges from some vantage points.
The Hill can be accessed via a number of routes, including a circular route from the North Third Fishery, and from the forest track near Gateside Road. The closet public transport stop is the route of the No. 36 Bus, opposite the Battle of Bannockburn Centre, where a longer route to the Crags can be followed. The route is steep in parts and the hilltop is exposed to the elements. Wrap up warm!
Nicole’s favourite: Finnich Glen/The Devils Pulpit
One of my favourite places to visit is Finnich Glen (also known as The Devils Pulpit). The 100ft deep gorge is flourished in moss and wild flowers, perfect for wildlife lovers and photographers all year round.
The sandstone gorge gives off the perfect illusion of a ruby coloured river flowing at the bottom. Gorge walking is available at this location with the outdoor adventure company ‘Go Country’.
Although this location isn’t well signposted, ‘The Devil’s Pulpit’ does appear on google maps and is only a 38-minute drive from campus. A number of buses will drop you within a reasonable walking distance but driving is your best option. Wear something comfortable and waterproof.