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Mental Health Awareness Week: 10 places to immerse yourself in nature from the Highlands of Scotland


By Alice Prentice

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Beginning on Monday, from May 10 - May 16, the Mental Health Foundation hosts Mental Health Awareness Week. The purpose of the online event is to spread awareness about mental health issues and start conversations about how we can all have better mental health.

The theme for the Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, is nature. During the multiple lockdowns we have endured this past year, many of us turned to the outdoors for a safe way of escaping our households and clearing our minds. The Mental Health Foundation collected research on this and found that, ‘going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health.’

Here in the north of Scotland, we are lucky to be surrounded with an abundance of green space, full of immense beauty and adventure. From the wildly romantic beaches, to the harsh and rugged mountain landscapes, there's so much to see. So we thought we’d put together a list of some of our favourite nature spots in the Highland region. If you get a chance this weekend, journey to one of these special places, and take some time out for your mental health.

Rosemarkie Beach

Rosemarkie Beach. Picture: Adobe
Rosemarkie Beach. Picture: Adobe

Arguably the most popular beach on the Black Isle, Rosemarkie Beach is great for a stroll along the seaside. Nothing quite compares to the calming sound of waves rolling up the sunny shores. If you start at Rosemarkie and walk all the way along to Chanory Point, you might just be in with a chance of seeing some bottlenose dolphins pop up between the waves.

Nairn Beach

Nairn Beach. Picture: Adobe
Nairn Beach. Picture: Adobe

Easily accessible if you are bound to public transport, Nairn Beach is just a few steps away from the town and offers beautiful views on the Moray Firth towards the Black Isle. On a sunny day, walking on the dunes and breathing in the fresh air is a great way to make space in your mind - and what’s better than a stroll on the beach with an ice cream or fresh snack?

Glen Affric

Glen Affric. Picture: Adobe
Glen Affric. Picture: Adobe

The forests around Glen Affric are renowned for being some of the most breathtaking in Scotland, and recent rewilding projects taking place in the area are making it an even more stunning place to visit. Head to the Plodda Falls trails near Tomich for some incredible gorge views and moderate forest walks, and grab a tasty bite at the Couch House Cafe on the way if you need an energy boost. If you are looking for a more strenuous walk, you can do the Affric Kintail Way and immerse yourself in its fascinating wilderness for a few days.

Caledonian Canal (Inverness)

The Caledonian Canal at Dochgarroch near Inverness. Picture: Adobe
The Caledonian Canal at Dochgarroch near Inverness. Picture: Adobe

Feel like living in the city is holding you back from getting out in nature? The Caledonian canal can be such a peaceful place on crisp mornings. You can start at the Inverness Leisure Centre and walk as far along the canal as you feel capable of doing. But we recommend bringing a pal and heading all the way down to the dochgarroch locks and back again. We think you’ll find that you’ve put the world to rights by the time you get back to Inverness.

Findhorn Beach

Common Seal near Findhorn Bay. Picture: Adobe
Common Seal near Findhorn Bay. Picture: Adobe

This beautiful sandy beach is a wonderful place to spot marine wildlife such as seals and dolphins. A lovely coastsl walk on and off the dunes will take you from Findhorn to the neighbouring Burghead, about 5 miles away. You can walk alongside the Moray Coastal Trail for better seaside views or, in and around the beach to find lovely forest walks. Plus, on the way there you can also visit Findhorn’s community ecovillage.

Dornoch Beach

Dornoch beach. Picture: Adobe
Dornoch beach. Picture: Adobe

Golden sands stretch for miles from Dornoch Point to the mouth of Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. You can get a natural experience that's quite unique here, as it’s right next to a Site of Special Scientific Interest that features nesting birds, flora and fauna.

Green Loch (Aviemore)

Lochan Uaine Picture: Katherine Ivory
Lochan Uaine Picture: Katherine Ivory

An Lochan Uaine - also called the green loch by locals - is a place plucked right out of a fairytale. The name comes from the luxurious tealy waters that reflect the deep green trees surrounding it in the sunlight, making it one of the most special lochs in the Aviemore area. It's also one of the loveliest, easiest and shortest walks in Cairngorm National Park. Starting at the Glenmore Visito centre it should lonly take baout 25 minutes to reach the loch. The, if you're feeling up to it, you can also take a detour with a gentle climb that leads up the Ryvoan pass.

Contin Woods (Ross-shire)

Rogie Falls. Picture: Gerald Gair
Rogie Falls. Picture: Gerald Gair

A short drive from Inverness or Dingwall, Contin Woods are a beautiful stretch of forest to get immersed in nature. The area offers a variety of walks, one of the most popular sites being Rogie Falls. A circular walk takes you through birch, pine and spruce woodland and reaches View Rock, a great slab of rock with stunning views over the surrounding countryside.

Glen Feshie Forest (Kincraig)

The Falls of Tarf and Bedford Memorial Bridge.
The Falls of Tarf and Bedford Memorial Bridge.

The stunning wild Glen is covered in parts with beautiful Scottish Pine woods. You can reach the Forestry and Land Commission Park, which not only offers opportunities for an accessible stroll in the woods, but one of the trails is also marked with beautiful wooden sculptures by Frank Bruce.

And if you can’t get outside…

House Plants. Picture: Adobe
House Plants. Picture: Adobe

Why not consider filling your indoor space with greenery? It’s amazing how much a living house plant can change the feeling of a room for the better. Caring for it and watching it grow is so rewarding.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, whatever you decide to do, we hope that you find some way of getting in touch with nature to clear your mind.


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