Explore Scotland’s great outdoors this year and discover a beguiling and magnificent natural playground that’s unsurpassed by anywhere else in Europe.
There are many fantastic ways to immerse yourself in Scotland’s renowned landscapes, escape the hurly-burly and recharge your batteries – here are just a few.
Two feet and two wheels
Arguably the best way to really get a feel for Scotland’s stunning scenery, compelling culture, hypnotising history and affable locals, is on foot or by bike, as the slower pace provides deeper experiences.
Scotland was made for walking and cycling. The range of routes varies from low-level walking trails along the coast to cycling paths through forests, by the canal or on the National Cycle Network. You could even challenge yourself to a hike up one of Scotland’s 282 lofty Munros or tackle a multi-day adventure along a long distance route.
One of the best sources of information for walking in Scotland is WalkHighlands, which covers most of Scotland – not just the Highlands! There’s over 2,000 route descriptions on the site and the best thing is that all the information, including route maps, is free.
At over 2,300 miles, the National Cycle Network in Scotland is vast. The collection of long distance routes take in some of Scotland’s finest scenery and is the perfect option for multi-day tourers and day trippers alike. One great option is the Caledonia Way (Route 78), which takes in stunning parts of Argyll and Lochaber, before heading along Loch Ness and ending in Inverness.
If you’re looking for a multi-day walking trip, then Scotland’s Great Trails won’t disappoint. There are 29 trails (one of which is actually a long distance canoe trip along the Great Glen), with the shortest being around 25 miles and the longest 212 miles! These trails will take you through some of Scotland’s finest landscapes and most have visitor accommodation, attractions and facilities along the way. It’s even possible to book baggage transfers, so your luggage is ready for you when you arrive at your daily destination.
On the water
Let’s be clear here, Scotland is a green and pleasant land for good reason. Rain-fed rivers, lochs and over 10,000 km of shoreline provide plenty of options to enjoy Scotland from a less familiar perspective. The activity options are vast. Whether it’s from the bouncy hull of a white-water raft, the cockpit of a kayak, the deck of a stand up paddleboard or even in the water itself whilst fishing in waders, diving or wild swimming, the landscape takes on a whole new dimension.
Scotland offers world-class fishing on some of Europe’s finest rivers. Popular options include the Dee, Don and Deveron rivers in Aberdeenshire, the River Tay (Scotland’s longest river) running between Highland Perthshire and Dundee, and the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders.
Although river levels tend to drop during the summer months, there’s still plenty of exciting rafting options available. Head for the River Garry in Lochaber or the River Tummel in Highland Perthshire where you can enjoy high-grade rafting between April and October, courtesy of scheduled dam releases. The rivers Orchy and Moriston in the Highlands are amongst the most exciting after prolonged rainfall.
Kayakers and canoeists will find paddle paradise in Scotland, and for first-timers, they’re very easy activities to pick up. There are dozens of great places to try sea kayaking along the coastline, including Arisaig in the West Highlands and the Isle of Arran. Inland, you can hire a canoe or kayak and get lessons at Loch Morlich, near Aviemore, or have a go at paddle sports on Scotland’s canal network.
It’s a little known fact but Scotland has some of the finest surfing reef breaks and swells in Europe. The shores of the Outer Hebrides and Scotland’s north coast are buffeted by wild North Atlantic weather, providing great waves for surfers.
If it’s urban watersports you’re after, look no further than Glasgow’s Pinkston Watersports Centre. It’s Scotland’s only artificial white-water centre and also includes Glasgow Wake Park. As well as wakeboarding, there’s also kayaking and canoeing, open-water swimming, rafting and river boarding and river bugging. Alternatively, head for Townhill Loch near Dunfermline, where you’ll find Waterski and Wakeboard Scotland.
For those looking for something more sedate on the water, how about stand up paddleboarding in Dumfries & Galloway? This is the UK’s fastest growing watersport and the calm waters of Loch Ken are an ideal place to learn.
For hardy and experienced swimmers, why not take on the challenge of wild swimming in a Scottish loch or river? Some great options include organised events at Loch Lomond or Loch Ness in the Highlands (watch out for any monsters lurking in this deep and iconic waterway!).
In the air
Scotland looks utterly breathtaking from the sky. To experience it for yourself, book a hot air balloon ride with the likes of Alba Ballooning, based near Edinburgh, or get a bird’s eye view of Perthshire with Virgin Balloon Flights.
Perthshire also offers opportunities for anyone who wants to try a graceful aerial activity – gliding. Visit the Scottish Gliding Centre at Portmoak, which is located not far from Kinross. Soar over Loch Leven in a glider and admire the lush countryside below.
Looking for the ultimate thrill? Unleash your inner adrenaline junkie and freefall 132 ft through the air from a bespoke jump platform beneath Garry Bridge in Highland Perthshire on a bungee jump with Highland Fling, or tumble 164 ft from the Titan Crane at Clydebank, near Glasgow.
Keen for an adventure? Want to know what other activities you can try? Find out more about amazing things to do in Scotland.