Thanks to its dramatic scenery with unspoiled wilderness, high mountains, rugged coastlines and idyllic waterways, Scotland is one of the best places to find an excellent choice of thrilling outdoor activities. If you are looking for scenic coastal walking, challenging mountain peaks or taking to the water by board, canoe or kayak, Scotland holds many possibilities for you to explore the beautiful countryside in an active, but relaxed way. This article will give you an overview of the best outdoor activities to be enjoyed in Scotland.
From coastal and sea trails to mountain and lochs routes to historic walking paths and cycle ways, Scotland is spoiled for choice when it comes to walking and hiking in great scenery. If you are looking for casual strolls to spend an afternoon around one of the National Parks, long-distance hiking along the Great National Trails like the West Highland Way or the Skye Trail, or simply want to experience the magical scenery around mysterious lochs and misty glens on a day out, Scotland has something to offer for everybody and great scenic hiking is possible almost everywhere.
Quite often, trails in Scotland are not well marked or sign posted and you are welcome to stroll freely across the hills. Hiking is the best way to get in touch with Scotland's amazing wildlife and you might encounter reindeer, red deer, squirrels and even eagles. July and August offer perfect conditions for hiking with fairly mild and dry conditions and long days.
Canoeing and kayaking
Scotland has many waterways and you have a choice between sea, lake, loch or river all across the country. Further, you will also be able to choose your preferred paddle - from sea kayaking, open canoeing, family kayaking or wild water challenges, there are many ways to explore the calm waters and the beautiful scenery of Scotland. Inverness, the river Tay, Argyll or the western Islands all make for great locations in Scotland to take to the waters in a gentle way.
With a breath-taking landscape made of hills, glens and forests, Scotland is a perfect place for mountain biking. You can choose from purpose-built fun trails, challenging wilderness routes with steep climbs and thrilling descents or introductory trails for families and beginners through forest parks and trail sites. You will find fantastic mountain biking trails at Glentress in southern Scotland, Glenlivet and the Nevis range or around Aviemore.
White water rafting
If you are looking for some challenging fun on some of Scotland's thrilling rivers, drops and ravines, white water rafting offers a fun wild adventure to tackle the wild waters and it can be enjoyed all year round. Cairngorms National Park, River Tay, River Garry outside Fort William or the Western Highlands are all great spots to get wet and wild.
Gorge walking, canyoning and coasteering
Walk along clear-water river beds, scramble up slippery rocks, abseil from cliffs edges, plunge into the cool waters or slide down the natural fumes, there is hardly a more fun and thrill-seeking way to explore some of Scotland’s exciting wild waters while enjoying the stunning glens and dramatic coastlines. Gorge walking, canyoning and coasteering are all great adventures to enjoy with the whole family or a group of friends all year round. Aviemore, Oban, Fort William or Perthshire all make for wonderful natural playgrounds with rugged landscapes, coastlines and rushing rivers.
The extensive coastline with its golden sandy beaches, long coastlines and beautiful clear waters make Scotland a wonderful surfing destination. If you chose to test the waves in the Atlantic or the North Sea, along the mainland coast or from the Scottish islands, you are guaranteed to catch some great waves. The northerly tip of mainland Scotland, the Isle of Tiree, Islay or Kintyre peninsula are among some of the world-class spots for surfing. Autumn and early winter is the best time to encounter consistent waves and there are many surfing spots suited for all levels.
The five Scottish skiing resorts offer skiing and snowboarding opportunities for snow enthusiasts of all ages and levels. You will find a solid infrastructure with marked pistes and lifts, off piste opportunities and a choice of other winter sports, such as skimo, Nordic skiing, sledging or Telemark skiing. Cairngorms National Park, the Nevis Range, Glencoe or Glenshee all provide excellent and easily accessible skiing and snowboarding conditions to enjoy over the winter months.
There are more than 130 active whisky distilleries across Scotland and the number is constantly growing. Scotland can be divided into five main whisky regions - Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside and the unique local conditions of the regions natural ingredients like the quality of water or turf have a great impact on the flavor of each whisky. While Speyside whiskies are known to be sweet and fruity products, Islay whiskies have a smoky and peaty character and Lowlands whiskies come with malty, spicy and floral notes.
Many small distilleries in Scotland have kept their traditional character since the 18th century and are still using traditional techniques and secrets from the old days. Besides regular distillery tours and visits, you can also enjoy personalized whisky experiences like exclusive tutored tastings, special whisky themed dinners or even whisky cruises! Whatever way you prefer, is it advisable to check out a few experiences and whiskies to find your favorite as every Scottish whisky is different and unique.
Castles and Abbeys
Scottish castles are characterized by thick stone walls, small windows and dramatic scenery. Unlike palaces, castles were mostly constructed as fortifications with the main purpose to withhold attacks and to protect its residents. Scotland’s castles are scattered all over the country, many of them in ruins, but you will also find some well-preserved places.
Castles and abbeys alike are a window into Scotlands past. Some date back as far as the 13th century and stood through clan rivalries and invasions. More than 20 religious houses were founded during the reign of David in the 12th century, a quarter of which can be found in the Scottish Border region. Most of the abbeys now lay in ruins, but were once powerful institutions with impressive buildings.
If you are looking at observing birds at dawn, spot some rare eagles or race some nosy dolphins in the open sea - Scotland offers some amazing opportunities to get close to some of its amazing wildlife. Cairngorms and Loch Lomonds & The Trossachs National Parks are beautiful wild habitats for a wide range of animals, including deer, squirrels or wildcats. Along the coast, you can be lucky to encounter seals, puffins, dolphins and whales.