29 Scottish outdoor adventures you need to have immediately
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From shipwreck diving to kayaking around one of the world’s most iconic castles, discover the best outdoor adventures in Scotland.
When it comes to outdoor adventures in Scotland, you’re really spoilt for choice. With some of the world’s most iconic and dramatic landscapes it’s no wonder the country continues to top ‘world’s best’ polls.
The Scots don’t do things by halves, either. Only in Scotland could you find a three-mile, three whisky distillery hike. And if you fancy going scuba diving, don't expect an ordinary affair: throw in a few shipwrecks and that’s how you do scuba diving in Scotland.
Whether you’re in the mood for a dive, hike, surf, cycle or a ride onboard a world-famous steam train, here are the most epic outdoor experiences Scotland has to offer.
1) Scoff Anstruther Fish & Chips after a day of windsurfing
2) Head onboard the Jacobite Steam Train bound for a bike trail
Take a trip onboard the iconic Jacobite Steam Train (or Hogwart’s Express to Harry Potter fans) and enjoy one of the greatest railway journeys in the world.
Then, hop off at Mallaig and grab a bike from Mallaig E-Bike Hire before tackling the trail that takes you all the way to the stunning Silver Sands of Morar. Who needs a Caribbean beach?
3) Stand in awe at the geological wonder of Fingal’s Cave, Isle of Staffa
Ever wondered what your echo sounds like in a 72ft tall, 270ft deep sea cave? Let out your best yell while admiring Fingal’s Cave’s jaw-dropping hexagonal rock columns, formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. In the summer you can enjoy a puffin-spotting picnic at the top of the island. Staffa Tours offer trips to the cave from Oban.
4) Take a roadtrip on the NC500 in a campervan
Scotland’s version of Route 66 takes you through 500 miles of rugged landscapes, historical ruins, distilleries, lochs and deserted beaches. Rent a classic VW Campervan and have the flexibility of stopping off and staying where you want along the route.
Top tip: Sango Sands offers a stunning clifftop location with sweeping sea views – you may even spot whales, seals and dolphins!
5) Kayak through the shores of Loch Lomond
Launch your kayak from Milarrochy Bay on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and paddle through the largest body of freshwater in Britain, with astounding views of Ben Lomond dominating the skyline. Stop off at one of the many islands dotted along the loch to enjoy a scenic picnic lunch.
If you don’t have your own gear you can rent from many of the operators located along the loch.
6) Stay in a haunted room at the famous Drovers Inn
Located along the West Highland Way, The Drovers Inn is the perfect stop for weary hikers looking to settle down for the night – whether you sleep or not is another matter. The Haunted Room (Room 6) is said to be haunted by a young girl who drowned in the nearby River Falloch, with guests reportedly being woken during the night by the feeling of a small icy body next to them. Scary stuff.
7) See one of the world’s most iconic castles from a kayak
Eilean Donan is one of the world’s most recognised and photographed castles. See it from a unique viewpoint on a sea kayaking taster trip with Sea to Sky Experience. Explore the waters around the castle and enjoy a view of it that not many people get to see.
8) Go on a walk with a difference on the Three Distilleries Pathway, Isle of Islay
What better way to explore the beautiful island of Islay – also regarded as ‘whisky island’ – than a three-mile, three distillery hike. Set off from Port Ellen and enjoy the scenic views along the pathway, stopping in at the distilleries of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg for a dram (or two).
Islay whiskies are peaty and smoky and will have you warmed up in no time if it’s blowing a hoolie outside (as the locals say).
9) Test your nerves on the Elie Chain Walk
The East Neuk area in Fife is a wonderful part of Scotland to explore. But why not add a little danger to your adventures here? The Elie Chain walk is an adrenaline packed scramble, crawl and climb along chains built into the local cliffs. Nerves of steel are a must!
10) Take white water rafting to the next level at the River Tummel
Perthshire-based Splash’s River Tummel White Water Rafting experience is a hair-raising adventure through deep pools, down technical rapids like the ‘Zig Zag’ and ‘Shark’s Tooth’ (hopefully it doesn’t bite!) and ends in a two-tier, 18ft drop into the mystical Loch Faskally.
11) Experience shipwreck diving on Orkney
Head on a guided dive with Scapa Scuba and enjoy a one-of-a-kind wreck diving experience at Scapa Flow. Explore a graveyard of sunken battleships, warships and smaller blockships dotted along the coastline. Keep your eye out for the starfish and urchins that cover the wrecks.
12) Try wild swimming at the Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
You don’t get a better wild swimming experience than taking a dip in the crystal clear waters of the magical Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye. The pools may be magical but they can’t seem to magic up some heat so prepare to submerge yourself in freezing cold water – all part of the Scottish experience, of course.
Head to The Oyster Shed for a post-swim seafood feast.
13) Challenge yourself with the Loch Ness Marathon
Not many marathons follow a route along one of the world’s most famous lochs. Pass by jaw-dropping Highland scenery and beautiful loch views on this epic marathon which takes place on October 6, 2019.
Treat yourself to a post-run comforting mac and cheese at The Dores Inn.
Book your marathon place here.
14) Cycle one of the greatest climbs in Britain
Those who like an endurance challenge and have quads of steel should bike up the 2056ft high Bealach na Bà road, a single-track road full of hairpin bends leading you through the mountains of the Applecross Peninsula. Boasting the greatest ascent of any road in the UK, this is one for every cyclist’s bucket list.
15) Tackle the UK’s highest off-road driving course in a 4x4, before checking out the magic of The Enchanted Forest
Tackle the UK’s highest off-road course and get behind the wheel for a drive through forest tracks, mountain burns and slippery slopes on an exhilarating 4x4 adventure with Highland Safaris. You’ll be treated to impressive views and opportunities to see the local wildlife.
Recover with a magical walk around The Enchanted Forest – a stunning sound and light show, live from October 3 to November 3, 2019.
16) Spend a night wild camping at the Lost Valley in Glencoe
The Lost Valley is a hidden and stunning valley surrounded by the Three Sisters of Glencoe. Getting here is no easy feat. The journey includes scrambling rocks, steep paths and even crossing a small river – quite how the infamous Macdonald clan got their stolen cattle here is anyone’s guess.
Set up camp and watch the sun setting over the magical valley.
17) Try land yachting on one of Scotland’s most iconic beaches… followed by a drink at The Jigger Inn
Race across the sandy shores of West Sands in St Andrew’s in an exhilarating land yachting experience with Blown Away – a beach-style sailing adventure. You’ll be hooked as you blast through the sands at top speed.
Afterwards, grab a beverage at The Jigger Inn and enjoy watching the golfers in action at The Old Course.
18) Surf with the wildlife on the island of Tiree
Tiree picks up the swell from the North Atlantic, so surfers can take on some serious waves. Pick up kit from Blackhouse Watersports and ride the waves hitting the shores of the island’s pristine, white sandy beaches. You may even get the chance to surf alongside a few of the local island residents – seals, birds and even basking sharks in the summer.
19) Test your limits on the Lochaber Traverse – the ultimate ridge walk challenge
Conquer the ultimate ridge walking challenge with a hike through the Lochaber Traverse. If you’re brave enough to give it a go, you’ll be treated to outstanding panoramic views from the roof of the West Highlands. Set off from the Grey Corries and your hike will culminate in an epic finale at Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis.
20) Hike up the majestic Cobbler and finish with the best pub grub ever
The Cobbler isn’t the most strenuous of climbs, however, what it lacks in height it duly makes up for in summit views. Dare if you will to tackle the final clamber to the top by crawling through a hole in the rocky pinnacle.
After your descent, drive along to The George Hotel and indulge in some pub grub – stopping off at the scenic Rest and be Thankful viewpoint enroute.
21) Visit the world’s third largest whirlpool
Did you know the world’s third-largest whirlpool is located in Scotland? Head out in an open RIB tour to Corryvreckan Whirlpool with Seafari Adventures, where you can get a close-up view of mother nature at its finest. Keep an eye out for otters, porpoises and dolphins on the way.
22) Hike to one of Scotland’s most remote – and haunted – bothies
Hike along the path from Bridge of Ericht at Loch Rannoch to Ben Alder Cottage which sits in the shadows of Ben Alder mountain on the shores of Loch Ericht. If it’s a good night's sleep you’re after, good luck, as the bothy is said to be haunted by the ghost of a gamekeeper that hung himself in the cottage…
23) Tackle the rope bridge at Steall Falls
Steall Falls is a two-mile trek through the gorge in Glen Nevis with the roaring River Nevis below you. The gorge opens up into the beautiful glen of Steall Meadows where you’ll be met with the spectacular 120m Steall Falls.
For those who dare, there’s a wire-rope bridge over the river that takes you up close to the waterfall.
24) Surf and stargaze on Scotland’s official dark sky island
Take your surfboard and head to the beautiful small Hebridean Isle of Coll and surf the waves in the crystal clear water.
When darkness falls, spend your evening gazing up at the Milky Way – Coll is the first official Dark Sky island in Scotland. If you’re lucky, you might even catch the Northern Lights!
25) Dive into the spectacular sea caves of St Kilda
Take a trip to the experience of a lifetime with a diving adventure around the majestic sea caves at the remote St Kilda islands. Explore the clear waters, submerged caves, tunnels and arches. The island is also home to the largest colony of Atlantic puffins in Britain.
Check out Gaelic Rose for diving charters to the island.
26) Try Back Corries Shredding
Thrillseekers can enjoy the ultimate snowboarding experience on the Back Corries at Nevis Range. From the Summit Corrie to the Coire an Lochan, you’ve got some prime spots to hit some tough back country runs.
The area is for expert snowboarders and skiers only. Find out more here.
27) Hike to the most remote pub in Britain
Chuck your hiking gear on and get set for an epic hike to the most remote pub in Britain. Whether you take the three-day route from Glenfinnan or the shorter 17-mile hike from Kinloch Hourn, you’ll see Scotland’s outdoors in all its glory, before arriving at The Old Forge for a well-deserved hearty meal. You can catch the ferry back from Inverie to Mallaig if you don’t fancy trekking the same route back.
28) Take the world’s shortest flight
Hop on the shortest flight in the world: Westray to Papa Westray. The time to fly between these remote Orkney islands is less than two minutes! If you’re not too exhausted after all that travelling, explore the oldest standing house in Northern Europe, the Knap of Howar, which is located on Papa Westray.
29) Head to the Moray Firth to watch the dolphins and whales in action
Search for bottlenose dolphins, seals, porpoises and even minke whales along the picturesque coast of the Moray Firth. Don’t miss out on the chance to see these beautiful creatures up close!
North 58º Sea Adventures run daily trips over the summer.