Although the Scottish weather leaves much to be desired as regards warmth and endless sunshine, the country is still a year-round destination for its many outdoor activities. It’s perfect walking, trekking, and hiking country, with fine views around every corner and, in winter, Aviemore in the Cairngorm Mountains is alive with skiers, snowboarders and winter sports fans. Whales, dolphins, and seals visit the shores regularly, with boat trips enabling up-close and personal encounters, and cliff climbing and mountaineering are popular.
Exploring the Highland Glens close to Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest peak, is to see the real Scotland in all its glory. Once the heartland of the traditional clans, the steep valleys with their rushing rivers, streams, crofts, and birds of prey overhead will stay in your memory. Sea and salmon fishing are favorites here, and a trip to one of the Scottish Isles by air or ferry is a must for the bird life and a glimpse of the small communities living on these remote, Atlantic rocks.
Wilderness walking, trekking, and hiking are found in all the regions, with long-distance trails covering the best of several regions and offered by specialist organizer Wilderness Scotland. Most trails are easy or moderate and run through areas which are famous for their beauty. Horseback riding, pony-trekking, and trail riding are other ways to experience glories such the Great Glen geological fault line which bisects the country. Highlands Unbridled offers a wide choice of routes suited to all levels of riders.
Skiing in Scotland used to be a well-kept secret, but is gaining in popularity as the cost of getting to overseas resorts soars. The most popular resort is Cairngorms, with 22 miles (35 kms) of slopes, 11 lifts, and everything from nursery to challenging pistes. Aviemore is its hub, and equipment can easily be rented. Nevis Range is closer to the coast and gives spectacularly dramatic views, 22 miles (35kms) of pistes, 11 lifts and is just over two hours’ drive from Glasgow. Ski Norwest gives a choice of resorts and extras.
Sport fishing in Scotland is world-class, and includes salmon, trout, and sea fishing in some of the loveliest locations anywhere. Fishing UK Scotland offers guided salmon fishing trips to the best salmon and trout rovers in the country, as well as instruction in the finer points of the craft.
Golf, one of the world’s most popular sports, was born here at Gleneagles, with the country’s courses including those at St Andrew’s the holy grail of golf professionals and amateurs alike. There are over 500 courses in Scotland and Golf Around Scotland can set you up with the rounds of a lifetime.
If you love being on the water rather than being in it, Scotland is a great place for a boating vacation, with a choice of coastal waters, lakes, and the Caledonian Canal. The coastal sailing waters are spectacular, whether you rent a yacht with a skipper or a motor cruiser, and Celtic Sail and Explore offers a unique, elegant yacht with all services. For exploring the inland waterways and Loch Ness, Caley Cruisers offers self-charter, fully-equipped motor cruisers which are perfect for a watery getaway from the crowds.
Sightseeing by helicopter is a great way to get an overview of the beauties of Scotland if you’re short of time but not short of money, with PDG Helicopters offering various options, including scenic flights over Loch Ness, Fort George, the Black Isle, and the Culloden battlefield area. Loch Lomond Seaplanes offers breathtaking luxury seaplane flights from Glasgow to the romantic loch and on over the dramatically beautiful west coast ― surely the experience of a lifetime.
For an unbeatable adrenaline rush, Canyoning Scotland has three canyoning sites where you can get up close and personal with spectacular gorges and rushing rivers. The same company offers whitewater rafting on the River Tay, with its challenging rapids, in addition to off-road jeep driving, mountain biking, and quad-biking over hillside trails.