The foundation of any good trip is getting outside to play. The rest, even Michelin star meals, is icing on the cake. Scotland is one of the world’s great destinations for adventure. You won’t find the highest mountains or the thinnest air there, but you will find everything else: fishing, cycling, hiking, sea kayaking and more — all of it set against dramatic landscapes populated by friendly people with the legal Right to Roam. During part of our stay we linked up with Wilderness Scotland, an outdoor travel company with proper outdoor chops and good-natured guides. We tapped their expertise for these 10 great adventures in Scotland.
Hiking the Storr
Wilderness Scotland Says: This iconic summit on the Isle of Skye on the Trotternish ridge makes for an inspiring hike through one of Scotland’s most memorable landscapes. Starting at the Storr car park, you will ascend around 650 meters and cover 5 miles, passing the famous pinnacle of the Old Man of Storr.
Insider Tip: Enjoy views across to the east as you ascend, as the hills of Torridon loom above the isles of Raasay and Rona.
Hiking the Speyside Way
WS Says: This hiking route starts at the east coast in Elgin where the mighty River Spey meets the sea. You will be following its route inland as you venture into the Cairngorms National Park, where you will end up in the village of Aviemore. Each day is filled with rolling countrysides, forest glens and the potential to soak up some local culture as you pass various whisky distilleries. It is typically a 6-day adventure, covering 65 miles in total, staying in local B&Bs and cosy hotels.
Insider Tip: As you reach Aviemore it’s a great opportunity to visit Loch Garten, home to an RSPB osprey center, where the resident ospreys can be viewed between April and October.
Paddling the Great Glen
WS Says: Journey across Scotland by paddle power as you navigate through the iconic Loch Ness and adjoining canals on the Great Glen Way. Make the most of the scenery by camping on the shoreside each night. Canoes offer plenty of space for luxurious food and comfortable camping gear so you can travel in style.
Insider Tip: Plan this for your next anniversary.
Mountain Biking in Torridon
WS Says: Santa Cruz Bicycles chose to shoot their new bike launch video in the mighty Torridon, in the Northwest Highlands. This part of Scotland is filled with some absolutely epic terrain, and for the slightly more adventurous rider there are some fantastic trails to be found. The Beinn Damph circuit is a 14-mile route leaving from Torridon village, taking in some challenging terrain and sweeping descents.
Insider Tip: Head over to the nearby Shieldaig Bar and Coastal Kitchen for some cracking fresh seafood.
Sailing to St. Kilda
WS Says: The St. Kilda archipelago lies 110 miles west of the Scottish mainland. This mystical group of islands is the only place in the UK to be awarded dual World Heritage status. The dramatic landscapes are made up of sea stacks and rocky cliffs, which rise directly out of the sea. The islands have a varied human history of communities bracing the tough conditions to live there and also are home to some of the largest seabird colonies in the world. Traveling to St. Kilda is not easy! Day trips can be made from Harris in the Outer Hebrides. There is no accommodation beyond a small campsite for those wishing to stay on the islands.
Insider Tip: Consider a sea kayaking adventure to take in the islands from the water.
Ski Touring the Cairngorm Plateau
WS Says: Cairngorm Mountain is home to one of Scotland’s largest ski areas. However, for the slightly more adventurous, there is some fantastic skiing to be accessed outside of the ski area. This means ascending on foot with some skins on your skis to enjoy some well-deserved descents. The plateau itself is a vast area which offers connections to nearby peaks of Braeriach and Cairntoul, meaning lots of options for different levels of skier. There are even a couple of huts which can be used for overnight adventures.
Insider Tip: If you’re staying in Aviemore, check out the Old Bridge Inn for some warm and welcoming après-ski.
10 Under the Ben
WS Says: This endurance mountain bike event held every year on the Fort William World Cup circuit is a must for all aspiring mountain bikers. The 10-mile route must be circumnavigated as many times as possible throughout the 10-hour event. Most people enter as a team of two or four although there are larger teams and even solo entrants.
Insider Tip: Arrive early to secure a good place in the car park for your support team and snacks.
Canoeing and Camping the Wilds of Assynt
WS Says: This remote part of Northwest Scotland includes some of Scotland’s most dramatic views. The ancient rock that forms the hills here is some of the oldest on the planet. Mountains that rise steeply out of the land are interspersed with lochs and waterways, making the canoe an ideal mode of transport to explore this area. Spend your days paddling between camping spots and hiking up mountainsides as eagles soar overhead.
Insider Tip: Don’t forget your midge net and repellent as this area can be a haven for the wee blighters when the wind drops!
Scottish Islands Peaks Race
WS Says: This sailing and fell-running endurance event must cover the widest range of beautiful scenery in Scotland. Each boat must race from Oban to a variety of western isles, where their runners must summit the local mountain before racing on to the next drop-off. The event is nonstop and often involves some pretty interesting weather conditions. Don’t despair of you do not own a sailing yacht, as there are plenty of teams looking for runners or sailors to join them.
Insider Tip: Might be worth training your rowing arms as well as your running legs; when the wind drops many boats will get the oars out.
WS Says: One of Scotland’s most arduous events is this extreme triathlon. This event includes a 2.4-mile swim, 126-mile cycle and a 26.1-mile run across some very hilly terrain. You will be racing through Torridon in the Northwest Highlands, which make a fantastically dramatic backdrop to the event. The swim is the first event and is done across Loch Shieldaig, which has an average temperature of 15 degrees Celcius for June. Up next is the 126-mile bike section which includes a well over 2,000-meter ascent. The final run goes up and over two different munros in a mixture of on- and off-road terrain.
Insider Tip: Don’t underestimate the importance of your support crew!
There are times for winging it on the road and there are times for a good plan. Our take: if you’re heading somewhere new and want to make the most of the trip, get a guide. Ross, our Wilderness Scotland guide, was a serious outdoorsman with a wealth of local knowledge and an fantastic attitude — even in shit weather.