Outdoor Activities in Scotland: to add to your Scottish Bucket List

Piwee

22 May 2020

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Looking for an amazing adventure in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt countries in the world? Scotland will be your paradise! When it comes to outdoor adventure, Scotland really sets the standard!

 

It’s home to breath-taking mountains, islands and lakes, making it the perfect destination for nature lovers!

Scotland is also a land of traditions and legends and when you mix the two together, that’s when the magic happens. You may know it for its music, food or relationship with Harry Potter but it’s also the perfect place for people who want to experience awesome outdoor activities in Scotland.

 

In this round-up post, travel bloggers share amazing activities that need to be added to your outdoor Scotland bucket list right now!

 

Are you ready? Let’s get cracking!

 

 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost for you!

 

 

Climbing Ben Nevis

 

Ben nevis scotland outdoors

 

Recommended by Daniela from Grumpy Camel

 

If you enjoy climbing mountains, you must take a trip to Ben Nevis when visiting Scotland. Located in the Scottish Highlands, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain at 1, 345 metres above sea level. While that may not seem like a big number for experienced hikers and mountain climbers, climbing Ben Nevis can still be a bit challenging (I nearly got lost on the mountain!).

 

The climb can be completed in a day – it takes about 4 hours to reach the summit, and another 2 hours to climb down. The path zigzags across the mountain, parts of it being rather steep and rocky. The hike offers staggering views over the Scottish Highlands, and if you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to enjoy the views from the summit. While you may start the hike in good weather, you might come across a completely different climate on the summit.

 

Ben Nevis is a 4-hour drive from Edinburgh and a 3-hour drive from Glasgow. You can also get the train or bus to Fort William, a small picturesque town close to Ben Nevis. From Fort William, you can either walk to Ben Nevis (45-minute walk) or get a taxi (5-minute drive). There is a large campsite at the foot of Ben Nevis, where you can set up a tent or rent a cosy camping pod or holiday caravan.

 

My favourite thing about climbing Ben Nevis (besides the views) was the fresh water. While I found the hike a bit exhausting at times, I was able to replenish my energy with fresh water from the mountain streams.

 

WHERE TO STAY: The nearest town is Fort William. You can check out all hotels and B&Bs here.

 

Isle of Skye

 

isle of skye in scotland

 

Recommended by Elisa from World in Paris

 

The Isle of Skye is one of the most iconic places in Scotland and a must of any Scotland outdoor bucket list. The isle has spectacular rugged landscapes and also beautiful hikes whilst Portree, its largest town and capital is a great place to drink a couple of pints in the local pubs at the end of the day.

 

The best way to get to Skye is by car. The isle is linked to the mainland by the Sky Bridge so if you have your own car the access to the island is very straightforward. There are also a couple of ferry companies sailing from Armadale on the island to Mallaig, and from Kylerhea to Glenelg.

 

Once you reach Skye we recommend setting your base camp in Portree, a picturesque fishing village with good accommodation options, shops, and pubs. From Portree, you can travel around the island by car and there are many beautiful day trips from this town.

 

Nature passionate will love the Rock pinnacles of The Storr, the lochs, and waterfalls. Skye is also a good place to hike, with beautiful walks through the mountains, spectacular geological formations, or coastal walks.

 

Finally, don’t miss some of the island’s beautiful castles. The Dunvegan Castle and the Dunscaith Castle have spectacular settings and it’s a great way to enjoy architecture with nature.

 

WHERE TO STAY: You will find a lot of cottages, campsites and B&Bs on the Isle of Skye. You can check the full list and latest prices here. It’s also a great place to go glamping!

 

Glencoe

 

glencoe outdoor activity in scotland

 

Recommended by Christa from Expedition Wildlife

 

Visiting Glencoe and its surrounding hills is perfect for those who love to spend time outdoors and explore nature. Located a couple of hours’ drive north of Glasgow, Glencoe sits among a myriad of rocky peaks, colourful moors, and numerous waterfalls.

 

The region is one of the more popular day trip tour destinations from Glasgow and Edinburgh, as it’s a must-do for anyone visiting Scotland. Despite this, the region never feels overrun, especially in wintertime, when visitors have the place to themselves. Getting to Glencoe by car is preferred to really enjoy and experience what the area has to offer.

 

Scotland has right to roam laws, meaning one can pull the car off in a safe place and hike any number of trails. Many varieties of beautiful hikes can be taken, including those around the Three Sisters, along the River Etive, or the famously challenging Aonach Eagach Ridge. Keep a lookout for wildlife, including grouse and deer, as many animals call Glencoe home.

 

The West Highland Way, a 96-mile long-distance trek through Scotland’s Highlands, also traverses through the Glencoe valley and National Scenic Area. Enjoy some live Scottish music and a local whisky at the lively Clachaig Inn at the end of the day. The mist floating down from the hills, the babbling brooks, everything is almost as if out of a storybook in this stunning and serene destination. Don’t miss a visit to Glencoe on your Scotland adventure!

 

WHERE TO STAY: You can find the complete list of hotels and B&Bs in Glencoe here.

 

Climb Suilven – Scotland’s strangest mountain

 

mount suilven scotland

 

Recommended by Kate from Love from Scotland

 

Imagine a moon-like rocky landscape, pepper potted with hundreds of lochs, single-track roads and turquoise seas, punctured by the most incredible rock formations – Assynt in North West Scotland is literally jaw-dropping.

 

The most famous of the mountains is Suilven (pronounced Sool-ven) a 731 metre high, 2km ridge. Recently made famous by the Hollywood movie Edie, climbing Suilven is an incredible outdoor challenge to tackle on your visit to Scotland.

 

Suilven is on the North Coast 500. It’s easily accessible from Lochinver, the closest village.

 

Whilst Suilven might be considered a ‘wee hill’ – Ben Nevis is twice its height – this is a tough challenge. The walk-in from the car park is 6 miles even before you start to climb the hill – and the walk back will feel like a marathon. Be prepared for a long day – I’d aim for a full 10 hours of daylight for your walk.

 

However, the views from the top are quite simply, incredible. Suilven is made of two summits – the spire of Meall Meadhonach (its name ‘middle-round hill’ in English is, however, a little underwhelming) and the summit on the ‘grey castle’ or Caisteal Liath – and the views look across to the famous Stac Pollaidh and on a clear day all the way to the Outer Hebrides.

 

WHERE TO STAY: If you want to stay near Suilven, you can find here the list of hotels and cottages in Lochinver.

 

Cairngorm Mountains

 

cairgorms mountains scotland

 

Recommended by Suzanne from Meandering Wild

 

The Cairngorm mountains are located between Inverness in the north and Perth in the south and are one of the National Parks in Scotland.

 

The Cairngorm Mountains can be reached easily from the main A9 that runs between Inverness and Edinburgh with the small town of Aviemore being the starting point for hiking and exploring the mountains. Aviemore has a mainline train station making it easy to reach the area by public transport and from there local buses run on a regular basis.

 

In the summer months there is hiking along well marked trails from Aviemore itself or from the Base Station of Cairngorm Mountains just a short drive from the town. Rothiemurchus offers mountain biking and pony trekking as well as water sports and also has an osprey centre where you can view these amazing birds.

 

squirrel in the cairgorms mountains scotland

 

For those who are less energetic or with younger children the Landmark Adventure Centre near Carrbridge is a perfect day out and also allows you to see red squirrels up close.

 

In the winter months the area is transformed into a thriving ski resort and this is when I love to visit. The winter conditions make walking and wildlife watching a perfect combination. The Base Station on Cairngorm mountain is an ideal base and from here it is possible to find mountain hares, ptarmigan and red grouse whilst following the well marked trails. The weather can be wild and extreme but careful planning makes it an excellent place for walking in the winter months.

 

WHERE TO STAY: If you want to know more about hotels, cottages and B&Bs in the Cairngorms, click here.

 

Trossachs National Park

 

trossachs national park scotland

 

Recommended by Stephen Schreck from A Backpackers Tale

 

One of my favourite places in Scotland are the Trossachs, which lie an hour and a half north-west of Edinburgh by car or bus.

 

The Trossachs National Park, is a verdant region of the county that never fails to take my breath away. The park contains two large and lush forests, 21 mountains, and 22 lochs (lakes). The best way to experience the park is camping. However, if you rather have the comfort of a warm bed, don’t worry, the Trossachs are located close to scenic Loch Lomond, which can also act as a base for your adventures in the park.

 

As far as things to do, where do I start? There are popular hikes that take you through the Scottish countryside. The most popular long hike is to The Three Lochs Way, and the West Highlands. Hiking the West Highland Way takes you on a journey along an iconic trail that takes you past Loch Lomond.

 

The Trossachs National Park is full of more adventure other than hiking. There are boat tours, rock climbing, kayaking, cycling, camping, and angling. There is enough here that you spend a few days enjoy the incredible outdoors of Scotland.

 

The Trossachs are a worthy addition to any Scotland Itinerary.

 

WHERE TO STAY: If you want to book a hotel or B&Bs in the Trossachs, you can check the full list here.

 

Loch Lomond

 

loch lomond cruise scotland

 

Scotland is very famous for its lakes, also known as lochs. Of course, most people know of Loch Ness because of Nessie but it’s not the only lake in Scotland that is worth a visit!

 

Loch Lomond is located in the Trossachs National Park. It’s the largest loch in Scotland and the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain.

 

When it comes to outdoor activities in Scotland, Loch Lomond becomes a very popular spot. You will find many hiking trails but also a lot of water activities.

 

loch lomond outdoor activities

 

If you feel sporty, you can go kayaking or paddling. If not, you can jump on a cruise! Cruises last a couple of hours and are the perfect opportunity to see the true beauty of the loch! If you are travelling with a dog, you will be happy to know that they are welcome on the cruise!

 

loch lomond dog friendly activities

 

WHERE TO STAY: There a lot of cute cottages and B&Bs near Loch Lomond. Click here to check the latest prices and availability. 

 

Sea Kayaking in Oban

 

scotland sea kayaking oban

 

Recommended by Kathi from Watch Me See

 

The Scottish west coast is the stuff adventure dreams are made of. Pristine beaches, remote bays, hundreds and hundreds of miles of stunning coastline brimming with wildlife. There is no better way to explore this coast than in a sea kayak!

 

There numerous scenic spots for kayak tours all along the west coast, but my personal favourite is the area around Oban, the so-called Gateway to the Isles. From here it is just a quick ferry ride to many of Scotland’s most beautiful islands – and kayaks can be transported for free! Oban also sits on the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, a route that runs over 300 miles up the coast from the Isle of Gigha to Ullapool and the Summer Isles. You can imagine, that the options for sea kayaking tours in Oban are endless!

 

If you want to improve your paddling skills, I highly recommend taking a sea kayaking course in Oban. This includes sessions on paddling technique, route planning and safety routines, but also daily outings along the stunning coast. When I did the course, we started from the harbour in Oban, paddled out to the Isle of Lismor and, explored the cliffs of the Isle of Seil and Easdale a bit further south. I learnt so much in just two days – I still benefit from the course every time I get into a sea kayak now!

 

Oban is very easy to get to, just a 2.5-hour drive from Glasgow or an incredibly scenic train journey through the Highlands.

 

WHERE TO STAY: If you wish to stay in Oban for a few days, you can find the full list of hotels and cottages here.

 

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

 

Orkney Islands scotland outdoors

 

Recommended by Sonja from Scotland for families

 

Walking around the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney is an amazing experience. Measuring 104 metres across, this stone circle is the northernmost in Britain and older even than Stonehenge. It’s situated in the Heart of Neolithic, a Unesco World Heritage site that also includes the nearby Standing Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe tomb, and the neolithic village of Skara Brae.

 

Historic Scotland regularly organises guided walks around the Ring of Brodgar throughout the summer, but the attraction is totally free and you can easily walk around it on your own. Be aware it can get muddy at times!

 

You can reach Orkney by ferry from the Scottish mainland or the Shetland Islands, or by plane. The main centre is Kirkwall, situated 20 minutes drive away from the Ring of Brodgar. I’d highly recommend visiting all the attractions mentioned above as well as the ongoing excavation of an archaeological site at the Ness of Brodgar.

 

All of these are easiest to reach by car you can take a bus and walk between them but it is mainly road and the side of the road rather than a walking path.

 

Walking around such a historic area is really amazing, especially since no one really knows why all of this is here!

 

WHERE TO STAY: You can find the full list of hotels and B&Bs on Orkney here.

 

 

John o’Groats

 

john o groats scotland outdoors

 

Recommended by Kathryn from Wandering Bird

 

If you’re planning a Scotland road trip, one of the things on everyone’s bucket list is visiting John o’Groats.

 

This famous landmark is actually NOT the northernmost point in the British Isles. That honour lies with Dunnet Head, just a few miles down the road.

 

Still, everyone needs a photo of themselves with the famous signpost- just to prove they’ve been there! It’s free to approach the sign and take photos- if you’re on motorbikes you can even ride up right next to it as we did.

 

The town itself is quite touristy and there’s not a lot to do, so I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time there. Instead, there are a couple of beautiful walks nearby. Dunnet Head is a definite- so that you can actually say you’ve been to the northernmost point!- but my personal favourite is the walk to Duncansby Stacks, about 5 miles away from John o’Groats. You can walk around the cliff edge if you wish, or drive from John o’Groats to Duncansby lighthouse, where there is parking.

 

From here, it’s a short walk around the cliffs until you can see the stacks. (PLEASE be careful with young children- there are NO barriers on the cliff edge and it’s a sudden drop)

 

This is a spectacular place to watch the sunrise if you fancy an early morning stroll. (It’s also a great place to enjoy fish and chips from the chippy down the road!)

 

WHERE TO STAY: You can check out the full list of hotels in John O’Groats here.

 

North Berwick Walk to Tantallon Castle

 

north berwick castle scotland

 

Recommended by Chelsea from The Portable Wife

 

Located 30 minutes outside of Edinburgh by train, North Berwick is a cosy seaside town on the Firth of Forth. With numerous beaches, golf courses, and the Scottish Seabird Centre, the town is a popular summer holiday spot for local Scots.

 

However, one of the best things to do in North Berwick is to walk the stunning coastline from the town to Tantallon Castle. Thanks to Scotland’s “right to roam” law, it’s perfectly legal (and common) to cut through the oceanfront Glen Golf Course on your way to see the crumbling castle that overlooks the bay. Just be sure to mind the golfers, as they have the right-of-way.

 

While the pedestrian path through the course is partially marked, here are some helpful pointers to navigate your way through the green:

  • Start the walk at Milsey Bay Beach, which offers pretty views of North Berwick’s downtown area
    Continue walking east up Tantallon Terrace road until you reach the car park, where you’ll pass through the swinging gate into the golf course
  • Follow the mowed grassy path until you reach the storage shed
  • From here, take the golf cart path all the way until you reach the fence line
  • Continue skirting the fairway and making your way along the various grassy paths (they aren’t always obvious depending on how recently the grass has been mowed)
  • Keep following along the fenceline, where you’ll eventually get a view of Tantallon Castle in the distance
  • Follow along the fence until you reach Hole 8, where you’ll spot the treeline next to the A198 road. Hop over the low stone fence to reach the sidewalk.
  • A198 leads directly to the castle parking lot. However, you should make a quick stop at DRIFT along the way for a refreshing drink. The family who owns the surrounding land converted two shipping containers into this stunning cliff-side cafe with sea views.

Cap off the walk at Tantallon, a 14th century castle with a long history of destructive sieges. The castle was eventually abandoned in the 1600s, but several towers and walls remain intact. You can walk along the reinforced ruins for incredible views over the bay and surrounding countryside.

 

WHERE TO STAY: You can check the latest prices for hotels in North Berwick here.

 

Midlothian Snowsports Centre, Hillend

 

Hillend Ski Centre Near Edinburgh Outdoor activities in scotland

 

Recommended by Gemma from Everything Edinburgh

 

Midlothian Snowsports Centre in Hillend is located on Biggar Road (EH10 7DU).

 

The easiest way to get there is by car. Drive along the Edinburgh City Bypass and exit at the Lothianburn junction. Join the A702, driving towards Biggar. Turn right after The Steading restaurant. There is a car park at the front of the building. While the car park isn’t huge, we’ve never had any issues finding a space during the weekend.

 

Public buses (Lothian) leave from two locations in the city centre. The most central is Waverley Station (bus 15) and the other option is from Dalry Road by Haymarket Station (bus 4).

 

The main reason for visiting Hillend at the Pentland Hills Regional Park is to take advantages of the two dry slopes or to take ski or boarding lessons.

While Scotland gets cold, its snow season is pitiful so the dry slopes are a decent and cheapish alternative to help keep the skill going in between snow holidays.

 

You can arrive with your gear or hire boots, poles and helmets at the centre. There are lockers for your belongings. Midlothian Snowsports Centre is Britain’s biggest artificial slope.

There are two main slopes and one nursery. The main sloper is 400 m long and the second slope has an exhilarating loop for confident skiers and boarders. The slopes are connected by two lifts.

 

You can even use the centre in the evening. One of the best things to do near Edinburgh at night for sports fans.

Travelling with wee ones? The tubing area is popular with kids and group parties. Warm up with a plate of soup or hot chocolate at Café 360 after your session.

 

WHERE TO STAY: If you want to stay nearby, you will find a few Airbnbs. However, it’s probably better to book your accommodation in Edinburgh and make your way to the centre for a day trip.

Islay, Inner Hebrides

 

islay scotland outdoor activities

 

Recommended by Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

Islay is the most southern island of the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland, but despite its far-flung location it is surprisingly easy to reach thanks to a global fascination for their famous peat smoked Scotch whiskys. So there are relatively simple and regular ferry crossings to Islay leaving the mainland at Kennacraig and arriving at two different ports at either Port Ellen in the south of the island and Port Askaig more north on Islay.

 

For those travelling as foot passengers, Port Ellen would be the better option to explore where it marks the start of Islay’s ‘3 Distilleries Walk’ following the near beach before the coastline where it connects to 3 of Islay and Scotland’s most famous peat-smoked whisky (Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg). The walk is 3-miles long meaning it can easily be completed on a day trip with optional stops for drinks and distillery tours.

 

Otherwise, hotels are found at each port as well as the main settlements of the island and the roads and paths are pretty much empty to explore. Admittedly the landscapes are not overly exciting inland, being flat, and it’s peat bog after peat bog. But the coastlines are really quite scenic with rugged seascapes and many more whisky distilleries to explore.

 

WHERE TO STAY: You can check the full list of hotels and B&Bs on Islay here.

 

Wandering around St Andrews

 

st andrews dog friendly activity

 

Located only 1 hour and a half from Edinburgh, St Andrews is the perfect destination for those who love both history and outdoor activities! This coastal town has loads to offer!

 

It became particularly famous a few years ago as it is the place where Prince William met Kate Middleton! It is a student town but believe me, it has so much more to offer!

 

Most of all, it’s a great place to travel with a dog! You can walk around the town and grab a coffee or lunch in one of the beautiful and authentic pubs.

 

Once you are full, head towards the coastal walk. You can visit St Andrews Castle and keep going down to the beach. I particularly recommend West Sand Beach! You can walk along it, your dog can run… perfect for some fresh air!

 

WHERE TO STAY: There are various hotels, B&Bs and holiday homes in St Andrews. You can see the latest prices here.

 

st andrews castle scotland

 

 

You may also be interested in:

 

Things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland

Facts about Edinburgh

Harry Potter in Edinburgh

Harry Potter places in the world

 

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