Scotland has plenty to offer the adventurous hiker, but if you’re after more than just a simple ramble you might want to consider booking yourself into an organised event. The Highlands offer miles of gorgeous, rugged countryside to hike through. During the milder months of the summer, these stunning areas of natural beauty fill up with thousands of hikers eager to soak up the crisp fresh air and push themselves to the limit.
If you fancy more than just a walk in the park this summer, take a look at these hard-as-nails challenges that promise to make your next trip to Scotland one to remember:
You’ll need to raise around £400 if you want to take part in the Ben Nevis Midnight Challenge. Run by the Alzheimer’s Society and starting at Fort William, the Challenge is classed as ‘Very Tough’ and certainly not for the faint-hearted. Included in the package is a big dinner for the Saturday night, as well as a slap-up breakfast in the morning, once you’ve made it back down from the 6-9 hour long hike. Don’t forget to bring your head torch and plenty of warm clothing!
Beginning at the quaint tourist town of Ullapool, there are three gradients of challenge to tackle. You’ll need to put together a team of 3-5 strong walkers in order to tackle any one of these scenic routes from the Highland Capital all the way to the West Coast of Scotland. You have 24 hours to complete the Gold Route, a 100km challenge that travels through farms, rivers and forests, choose to take on the Silver or Bronze routes and you’ll have much less time to complete the hike – entrance is £55 per walker.
You’ll need to leave the hallowed grounds of Scotland in order to complete one of the toughest hiking challenges in the UK. Taking walkers up and over the highest peaks in Great Britain, the Three Peaks is not a challenge that you should undertake lightly. Strong, resilient walkers who hit their stride up the peaks still have to contend with getting enough rest in the car journeys in between each mountain, not an easy task when you’re rumbling along in a rattly minibus! Still, this challenge gives you a great chance to visit North Wales, Scotland and England in one fell swoop – a chance not to be sniffed at.
A traditional marathon is a big enough challenge in itself, after all, 26.2 miles of road running is a serious undertaking and can often best even the fittest of participants. If you’re thinking about pushing yourself to run over that distance in an even more challenging environment, then you should consider having a go at the Hadrian’s Wall Trail Challenge. Taking you along the rugged trails that follow Hadrian’s Wall, this challenge gives you a chance to enjoy epic scenery whilst appreciating the rich historical heritage that Scotland has to offer.…
For their benefit, there are dozens of castles turned luxury hotels that tailor to their needs. These once dormant mansions have been thoroughly modernised and now play host to the wealthy businessmen of the world, who seek nothing more than a king-sized goose down bed, a short walk away from a fishing river with a stable wi-fi connection.
Not all of us have the capital to afford these 5-star luxury resorts though and not all of us really want to spend a week shuffling our way through ankle-deep carpet. As many up market establishments that the country has to offer, there are just as many, if not more, quaint hotels offering a much more affordable experience that will be free of high society and comfortably down-to-earth.
These 5 comfy drinking holes, dotted around Scotland, also have the benefit of having rooms for you to pass out in, when either the nearby hiking, or excellent beers and whiskies, have exhausted you completely:
Not many pubs can boast for being open as long as the Moulin has. The sign painted above the door proudly states that the establishment has been open since 1695 – staggering tenure in excess 420 years. For a pub that’s been open so long, it’s surprising how peaceful a place like this is to drink at. Grab a pint of locally brewed ale (the pub’s own brewery began producing ale since 1995) and sit down with a plate of award-winning pub grub. Pitlochry is conveniently positioned on the very edge of the Cairngorms, making the pub a great base camp for hikers. Rooms start at as cheap as £24pp for a couple sharing a standard room in Winter.
Jura Island is one of the most secluded islands in Scotland. It’s minuscule permanent population of just 200 people, however, means that the only pub on the island, attached to the Jura Hotel, is one of the liveliest places to drink in the country. From 10pm onwards, it’s impossible to sit down as, what feels like the entire population of the country flood into the cosy room to sip down good pints of dark ale and locally sourced whisky. Should you not manage to book a bed for the night, then you can always camp in the Hotel’s garden, a kind offer, considering how in demand these rooms often are.
Dating back from the late 19th Century, the Invegerry is a great example of Scottish hospitality done right. It’s location, smack bang in the middle of the North West Highlands, make it a perfect place for those looking to explore the gorgeous surrounding area and relax in peace. The hotel recently received a tasteful refurbishment, updating the over-century old rooms and giving the attached bathrooms a much needed face-lift. The brasserie food served in it’s restaurant is said to give Michelin Star places a run for their money, but it’s the relaxed bar, stocked with the best local whiskeys, that makes it worth the trip.
One of the most popular establishments in the small village of Kippen; The Cross Keys has been open for over 300 years. Whilst Kippen is hardly much of a place to get lost in, spending an evening in the the pub can often make one feel as if they’ve travelled back in time. The stripped back decor and original features of this place make it a truly unique pub to drink in and for as little as £70 per room, you can even spend the night in this centuries old establishment. Just a short drive from Loch Lomond, The Cross Keys might not be as centrally placed as the other places on this list but it still makes for a great stop off on your way to the Highlands proper.…
Many people take a holiday in Scotland to simply get away from it all and who can blame them?
Only 5.295 million people inhabit the 80,000 square kilometre landmass, with large swathes of land being comprised of rural areas that are bereft of people for miles around. Scotland makes for an ideal destination for honeymooning couples looking to get a taste of isolation before starting their married lives, or city-living folks who need a breather from their everyday urban experience. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious, catered experience or something a little more rustic, you’re bound to find something that will suit your needs.
Take a look at our favourite picks to get some inspiration, but don’t forget to book well in advance to avoid disappointment:
Although you’ll be in the same vicinity as a handful of other holidaymakers like yourself, you’ll still feel like you’re in a world of your own when you stay at these luxury lodges in Crieff. Right on the gateway to both the Highlands and The Trossachs, these lodges provide you with all the amenities that you’ll need to enjoy yourself. Modern kitchens are fitted in all 4 of the lodges, as well as private hot tubs, so you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery in true style.
If you want to treat yourself to some real Scottish hospitality but still feel like you’ve got enough space to yourself then you might just want to spirit yourself away to Colonsway. You’ll need to catch a ferry from the coastal town of Oban, which is just a 2-hour drive from Glasgow. Once you’re on the island, you’ll be one of the lucky few dozen staying there. The hotel itself, a building that dates back to 1750, only has 9 bedroms in total, so you’re guaranteed to be treated well by the friendly staff there.
Some couples might well prefer to relax in the lap of luxury on their holidays, whereas others prefer their time off to be a little more rustic in comparison. For those looking to rough it, it doesn’t get much more rustic than this. Bothies are small shacks, or shelters, traditionally built for farm hands needing to be close to their flocks during the cold winter months. Sturdily built, but sparse in amenities, this is essentially inside camping. Bring a stove and plenty of bedding if you want to be comfortable and prepare for a very peaceful night’s sleep.
The Moor of Rannoch Hotel might well be situated right next to a train station, but don’t let this put you off. This cosy treat is surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of rugged moorland and not much else. So, whilst the distance between your train and your hotel might be very short, you won’t be disturbed by the sound of passing trains. For the ideal elopement: take the Caledonian Sleeper train from London Euston, Crewe, Preston, Edinburgh or Glasgow and simply step off the station into your hotel for the weekend.…
If you happen to be caught out in the rain, then don’t despair! The good people of Scotland have spent decades thinking up of ways to wile away the hours when it’s raining. Whether it’s staying active by clinging to a wall of ice or taking it easy with a few pints, there are plenty of ways to spend a rainy afternoon in Scotland.
Have you wondered how Whisky is made? Well wonder no more! If it’s raining cats and dogs outside, then why not skip the obligatory trip up Ben Nevis and visit one of the oldest Whisky distilleries in the world. At the Ben Nevis Whisky Distillery, you’ll not only be able to find out about Whisky, you’ll also be able to drink it. For just a small fee, you’ll gain access to the 19th Century warehouse, where thousands of litres of the brown stuff is made every year. A guided tour will take you through the process of how it’s made and you’ll be able to try a selection of different drinks at the end.
It might seem counterproductive to escape the cold weather of the outside environment for another similarly cold one, but there’s method in the madness. When you go ice skating at the Inverness Ice Centre, you’ll have to go inside, where you’ll find shelter from the outside elements. So, although you might well be a little chilly, at least you won’t be wet – that’s as long as you don’t fall over! You can ice skate for as little as £2.50 per half an hour or £4.00 for an hour.
The pub lunch is a Great British tradition, but it takes on a completely different vibe when you spend a rainy afternoon in a Scottish pub. Whether it’s a classy 3 Rosette place or a down and dirty Wetherspoons, you’ll be in for a treat when you go and visit a Scottish food. Grab a pint of ale (or whisky if you fancy a stiff one) and order yourself a pie to go with it. The ideal pub will preferably have it’s own fire that you can settle yourself in front of, or a nice big window where you can gaze wistfully out the window.
Sometimes the answer to a long rainy day is a long day at a museum. Luckily, the Highlands is home to one particularly detailed one. The Clansman Centre is nestled in the old confines of a 19th Century schoolhouse, but the history contained within dates a lot further back. At the Centre you’ll find a Scottish armoury, as well as a recreation of a Highland turf house where an authentically dressed actor will explain to you what it was like living back in the past.
There are climbing walls and then there are ice-climbing walls. If you’ve always fancied scaling a sheer wall of ice, like the one in Game of Thrones, or maybe fantasised about driving a cold hard pick into a solid wall of ice then dream no longer – Ice Factor is the National Ice Climbing Centre and one of the few places in Europe where you can learn how to ice climb in a safe environment. Instructors are on hand to guide you through the experience so, when you’re ready, you can attempt a climb by yourself!…
There are only a few months during the year that it’s suitable to eat outside in Scotland. Cursed with terribly frigid temperatures during the winter months, Scottish diners and visitors to the country might be forgiven for thinking that ‘al fresco dining’ in Scotland is simply a joke, but there are a few restaurants that have the guts to put furniture outside, usually to make the most of the breathtaking scenery that they are placed right on the doorstep of.
These four eateries are dotted around the Highlands area. They might not be suitable for every budget, but they all serve excellent food and give the diner the option of eating outside when the Scottish summer sun is shining:
Fresh seafood is a must-try when visiting Scotland. The country is famous for it’s langoustine, mackerel and oysters – which you’ll inevitably find at it’s freshest fish on the coasts. With a commanding view over Loch Carron, Kishorn Seafood Bar has been serving locally sourced seafood for over twenty years, picking up multiple awards and accolades over the years. Drive up to the cliff side restaurant in the peak of summer, take a load off on a picnic bench and enjoy a grand seafood platter featuring the very best that the local seas have to offer.
The proprietors at the Applecross Inn understand what the compulsory components are for a decent pub: comfortable furnishings, decent ale and a pleasant outdoor area; so that you can sit down and sip drinks well into the evening. On cooler evenings a merry fire burns eco-friendly wood briquettes, keeping patrons warm and toasty, whilst they tuck into locally sourced food that includes: warm salad of pigeon breast, local smoked salmon and haggis. You can also find more traditional pub grub at this handsome pub and you’re just a short walk away from stunning coastal views.
Packed full of character and unique charm, this unique eating spot couldn’t be more secluded. Set within it’s own estate, where the majority of the restaurant’s meals are sourced from, Inver is run by Pam and Rob who run the restaurant with their family and friends to an award winning standard. The restaurant serves homely ingredients, presented in a simple style that has wowed critics, making it one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the entirety of the Highlands. With phrases such as ‘world-class’ and ‘perfection’ being bandied about, it’s little wonder that dinner for two can set you back well over £90. Drop in for afternoon tea or lunch, if you’d like a cheaper taste of the experience.
Loch Ness is one of the standout attractions for the Highlands region – thousands of tourists flock to it every year to get a peak at the legendary monster that is said to lie beneath the service. Unfortunately, many of these hopeful tourists leave the Loch disappointed. You might not have much chance of spotting a mythological beast whilst your visiting Loch Ness, but at least you can guarantee yourself a slap up meal when you stop at the Dores Inn. Whilst the local gins and real ales might well keep locals coming back for more, it’ll be the large beer garden that attract the tourists and will mean that you can keep an eye out for Nessie whilst sipping down an enjoyable beverage.…
Although Scotland traditionally receives the most tourism for high-ticket activities, such as snow sports and fishing; years of investment and diversification have led to dozens of activity centres being built across the thousands of square miles of beautiful Scottish wilderness.
Despite its rather gloomy reputation, Scotland receives good weather throughout the summer, with persistent clear spells of sunshine making ideal conditions for those looking to spend some time outdoors.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on ski hire or chalet rental to get the most out of a holiday in Scotland – there are plenty of sights you can visit for free and some activities that take up an afternoon, which will cost you relatively little:
There are well over 30,000 freshwater lochs in Scotland and although the chilly temperature of these waters might be a little to cold for young ones to brave during the winter, between March and June the warmth of the sun makes it a lot more tolerable. Just outside the picturesque village of Kincraig sits Loch Insh Activity Centre. In addition to offering a wide range of land-based activities, like the obligatory archery and play parks, Loch Insh is large enough to accommodate sail sports and even raft building.
Tell your kids in a hushed voice that you’re heading to ‘the Bone Caves’ and they’ll be tittering with excitement and nerves for the hour or so that it takes to reach there on foot. The 4.5km circuit has a gentle ascent of 210m and will take you anywhere between two and three hours, depending on how long you want to spend exploring the caves themselves. Stop your car at the car park between Elphin and Inchnadamph on the A837 and simply follow the clear path out the gate and alongside the Allt nan Uamh, you’ll know you’re on our way when you pass a stunning little waterfall.
As you’re probably learning now, there’s a lot more to the Highlands than just alpine ridges and snow banks. The area is also home to miles of thick forests packed with wildlife and activities that are bound to test your mettle. Treezone might not be the best place to visit for adults who have trouble with heights, but kids (over the height of 1.1m) will relish the challenge that the TreeCreeper Course will give them. At 6m off the ground, it won’t trouble the older ones, but smaller sprogs will feel like that they’ve overcome a real obstacle. For the braver (and taller) members of the company, the Buzzard Course doubles the height and has twice the amount of challenges.
There are only 5 daily working sleddog centres in the whole of Europe and Cairngorm Sleddog Centre is the only one in the UK. Offering a truly unique experience, a visit to the Centre is a treat for any dog lover. There are over 30 trained sleddogs at the Centre and 18 miles of tracks, covering 4 different routes. You don’t have to visit during the snowy months to make the most of the sled rides, the dogs run just as well over dry land and there’s even a small museum detailing the history of sledding in Scotland. There’s a maximum of 8 people per group and a weight restriction of 15 stone per person – and don’t forget to wear sensible clothing!…
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