35 amazing things to do in Scotland before the end of 2015
Acclaimed as Europe’s outdoors capital, Scotland boasts hundreds of adventure activities for you to try, from climbing the UK’s tallest mountain to hunting for Nessie.
Be inspired by my bucket list of 35 Scotland outdoors activities to try.
1 – Paddle across Scotland: The Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail travels 54 miles from Pinkston Watersports to the capital’s heart. Find out more at Canoe Trail
2 – Mountain bike the Devil’s Staircase: The challenging off-road ride is located between Kingshouse, Glencoe, and Kinlochleven on the West Highland Way.
3 – Picnic on a hilltop: Pick a local high point, pack a picnic and set off with your family for a lofty lunch. In the Year of Food and Drink, take soor plooms for energy and add Scottish shortbread as a treat.
4 – Run from source to sea: The River Ayr Way challenge is an annual 44-mile race.
5 – Walk the West Highland Way: Scotland’s original long-distance walking trail from Milngavie to Fort William is a must-do whether you take a week or a long weekend to do it. Visit www.west-highland-way.co.uk
6 – Tick 10 trigs: Trig points formed the basis of OS mapping before GPS technology. Find 10 among the thousands still existing on hills and peaks. See trigpointing.uk
7 – Sit in eye of the needle: Ben Arthur (The Cobbler) in the Arrochar Alps is famous for its rock- formed “eye”. Some brave folk climb through while others sit in it.
8 – Go wild swimming: You could try loch swimming in a wetsuit or skinny dip somewhere less visited. It’s always safer to go with a friend.
9 – Sail to St Kilda: The archipelago is located 41 miles west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. It’s a World Heritage Site and described as “the islands at the edge of the world”.
10 – Bag a Munro: There are 282 Scottish mountains with a summit of more than 3000ft to choose from. See Walk HIghlands
11 – Cycle the Bealach na Ba: The Alpine-style road heads over Bealach na Ba (pass of the Cattle) to Applecross in the far northwest. Ride it with a friend or as part of the Bealach Mor Sportive.
12 – Eat Scottish seaweed: Wild food foraging is a fun activity and sea kale is surprisingly tasty. See www.gallowaywildfoods.com
13 – Search for the Northern Lights: The best chances to see the aurora borealis are in the north further or head to the Dark Skies Park, Galloway.
14 – Spot dolphins at Moray Firth: One of the best places in Scotland to see dolphins. Take a boat trip or stand on land at Chanonry Point.
15 – Climb Ben Nevis: Walk the tourist path, climb a North Face route or take part in charity challenge. However you do it, make sure you stand on Scotland’s – and the UK’s – highest point at 1344m.
16 – Surf at Thurso East: Acclaimed as one of the best waves in Europe – simple as that.
17 – Count the Whaligoe steps: Walk the 330 steps at the Wick cliff face in the far north of Scotland.
18 – Cook on a campfire: Toast, marshmallows or a fire-warmed Arbroath smokie is another tick for the Year of Food and Drink.
19 – Do a Scottish Via Ferrata: Take on the 500m chain walk at Kinlochleven, near Fort William. See www.verticaldescents.com
20 – Wild camp: Whether it’s a local hill, a remote beach, or close to a tumbling waterfall, camping somewhere wild is a fabulous experience. Follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
21 – Find wilderness: Knoydart is said to be Scotland’s last great wilderness area. Experienced walkers can hike in from Kinlochhourn to Barrisdale, or catch a boat from Mallaig to Inverie.
22 – Learn to cross-country ski: Head to Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre, Britain’s only purpose-built all-weather facility.
23 – See killer whales: There’s a west coast community of orca whales, visit www.wild-scotland.org.uk
24 – See Gulf of Corryvreckan: Take a boat trip to the second largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere in the channel between Jura and Scarba.
25 – Kayak around Arran: Circumnavigate the island by kayak, visit www.arranoutdoor.com
26 – Cycle to a crocodile: Ride the 10-mile road round Cumbrae and spot the crocodile- painted rock near Millport.
27 -Do a man leg: Whether male or female you should try standing like a man on top of a hill or mountain. Make sure someone takes a photo.
28 – Hunt Nessie: Join a Nessie Hunting Trip on Loch Ness with www.cruiselochness.com
29 – Summer solstice bivvy: Spend the shortest night of the year, June 21, bivvying outdoors.
30 – Climb the Old Man of Hoy: This is a bucket-list tick reserved for experienced climbers. For those who can, it’s an epic route on a 449ft stack in Orkney.
31 – Throw a stone from sea to sea: At Mavis Grind, a narrow neck on Shetland mainland, you can throw a stone from the North Sea into the Atlantic.
32 – Ski the Flypaper: Claimed as Scotland’s steepest pisted run, the Flypaper is located at Glencoe Mountain Resort.
33 – Climb a city hill: Summit Arthur’s Seat, located in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.
34 – See nature’s hexagons: Visit Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa, Inner Hebrides, to see the stunning hexagonally jointed basalt columns.
35 – Go higher than the clouds: On a cloudy day, you might be lucky enough to climb a hill and rise above the clouds. Look down and stare in wonder at a cloud inversion.
My article was published in the Sunday Mail and Scotland Now.