35 great things to do in Scotland in 2017
Acclaimed as Europe’s outdoors capital, Scotland boasts hundreds of activities for you to try. Be inspired by my bucket list of 35 Scotland outdoors activities to try… Or you could check to see how many you have already done?
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. Alternatively, simply walk the route that ascend some 305m to reach a height of 55om. The views are fantastic.
3 – Picnic on a hilltop: Pick a local high point, pack a picnic and set off with your family for a lofty lunch. In true Scottish style 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. Or how about walking the route over a few days?
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 off a trig: Trig points formed the basis of OS mapping before GPS technology. Once you have walked to one the chances are you’ll want to tick off a few more. 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”. Take a sailing trip to visit this amazing location.
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 far north of Scotland or head to the Dark Skies Park, Galloway, where there appear to be an increasing number of sightings. You need to be away from the light pollution of towns and cities and to be lucky with the weather to have a good chance of sighting the very special Northern Lights.
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. For an alternative, beginner friendly surfing option head to the coast of East Lothian and try a learn to surf session with Coast 2 Coast.
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 smokies make great campfire foods.
19 – Do a Scottish Via Ferrata: Take on the fantastic via ferrata at Kinlochleven, near Fort William. See www.verticaldescents.com
20 – Go microadventuring: You don’t need to go far from home but you do need to camp out to enjoy a microadventure. Keep it simple and choose a night of favourable weather.
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.
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. This is perfect for families.
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 in the heart of the capital city of 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.
I first wrote this article in 2015 and have updated for 2017. How many have you done – or plan to do in 2017?