Planning your trip to Scotland? Looking for something a little different?
Are you thinking of driving the North Coast 500 or planning a trip to Scotland’s stunning north-west coast for beautiful white sand beaches, endless sea lochs and iconic mountains? The highlands and islands of Scotland are popular for good reason, however, there is so much more to see and do instead!
Here are 10 more unusual things to do in Scotland.
1. Kayak around Kismul Castle on Barra
The most southerly of the Outer Hebrides might be most famous for its airport on the beach (the baggage reclaim is also a bus stop) but the beautiful island of ‘Barradise’ has lots to offer for the visitor – not least an incredibly dramatic castle which gives the main town, Castlebay, its name. The best way to see the castle? Clearwater Paddling hires sea kayaks so you can get out on the water and explore the bay. If you prefer to be in the water rather than on it, Barra is also great for snorkelling too – grab your wetsuit and explore the Outer Hebridean coast along with lots of friendly grey seals.
Read more: how to have an adventure in the Outer Hebrides
2. Hike the Great Glencoe Challenge
If you are going to spend one day hiking in Scotland in 2019, then make it the walk from Glencoe to Glen Nevis. It might be a marathon distance (26 miles) and takes in 5000ft of up hill climbing, but the views through Scotland’s most famous glen and along the most beautiful section of the West Highland Way make for an incredible day out. Want to make the walk a little harder? Sign up for the Great Glencoe Challenge – a 10-hour sponsored trekathon along the Glencoe to Glen Nevis route – the hike was one of my highlights of last year.
Read more: sign up for the Glencoe Challenge
3. Stay in a log cabin in the woods
Fancy staying in a tiny house, glamping pod, eco treehouse, luxurious woodshed or a rustic hut? – the lure of getting off-grid and remote is a simple one. Read by candlelight, explore the great outdoors, enjoy the peace and quiet, spot red squirrels, or just put your feet up and listen to the wind rustling in the trees. From cabins deep in the Cairngorm National Park to huts on the edge of Pentland Hills, there are loads of gorgeous log cabins to discover right across Scotland. Make 2019 the year you escape from the world.
Read more: my favourite log cabins in Scotland
4. Go whisky tasting & walking on Islay
Whether it is the cask strength whisky or beautiful wild landscapes, there is something about the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ which makes people fall in love with Islay instantly. With 8 working distilleries, for whisky fans, Islay is a pilgrimage – try Bowmore, Laphroaig or Bunnahabhain. Home to otters, eagles, wild (and friendly) goats and keep your eyes peeled at Port Ellen for you might also spot dolphins – for walkers, Islay is truly stunning.
Read more: how to visit the Isle of Islay
5. Cruise the Caledonian Canal
Stretching the length of Scotland’s spectacular Great Glen, the 62-mile Caledonian Canal sails coast to coast from Fort William to Inverness. Cruise beneath the mighty Ben Nevis to the chaotic maelstrom of the dramatic Fort Augustus locks. Then take your boat across the huge 23-mile expanse of Loch Ness past Urquhart Castle all the way up to Inverness, taking in some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery along the way. Spending a week cruising the Caledonian Canal is a rather special (and fun!) way to spend a holiday in Scotland.
Ready to cast off? Here’s how to cruise the Caledonian Canal.
6. Do the Elie Chain Walk, Fife
Above crashing waves and with views across to Edinburgh, you can climb, scramble and coasteer along the Elie Chain Walk above the Fife cliffs – it’s our Scottish version of a via ferrata! Installed after the second world war, the Elie Chain Walk was thought to have once been used as a shortcut between Shell Bay to Elie, but no one really knows who was behind the slightly mad idea of putting chains into the Fife cliffs. With eight chains to tackle, the route takes you along the coast for over a kilometre, with steps cut into the cliffs to aid your climbing.
Read more: how to do the Elie Chain Walk
7. See the puffins on Handa Island
Just off the remote north-west coast of Scotland lies Handa, one of Scotland’s most beautiful islands and a nationally important wildlife reserve. With stunning views of the Assynt mountains and one of Scotland’s best beaches, Handa is now owned by the Scourie Estate and managed in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Handa is a breeding ground for over 200 pairs of puffins, skuas, kittiwakes and guillemots – and just a few lucky rangers and volunteers housed in a bothy to protect their island home.
Read more: how to visit Handa Island
8. Spot a Scottish Tiger
Scotland’s wildcats are incredibly cute – and incredibly endangered. I am a huge supporter of the work which the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland do for animal conservation, including supporting the campaign to save Scottish wildcats (I’m a cat lady!). You can help the Save the Wildcat campaign by visiting the RZSS’s two zoos in Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park. You can also see wildcats at the Five Sister’s Zoo in West Lothian and Auchingarrich Wildlife Park. Find out more about the campaign to save the Scottish wildcats.
9. Plan your ultimate Scotland road trip [not the NC500!]
Thinking of planning a road trip around Scotland in 2019? Me too! It’s my favourite way to travel. I love the variety, I get to see everything and road-trippin’ soothes a serious case of itchy feet. If you are planning your itinerary for Scotland here are some ideas…
- Discover the best bits of central Scotland
- Eat your way through the beautiful East Neuk of Fife
- Explore with my ultimate west coast of Scotland trip
- Drive the remote and windswept Moray Firth coastal road
- Visit beaches and castles on the Angus Coastal Route
- Find Scotland’s most beautiful glens
- Drive the iconic North Coast 500
How to plan a road trip in Scotland
10. Bag a Munro (or start with a beginner’s hill)
I know how intimidating it can be to get started if you have never hill walked before, let alone tackled a Munro, but believe me if I can do it, then you can too! So let’s make 2019 the year you bag a Munro! Never climbed a hill? Work your way up to it with my guide to beginners hills in Scotland and my guide to everything you need to start hillwalking. Then choose one of my 10 Munros for beginners – and go for it!
Here’s to a year of getting outside!
Love, from Scotland x