Three top adventure destinations in Scotland
Wondering where to spend a few nights away in Scotland? Here are three of the country’s best adventure spots.
Cairngorms National Park and Moray
Head to Cairngorms National Park for the perfect adventure Highland getaway. The park is nearly twice the size of the Lake District and filled with forests, lochs, rivers and mountains. In the winter, the Cairngorms is a popular skiing destination, boasting five of the UK’s highest mountains. You can also explore the Glenlivet bike path, hiking trails and do some rock climbing.
Moray covers a portion of the Cairngorms National Park, stretching north to the coast. This rugged Highland area is home to rolling fields, ancient forests and wild rivers. Come to Moray for some of the best white water rafting Scotland has to offer, with up to grade five rapids on the River Findhorn. You can also canoe or kayak, go tubing or try some canyoning. Find out more about activities in Moray at ACE Adventures, including rafting for all abilities.
Conquering Ben Nevis, which roughly translates to venomous mountain in Gaelic, is one of Scotland’s top adventure activities. Soaring 1,345 metres into the sky, the former volcano is the UK’s highest mountain and is protected as part of the Glen Coe National Scenic Area. In the winter, you can ski and snowboard in the Nevis range, there’s also a mountain gondola that provides exceptional views of the mighty peak.
Many people take short trips to Scotland specifically to hike Ben Nevis. There are two walking routes, the gentler Mountain Track and for experienced hikers, the Carn Mor Dearg route. The first trail takes around seven hours, while the second involves scrambling over rocks and along exposed drops, lasting up to 11 hours. Rock climbers come to tackle the north face of Ben Nevis, which boasts 600-metre-high cliff edges.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Located in the south of the country, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is an ideal destination for a long weekend in Scotland. Discover 720 square miles of sparkling lochs, mountains, forests and countryside, with hiking and hill walking routes that cover all these terrains. There are also cycling trails for all ability levels, including the challenging three glens route. The National Cycle Network route 7 runs through the heart of the park.
With 22 lochs, 50 rivers and burns, a natural lake and 39 miles of coastline, the Trossachs is a haven for water sports. Try your hand at canoeing and kayaking, paddleboarding or windsurfing. Climbers can take their pick from the park’s 21 Munros (mountains that are over 3,000 feet high). Ben More is the highest, with a summit of 1,174 metres.
Best activities for an adventure weekend in Scotland
If you’re planning a weekend trip to Scotland filled with fun and adventure, try some of these activities.
- White water rafting – Scotland has some of the UK’s best white water rafting, with rivers boasting up to grade five rapids. The Tay is the longest and most rafted river in the country, while the gentle Spey is good for beginners. As a wild river, rafting trips on the Findhorn run all year-round, while the dam-controlled Tummel, Moriston and Garry are more suited to experienced rafters.
- Bungee jumping – for the ultimate thrill, launch yourself off the River Garry Bridge, falling 40 metres towards the water at up to 50 miles per hour. The Killiecrankie bungee jump is run by Highland Fling; the company also runs a bungee jump from the Titan Crane in Glasgow. Find out more about the ACE bungee and rafting weekend package here.
- River tubing – float down one of Scotland’s roaring rivers in a giant inflatable tube. Along the way, you’ll sail over waterfalls and natural weirs, learning how to keep your balance as you negotiate rapids. ACE Adventures runs tubing trips on the River Findhorn combined with the chance to try some cliff jumping at Randolph’s Leap.
- Paragliding – Scotland has multiple paragliding destinations, but the most popular is Arran, which has more than 30 flying sites. Soar alone or in tandem with an instructor on thermal currents, taking in views of the landscape below while experiencing the thrill of flying.
- Hiking – you can hike and hill walk to your heart’s content in Scotland through countryside, forests, by lochs, up hills and along the coast. Some of the most famous walking routes include the coast-to-coast Upland Way, 96-mile-long West Highland Way and stunning Fife Coastal Path.
- Canyoning – also known as gorge walking, canyoning involves scrambling along a river bed along the bottom of a deep canyon. Abseil over waterfalls, plunge into deep pools and slide down natural water chutes, the ACE canyoning trip involves descending a 45-foot corkscrew waterfall.
- Mountain biking – Fort William is the hub for British mountain biking and there’s a network of thrilling paths in the Nevis Range. Known as the Witch’s Trails, there are grades to suit all abilities, from calm blue paths to the orange World Cup Downhill Track and the black Top Chief trail for experienced bikers.
- Canoeing and kayaking – take to Scotland’s rivers, lochs and seas for superb canoeing and kayaking experiences. Key spots include the west coast near Oban, Loch Lomond and islands such as Orkney and Skye. Try part of the 500-km-long Scottish Sea Kayaking Trail or the Great Glen Canoe Trail. Some of the best rivers for canoeing and kayaking trips include the Spey, Orchy and Findhorn.
- Mountain climbing – as well as Ben Nevis, there are peaks galore to satisfy mountain climbers in Scotland. Try Nevis’s neighbouring peaks Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor which reach 1,234 metres, or head to Glenfinnan to climb the 1,444 metre peaks of Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan. You can reach elevations of 1,676 metres climbing the Ring of Steall, which involves challenging ridge walking.
- Snowboarding and skiing – Scotland has five ski resorts for snow sports. The Nevis Range has 35 runs for beginners to experts, with backcountry skiing options and the country’s only mountain gondola. You’ll find 20 runs in Glencoe, including Flypaper, the steepest black route in the UK. Head to Cairngorm Mountain for 31 runs and a funicular railway, or Lecht which has a 645-metre elevation and 20 ski runs. Glenshee has an elevation of 1,070 metres and 36 runs set over 25 miles, making it the largest ski resort in Scotland.
- Surfing and kitesurfing – autumn and winter may be chilly, but they offer great waves for surfers in Scotland. Enjoy powerful breaks and swells in top surfing and kitesurfing spots like Thurso East and Dalmore Bay on the Isle of Lewis. Windsurfers head to the Isle of Tiree, where the Tiree Wave Classic competition is held in October.
- Scuba diving – explore some of the world’s best wreck diving sites in Orkney, including the SMS Cöln and Tabarka in Scapa Flow. Oban is another key diving destination in Scotland, where you can see a range of marine fauna and wildlife. Experience cliff diving near Calve Island and some of the world’s top tunnel dives at St Kilda.
Where to stay on an adventure weekend in Scotland
Camping is the perfect option for an adventure weekend and there are numerous grounds and wild camping spots across Scotland. If you’re heading to Moray, ACE Adventures has 10 camping pitches in its wooded hideaway, each has its own fire pit with BBQ skillet. Bell tents are great for larger groups, accommodating up to seven people with comfy mattresses, wood stove and outdoor fire. We also have two more luxurious shepherd’s huts for those who prefer glamping. ACE Hideaways has hot showers and toilets, as well as an outdoor kitchen and wifi and charging points at reception.