Scotland Stories and Tips

Scottish Outdoors

Loch Tay Photo, Perthshire, Scotland

Scotland is a country blessed with beautiful and varied landscape, and although the weather could definitely be better, all who visit Scotland should make an effort to sample the best of the wonderful Scottish outdoors. From dramatic coast to romantic lochs, from gentle hills to wild mountains, Scotland has plenty of nature spots that are worth visiting.

Most of Scottish areas of natural beauty are located in the Highlands, the part of country north of roughly the Stirling-Dundee line, and some of it requires quite a bit of travel, but it's definitely worth it. Walking, mountaineering, fishing and hunting, sailing and skiing are all possible in Scotland.

Anybody who visits Scotland will find their own favourite nature spots, but those planning a trip should try to include some of the following.

*Dramatic coast. Scottish coast is varied and long, with areas of rocky cliffs, white sandy beaches and everything in between. The west coast is the most beautiful, and Ardnamurchan Peninsula (west of Fort William) is brilliant while being reasonably easy to reach. Knoydart, further north, is one of the most remote areas of Scotland, only accessible by boat (despite being on the mainland). Wild moorland, deer and striking beauty.

*The Moray Firth, east of Inverness, has cliffs, coastal walks and a resident population of bottlenose dolphins to watch (boast trips are available).

* Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa close to Mull island has incredible rock formations and stony walls and columns and is known for inspiring Mendelssohn music.

*Smoo Cave, near the northern Highland the village of Durness, largest and very attractive coastline cave in Britain in limestone cliffs, with plenty of wildlife.

* Highland glens (valleys) vary immensely, from gentle, green and peaceful to broodingly dramatic. Glen Coe is breathtakingly beautiful glen of the second kind, while Glen Lyon near Loch Tay was considered to be the most beautiful of the Scottish glens by Walter Scott. Angus Glens (Glen Shee, Glen Isla, Glen Clova and Glen Esk) are easily accessible from Dundee, allow for easy walking and are a great way to sample Scottish mountains.

* Scottish lochs (lakes or sea inlets similar to Norwegian fjords) abound - you can find one round every corner of the highlands. Loch Lomond is reasonably near to Glasgow and quite developed touristically, but still very beautiful. Loch Ness is famous for the monster but supremely attractive in itself. Loch Shiel, with its Glenfinnan monument, is strikingly beautiful.

* Scottish mountains. If visiting the Highlands, the mountains are all around you, but it's worth trying to climb one or two. Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK, but there is plenty more - in fact, Munro bagging (Munro is a Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet) is something of a national pastime. Don't underestimate Scottish mountains: they might not sound very high, but the variable weather and lack of infrastructure or marked paths on many means they can offer formidable challenge, though most are accessible to well prepared walker without special equipment. Schiehallion, or the fairy mountain, is a well-known peak on the south side of Loch Rannoch, not to hard to climb and deservedly popular. Suilven near Lochinver north of Ullapool is, according to Undiscovered Scotland "a remote lump of rock carefully placed in the middle of a lochan-strewn wilderness that stretches for many miles in every direction": impressive and forbidding despite relatively low footage.

* The Islands. Scottish islands offer a lot to a visitor, and it's hard to pick one island or even one group to visit, but the Isle of Skye has great mountains to see if not to climb (The Cuillins) and a wonderful combination of mountain and sea and views (if you are lucky with weather) that are hard to match.

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