If you don’t usually travel with binoculars, this is your time to invest. Not only is it teeming with wildlife but it is so accessible. Small and perfectly formed you can see a lot of habitats in a short period of time.
There is an ancient, traditional right for all people to access the countryside in Scotland, and this was enshrined in law in 2003. This gives greater recreational freedom than most other countries in Europe including England and Wales, and applies to hikers, cyclists, horseriders, low impact water users and campers.
Haggis and deep fried Mars Bars have a lot to answer for, with few people associating food as a top experience in Scotland. And then you remember Aberdeen Angus Beef, Scottish mussels and oysters, Scottish salmon, the Arbroath Smokie and world class game. All exported as world class delicacies for years. It just took a while for Scots to show them off at home.
Wild and wet, it is also empty in winter and, when the snow falls, a winter wonderland. The Cairngorms National Park is the place to go in the snow, with Aviemore accessible by train so you can avoid the hassle of driving on winter roads. With downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding and winter walking, as well as magical wildlife watching opportunities even at this time of year, Scotland is snow-tastic.
The atmosphere in the famous Caledonian Sleeper train bar, at ten o’clock at night, is one of those charming travel experiences. It is full of hikers comparing routes, and whisky drinking adventurers revving up for the wilds. And when you wake up in the morning, enveloped by said wilds, you will gasp in awe.
The Scottish name for a mountain over 3000 feet (914 m), many hillwalkers aim to climb all of them, a feat known as "Munro bagging". A walker who has climbed all Munros is entitled to be called a Munroist. See the Scottish Mountaineering Club for details
You can’t do them all in a week, but you can make a fine start. There are 790 offshore islands in the following groups: Shetland, Orkney, and the Hebrides, sub-divided into the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides.
Whisky goes without saying, with myriad malts to savour and salivate over. However, there is also a burgeoning brewery scene in Scotland now, with artisan ale popping up everywhere from Stornoway in the Hebrides to Speyside Craft brewery in the Moray Firth.
There is no getting away from the fact that between May and October, especially on the west coast, there are midges. However, they are more prevalent at water’s edges, at dusk and when there is little wind, than on a mountain top in the middle of the day. So yes, they exist, but not everywhere, and there are plenty of ways to cope with them. Check out midgeforecast.co.uk for details.
It is the one everyone talks about, but it overshadows some of the other insular idylls awaiting along the coast. It has festivals and fun, for sure, but ecologically it isn’t as interesting as some others, and also it rains more than most, due to the topography. And don’t make the mistake of travelling this far north in search of Skye, and completely overlook the magnificence of the mainland mountains.
and all things bonny are really so last century. There are stunning ones, but you have to pay an arm and a leg to stay in a top quality one. And although visiting them is great, it’s the small communities and backroads that hold the truly majestic Scotland.
the charity climb epidemic hit Ben Nevis some time ago, with thousands landing on the hills, trampling and littering, with little financial benefit for local people and huge environmental destruction. Few people realise, but this is not a National Park and so does not have the funding to fix it. Charity is good, churning up a precious landscape, not so much.