Scotland: it’s a small country that’s big on unique and unusual activities. Here are five things you can only do in Scotland.
1. There’s no sky like the Scottish sky
If you have seeing the Aurora Borealis on your wish list, head to Scotland in the autumn or winter to catch a glimpse of the ‘Mirrie Dancers’. Your best chance at seeing this night-time phenomenon is from the north but, given the right conditions, you can see the Aurora Borealis from anywhere in Scotland.
Even if you don’t catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, a visit to Galloway Forest Park – one of only four dark sky parks in the world – will have you gobsmacked as you search the sky for distant galaxies and the Milky Way. There are Dark Sky Discovery Points right across the Highlands or, for a real astronomical adventure, you could set sail to the Isle of Coll, Scotland’s Dark Sky Island.
Pretty much anywhere in Scotland there is little or no light pollution, so on a clear night, you can enjoy wonderful stargazing without the aid of a telescope.
2. And that sky is also wondrous during the day
Whether it’s taking off on a seaplane experience for a scenic tour viewing magnificent Scottish landscapes from the first-class window in an iconic aircraft; feeling the wind in your hair as you soar through the air in a microlight aircraft; landing on the world’s only beach runway on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, or hopping into a basket for a hot-air balloon ride over the lowlands, the Scottish sky features air experiences that will leave you breathless.
A trip around the sea lochs of Isle of Skye and the Small Isles on a classic sailing ship is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. SailScotland offers cruisers a choice of beautifully restored vessels over a century old, with authentic rigging and stylish lines. Sail the west coast of Scotland and enjoy the charm and seclusion of the Inner Hebrides or Knoydart peninsula. Or set out for the high sea cliffs and admire the landscapes of wild mountains and forests in the distance.
There are even amazing yachting experiences for those who don’t have sea legs. Land yachting uses the wind for propulsion and takes the gracefulness of sailing and combines it with the high adrenaline thrill of motor racing – an outdoor adventure that’s guaranteed to please.
4. Travel on one of the world’s greatest railways
The Jacobite steam train is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest – and most picturesque rail journeys. It starts in Fort William, then travels along the shores of Loch Eil, passing the deepest freshwater loch, Loch Morar, and continuing to Mallaig, to meet a ferry service to the Isle of Skye.
The highlight of the journey is crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where you can get a stunning view towards the Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel. You may recognise this remarkable engineering from its appearance in the Harry Potter movies.
5. Walking the highlands and to an island
Scotland is home to some seriously dramatic landscapes, which is why walks along the West Highland Way are among the world’s most breathtaking.
Between Glasgow and Fort William in the Highlands, this classic adventure travels along the banks of Loch Lomond and past Glen Coe before finishing at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
And while walking the highlands should be high on your Scottish wish list, this bonnie land’s coastal walks are also truly something special. One more so than others is the chance to walk to (yes, you read that correctly) an island off the Shetland Mainland. St Ninian’s Isle is linked to the mainland by one of Europe’s finest sand tombolos, which is a natural causeway created and maintained by wave action that connects two landmasses. According to Visit Scotland, with its pristine sand and blue waters, St Ninian’s Isle is regularly compared to the tropical beaches of the Caribbean.