Top 21 things to do outdoors this year


With January now at an end, and most people’s New Year resolutions in tatters, we say try something different over the remaining months! Here, in no particular order, are our pick of the best.

Ride the West Highland Way (in the snow?).

Ride the West Highland Way (in the snow?).

1) Ride the West Highland Way

This has become an increasingly popular bucket-list goal for good mountain bikers. There are stretches of the 96-mile Milngavie to Fort William trail where you need a lot of skill or to carry the bike so this challenge is not for beginner riders. It is a fabulous achievement, however.

2) Walk a long-distance trail

Scotland boasts an enviable stable of long-distance walking trails. Make 2015 the year to walk one of them. Will it be the most famous, the West Highland Way, the rougher and tougher Cape Wrath Trail, the source to sea River Ayr Way, the new coast-to-coat John Muir Way or one of the many others?

See Scotland’s Great Trails for inspiration.

Colonsay is home to the MacPhies. Photograph: Martin Burns from Flickr

Colonsay is home to the MacPhies. Photograph: Martin Burns from Flickr

3) Bag a MacPhies round

You’ve no doubt heard about the Munros and Corbetts. Bagging a full round of these mountains takes most people years to achieve. Instead, why not head to the islands of Colonsay and Oransay to bag a full round of hills known as the MacPhies?

A “MacPhie” is defined as hill of at least 300ft in height and there are 22 peaks in the official list. A full round covers about 20 miles. You could complete a round in a day or two.

See MacPhie Bagging

4) See the Gulf of Corryvreckan

Take a boat trip to visit the second largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere in the narrow channel between Jura and Scarba.

5) Get No Sleep Till Breakfast

You may have heard of the epic and tough 24-hour Strathpuffer mountain bike event. The Puffer has already been and gone for 2015 but there is a similar event –  No Sleep Till Breakfast, on June 20 to 21. This one challenges road riders to ride a 30-mile lap (and a big mountain) over the course of 12 hours to see how many laps you can complete. The event is being organised as part of the Highland Perthshire Cycling

Bealach na ba road. Photograph: Pete White on Flickr

Bealach na Ba road. Photograph: Pete White on Flickr

6) Cycle the Bealach na Ba

The famous Alpine-style road that heads over the Bealach na Ba (pass of the cattle) to Applecross is an epic road cycle. You could ride it as part of a holiday to the north-west of Scotland or as part of the Bealach Mor Sportive.

7) Ski in the Borders

There are five bigger ski resorts in the north of Scotland but did you know there is also a smaller snowsports centre in the Borders run by the Lowther Hills Ski Club? There is currently a nursery slope in the village of Leadhills and an area for intermediates on Lowther Hill (snow dependent).

New plans include the development of a new clubhouse, a 400m ski tow for intermediate skiers and a beginners’ area with a 100m ski tow.

See Ski Lowther Hills

8) Wild camp at Sandwood Bay

The fabulous stretch of beach is in the far north-west of Scotland and accessible only on foot. Pack your rucksack for a night of wild camping on the beach and see what all the fuss is about.

9) Sail to St Kilda

The archipelago of St Kilda is 41 miles west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides and is often described as “the islands at the edge of the world”. It is a World Heritage Site and a place of stunning beauty. A sailing or kayaking trip to this remote location should be on everyone’s outdoors bucket list.

10) Spot dolphins at Moray Firth

The Moray Firth is one of the best places for seeing dolphins in Scotland. As well as a dolphin watching boat trip it’s often possible to spot the graceful sea mammals from land at Chanonry Point.

11) Learn a new skill

Whether you are a beginner or a mountain leader there is always something new to learn in the great outdoors. How about booking a course in winter skills, navigation, first aid, technical mountain biking, sailing or kayaking?

Pick from one of numerous providers such as sportscotland Glenmore Lodge, G2Outdoors, Abacus Mountains, C-n-Do Scotland, Glentrek, Steven Fallon Mountain Guide and Scot Mountain Holidays, to name a few.

Northern Lights captured in the south of Scotland by photographer Mike Bolam.

Northern Lights captured in the south of Scotland by photographer Mike Bolam.

12) See the Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) offer a magnificent night sky lights display. Seeing the lights is a matter of luck but the further north you go the higher your chances. If you are very lucky indeed you might also see them in southern Scotland but it needs to be in a place away from human-created lights.

13) Climb Ben Nevis

Britain’s tallest mountain is a superb outing on a fine day. If you are lacking in experience, hire a guide. If you are good at navigation and a keen walker, simply follow the “tourist trail” to the 1344m top and back down again. If you are a climber, pick a route to suit your skills on the north face of the Ben.

14) Go ultra

There are a rising number of ultra distance running events in Scotland. If you are already a good long-distance runner or you want a goal to train towards, this is a superb goal. How about the River Ayr Way Challenge, Resolute Events Glasgow to Edinburgh, Devil o’ the Highlands and the Jedburgh Three Peaks? See Scottish Ultra Marathon Series for ideas.

Another two top races, the Highland Fling and the West Highland Way Race, have sold out for 2015 so you’ll need to enter this year in the hope of a place in 2016. The Cape Wrath Ultra also launches in 2016.

Scotland's Via Ferrata at Kinlochleven.

Scotland’s Via Ferrata at Kinlochleven.

15) Do a Scottish Via Ferrata

These chain walks are famed in the Alps and now there is one at Kinlochleven, near Fort William. The 500m chain walk sits high in a rocky amphitheatre and close to the third biggest waterfall in Scotland, The Grey Mare’s Tail. Give it a go with Vertical Descents and check our discounted price offer.

16) Dive at St Abbs Head

St Abbs in Berwickshire is a hotspot for divers. Join a diving trip and see the amazing underworld at this gorgeous coastline where the cliffs rise 100m above the sea and 30m below.

17) Surf on Tiree

The Inner Hebridean island of Tiree is a mecca for surfers and windsurfers. Head to this beautiful and welcoming island for a chance to try both watersports.

Mountains of Knoydart

Mountains of Knoydart – Photograph: iStock/Alasdair Thomson

18) Visit Knoydart

If you enjoy the hike to Sandwood Bay, take on another on-foot challenge. The walk from Kinlochhourn to Barisdale in Knoydart is a truly worthwhile experience. See Barisdale.

An alternative is to catch the boat from Mallaig to Inverie. Knoydart is accessible only on foot or by boat.

19) Top three Harris peaks

Climb three of the most spectacular peaks on the Isle of Harris and claim your free dram at the Harris Hotel. This offer is part of the Harris Mountain Festival from September 12 to 19.

Dumgoyne hill in the Campsie Fells.

Dumgoyne hill in the Campsie Fells.

20) Try trig ticking

A recent article in Scotland Outdoors magazine revealed the pursuit of ticking off trig points. Trig points formed the basis of OS mapping before we had the benefit of computerised and satellite technology.

Not all the original trigs still exist but there are around 5,500 to walk to if you fancy. Check out the January/February 2015 magazine for more details.

21) Climb the Whaligoe steps, Wick

At Wick you’ll discover an extraordinary series of steps. There are 330 steps that descend a cliff face to an awesomely inaccessible harbour. Check out a walk that includes these steps on Walk Highlands.

How many have you done? Tell us your stories.

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  1. […] Also see 21 things to do in Scotland in 2015. […]


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