Summer is here folks so forget about hibernating! Summer is the best time – with its warmer temperatures and gloriously long nights – for getting active in the great outdoors and exploring our beautiful country. As a native Scot and travel writer, I have scoured the length and breadth of Scotland. I’d like to share some of the fruits of my labours with you. Join me as I reveal 7 things you must do this summer in Scotland. We’ve got everything here from stunning ferry rides and Munros to bag, through to castles to raid and even landing in a plane on a beach!
Get on your bike
I love cycling and for me Scotland is a world-class destination for both road cycling and mountain biking. There are tough trails at mountain bike centres dotted around the country, but I’m a huge fan of the picturesque network of waymarked easier trails that snake their way around the gorgeous forests of the Rothiemurchus Estate. Bike and helmet hire is available on site too, but book ahead in summer.
Bag a Munro
There are 282 mountains over 3,000ft to choose from and all have their own charms. To bag one ‘easily’ (you still always need to be well equipped and have someone in your party with know how) a popular option is Ben Lomond, which lies within easy reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh. It vaults to a whopping 3,196ft, but the ‘tourist route’ up is a fairly steady, not too steep yomp on a big chunky ridge. I prefer taking the more interesting Ptarmigan Ridge at least one way to spice things up – it is narrower and more exposed.
Hop on a ferry
I’ve been a fan of CalMac’s fleet of distinctive trusty black and white livered ferries every since I was a wee boy. There are myriad routes to choose from, but my favourite is a stunner. Eke out from Oban Bay and soon the scenery hits overload as Ben More on Mull soars along with the Morvern Peninsula and a hulk of mountains to the north, including Ben Nevis. En route there are picturesque lighthouses, the cragged old dame of Duart Castle and plenty of wildlife to spot. Keep your eyes peeled and you will usually see a porpoise or dolphin, maybe even a whale! You won’t want to get off at journey’s end in Craignure on Mull. I don’t if I’ve time to kill in Oban – I just pop over and back for the thrill of the trip!
Go wild camping
I’m the author of the Cool Camping: Scotland book, but to be honest most of my favourite camping experiences in Scotland have not come staying in a campsite! That’s because Scotland is brilliant for wild camping and our right to do so is enshrined in law. You need to follow all the sensible rules like not camping near houses or on working farmland. But – if you stick to the Outdoor Access Code guidelines – you can just grab your gear and head off into the wilds for a night under the stars in an experience that screams freedom!
Land on a beach
There is only one scheduled beach landing in the world and that is right here in Scotland! It’s quite an experience swinging off the runway at Glasgow and then skimming low over the isles in search of the Outer Hebrides. The scenery en route to Barra is spectacular, but the highlight, of course, is approaching the Cockle Strand beach runway and then making a dramatic dive down for the sands. It’s a surreal experience plopping down off the plane straight on the sands. Make sure to slip into the tiny terminal to snare a plate of garlic cockles, culled fresh from the beach runway!
Raid a castle
It’s no surprise that Scotland boasts more castles per capita than anywhere else in the UK. The country overflows with them in all shapes and sizes. If I had to pick one for a summer day trip Lochleven Castle would be a strong contender. Getting there is all part of the romance. Just minutes after leaving the M90 at Kinross you find yourself standing on a little boat landing waiting for the ferry over the water to this island stronghold. You are in good company as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots have all made the journey as you will learn from the info boards at this characterful ruin when you land.
Chill on a Beach
With over 10% of Europe’s coastline there is a lot of choice when it comes to a beach in Scotland. Why choose one beach then when you don’t have to. Follow? Not as weird as it sounds – just take a ferry or fly across to the sleepy wee Isle of Coll. It’s reputed to have 23 sandy beaches and they are real stunners that you will often have to yourself. I’m such a fan that I’m taking my young family back over this summer for a wee beach escape. Don’t worry – there is plenty of space on Coll’s beaches for everyone!
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