The Scottish Highlands accommodate some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Many outdoor adventurers and enthusiasts take to the Highlands to climb the UK’s largest mountain Ben Nevis, but there are plenty of hiking trails and other outdoor pursuits to entertain even the most novice explorer.
It was this diversity that persuaded us to take a recent adventure trip to Scotland. We took the trip during the summer months, in order gain access to the summer trails; however, there is no shortage of winter sports and excursions to enjoy during the winter.
So, if you’re thinking about taking a trip to Scotland, here are some of the must-do outdoor activities:
Mountaineering and Hiking
The Scottish Highlands are, deservedly, one of the best places to hike in Europe, and perhaps even the world. With the breadth of terrain, the variety of trails and spectacular views of the mountains and lochs, it’s impossible to explore the entirety of this beautiful landscape in one trip.
High on any mountaineer’s list, is an ascent of Ben Nevis, rising at 1,344 m/4,408 ft above sea level. Unusually for a mountain in Scotland, it features the ruins of an observatory building, which was permanently staffed from 1883 until its closure in 1904.
There are a variety of routes to the top of the mountain, with varying terrain to suit all levels of climber. The most popular track to the summit is commonly referred to as the “Tourist Route” or the “Pony Track”— it is, in fact, the old access route to the now ruined observatory and was designed as a rough bridle path for ponies.
Aside from Ben Nevis and the surrounding Nevis Range, some of the best hiking trails can be found in the Cairngorms (the UK’s largest National Park). Alongside these paths and trails, an abundance of spectacular wildlife can be spotted, including red deer, golden eagles, and otters.
There are a wealth of other outdoor excursions to try as well, including quad biking and rocking climbing. The enclosed Glenlivet Estate has also been recognized as a Dark Sky Discovery Site—the perfect place for stargazing and astronomy.
Downhill Mountain Biking
There are so many bike trails available in the Highlands to explore. However, the Nevis Range Bike Park offers the most popular, challenging, and well-maintained trails.
A gondola takes bikers 610 m/2,000 ft up the mountain for access to two downhill tracks. The star of the show is the orange (extreme) graded ‘Off Beat’ downhill track. It’s very long and challenging, with a vertical drop of 525 m/1,722 ft and a length of 2.66 km/1.65 mi — pro riders take four to five minutes but 30 minutes can be expected if you take it steady.
The Nevis Range also plays host to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup every year. The event, which takes place in June, sees professional riders hurtle down the downhill track at high speeds, and was voted number one of the top-five bike events for spectators by Red Bull in 2016.
Skiing and Snowboarding
The Nevis Range is also one of the best places to shred snow in the winter. It has some of the best natural skiing terrain in Scotland, and thanks to its 12 lifts—including Scotland’s only mountain gondola (used in the summer for access to the mountain bike tracks)—access to the slopes is easy.
As with mountain biking, there are options for all abilities. The beginner’s area is just a stone throw away from the top station, with a variety of easy green and blue runs for you to gain your confidence and skills on. The runs are predominately wide and open with some challenging blue and red runs in the main bowl for intermediates as well as extensive off-piste black and red runs for the more experienced.
The Glencoe Mountain Resort, not far from Fort William, is another popular skiing destination. With 20 runs in total, beginners can also benefit from the gentle plateau runs while spectators can enjoy the incredible views from the mountain top cafe.
The resort also plays host to a range of winter sports events including the Coe Cup, Scotland’s Premier Freestyle competition, the TSA Banked Slalom Series and a range of freestyle coaching days.
So what’s next?
At ADAPT, we love exploring and going on new adventures. With so many great destinations to choose from, it’s hard to decide on our next trip. But, after looking further afield, we’ve got our eye set on the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and one of the best mountain resorts—Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek has a great selection of world class ski runs for skiers and snowboarders, as well as terrain for Cross Country Skiing and Telemark Skiing. Aside from a ski school, the resort plays host to the Audi Birds of Prey World Cup, the Beaver Creek Running Series: Snowshoe Edition, as well as a “winter culinary” weekend in January.
It’s an incredibly diverse resort offering a multitude of activities for all ages and tastes. In the summer, activities include white water rafting, stand up paddle boarding, horseback riding, and alpine hiking.
For our US readers, Beaver Creek is an awesome adventure destination, closer to home. It also forms part of a fantastic range of resorts across the US, so there is sure to be one near you.
This is a sponsored conversation written by ADAPT on behalf of Vail Resorts. The opinions and text are our own.
Featured image: Frank Winkler/Pixabay