Rethink your Scotland vacation with these adventures.
The Scottish Highlands is the remote, majestic, impossibly scenic destination of The Vanishing Game. Travel to these off-the-beaten path locations next time you find yourself in the area.
Scotland is not just the land of golf packages and malt whiskey tours. More and more, influential guides are placing the country at the top of their adventure-travel lists. So stock up with fishing, hiking, and biking gear, and check out these itineraries for the intrepid Scotland-bound traveler.
Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh
It's true that the peak of this extinct volcano in the center of the city cannot (at a mere 822 feet) be put on par with the truly wild Scottish islands, fjords, mountains, and lochs to the north. But it's a necessary touchstone to begin any adventure-oriented trip here. This urban hike is more exhilarating than Rio's Tijuca Forest or the Hong Kong Trail, especially at the summit when you're rewarded with a 360-degree panorama of the city.
Ben Nevis, Fort William
The word munro is Gaelic for "mountain." Thus, munro-bagging is the sport of collecting Scottish peak ascents. A scenic half-day drive from Edinburgh (via Stirling and Glencoe) delivers adventurers right to the base of the 4,409-foot Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles. From nearly sea level, it's a good slog to the top, but avoid the touristy Pony Path, and take the trail alongside the Allt a'Mhuilinn in order to view the spectacular cliffs of the north face.
Oban to the Isles of Coll and Staffa
It's a short, stunning drive from Ft. William to Oban (site of the excellent Oban Distillery) where a ferry can be jumped for the Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides. A small (13 miles by 3) sand dune of an island stuck out in the Atlantic, it's perfect for long walks on its nearly deserted shores, and for picking up driftwood for a fire to roast sausages and watch the sunset over the water. Another worthy trip from Oban is out to the Isle of Staffa to explore its hexagonal basalt caves.
Outer Hebrides, Isle of South Uist to the Isle of Lewis
Even though humans have lived in the Gaelic-speaking Outer Hebrides for 5,000 years, the landscape remains largely untamed, filled with golden eagles, seals, and red deer. For mountain bikers, the 174-mile trans-Hebridean Trail takes in seven islands, and although there's tarmac for some of the ride, the most rewarding paths are on a single track to the rarely visited west coasts of the Isles of Harris and Lewis. Once you're out of the saddle, a bracing surf at Stornoway, on the east coast of the Isle of Lewis, will help refresh those aching muscles.
Ullapool to Torridon
With a population of only 1,300 people and located on the east shore of Loch Broom, the town of Ullapool is famous for its traditional music and also the rugged sandstone mountains which surround it. An ascent of Sgurr Fiona and Corrag Bhuidhe ensures a warm reception and a congratulatory pint of local ale that evening at The Argyle Pub. Torridon, further south, is equally spectacular, attracting wildlife enthusiasts and hiker—especially to its renowned hotel, The Torridon.
Though less untamed, northeast Scotland also has its wild side. Near Speyside, the stone carvings of the ancient Picts still dot farm fields, and famous castles and estates such as Balmoral dominate the landscape. Several of the great Scottish whiskey distilleries are in this area, and the wide, deserted sandy beaches are perfect for enjoying a nip or two while basking in the heat of a giant driftwood bonfire.