11 Best Outdoor Activities in Scotland

With vast pine forests, deep lochs, and dozens of ancient castles to explore, Scotland has got to be one of the best places in the world for an outdoor adventure. As if these features weren’t enough, Scotland is also one of the few places which have a ‘right to roam’ policy, meaning wild camping is permitted throughout Scotland, with only a handful of exceptions.

Let’s delve into some of my favourite outdoor activities in Scotland.

Best outdoor activities in Scotland

Hike through the beautiful Tay Forest Park

The Tay Forest Park in Perthshire covers a vast area of just under 200 square kilometres. The park is made up of mountains, dense swathes of forest and a number of picturesque lochs.

There are countless hikes available to embark on in Tay Forest Park including three trails on a hill known as Drummond Hill, which overlooks Loch Tay, the third-longest loch in Scotland. My favourite of these trails is the Black Rock Trail which zigzags through the forest until you reach a spectacular viewpoint which overlooks the charming village of Kenmore as well as Loch Tay.

Another stunning viewpoint within Tay Forest Park is known as the Queen’s View, named after Queen Victoria visited and fell in love with this spot. This viewing spot is just a gentle stroll away from a cafe and visitor centre and overlooks Loch Tummel as well as the distant Glencoe mountains.

All hikes in Tay Forest Park are clearly signposted and have sufficient parking beside the start of the trails.

Climb Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK

For the most adventurous travellers, a trek up the highest mountain in the UK is a challenging yet highly rewarding experience. The summit of Ben Nevis sits at 4,411 feet above sea level and it typically takes between 7 and 9 hours to make the hike, there and back.

The walk is steep and the terrain can get rough in places with loose stones. But the views at the top make it all worth it!

Before you embark on your adventure, it’s advisable to check the weather forecast. Wet and windy weather can make the hike more challenging.


Admire waterfalls at the Birks of Aberfeldy

There are a number of magnificent waterfalls that can be viewed across Scotland. But one of my absolutely favourite waterfalls can be found at the Birks of Aberfeldy.

Just a short walk away from the centre of the beautiful town of Aberfeldy is the Birks of Aberfeldy, a circular walking trail around a scenic burn which has been named after a poem by Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

The walk takes you alongside numerous beautiful cascades as the river gradually descends through the gorge. There are quite a few steps to contend with and they can get slippery due to their close proximity to the falls.

The highest and most spectacular waterfall at the Birks is known as the Falls of Moness. There’s a viewing platform where you can admire the falls and also a wooden bridge which takes you over them.

Aberfeldy is a go-to destination for visitors in search of outdoor activities in Scotland.


Kayak on Scotland’s famous lochs

There are few better ways to admire Scotland’s lochs than by taking to the water in a kayak and listening to nothing but the sound of ores splashing through the water and the singing of birds.

Kayaks are available to rent for a couple of hours from many of Scotland’s lochs including Loch Tarff, Loch Dochfour, Loch Lomond and Loch Tay.

Kayaking trips either start from the shore or a nearby river and allow ample opportunities to admire the natural surroundings.

One of my favourite kayaking adventures started on the River Lochay which feeds into Loch Tay. I was able to stop off on tiny islets in the middle of the loch to further explore and immerse myself in nature.

If outdoor water sports is your thing, white-water rafting and canoeing in Scotland’s lochs are possible too!


Visit ancient Scottish castles

Scotland is famous for its plethora of castles, all in various states of disrepair. As well as the famous Edinburgh Castle, there are numerous restored castles for you to visit such as Castle Menzies in Weem or Blair Castle

In Pitlochry. These castles are not only stunning to gaze at from afar but allow you the opportunity to venture inside and see what the interior is like.

Another example is Eilean Donan Castle which is arguably one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland. Eilean Donan Castle is perched where three separate lochs come together, on a small island which connects to the mainland by a stone bridge. There are numerous facilities here including a cafe and visitor centre.

Alternatively, you can admire castle ruins such as the eerie yet beautiful Stalker Castle, a four-storey tower in the middle of a loch.

Spend a day in Loch Lomond National Park

Perhaps the most famous loch in Scotland, Loch Lomond lies within a sprawling Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, which includes several smaller lochs as well as vast areas of woodland which are home to a plethora of Scottish wildlife including the rare golden eagle.

There’s a range of activities for you to enjoy here such as scenic hikes up mountains, gorge walking, and visits to waterfalls such as the Falls of Dochart or cycling on the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path.

As well as enjoying the natural beauty of the park, visitors can also visit some of the quaint towns and villages which house a selection of curio shops, restaurants and cafes. One of the most charming villages is known as Luss, perched on a small beach overlooking Loch Lomond.

If you are seeking outdoor activities near Glasgow, Loch Lomond is the place for you!


Hike through the eerie Glencoe Valley

Glencoe, near Fort William, is without a doubt one of the most scenic valleys in Scotland. But this breathtaking panorama of towering peaks houses a dark history – it was the site of the Glencoe massacre, in which dozens of members of the MacDonald clan were killed by the Scottish government in 1692.

Therefore, walks in Glencoe through this valley combine history with natural beauty, adding to an eerily beautiful ambience.

There are a number of Glencoe hikes that you can enjoy here such as the hike on the Lost Valley trail, where the MacDonald clan were said to have hidden stolen cattle. This walk takes a couple of hours to complete and covers a distance of 4km.

Another popular walk is up the Pap of Glencoe, a moderate hike up a U-shaped mountain which covers a distance of 7km.


Admire one of the oldest trees in the world

In a quiet village called Fortingall, near the foot of Glenlyon mountain, is what is perhaps the oldest tree in Europe. The Fortingall Yew Tree, standing in a churchyard, is thought to be anywhere between 3,000 years old and 9,000 years old.

This incredible tree really has stood the test of time and has lived through numerous historical events. Today the yew tree is protected behind stone walls as it has unfortunately suffered from vandalism over centuries.

There is a small car park just outside the churchyard and the tree is free to visit.

Visit the secret Scottish pyramid of Cairngorms National Park

A hidden gem, tucked away in the vast Cairngorms National Park, is a stone pyramid. It’s certainly not what you’d expect to find in the middle of a forest in Scotland!

This pyramid is one of 11 cairns in Scotland and was erected to symbolise Queen Victoria’s love for Prince Albert, built after his death. It’s the largest cairn and was built in a clearing in the centre of a dense area of woodland, on a hill.

The pyramid can be viewed whilst on a walking trail which starts at Balmoral car park. The walk there and back takes roughly 1 hour. Halfway to the pyramid, you will find another cairn, a cone-shaped tower of stones.


Go cold-water swimming in Loch Tay

Cold-water swimming is said to have numerous health benefits. Whether you believe the hype or not, one thing is for sure, it’s certainly exhilarating! In the summer months, Loch Tay in Perthshire is the perfect place to take a refreshing dip.

The waters off Kenmore Beach are relatively shallow and the water here is typically calm. Though do bring water shoes as there are lots of stones on the beach and can be debris such as branches to walk over.

When swimming in the loch, don’t venture too far as the deeper you go, the colder it gets!

Visit the Isle of Skye

The Scottish coastline is home to hundreds of scenic islands. One of the most breathtaking islands is the Isle of Skye which has an almost otherworldly landscape.

The Fairy Pools of Skye is a big draw for photographers and walkers looking for incredible outdoor activities in Scotland.

When visiting the Isle of Skye, hiking to the Old Man of Storr really is a must. These striking rock formations, which have been formed after thousands of years of weathering, are enough to leave any nature lover speechless.

Another sight that you can’t miss is Mealt Falls, a unique waterfall that tumbles into the ocean.


Final Thoughts!

Those are some of the many outdoor activities in Scotland that you can enjoy. The Highlands really are the perfect location for outdoor lovers and sustainable tourism. What is your favourite outdoor adventure in Scotland?