Scotland Activities

St Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf course, Scotland activities, UK

Scotland activities #1: St Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf, the Old Course and Swilcan Burn bridge, with the clubhouse in the background. Photo by Optograph.

Main Scotland activities

This page does not include visiting castles, exploring cities and traveling around the western Hebrides islands or northern islands of Orkney and Shetland, which are dealt with on other pages.

Priciest of Scotland activities: Golf

Scotland hosts more courses per person than anywhere else in the world, 550 at the last count, an appropriate top score for the country that invented the sport.

Golf has been played at St Andrews for 600 years, evolving from a track through the heather in 1400 AD to seven public courses now – the largest golfing complex in Europe. All 18 hole courses can be booked in advance if you want a serious golfing vacation.

The accepted history is that golf originated in Scotland in the 12th century, with shepherds banging stones into rabbit holes around St. Andrews.

The first permanent golf course originated there, as did the first written rules, the first 18-hole course, the first golf club memberships and the first golfing tournament – between different Scottish cities. Booking St Andrews Links.

However, the first game of golf recorded was played on the Bruntsfield Links, in the centre of Edinburgh, in 1456. Tourists can play there easily today, it’s a very small and informal course surrounded by Victorian buildings housing flats (apartments) and B &Bs. Just show up at the little green hut, rent your clubs and try not to hit the ball through a window or car windscreen. The main hazard on the course is dogs running off with the ball! Plan a Golf Holiday

Cheapest of Scotland activities: Walking

Bearreraig Bay seen from the Sky Trail on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Bearreraig Bay seen from the Sky Trail on the Isle of Skye. Photo by Chmee2.

Walking is Scotland’s first choice of activity because it’s cheap, offers spectacular views and isolation if you choose the right trail and removes you from the horrors of modern civilisation.
Short hikes of a few hours are easy enough to plan solo but treks over a few days are easier if you let a specialist choose a correctly graded (from gentle to strenuous) itinerary, organise local accommodation and eating on the way, provide an entertaining and informative guide and look after your safety. Group sizes will usually be from 5 to 8 walkers and main luggage will be transferred by organisers from place to place.


Mountain Biking in the Highlands in winter, Scotland activities

Biking is another terrific way to get around Scotland, though choose your route with care unless you have legs of steel and fancy endless hill-climbing. Photo by Anthony Round.

Biking in Scotland covers road cycling, mountain biking and motorcycling but road biking is easiest to organise without a guide as roads are – compared to mountain bike trails – clearly marked, though a good route that’s not too much work, has brilliant scenery and pleasant hostelries en route may require some patience to organise. Traveling with a tour means there’s someone to carry the overnight baggage and tool too, definitely boosting the feel good factor.

Mountain biking really needs local knowledge to get access to the best off-road tracks, provide good kit, nutty companions and find suitable lodging, so a tour package is the best way to approach this activity. That being said these days Googling will provide patient researchers with masses of information ranging from vital to useless so if the budget is tight go online.

Good quality motorcycle rentals and tour packages are also readily available for a easy holiday, generally from 3 days to 8 days.

Climbing Ben Nevis

Panorama from part way up Ben Nevis mountain in the Highlands, Scotland

Ben Nevis mountain track on Britain’s highest mountain and a magnet for both climbers and trekkers who like a lengthy but not very steep physical challenge. Photo by Nilfanion.

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1, 344 metres (4, 409 ft). It’s in the west of Scotland near the town of Fort William. Locally known as The Ben it gets 100, 000 ascents a year (trekking climbs, not rope climbs), most of which use the well-built Pony Track from Glen Nevis on the south side of the mountain.

Rock climbers and mountaineers enjoy the 700-metre (2, 300 ft) cliffs of the north side which offer climbs of varied difficulties.


Kayaking on Loch Earn, Perthshire, in central Scotland, UK

Kayaking on Loch Earn, Perthshire, in central Scotland.

This activity may involve either loch paddling, river-running, white-water, open canoeing, surf kayaking or sea kayaking, though the first and last options are the most common.

Obviously the lochs are the calmer choice and offer superb views but more professional paddlers often prefer to cruise along the Scottish coastline.

The west coast is more sheltered and diverse, with endless cliffs, castles and coves while the east coast provides a little more in the way of wildlife with plentiful birds, and frequent sightings of seals, dolphins and even whales (especially around the Moray Firth).

Specialists organise kayak vacations ranging from beginner training exercises (in lovely surroundings) to serious long-distance tours. More canoeing information


Glenshee ski resort, Scottish Highlands, UK

Glenshee ski resort.

Winter in the Scottish Highlands is sometimes an all white business though snow is not as reliable as over in the Swiss/French Alps. But if conditions are right then skiing and snow boarding more is fine while, snow-shoeing or cool white hiking anywhere in the Highlands will offer terrific white backdrops.
However, if snowfall is suddenly heavy beware chaotic road conditions en route to the main ski areas, not due to snow but to far too many vehicles on narrow roads, even early in the morning.

The slopes are generally not very long while queues for lifts are long, especially at weekends, so try to go mid week mid-week. Facilities do not compare in style or variety to the Alps but the basics are available. Aviemore is the hub of Cairngorm, Fort William for the Nevis Range, Tomintoul for Lecht, Glenshee is surrounded by facilities but Glencoe is the odd one out very little support for skiers.

Skiing in Scotland happens in five main regions of the Highlands:
Glenshee is the largest ski area with 40kms of runs and 22 lifts. It’s in the Cairngorm National Park.
Cairngorm is the most popular resort with 37km of runs while Lecht offers 20kms of runs mainly for novices; both of those are also in the Cairngorm National Park.
The Nevis Range is the highest altitude resort with 35km of runs near Ben Nevis.
Glencoe near famously bleak and beautiful Glen Coe has 20km of runs.