Whether it’s exhilarating white water rafting on the River Garry you’re after or a challenging hike to the summit of the mighty Schiehallion Mountain that’s guaranteed to test your limits, the Scottish Highlands are a veritable paradise for those with an unbridled passion for one-of-a-kind adventure vacations.
Not that every adventure has to be an adrenaline-charged, white-knuckle ride.
For every thrilling ride along the cycle trails surrounding our own Perthshire hotel, and for every exciting rush of a deer stalking tour, there’s the opportunity to experience something a little more peaceful.
Perhaps that’s casting off into the tranquil waters of Loch Rannoch or heading out by boat into the mystical waters of Loch Ness for the fishing trip of a lifetime.
Or perhaps it’s strolling along one of the Scottish Highland’s many immaculately presented golf courses, teeing off whilst surrounded at all sides by the kind of awe-inspiring scenery you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Whatever your idea of the perfect adventure vacation, Scotland really does offer something for everyone.
But don’t just take our word for it.
Eager to prove that there’s no place quite like it for those who like to stay active, we spoke to local experts for their insights on the best places to fish, hike, cycle, and shoot.
We spoke to seasoned travellers to get their picks on the best places to eat, explore and more.
We took all that and we put it together in this, your ultimate guide to adventure vacations in the Scottish Highlands.
Hiking tours of the Scottish Highlands
Every year, around 2,700 trips to Scotland include a long walk, hike or ramble, with a further 3,060 trips including at least one shorter walk.
When you think about it, that’s hardly surprising:
There’s no better way to truly experience the beauty and grandeur of the Highlands than by exploring it on foot.
Luckily, the area is so vast and so diverse that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a hardened hiker or it’s your first time lacing up a pair of boots – you’ll always find a route that’s perfectly suited to your ability.
Whatever kind of walking holiday you’re after, organisations like Visit Scotland offer plentiful advice and information on the best places to visit and routes to explore.
Don’t have time for that right now?
Here are just some of the routes that our local legends say should be an essential part of your hiking tour around Scotland.
1: West Highland Way
Stretching 96 miles from the outskirts of Glasgow to deep in the heart of the highlands at Fort William, tackling the whole of the West Highland way isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Despite this, some 15,000 people are said to conquer the entire route every year, with most reasonably fit hikers taking at least five days to do so.
A far more common feat, however, is taking on at least a part of the trail, which around 80,000 people do each year.
En route, they’re likely to encounter the wild, windswept allure of Rannoch Moor in Highland Perthshire, tackle the frighteningly-named Devil’s Staircase in Glencoe, and explore the charming banks of beautiful Loch Lomond.
2: Cairngorm National Park
Prefer something a little less taxing? Cairngorm National Park may be just the place for your Scottish walking holiday.
Here, you’ll find lots of shorter, low-level routes that are perfect for gentler walks and for those bringing young children along for their first adventure.
Where to eat when walking around Cairngorm National Park
For dining, be sure to stop by The Bothy Braemar for a cosy, relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, and a delicious menu that makes it an essential pit-stop for any traveller.
3: Rob Roy Way
If it’s a real sense of adventure you’re looking for from your Scottish walking holiday, then the Rob Roy Way is an absolute must.
Following the trail once taken by legendary Scottish outlaw, Rob Roy MacGregor, this 79.5-mile route can be completed within a few days.
Alternatively, it’s always possible to enjoy a pleasant day-walk by tackling smaller, well-marked sections of the route around Pitlochry and the Highland Perthshire region.
The Aberfeldy to Pitlochry section, for example, is roughly 10 miles and can be completed by a reasonably fit walker within four to five hours.
En route, you’ll encounter mystical forests, magical lochs and mesmerising scenery like something straight out of a fairy tale.
4: Schiehallion Mountain
If the Rob Roy Way wasn’t proving enough of a challenge for you, then the formidable Schiehallion surely will.
Staying in the Perthshire area, you’ll be climbing what is usually referred to as Scotland’s easiest Munro to conquer.
Not that it’s going to be a walk in the park.
At 6.25 miles with a 731m ascent, the route starts off fairly amicable before the final climb to the summit really puts your mettle to the test.
Where to stay in Highland Perthshire
Whether you’re conquering a mountain or heading off on a daring adventure through the highlands, the five-star Dunalastair Hotel Suites near Pitlochry will serve as the perfect home base.
For dining, look no further than the hotel’s own Monadh Dining, which serves up a mouthwatering array of traditional dishes with a Scottish flair, all prepared using freshly sourced local ingredients.
Cycling tours of the Scottish Highlands
If you don’t fancy strapping on some sturdy boots and walking mile after mile, then the next best way to explore the Scottish Highlands is, of course, by bicycle.
Bringing your own two wheels is always advisable where possible, but you’ll also find plenty of affordable bicycle hire options throughout the Scottish Highlands.
Costs typically start at around £40 per day, and some cycle hire centres, such as Ticket to Ride in Inverness, even offer one-way hire so you can pick up your bike, tackle a big route, and drop your bike off with one of their partners in a different location.
Wherever you go, you’ll have the opportunity to rush through lush forests, enjoy the thrill of riding magnificent hills and valleys or simply enjoy a leisurely cruise around one of the Highlands countless biking trails.
Speaking of which, here are our five essential picks for your cycling tour of Scotland.
1: Kincraig Loop
One for the road cyclists among you, this short, 15-mile route starts off by the remarkable Rothiemurchus Forest, a historic, 13th-century estate that is full of hidden treasures.
At every turn, you’ll encounter abundant wildlife and breathtaking views.
For now, though, enjoy a pleasant journey across the River Feshie, take in the utterly splendid Loch Insh and make your way back again.
After that, the day is yours to enjoy quad trekking, guided nature walks, or exhilarating white water rafting back at Rothiemurchus.
Visiting Rothiemurchus Forest
After all that adventure, you’re bound to be hungry, so be sure to step inside The Druie café at Rothiemurchus itself for a satisfying breakfast, a delicious lunch, or a selection of smooth coffee and scrumptious cakes.
Before you leave, be sure to visit the Estate Farm Shop and Deli, where you can purchase a selection of artisan cheeses, beverages, Highland beef and more.
2: Caledonia Way
Clocking in at around 66 miles, the Caledonia Way is one of Scotland’s most outstanding cycling routes.
Journeying from the foot of Ben Nevis in Fort William you’ll ride along delight canal towpaths, venture deep into the heart of lush forests, and quiet roads as you pass the famous Loch Ness and make your way to the amazing Great Glen Fault.
Where to eat along the Caledonia Way
While you’re in Fort William, fuel up on some heartening cuisine at The Grog and Gruel, a traditional Scottish pub with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
For a celebratory meal when you reach the area surrounding Great Glen Fault, the upmarket Pug & Greyhound restaurant comes highly recommended.
3: Loch Rannoch Circular
Roughly 36 miles of idyllic surroundings with barely another soul in sight, the Loch Rannoch Circular is one of Highland Perthshire’s best-loved cycling routes.
En route, you’ll come across a number of the Scottish Highland’s hidden gems, including historical landmarks dating back to the Jacobite Rising of 1945.
Afterwards, retire to Monadh Dining in Kinloch Rannoch to sample a traditional afternoon cream tea with a decidedly Scottish feel.
4: The Bealach
Last but by no means least, we finish our cycling in holiday in Scotland with the 42-mile Bealach.
Another route that’s best done with a road cycle, the ride takes you across the magnificent Applecross Peninsula on what National Geographic once voted one of the best car journeys in the world. If it’s that good by car, just imagine how much better it could be on two wheels.
While you’re there, stop off at The Bealach Cafe for some of the tastiest cakes and coffees in the highlands.
Stalking tours of the Scottish Highland
Now for an adventure vacation in Scotland with a difference.
An ancient sport that plays a significant role in Scotland’s rich history and culture, deer stalking remains as popular today as it ever did.
If you’re planning a stalking tour for your next visit to the country, here’s some essential stops for your itinerary.
1: Dunan Estate Stalking
Spread out over 10,000 acres of enchanting wilderness in the heart of the Highland Perthshire, Dunan Estate offers stag stalking from July to October each year.
Prices start from £540 per day.
Alternatively, hind stalking season runs from October to February with prices running from £240 per day.
Based in Loch Rannoch, the aforementioned Dunalastair Hotel Suites is close by for those looking to make it a truly five-star experience.
2: West Highland Hunting
Based in Ardnamurchan, Argyll, West Highland Hunting has a broad selection of hunting beats covering 40,000 acres, all surrounded by truly sensational highland scenery.
Some of the easier beats make this the perfect choice for first-time hunters, though there’s still plenty to challenge more hardened hunters.
Prices typically start from £550.
3: Kingairloch Estate
What with its countless walking routes, cycling trails and host of adventure activities, Fort William truly is the ideal place for any vacation holiday.
The area is no slouch when it comes to stalking, either.
The nearby Kingairloch Estate offers stag and hind stalking from around £540 and is particularly notable for its prime location overlooking the tranquil waters of Loch Linnhe.
The Boathouse Bistro is the Estate’s onsite restaurant and serves freshly sourced game, venison, and seafood, the quality of which is worth the visit alone.
4: Borve Lodge Estate
A little further afield but well worth the visit for a truly unforgettable deer stalking holiday in Scotland, Borve Lodge Estate offer stalking trips across the romantic moorlands of the Isle of Harris and Island of Taransay.
Running from August to October each year, stalking trips start from around £500.
Stalking and accommodation packages are also a worthwhile option if you’re really planning to make the most of your vacation. Prices for these are available on request.
Fishing tours of Highland Scotland
After all that adrenaline-pumping action, who could blame you for wanting a bit of time out on your adventure vacation?
Sit back, cast off, and relax with these top Highland fishing spots.
1: River Ness
There are no guarantees you’ll catch the famous monster that’s said to lurk beneath the surface of the nearby loch, but here’s what you can guarantee:
Plentiful salmon, sea trout and brown trout.
Here’s another guarantee:
The beautiful rural scenery and a sense of peace and calm permeating the fresh Highland air.
Graham’s Tackle Shop on Castle Street in Inverness is the ideal place to pick up any fishing equipment you may have left behind.
It’s here where you’ll also pick up your visitor’s fishing permits, which are charged at the following prices:
- February 1st to May 31st – £15 per day or £75 per week
- June 1st to October 15th – £25 per day or £125 per week
- Under 18s – £10 all season.
Where to eat near River Ness
If all that fishing has left you with an appetite, be sure to check out Rocpool restaurant on Ness Walk, where you’ll find contemporary Scottish cuisine served in bright, modern surroundings.
2: Loch Tummel
Though Scotland may be most famous for its salmon, there’s plenty to enjoy for those who prefer fishing for perch.
Surrounded by the rolling hills and evergreen forests of Highland Perthshire, Loch Tummel in Pitlochry is one of the Highland’s best-loved perch fishing beats.
These gentle, clear waters are also home to an abundance of pike and brown trout.
Pike season is open all year round, with fishing for all other types of fish available from March to October.
Permits are £8 per day or £25 and can be ordered online.
3: River Tay
Staying in Perthshire, we move next to the majestic River Tay, which is famous around the world as one of the best places to catch Atlantic salmon anywhere in EU.
It was here, in 1922, that the largest ever British salmon was caught, weighing in at 64 lbs, a record which is still unbroken to this day.
Though there’s no promises that you’ll catch anything so big, one of the most rewarding fishing experiences the highlands has to offer is practically guaranteed.
Visitor permits for fishing the River Tay are charged at the following prices:
- Adults – £10 per day or £30 per week
- Under 18s – £2.50 per day or £10 per week
- Seniors – £5 per day or £15 per week.
These can be purchased from Dunkeld Post Office on Bridge Street, where you’ll also find a limited amount of fishing tackle available for purchase.
Top tips for fishing at Loch Tummel and River Tay
Left your rods at home?
4: Loch Lomond
By virtue of its location on the Highland Boundary Fault which is said to make the transition from Central to Highland Scotland, Loch Lomond only narrowly makes it into our guide to adventure vacations in the Scottish Highlands.
Thank goodness it did, however, because there are truly very few places like it anywhere in Scotland.
As famous for its incredible scenery as it is for the rich diversity of its wildlife, at any given moment you might spot otters, red squirrels, and possibly even the mighty red deer.
Of course, it’s the fish that we’re concerned with here. Well-known as a popular spot for salmon, sea trout and brown trout, Loch Lomond genuinely is a highlight of any highland fishing holiday.
The Loch Lomond Angling Association has full details on where to buy permits and fishing tackle in the area.
Where to eat when fishing at Loch Lomond
When it comes to dining, Colquhoun’s Restaurant and The Stables both consistently earn rave reviews for their heartening meals and friendly Scottish hospitality.
Golfing tours of Highland Scotland
Famously known as The Home of Golf, this ancient sport has its roots firmly in Highland soil.
The modern game can be traced back here as long ago as the 15th century, and today enjoys widespread appeal as the country’s national sport.
So, when you’re planning your next adventure break in Scotland, taking the opportunity to tee off for yourself is an experience not to be missed.
Not sure where to start?
Here’s your guide to the best golf courses in Highland Scotland.
1: Castle Stuart Golf Links
Situated on the banks of the Moray Firth north of Inverness, the dramatic views across the North Sea aren’t the only reason Castle Stuart Golf Links was voted Best New Course when it first opened back in 2009.
Famous for hosting the Scottish Open three years running from 2011 to 2013 (and again in 2016), this 18-hole is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most sensational courses.
Travelling to Scotland in 2018?
You’d better hurry. The course closes for the winter on November 17th.
It reopens again on March 29th, 2019 and stays open until November 16th, 2019.
Castle Stuart green fees
- May to October: £200 per round or £275 for 36 holes
- April and Nov: £145 per round or £210 for 36 holes
Where to eat when golfing at Stuart’s Castle
A wholly satisfying and reasonably priced menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes can be enjoyed at the Castle Stuart Clubhouse. The Clubhouse certainly gives any number of local restaurants a run for their money, and is well worth the visit.
2: Boat of Garten
Offering captivating views across the River Spey, with the snow-capped Cairngorm Mountains sitting bold and proud in the distance, Boat of Garten is easily one of Scotland’s most attractive golf courses.
Not that looks are all ‘The Boat’ has going for it.
Each of the 18 hotels proves to be a formidable challenge for seasoned golfers, making a round of golf here as utterly engrossing as it gets.
Boat of Garten green fees
Adults: £55 per 18 holes
Under 18s: £20 per 18 holes
Groups of four: £195 per 18 holes
Off-peak (before 8.30 AM, after 4 PM): £40 per 18 holes.
3: Macdonald, Aviemore
Just a stone’s throw from Boat of Garten, the magnificent Macdonald Spey Valley Resort in Aviemore boasts a 635-yard hole, the longest in Scotland.
Make no mistake about it, the other holes are equally as enthralling.
The 18-hole, par 72 courses also offers a nine-hole short game, all set in gorgeous surroundings where native Scottish wildlife is in abundance.
Macdonald, Aviemore green fees
The course is open from April to October, with green fees charged at the following rates:
Adults and Juniors: £90 per 18 holes
Groups of nine or more: £60pp per 18 holes
Where to eat when golfing around the River Spey
The Macdonald resort also has multiple restaurants and a golf shop where you can hire clubs and balls for £40.
Meanwhile, Anderson’s Restaurant at Boat of Garten offers contemporary and classic Scottish cuisine in elegant, sophisticated surroundings.
4: Royal Dornoch Golf Club
The Royal Dornoch’s two grade-A courses attract players from all over the world thanks to their winning combination of spectacular scenery and holes that are as fun as they are challenging.
The classic, 18-hole, Par 70 Championship Course was originally designed by golfing luminary Old Tom Morris in 1886 and remains as invigorating a course as you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, The Royal Dornoch Struie course accomplishes that rare feat of being just as enjoyable for those new to the game of golf as it is for seasoned veterans of the greens.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club green fees
Championship Course fees start at £160 for a single round or £255 for a day ticket.
Struie Course fees start from £50 for a single round or £75 for a day ticket.
Where to eat when golfing at Royal Dornoch
The club has its own bar and dining room for light snacks or a more formal dining experience.
There’s also a pro shop on site where you can pick up the perfect kit to improve your game.
Watersports tours of Highland Scotland
Finally, we reach the end of our adventure holiday in Scotland in the best possible way:
Taking to the miles upon miles of open waters to raft, kayak, and otherwise making a splash.
Here’s your guide to the best places for water activities in the Highlands.
1: Active Highs, Inverness
Whether it’s cycling, hiking, or climbing, the great outdoors of Inverness offer the ideal experience for every type of adventure-seeker.
So it should come as no surprise to find that the area also offers some of the most exhilarating water activities in the Highlands.
Based close to Loch Oich, Active Highs offer white water rafting on the River Garry from £55.
Kayaking trips (from £30), gorge walking (£45) and rafting safaris (£45) are also part of the fun.
2: Nae Limits Activity Centre
Based just a short distance from our hotel in Pitlochry, Nae Limits have earned multiple awards and rave reviews by the boatload for their adrenaline-fuelled range of activities.
Making the most of the great natural playground that is Highland Perthshire, the company offers something for all ages, including the Wee Limits days for younger children.
Nae Limits pricing.
- River Tummel whitewater rafting: £50
- River tubing: £50
- Gorge walking: £40
- Canyoning: £55
3: Free Spirits, Aberfeldy
Nae Limits isn’t the only centre offering a host of exciting water sports activities in Highland Perthshire.
Further up the road in Aberfeldy, Free Spirits offers a host of activities on several different rivers around the area.
The company typically pick the best river for any particular activity depending on the weather.
They’re also one of the few in the region offering the opportunity to try a heart-stopping bungee jump or cliff jump.
Free Spirits pricing:
- Whitewater rafting: £40 – £45 per person
- Canyoning: £40 per person for a half day or £75 per person for a full day
- Abseiling: £40 per person
- Bungee jumping: £70 per person
- Cliff jumping: £40 per person
4: Ace Adventures & Hideaways
Based in Moray, ACE Adventures pride themselves on offering some of the most exciting whitewater rafting experiences in the UK.
Having tried it for ourselves, we can certainly agree that they’re up there with the best of the best!
Canoeing, kayaking, cliff jumping and river tubing are also part of the fun. If you prefer staying on dry land, however, the company’s famous paintballing is well worth trying out.
ACE Adventures pricing:
- Whitewater rafting: From £45
- Paintball: From £15
- Canyoning: From £45
- River tubing & cliff jumping: From £50
- Canoeing: From £50
Where will your next Scotland adventure take you? Discover the best that Scotland has to offer with the award-winning Dunalastair Hotel Suites, luxury, five-star accommodation in the heart of the highlands.
Book your stay direct with us for our best available rates or for enquiries, call now on +44 (0)1882 580444.