Top 10 adventure vacations in Scotland

Scotland lends itself beautifully to adventure vacations, whether you’re an avid photographer, an active family, a winter walker or a fan of wildlife cruises. The diversity of landscapes here, from the peaks of the Cairngorms to the islands off the west coast, allows for a wide range of adventurous pursuits. Sea kayaking, tracking animals with night vision goggles, learning to dig snowholes, or hiking with a pony – Scotland is adventure central. And our expert partners are on hand to guide you, feed you, entertain you with folklore and fascinating facts, and generally ensure you have the time of your life without putting a foot wrong.

1. Cruise the Sounds of the Hebrides

The Sounds of the Inner Hebrides are the sounds of silence… broken only occasionally by the call of a seabird, the trudge of boots onto a sandy beach, the clink of glasses on the deck at sunset, or gasps as a dolphin skips through the surf. Sailing aboard a traditional wooden tall ship with just a few other passengers, you can kayak, hike or track wildlife through binoculars, your route dependent only on the weather and your own whims.

2. Photograph Scotland’s northwest coast

How do you make photography adventurous? By going so far into northwest Scotland that you’re practically in the sea, joined by a professional landscape photographer. There are a mix of challenging locations to photograph here, if you’re up for it. You’ll find yourself scrambling up a gorge to photograph Widow Falls, and hiking up the summit ridge of Stac Pollaidh to get the best shots of your surroundings.

Our top trip: Scotland photography vacation, far northwest
See all our trips: Scotland special interest vacations
Read more: Scotland special interest travel guide

3. Go walking in winter

Hiking in the thick snow of the Cairngorms in winter is a challenge. But with crampons on your boots, and a professional guide at your side handling the navigation and weather assessments, you can enjoy an exhilarating sense of complete freedom. Your guide will also initiate you into vital mountain safety skills such as self-arrests using ice axes.

Our top trip: Scotland winter walking vacation
See all our trips: Scotland walking vacations
Read more: Scotland travel guide
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Scotland or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

4. Voyage to Orkney

Catch the ferry from Inverness to Orkney, an archipelago that lies off the far north-eastern tip of mainland Scotland. The biggest town, Kirkwall, makes a great base for exploring Neolithic ruins older than Stonehenge and coastal paths that wind past bird reserves and seal beaches. The best trips have some free time to wander – into a whisky distillery, perhaps, or into shops piled high with island-made smoked cheese and ginger fudge.
Our top trip: Orkney islands short break
See all our trips: Orkney vacations
Read more: Orkney travel guide

5. Learn the art of snow-holing in the Cairngorms

Trekking wintery peaks in the Cairngorms during the day is one thing; learning how to stay overnight, without a tent, is quite another. Join an expert mountain leader as you dig into the snow, creating a space large enough for your group to comfortably bed down in sleeping bags while the harsh wind whistles outside. You’ll be cosy and warm inside, though, with homemade soup fresh off the stove.

Our top trip: Winter trekking vacation in Scotland
See all our trips: Scottish Highlands vacations
Read more: Scottish Highlands travel guide

6. Go glamping & hiking in the Cairngorms

What’s more fun than trekking into the heart of the Scottish Highlands with your family for a few days of adventure? Doing it with a pony by your side carrying your gear, including a spacious tent. Explore one of the UK’s most biodiverse landscapes with an expert guide, picking up some fun expedition training.

Our top trip: Cairngorms glamping and hiking vacation
See all our trips: Scotland walking vacations
Read more: Scotland travel guide

7. Kayak the Sound of Arisaig

Gently paddling the Inner Hebrides and Scotland’s west coast, you’ll enjoy unique and stirring views of these remote landscapes. The water is so clear you can see anemones and crabs clinging to the rocks, and it’s not unknown for curious seals to playfully swim around kayakers. All the gear needed for a week-long, guided expedition is provided – you’ll wild camp on isolated beaches for a thrilling sense of adventure.

8. Track wildlife in the Highlands

Expert guides with an eye, and an ear, for the movements of wildlife, lead you across Scotland’s majestic Highlands across a range of fun and easygoing activities from hiking to boat trips and even sea kayaking. So that, while you’ll certainly spend a little time in specialist hides where appropriate, many of the animals you encounter from dolphins to otters and golden eagles will cross your path along the way.

Our top trip: Scotland Highlands wildlife vacation
See all our trips: Scotland wildlife vacations
Read more: Scotland wildlife travel guide

9. Mountain bike across the Highlands

Discover beautiful landscapes across the Scottish Highlands that car-drivers can only dream of, when you ride across them by mountain bike. From Fort William through the ‘Wild West’ to Glencoe, Speyside, the Cairngorms National Park and Perthshire, you’ll be treated to some truly special views. Small group tours offer camaraderie and the company of an experienced guide, as well as the opportunity to stay at a range of welcoming Highland guesthouses that love nothing more than the sight of a hungry horde of cyclists approaching.

Our top trip: Mountain biking vacation in Scotland
See all our trips: Scotland cycling vacations
Read more: Scotland cycling travel guide

10. Canoe the famous River Spey

No experience is needed for a four-day canoeing adventure along the River Spey, as you’ll learn paddling strokes and techniques as you go. Led by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll pass fragrant pine forests teeming with wildlife, hills clad with heather and one of Scotland’s most celebrated whisky regions. The sight of a golden eagle soaring above is far from rare. And one of the main highlights is pitching your tents by the riverside every evening, for a true expedition atmosphere.

Our top trip: River Spey canoeing vacation in Scotland
See all our trips: Scotland vacations
Read more: Scottish Highlands travel guide
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Robbie Shade] [Sounds of the Hebrides: Richard] [Get active in the West Highlands: a.poll_o] [Sail the wild waters of the Outer Hebrides: Donald Macauley]