Scotland could have been made for activity holidays. Its landscapes, water features and habitats are ideal to make any holiday a rewarding challenge. Whether you're travelling alone, with an adventurous partner, a group or your family, Scottish activity holidays are guaranteed to live long in the memory.
Here we take a look at the kind of adventures you can expect from Scotland in the raw in the form of our choice of the best activity holidays in Scotland.
Here is a list of some of the best in Scottish activity holidays. It's not exhaustive, of course, as that would be impossible. All visitors will have their favourite spots and activities, some of which they might want to keep to themselves... Anyway, the following are some world renowned examples of what you can expect from an adventure holiday in Scotland.
Always a firm favourite and as activities in Scotland go you can’t get better than Kayaking and Canoeing. Here are some top tips to help you find the best spots.
Visit Loch Lomond, the biggest lake in Great Britain. There are all sorts of family friendly activities available, from the relaxed to the thrilling. Loch Morlich, meanwhile, is up country near the winter resort of Aviemore, and perfect for kayaking. The mighty River Tay in Perthshire offers opportunities for all levels and ages, in single and tandem kayaks. With the right guidance, all of your party should be able to find a challenge just right for them, even if it means sharing a kayak!
Sea kayaking can be quite challenging, so it is best done by adults or with elder children only. There are 2 tailor made sea kayak trails; the Argyll and Scottish. The Argyll in Western Scotland is shorter, and made of 8 handy sections, while the Scottish trail is a much more challenging route, covering 500km in total. In the South East of the country, the East Neuk of Fife has superb kayaking activity trails.
Perfect, family friendly canoe trips are available through the heart of Scotland. These make use of the country's canal system, including the Caledonian, Forth & Clyde, and Union canals. The country's rivers and lochs also have canoeing centres which will guide you and your family to the most suitable routes. Loch Goil, Loch Insh and Loch Tay all have superb watersports centres.
How to Go Canoeing in Scotland
Here's an example of how easy or hard you can make it for yourself and your family to go open canoeing in Scotland. In this case, two guys travel the whole width of the country. There are much easier ways to do it, of course...
Another great holiday activity in Scotland is cycling. Keep fit whilst seeing some of the most amazing sites.
The Speyside Way, in the Cairngorms National Park, is a superb cycle route. It is specially set aside for cyclists and includes both lane based routes and off road paths.
The Deeside Way in Aberdeenshire is almost completely off road, and between 9km and 11km long. It is not too taxing, and perfect for group or family trips.
The Rob Roy Loop is a designated cycle route in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, in Western Central Scotland. It is relatively flat and has off road sections as well as quiet country roads.
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Alvie Gorge and Bridge of Brown Gorge are both located near the Aviemore holiday centre in the North of Scotland. There are highly organised trips in both locations, which feature fabulous waterfalls, pool jumps, slides and flumes.
These are specially designed to be challenging but family friendly. All equipment is provided, including life jackets. Just take spare trainers, swimming suits and towels.
There are tailor made land yachting trips in various parts of Scotland. One that is very popular is West Sands Beach in St. Andrews, Fife, in the South East of the country. Depending on the time of year, other beaches include Lunan Bay in Arbroath and Belhaven Bay in Dunbar.
Abseiling trips are available at the brilliant Gulabin Lodge Outdoor Centre, in Spittal of Glenshee by Blairgowrie, in the East of Scotland. This organisation is specially set up to cater for groups, families and schools. It organises abseiling trips in nearby Highland Perthshire, which is a hidden gem even in Scotland.
Keeping your kids active is a must on any holiday. Luckily, Scottish activity holidays offer so much to do that no-one will ever be bored. As well as being physically challenging, kids' activity holidays are mentally stimulating, and provide great learning experiences. (There will be age limits set by providers of each activity, so check these before you book anything.)
(For kids of about 7 to 8 years upwards; check with provider) A hugely popular outdoor pursuit, zorbing is something adults would do if they could. One, or ideally two, kids are strapped inside a zorb and rolled downhill. A zorb is a huge transparent ball with another one inside it. If it sounds crazy, it is. Kids love it so much they want to do it again and again. Add to the fun with water balling, which is when water is poured into the zorb as well. It's wet, crazy fun!
Anywhere from 4 or 5 years and upwards; be sure to check) Always a kids' favourite, there are lots of places in Scotland which offer pony rides for children. With the latest safety helmets, and fully trained staff, pony riding is an activity that gives kids all sorts of exciting experiences. For new starters or more experienced children, escorted trips will teach them how to mount, start, stop and steer their own pony. There are hundreds of off road areas and tailor made pony trek routes to explore with this holiday activity.
(Age will depend on activity and provider. About 4 years and above for sailing, 7 and upwards for other sports)
Scotland has thousands of waterways, many of which are ideal for children's water sports. Specially selected for the purpose, your kids can experience the fun of the water in safety. Expert trainers will teach your children how to sail, canoe or windsurf until they are confident on the water. Wetsuits and close supervision are provided.
(From about 7 years old and upwards. Check with provider)
Scotland's forests, woods and hills are ideal for assault courses and high rope activities. Specially designed for safety and fun, these activities include the best safety equipment so your kids won't fall any distance. Tree top adventures and obstacles include rope bridges, Tarzan swings, zip wires and more. They build confidence, as well as a love of the outdoors and memories of a fantastic holiday.
(Age very much dependent on provider. At least 7 years, sometimes from 10 and above)
Learning to ride a Segway is one of the adventure activities in Scotland all families should try. As these vehicles are designed to be all terrain, the country is an ideal testing ground. Your kids will learn how to master their machine over various types of ground and gradients, giving them coordination skills and a whole lot of fun. Segways are an excellent way to explore the countryside, as well as learning how to control these amazing pieces of machinery, an activity from their Scottish holiday they will never forget.
The sheer amount of holiday activities in Scotland means that all the family can have their own fun. You might want to split up sometimes, or you may want to do things all together. You can make a fool of yourself in safety, see what you're really made of, and just have a great time. These outdoor family activity holidays offer the chance to bond and make some great memories.
For families with kids from about 8 years and older, abseiling is one of the favourite activities in Scotland for families. Specially selected sites, the best safety equipment and trainers make this a safe, challenging and exciting family activity holiday adventure. Scotland's thousands of hills, valleys and crags make it an ideal country to try abseiling. You can watch your kids' confidence grow, and probably your own, as you step over the edge...
By far one of the most popular outdoor activities in Scotland, off-road bike riding is a firm favourite with thousands of families looking for a real holiday experience. With its long established roots in the country, kids as young as 6 can really participate in some amazing activity rides. There are colour coded routes available from the many biking centres throughout Scotland. Some of these are even suitable for very young children, if towed or taken in a trailer or seat.
For a family adventure, gorge walking takes some beating. Young and old together, all dressed from head to foot in safety equipment, ready for the unknown. Scotland has some world beating gorges, thanks to its unique geological make-up. Gorge walking routes are selected to be a safe yet amazingly exciting activity, if you're properly kitted out. Walking is only part of the fun; there is also sliding, swimming and probably screaming to be had.
Scotland is a wonderful place to see by water. There are freshwater and seawater rivers, lochs, canals and bays throughout the whole country. Hire a bunch of kayaks or canoes, the right safety equipment, and you and the whole family can go your own way. There is plenty of expert advice available from canoe centres, which makes this one of the most popular and enjoyable Scottish holiday activities for adventurous families.
Family activity and adventure holidays in Scotland can be as structured or as free as you like. There are so many opportunities, and so many helpful centres and organisations, that you can't really go wrong. Kayaking and canoeing are relaxing ways to explore the amazing country with your family without supervision. Gorge walking is more intensely monitored, but extremely thrilling.
Activities like zorbing let you enjoy your kids' pleasure while knowing they're safe. Horse and pony riding give you the option of getting involved yourself, as do high ropes and assault courses. With so much to choose from, action adventure activities in Scotland can be as exhausting, exciting, challenging or relaxing as you make them.
What's the best Scottish island for an adventure holiday?
The Isle of Arran is just off the West Coast of Scotland, and is sometimes called “Scotland in miniature.” This is because it has both Highland and Lowland natural landscapes, ideal for exploring. There is also the Arran Coastal Way, a walking route around the entire island.
Where can I do canyoning in Scotland?
If you are a committed canyoner, Scotland has two ideal spots just for you. These are around the Fort William area, and in Perthshire. There are four canyons around Fort William, with the chance to travel to Dundonnell Canyon near Ullapool from there. Perthshire and the surrounding area has six canyoning opportunities, including Calvine Gorge.
Can I do Paragliding in Scotland?
There are five BHPA registered paragliding schools in Scotland. To the Southwest of the country, Flying Fever is on the Isle of Arran, and Cloudbusters are based in Glasgow. To the North and East, there are Beyond Extreme near Inverness, Adventure (Parapente) Extreme in the Cairngorms National Park, and Sky Camp in Aberdeenshire.
Whatever activity you choose to make the most of this stunning part of the country we hope we have given you plenty of food for thought.
Whether you are looking for high adrenaline activity options or new experiences there really is something to suit individuals, couples and families in this article.
If you have never been to Scotland you are in for a real treat as all of our suggested activity holiday options in make the most of the beautiful surroundings and give excellent opportunities to see an abundance of flora, fauna and wildlife.
Now you have researched activity holidays in Scotland we are sure you will be chomping at the bit to get your activity holiday booked and plan your itinerary. Enjoy!