An archipelago lying off the north coast of mainland Scotland, Orkney is a tranquil haven for wildlife with many spectacular species calling the islands home. As well as grey seals stretching out on sand banks and the elusive otter scurrying among the seaweed, thousands of seabirds claim space in the nooks and crannies of cliff faces. You could catch a glimpse of these wonderful creatures during the Orkney Nature Festival in May. The islands' landscapes also offer clues to what life was like in Scotland thousands of years ago, including the mysterious Ring of Brodgar.
You may be one of the lucky ones who were allocated tickets, but that shouldn't stop you soaking up the atmopshere at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow from 23 July to 3 August if you weren't. Witness sporting history being made and records slashed by world-class athletes at the venues across the city, which can also be watched live at special zones around the city centre. There's also a rich cultural programme planned for the 11 days of the Games, and throughout the year, so don't miss out on the celebrations or on being part of history in Scotland's largest city.
The 2014 Ryder Cup
The fairways of Perthshire are where battle will commence in 2014. Team Europe will pitch their defence of The Ryder Cup when the prestigious tournament returns to the Home of Golf at Gleneagles from 23 – 28 September. While eyes will be on the world's greatest players as they step out onto the PGA Centenary Course, the sport's future stars will tee off in The Junior Ryder Cup being hosted at Blairgowrie on 22 – 23 September. Why not experience golf on Scotland's best courses before The 2014 Ryder Cup arrives and follow in the footsteps of golfing legends?
Spirit of Speyside
Appreciating a fine single malt whisky is one of the single greatest pleasures in Scotland. The way Scotch is produced is generally the same but its character varies widely from distillery to distillery and region to region. Whether you're a seasoned Scotch expert, or more of an amateur, enjoy a dram with the locals of Speyside, Scotland's most prolific whisky-producing region, at the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in May. As well as organised whisky tastings, live music and ceilidhs, you can see behind the scenes at one of the region's many distilleries, or why not even head off on your own adventure along the nearby Malt Whisky Trail, the only trail of its kind in the world?
Boat crafting is a proud tradition in the small fishing village of Portsoy; so much so that every June, there is a festival celebrating its maritime culture, the Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival. A colourful celebration of hard crafting, sailing, music and food and drink, the festival is more than just a good excuse to visit Aberdeenshire. As well as miles of stunning coastline and abundant wildlife, Aberdeenshire is known as 'Castle Country' with a special Castle Trail showcasing just 17 of some 300 castles in the region, including Balmoral, the beloved Highland retreat of the British monarchy since Queen Victoria.