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16 ideas for an outdoors microadventure in Scotland

Have you been longing for an adventure but don’t have a lot of time? You can still escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and have fun without travelling too far on a microadventure*. Make an ordinary day extra-ordinary and feel inspired, energised and enthused. Whether it is an after-work activity or an over-a-weekend experience, pitching a tent in nearby woods or exploring somewhere new – it’s really up to you what shape your microadventure will take.

Find 16 ideas for a microadventure in Scotland. Grab a friend, find a map and get out there and enjoy all of the rewards a local microadventure brings.

1. Discover carpets of bluebells in spring

Bluebells, Inchcailoch, Loch LomondTake in the beautiful blooms at Culzean Castle & Country Park in Ayrshire; House of Dun in Angus; Glen Finglas in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park; or Elgol on the Isle of Skye, with a view across Loch Scavaig towards the Black Cuillin hills. But remember: take pictures, not mementos!

2. Unwind up amongst the glens of Angus

Glen Clova, AngusRelax amongst the natural beauty of the Angus Glens and breathe in the air of the hills. See if you can hear the distinctive calls of ospreys in Glen Isla, eagles in Glen Doll, or experience the lesser-known glens hidden away behind a maze of country roads.

3. Follow the North Coast 500 driving route

Dubbed Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the North Coast 500 is one of the most beautiful coastal touring routes in the world, bringing together just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery of the North Highlands. Stop along the route to visit ancient castles and discover glistening sandy beaches and spell-binding heritage. As an added bonus, there are limitless hiking trails in the area, if you’ve still got some energy! Done the NC500? Discover more road trips in Scotland.

4. Canoe from one city to another

The Falkirk WheelCanoe down the Forth & Clyde and Union canals from Pinkston Watersports in Glasgow city centre across the central belt to the heart of Edinburgh. The highlight is undoubtedly The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift that connects the two canals.

5. Enjoy a day kayaking in Shetland

Cliffs at Braewick, ShetlandDip your paddles into the crystal-clear waters around Shetland‘s shores and kayak in secluded coves, arches, tunnels, concealed sea caves and sea stacks. Kayaking is a brilliant way to get into all those nooks and crannies, and to get up close to indigenous wildlife without disturbing it, including seals, otters and even whales. A memorable experience guaranteed!

6. Visit a spooky place

Cawdor Castle, HighlandsVisit The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, a once bricked up street during an outbreak of plague; Crathes Castle near Banchory, which is haunted by the restless spirit of the Green Lady; or Culloden Battlefield outside Inverness, where cries, sword clashes and gunfire have all been heard… Do you dare?

7. Walk in ancient footprints

Castle Fraser, near Inverurie, AberdeenshireFollow a historic trail and hear stories of tribal Celts, Roman conquerors and brave heroes and heroines. On the Borders Abbeys Way, pass beautiful 12th century abbeys; follow the Victorian Heritage Trail to discover Royal Deeside and its royal connections; or head to Aberdeenshire where you can embark on Scotland’s only Castle Trail.

8. Camping

Wild camping on Isle of Harris, Outer HebridesLooking for somewhere to wake up and smell the daisies? Scotland boasts some fantastic campsites among wonderful mountain and coastal scenery or beautiful pine forests and even castle grounds. The Applecross Campsite rewards you with peace and tranquillity; there’s no mobile phone reception – just the views across to Skye, while at Rothiemurcus in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, you can choose from camping in among tall pines, beside the small river or on the island formed by the river.

9. Catch, cook and eat your own dinner

The Tullich Fishery, Ballater, The Cairngorms National ParkIt must a great feeling to catch and cook your own food out in wild and natural places… Round up a few friends and have a memorable experience involving a walk, foraging and cooking. It can be a spot of fishing or game hunting (permits required), collecting shellfish at Scotland’s coasts or even picking mushrooms or wildberries. Cook dinner and watch the sun set as its final light glimmers and brings the landscape aglow. And we’ve even got some handy recipes for you! Remember: do not eat any wild food unless you are  certain of its identification.

10. Wild swim in a loch or a river

The Falls of Bruar, near Pitlochry, PerthshireFancy an alfresco dip? There are thousands of lochs in Scotland, and open access laws mean you can swim in virtually all of them! Loch Caoldair, on the western edge of the Cairngorms, is completely wild and hidden among birch woods, with a lovely little beach, but that’s just one of thousands places. Be brave, breath deep and take the plunge – you won’t regret it.

11. Climb a Munro

The Glenfinnan Monument commemorating the 1745 uprising when the Jacobites raised the standard of Bonnie Prince Charlie here at the head of Loch SheilWith their commanding views of spectacular scenery, Scotland’s iconic Munros offer many rewarding walks and opportunities to explore some of the most beautiful and remote landscapes in Europe. Spend a day out in the towering mountains of Lochaber and Torridon in the west Highlands of Scotland for a real sense of adventure. Or if you’re new to Munro bagging, check out these 11 breathtaking Munros suitable for beginners.

12. Go to a cool summer festival

Hebridean Celtic FestivalScotland is full of festivals of all sorts. From Rewind Festival at Scone Palace in Perthshire to Kelburn Garden Party at Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire, there’s bound to be a performance styled to your groove. And best of all? These events are taking place in some fantastic locations, from the grounds of historic castles to magical islands – surely an unbeatable way to enjoy Scotland’s great outdoors! Find more music festivals in Scotland.

13. Go whale watching

Hebridean Whale Cruises on Gairloch, HighlandsSightings of orcas, also known as killer whales, are becoming increasingly frequent in Scottish waters. They can be usually seen in pods of around eight. Other species of whales that are regularly spotted off Scotland’s shores include minke whales (with tens of thousands spotted in and around the North Sea each year), though sei, sperm, fin, northern bottlenose and long finned pilot whales have also been sighted. How is that for an adventure? Find more ideas for wildlife watching.

14. Cycle on an island

The ferry ar Port Appin, ArgyllCatch a wee ferry boat from Port Appin and head over to the island of Lismore, to cycle the length of the island. Or take the ferry from Gallanach near Oban across to Kerrera and do the same – you can even incorporate fishing and wildlife watching as part of the trip.

15. An after-dark adventure

Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park…because adventure doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Scotland boasts some of the clearest skies in Europe, which provide exceptional conditions for stargazing. The Galloway Forest Park is UK’s first Dark Sky Park, while Hebridean island of Coll and the town of Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway also offer fantastic conditions for watching the wonders of the night sky. Have you tried that yet?

16. Final tip… Go off-grid for a day

The red roofed cottage on the edge of Loch ShieldaigConsider leaving your mobile phone behind. Unplug yourself from the modern world and enjoy a digital detox. Spend a day roaming hills and mountains in Ardnamurchan, Sunart, Morvern or Knoydart in the Lochaber area of the Highlands or up in the North Highlands. The sense of freedom and isolation (in a positive sense) you will feel is really indescribable!

Have we awoken the adventurer in you yet?

* Microadventure is a term coined by National Geographic adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who defines microadventures as cheap, simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise.

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Aldona Krzemien

Originally from Poland, she's now based in Edinburgh and can't imagine life without four things: travels, photography, fishing for antiques and haggis! Motto: ‘I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list’ - Susan Sontag

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