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Experience Scotland with the Four Elements

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© VisitScotland / Iona Spence

Craving a taste of Scotland’s earthly delights after an extended period at home? Go back to basics and reconnect with our beautiful country through the original four elements: earth, water, air and fire.

Take a revitalising, elemental journey through Scotland. See how you can experience the natural beauty, culture and produce of Scotland without travelling far from home and supporting local businesses along the way.

You can now travel to enjoy the outdoors and explore Scotland but remember to maintain physical distancing of 2 metres at all times, both indoors and outdoors.

Find out more about the current Covid-19 restrictions of Phase 3 and future phases.

Earth

 

Explore the seven hills of Edinburgh

Like Rome, Edinburgh is built on seven hills. Dating back more than 400 million years, these rocky outcrops are just one of the area’s fascinating geological features. You can trace the evolution of this iconic landscape, from primordial swamp to icy tundra, on one of many trails created by Scottish Natural Heritage. Follow in the footsteps of James Hutton, the father of modern geology and see the landscape of Edinburgh and its surroundings in a completely new light.

Discover more guides from the Edinburgh Geological Society and Geology Trails you can follow across the country.

Discover the secrets of Glasgow’s parks and gardens 

Glasgow has no shortage of parks and green spaces where you can walk while practicing physical distancing. But did you know you can visit a 330-million-year-old earth heritage site in Victoria Park? Explore the hidden gems of Glasgow’s famous green spaces.

  • Fossil Grove. Here you can see the fossilised stumps of trees from the Carboniferous Period perfectly preserved on the spot where they once grew
  • Rottenrow Gardens. This serene landscaped public space is set within the grand Victorian ruins of the former Royal Glasgow Maternity Hospital. The belvedere-style structure at the top of the hills reveals fantastic views of the city
  • Hidden Gardens. Tucked behind the Tramway Theatre, marvel at how this disused industrial space has been transformed into and urban oasis filled with tranquil water features and exotic flora

Explore over 90 parks and gardens in Glasgow.

Explore on two wheels 

According to reports, cycling has never been more popular. Discover how much more you can see of your local area on two wheels with the help of these organisations dedicated to serving and growing the cycling communities of Scottish cities.

  • The Bike Station operates hubs in Edinburgh and Perth and provides second-hand bikes – including free ones to key workers – maintenance and repair services and workshops, and group cycling events around the cities
  • Bike for Life are based in Glasgow and are also committed to spreading the life-changing power of cycling. In addition to providing refurbished bikes, they also provide training in bike maintenance. Contact their sister organisation Aye Cycle Glasgow for details on weekly guided cycles around the city

Find out more about cycling in Scotland.

Water

Visit a re-opened whisky distillery 

The water of Scotland’s crystal-clear streams and burns is an essential component of Scotch whisky, also known as uisge beatha, ‘the water of life’. Some distilleries have begun to open their doors to visitors, with many others expected to follow suite in due course. While you might not be able to take a complete tour of your preferred distillery, whisky producers are finding ways to ensure their guest experience is as rewarding as ever.

  • Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery. Enjoy a physically distanced tasting and ‘tour’ involving a special film screening in the warehouse accompanied by samples of whiskies. Learn the secret’s behind the malt’s extra smoothness and fill your own bottle from hand-selected casks afterwards
  • Glenfiddich Distillery. Tours are still suspended at this ionic Dufftown distillery, but you can still have an al-fresco lunch or afternoon tea on the Robbie Dhu Terrace and enjoy delicious whisky cocktails in the Whisky Lounge
  • Lindores Abbey Distillery. This Newburgh-based distillery is now hosting small pre-booked whisky and history tours in addition to tastings inside its visitor centre and outdoors at the neighbouring ruined abbey of Lindores. You can also pre-book a table for drinks in the outdoor courtyard

Other distilleries which are now welcoming visitors – but not necessarily offering tours and tastings –include KingsbarnsGlenmorayNc’nean and Ardnahoe.

You can also enjoy a dram of the finest malt in one of the many wonderful whisky bars in Edinburgh and Glasgow. As always, please check the websites of the bars directly to confirm opening hours before planning a visit

Follow a waterfall trail 

Lift your spirits with a walk to these magnificent waterfalls on the outskirts of Scotland’s two busiest cities: Glasgow and Edinburgh.

A short distance from Glasgow, halfway between Clydebank and Dumbarton, are two forest trails, one which leads to the tumbling falls of Brandyburn, and the other to the delightful falls at Kilpatrick Braes. Also worth exploring is Rouken Glen Park where you’ll find waterfalls scattered through the winding woodland trails of this forest in East Renfrewshire.

Take a leisurely walk or cycle through the Edinburgh suburb of Cramond to see its eponymous falls with a viewing platform overlooking them. Or venture out into the Pentland Hills Regional Park which is home to dozens of waterfalls and shimmering lakes. Other falls located throughout East Lothian include Linn Jaw Waterfall in Livingston and Waterfall Park Pavilion in Dalkeith.

Discover other walks to enjoy from Scotland’s cities.

Get active on the water

Scotland is the perfect water sport and activity destination. It has more than 125,000 km of rivers and streams ranging from small highland burns to magnificent rivers such as the Tay. There is also a 220 km canal network in Scotland and more than 31,000 lochs.

See what activity providers and facilities are open and ‘Good to Go’ near you and get out on the water. From exploring the west coast in a chartered yacht to meditative paddles in a kayak or canoe, from racing down exhilarating rapids in a white-water raft to sliding down natural flumes and leaping in natural pools while canyoning, there’s no limit to the ways you can rediscover Scotland from the water.

Find out more about watersports in Scotland.

Air

Fly a kite

Windy day? Grab a kite and head to one of these locations for fresh air, stunning views and strong breezes. With plenty of open space and gusts of wind, the coastal town of St Andrews is one of the most popular places to fly kites. It even boasts its own dedicated ‘kite zone’. Less well-known but equally blustery is the three-mile beach at Pettycur Bay, also on the Fife coast. Those based in Edinburgh and Glasgow meanwhile should try Holyrood Park in the heart of the bustling capital and the top of the hill of Bellahouston Park.

Try birdwatching

Have you noticed the sound of birdsong more lately? The reduced amount of road and air traffic over the previous months has seen a swell in the number of rare bird sightings in both urban and rural areas making this an ideal moment to take up birdwatching. Not sure where to begin? Download the app from Scotland’s Bird Club (SOC) – Where to Watch Birds Scotland to pinpoint locations near you where birdlife is currently thriving, evenly in the most densely populated of areas. All you need is a good set of binoculars and you’re all set.

Find out more about birdwatching in Scotland.

Fire

Climb an ancient volcano

Many of the favourite vantage points of Scotland’s cities have a fiery past. Arthur’s Seat is perhaps the most famous of Scotland’s extinct volcanoes, but you can enjoy an equally impressive view from the top of these other dramatic city summits formed by ancient volcanic activity.

Gaze out across the Firth of Tay from the Dundee Law, hike to the top of one the five peaks in the forested Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park overlooking Perth, or follow the winding footpath up and around Stirling Castle and Gowanhill.

Intrigued? Learn more about volcanoes in Scotland and find other walking routes you can follow in and around Scotland’s cities.

Visit your local smokehouse

Fire has not only shaped Scotland’s dramatic topography. It also imbues some of our favourite Scottish delicacies like the Arbroath Smokie and our world-famous smoked salmon and haddock with their delicious flavours.

  • East Pier Smokehouse. Timed slots are now available for sit-down diners at this St Monans restaurant. Choose from tantalising dishes including the hot-smoked sea bass, alder-smoked prawn tempura or smoked fish curry
  • Falls of Dochart Smokehouse. This family-owned business in the village of Killin is now accepting reservations for indoor and outdoor dining. Feast on tantalisingly fresh smoked salmon with a glass of champagne, gazing over the majestic Falls of Dochart
  • Loch Fyne Oyster Bar & Deli. This seafood classic is as famous for its smoked salmon variety as it is for its hand harvested oysters. The bar is now open for indoor dining, as is the outdoor dining area, with its stunning views of Loch Fyne and the Argyll hills

Savour Scotland’s other seafood favourites at fish and chip shopsseafood shacks and farm shops. See what other great food and drink attractions are now open and ‘Good to Go’ near you.

Gather around the campfire 

No camping trip is complete without the experience of gathering around a campfire swapping stories and telling tall tales. You don’t need to travel deep into the wilds of Scotland or even forgo modern comforts to have a rejuvenating camping experience. From no-frills campsites set in farmland to glamping-style accommodation, camping in Scotland is accessible, varied and a summer highlight for many locals and visitors.

Read more about campsitesglamping and wild camping in Scotland.

Book a stay with a log fire 

A crackling fire adds a special touch to indoor accommodation. Spend a Scottish holiday somewhere with a wood-burning stove, roaring fireplace or even a wood-fired hot tub, where you can hunker down on cool summer nights and chilly autumn days. From cosy timber lodges hidden away in tranquil forests to roaring hearths in the lounges of plush Edinburgh hotels, there are plenty of places to choose from.

Be inspired with these cosy places to stay with a log fire and browse properties with fireplaces which are now accepting bookings and are Good to Go.

See landmarks forged in fire and steel 

Since the dawn of mankind, fire had been used as a tool of survival. But it can also be a source of inspiration and artistic expression. In fact, some of Scotland’s best-known artworks have been welded out of the same steels used to build its bridges, ships and buildings.

  • The Kelpies. Located at the heart of the 350-hectare Helix Park at Falkirk, master sculptor Andy Scott’s immense twin horsehead sculptures tower 30 metres above the Forth & Clyde Canal and never fail to inspire awe
  • The Loch Ard Sculpture Trail. Take a walk through the great Loch Ard Forest, located less than an hour from Stirling, and take in striking artworks created by local artist and environmentalist Rob Mulholland including the Silver Eagle – a tribute to the golden eagles that can often be seen soaring overhead
  • River Tay Public Art Trail. Follow this footpath which brings together 20 sculptures inspired by the nature, history and culture of Perth

Discover more magnificent sculptures and other artworks on the Andy Scott Sculpture Trail and learn about the other great manmade wonders you can admire outdoors in Scotland.

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