In 2016 Elaine Hopley will demonstrate guts and determination and show real #ScotSpirit as she attempts to row solo across the Atlantic as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in what will be the biggest adventure of her life. Here she shares some of her favourite outdoor activities in Scotland:
Scotland is small but beautiful with every type of landscape and weather you can imagine. The west coast is an untamed wilderness of rugged and barren terrain with many islands, both inhabited and uninhabited. The east coast has a rolling feel and is exposed to the North Sea with a distinctive rocky, craggy coastline. Our mountains can best be described as the mini Alps of Europe – not as high as the real Alps, but just as spectacular and challenging.
It’s a country with so much on offer for any outdoor adventurer. Scotland is a natural playground with steep mountains and hillsides and wild waters of river, lochs and the sea. In my opinion I live in the best country in the world. It’s a place where you can make your adventures as challenging as you like!
In this blog post you’ll find my personal recommendations of great outdoor activities which are an incredible way to experience this beautiful landscape. I can honestly say I couldn’t pick a favourite – try them all if you dare!
Scotland has five mountain resorts which offer good skiing. I have had some of my most memorable skiing days on our mountain slopes. However, you need to pay attention to the weather and snow conditions, especially if you plan on going off the beaten track. The resorts may have great skiing to offer, but often our winter weather can cause havoc. Check conditions at the Winterhighland website.
Back country skiers are spoiled for choice. I recommend the Cairngorms National Park which has fantastic skiing. You can visit Mountain Spirit for good equipment hire, sales and G2 Outdoor for local guiding and knowledge. For avalanche forecasting, weather and information go to the Scottish Avalanche Information Service.
Sailing Scottish waters is both exciting and challenging and our coastline is ideal for your next sailing adventure. The landscapes are always changing and are incredibly beautiful and breathtaking. In the west coast you’ll find a haven of islands with crystal blue waters and golden sandy beaches, just waiting to be discovered.
You can see fantastic wildlife including basking sharks, pilot whales, killer whales (orcas), harbour porpoises, dolphins, otters, sea eagles, golden eagles, puffin, guillemots, gannets, red deer and wild ponies.
To help you plan an adventure of a life time go to the SailScotland website which will give you everything you need to know about sailing in Scotland.
Scotland has a vast variety of terrain for mountain bikers to explore. I have mountain biked since the late 1980s and still have plenty more tracks to uncover. Trail centres are dotted throughout the country and cater for all abilities, from the novice to the expert. My favourite trail centre has to be Laggan Wolftrax which has superb views of the Monadhliath hills on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park.
Wilderness mountain biking in Scotland can also be a great challenge. Single track passes over boulders and great slabs of rock and often you can endure all four seasons in one day – a true Scottish experience! The wildlife is wonderful; I have watched many a golden eagle soaring in the sky, catching thermals in the warmer months. This is one of my top favourite getaway experiences. For expert advice and guiding, check out Ben Jones MTB website.
Ocean rowing in Scottish waters is a new exciting sport, providing great opportunities to visit places which can only be reached by boat, including a number of freshwater and sea lochs. The Firth of Clyde is a favourite, and the Kyles of Bute is a haven of beautiful open water passages and small islands. Or try Loch Lomond, a huge, glistening loch with good boat launching facilities at Duncan Mills Memorial slipway at Balloch, or at Milarrochy Bay where there is also great camping.
New rowing adventures are coming to Scotland this summer from Rannoch Adventure. This is very exciting for me as I know two of the team, Charlie and Angus, very well. If you are looking to experience a new type of adventure then this could be it!
Have I mentioned the words ‘exhilarating’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘magical’? That is how best to describe Scotland’s mountains, with their numerous magnificent cliffs, gullies and ridges all waiting to be explored. Get advice and help with planning an adventure at Glenmore Lodge’s website. Glenmore Lodge is the sportScotland National Outdoor Training Centre and offers guiding, equipment hire and information on the best climbing locations.
To this day the Black Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye is my favourite. It’s the remnants of a once great volcano form a chain of some 36 peaks along a narrow 12 km-long ridge. The mountains are rocky peaks rising straight out of the sea, with little vegetation above 300 m. Above this height, exploration involves following discontinuous trails through boulders, screes, slabs and narrow ridges to most peaks. It is truly a mountaineer’s paradise with spectacular scenery.
When exploring our vast mountain ranges, it’s important to consider access, conservation and respect for the mountains. Be sure to read useful information from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s website. It will keep you right – and safe.
If that’s whet your appetite for adventure, then find out more about thrilling activities in Scotland and start planning an amazing, adrenalin-fuelled trip. Be sure to share your experiences using the hashtag #ScotSpirit on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!