9 Slow Travel Experiences in Scotland
Ditch the check-list of places to see and things to do on your next visit to Scotland and discover the pleasures of slow travel.
Slow travel is best described as an outlook that inspires travellers to take the time to really immerse themselves in a destination.
You can do this in a variety of ways, but the main idea is to slow down and allow yourself the space and time to properly rejuvenate - to fully experience the journey, rather than simply getting from A to B.
In short, it's about getting to know a corner of the country and making a connection with its people, food, culture and natural environment.
Here are nine ideas for slow and sustainable adventures you can take in Scotland at a relaxed pace.
Dumfries & Galloway is often described as 'Scotland in miniature'. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Galloway Forest Park which is home to 250 lochs, expansive forests, undulating hills of heather and tranquil glens. It also boasts the award-winning 7stanes mountain biking trails at Glentrool.
Take your time exploring this microcosm of Scotland on trails like the Big Country Route, a 36-mile route filled with exhilarating descents and breathtaking views. With so much to see and do, you can easily spend a week or longer in this often bypassed wilderness. Stay in one of the five bothies located within the park on the shores of Loch Ken, or opt for one of the three off-grid eco bothies which come with their own kayak and a timber hot tub.
Midsummer in the Northern Isles is a period of never-ending days - known as the white nights in Orkney and the simmer dim in Shetland - which gives visitors the chance to explore more of the islands than any other time of the year, without being pressured for time.
The Orkney Mainland, where the Atlantic and North seas intersect, is renowned for its spectacular sunsets - particularly during the white night season. Watch the sun as it almost dips below the horizon at around 10pm at a dramatic spot like Longagleeb, where the sea slices a cleft through the coastline, before embarking on a twilight walk as you continue onwards to the causeway at the Brough of Birsay. Here, you can cross over to an empty tidal island to see Pictish and Norse ruins illuminated by the light of one of the famous Stevenson lighthouses. Continue further afield and pick a spot to watch the sunrise at around 4am.
Rail journeys are a great way to relax, de-stress and reflect upon the passing countryside. Take this classic slow travel experience to the next level on-board the Belmond Royal Scotsman, a luxury train that snakes across the Scottish Highlands, and book an appointment at its unique spa.
Experience the kinds of treatments you would find at any luxury spa, including facials, massages and manicures during this smoothest and most leisurely of rail journeys. Constructed from sustainable wood, the twin treatment rooms also offer spellbinding views of the beautiful Scottish landscapes unfolding outside your window whilst you're cocooned in luxury.
Slow travel is all about doing as much or a little as you like on holiday. Sound appealing? A gentle cruise aboard a traditional barge as it flows down the serene waters of the Caledonian Canal might be the perfect choice for your next Scottish break. As your vessel slowly makes its way through Scotland's majestic Great Glen, you can choose whether to simply lay back and admire the shimmering lochs and magnificent mountains floating by, or disembark and explore the landscape on walks, bike rides, or even kayak excursions.
Slow travel means taking everything at a slower pace. This also applies to sampling the local food and drink. Embrace your inner hunter-gatherer with Wildwood Bushcraft and go foraging for wild ingredients at unspoiled Highland destinations to create your own naturally sourced, nutritious and sustainable feast cooked over a campfire.
Led by an expert guide, you'll learn how to prepare an incredible array of dishes - including dessert - from edible shellfish, seafood and plants. Discover fantastic new flavours along the way, whilst you forge a deeper connection with the natural world.
Top tip: The 150-acre Lynbreck Croft in the Highlands provides courses in foraging, woodcraft and low-intensive farming.
You won't experience a more leisurely and relaxed game of golf at any other time or place than at Shetland Golf Club during midsummer or da simmer dim. Make the most of up to 19 hours of daylight during June and July and head to the second most northerly 18-hole course in Britain. Located just north of Lerwick, you can take part in golf competitions that tee off at midnight surrounded by some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery imaginable. Other courses such as Asta Golf Club and Whalsay Golf Club also offer extended opening hours throughout the summer period.
Top tip: Try the Shetland Late Summer Experience. This seven-day trip led by local naturalists explores the archipelago's remarkable wildlife. It starts on the Mainland at Sumburgh Head before continuing to St Ninian's Isle and onwards to Unst, the most northerly island in the UK.
Wake up on a real Scottish working farm and discover a new way of living. From modern purpose-built accommodation to beautifully appointed rooms in centuries-old farmhouses, your stay on a farm can be as luxurious or basic as you desire. Spend your days learning about the day-to-day reality of farm life while getting your hands dirty working with crops or livestock, and discover how fine local produce is grown from scratch. Enjoy home-cooked meals prepared using those same ingredients, and take your pick from an array of courses, family-friendly activities and other unique offerings.
Tip: Aikenshill House is located along the North East 250. This circular driving and cycling route takes you through Scotland's north east; a vast area spanning the Cairngorms, the dramatic Aberdeenshire coast, and the whisky-rich valleys of Speyside.
Follow a route less travelled on the Affric Kintail Way. Launched in 2015, it offers an equally beautiful but much less crowded alternative to the famous West Highland Way. What's more, it can easily be tackled in four bitesize chunks, helpfully outlined on www.affrickintailway.com.
This 44-mile route stretches from Loch Ness to Loch Duich on the west coast, passing through one of Scotland's most dramatic glens, Glen Affric. Take the time to explore the many detours scattered along the route which encompasses old drovers' roads, and tracks through fragrant pine forests, past serene lochs and lush glens.
Once you reach the head of Glen Affric, you continue onwards toward the peaks of Beinn Fhada and the Five Sisters of Kintail until reaching the sea.
Go with the flow on a sailing holiday to St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides. This cluster of four islands is famed for its flourishing birdlife and immense sheer cliffs which jut up to 1,000ft out of the Atlantic.
It is also among the most inaccessible of Scotland's islands, with just a few small cruise companies that set sail to this UNESCO World Heritage Site during the summer months - weather conditions permitting.
Join Island Cruising aboard the MV Cuma, a former marine research ship, for a six-day cruise. While waiting for just the right weather conditions to chart a course to St Kilda, the skipper will sail to other islands, allowing passengers the opportunity to explore Scarp, Taransay, and the Monarch and Flannan isles. With no set itinerary, savour the freedom of the open sea as you drop anchor in empty bays, and catch sightings of whales, dolphins and seals, and discover the beauty of the Hebrides.
Other things you might like
Join our Newsletter Clan
Get Scotland inspiration direct to your inbox. Don't miss the inside track from our Scotland experts on exciting trip ideas, unique attractions and hidden gems loved by locals.