Brimming over with lakes, mountains and forests, Scotland is filled with possible adventures and at the top of many thrill-seekers “to-go” lists. Whether your goal is a solitary trek through acres of isolated land or a speedy race across a loch, you’ll find plenty of places across the country to get your adrenaline pumping...
Creativecommons.org/Maurice KingMany of the country’s 282 Munros can be easily ascended in a day and there are groups dedicated to “Munro-bagging” - climbing as many of the peaks as possible. Baggers who want the most adventure start with Spidean a’Choire Leith, the highest summit of Liathach.
This mountain, which is in the Torridon region, rises 1055 metres above sea level and guards her peak with rough, steep ascents. There are few paths to the top and they travel through cliffs and buttresses offering only minimal footing and some breath-catching heights. Depending on the weather and the route chosen you will need climbing gear and possibly an ice axe and crampons.
Plan for eight to 10 hours to complete the mountain depending on your skill and the route chosen. Several areas have bypass paths around steep scrambles but there are tricky spots that can’t be circumvented.
If you are staying in the region for several days, consider bagging Mullach an Rathain as a warm-up Munro. The paths are a bit less steep and there are easier routes available. As with Spidean a’Choire Leith, there are many places where you can choose to scale a rock wall, or walk around on a by-pass path.
Creativecommons.org/ Richard Child
The Scottish borders are a prized destination for international mountain bikers and ‘7stanes’ biking trail centres are scattered along the country’s southern edge. Visiting every stane will take mountain bikers through the best trails of the region. The trails are colour-coded letting adventurers choose from relatively easy, smooth, green routes to the most extreme orange-grade trails that involve jumps and challenging ground features.
The most skilled mountain bikers will enjoy the red-and black-graded trails that offer significant challenges and take between one and five hours to ride. Some trails are mixed difficulty or have side trails that add complexity to an otherwise mild ride.
Orange-graded trails are for the most hardcore of riders and are not recommended for anyone without a lot of experience. Look for two types of trails – extreme downhill and jump features. These are shorter trails meant for testing your limits, not general riding. Glentress Freeride Park has three trials with multiple challenges and Ae has a beginner orange-grade trail that is great for practicing steep descents.
Trails on forest roads are ungraded and longer – up to 58 kilometres – and provide a mix of challenges along with a strenuous, grueling ride. Very fit bikers with some skill at mountain biking will appreciate both the endurance aspect of the ride along with the occasional jump and steep descent.
White Water Rafting
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Depending on the river and the time of year, your rafting adventure can be an exhilarating float down the river in a strong current, or a heart-stopping white-knuckle race through the water towards half-seen drops and churning foam.
The River Findhorn in Cairngorms National Park provides one of the most exciting white water experience in the UK, especially in early spring when the snowmelt turns an already difficult river into a cold-water cauldron. Your 29-kilometre journey takes you through some lovely forest scenery – but it’s unlikely you’ll notice any of it as you speed around boulders and through whorls, dropping over 150 metres on the way. With snowmelt and rainfall determining which sections of the river are usable, no two adventures are ever the same.
The River Tummel, also in the park, is a little more predictable, but just as much fun. To ramp up the excitement a bit, many love the sport of river bugging – shooting down the river in what resembles a cross between a miniature kayak and an inflatable armchair. Even mild currents are thrilling when it’s just you and your webbed gloves against the power of the water.
This is a little bit of every outdoor activity smashed into a few exciting hours. Also called canyoneering, participants abseil down a rock wall into a canyon and then proceed along the route by walking, climbing, jumping, scrambling or swimming, depending on the conditions they meet. It requires a medium level of physical fitness and preparedness, sometimes including the ability to hike into the area where the canyon is located.
Dundonnell Canyon in Ullapool is the best slot canyon in the country and adventures there include water slides (of the natural variety), jumps and abseiling. You’ll need a wetsuit for the icy waters – they’ll be provided if you use a tour company – and shoes that you don’t mind destroying. There are some dizzying heights involved as well, starting with the first nine-metre jump into the 40-metre canyon.
Gorge walking is similar, but it focuses more on trudging through a river and less on vertical movement to get through the canyon. There’s still a bit of scaling involved, but much less than with canyoning. Gorge walking is more of the “me against the river” experience.
Fun and Games
Creativecommons.org/ Mark Harkin
What if you aren’t that fit and can’t climb, but still want to do something thrilling? There are some seriously fun options to try that require almost no skill, but a lot of moxie.
Try ‘land yachting’ is a small, three-wheeled contraption with a big sail attached. Participants sit in a metal framework and steer by changing the angle of the sail, catching more or less wind to adjust the speed. Serious thrill-junkies can achieve speeds of up to 64 kilometres per hour on the open sands of the beach. You’ll get some training before you start, but nothing else is required.
Bungee jumping is well known, but from a crane? Yes, straight down from the Titan Crane in Glasgow with nothing but a glorified rubber band between you and certain death. Since everyone survives, it’s actually a very sturdy, well-engineered piece of stretchy bungee, but your brain isn’t really interested in the physics as the river below comes hurtling up at you at terrifying speeds. The only thing required for this sport is the guts to jump off a 50-metre crane towards that very distant river.
Sphereing (zorbing, sphereballing) is your chance to feel like a hamster being flung down a hill. You’re strapped into a big, cushy ball and someone else shoves you over the edge so you tumble down the path, rolling, spinning and bouncing. This is the perfect thrill for someone who loves excitement - but can’t quite bring themselves to do the jumping.