Over 3 million tourists from within and outside the UK come to visit Scotland each year, so it won’t surprise you to hear that there are huge range of options when it comes to finding a place to stay. Where you choose to stay will depend on your budget and where in Scotland you are staying, but it’s also important to consider what kind of experience you’re looking for.
I find myself drifting back to Scotland a few times a year and although I’m likely to camp more than anything (simply to be closer to the hill-walking!), whenever I do feel like a more traditional ‘holiday’ I’ll take myself to one of these excellent destinations.
Whilst the village of Crieff is unlikely to be a destination that most people have heard of, sometimes that’s exactly what you need to get away from it all. Highland Heather Lodges are nestled just a stone’s throw away from the village which has the right balance between secluded and easy-to-access. Each lodge (there are 5-bed or 2-bed options) has its own private hot tub, as well as a gas BBQ on an attractive outdoor decking area, making this a really great place for families and couples throughout the year.
There aren’t many places in Scotland that offer views as jaw-dropping as The Stone House. There are fewer still that offer this kind of view from the comfort of a luxurious bath tub! These super-ecological luxury accommodation are almost as beautiful as the surrounding landscapes…almost! Both accommodations are situated near Ullapool and make use of stunning floor to ceiling windows that let the light in and give guests a widescreen view of the incredible countryside all around.
I soon found myself organising trips outdoors as much as possible and started to discover the stunning rural landscapes that brings thousands of tourists to the UK on a daily basis. Although our country is only small, it remains a fascinating example of how varied ecosystems and landscapes can develop with such little space.
After spending years jumping in the car and heading out to new uncharted territory, a few parts of the UK have become particular firm favourites for me. I thought I’d lay them out here and nod to particular gems within these often vast environments that have become some of my favourite outdoor destinations in the UK.
Anyone who’s made the wise decision to drive through the Lake District on the way to or from Scotland will have marvelled in awe at the impressive bodies of water and the towering crags that surround them. This is no doubt one of the most scenic environments in the UK and you can see a lot of it from the comfort of your car seat, but if you want to get the best views you’ll need to release that seat belt and step out of your vehicle!
Top Spot: Forget about the crowds and high ticket prices that you’ll find at Stone Henge, Castlerigg Stone Circle offers all of the mystery with none of those drawbacks! This Bronze Age burial site dates back thousands of years and is truly a sight to be behold (especially at sunset!).
I would be remiss to not mention my home turf on this list, especially as it’s one of the most popular outdoor areas in the entire UK! Snowdonia has long provided a place for hikers and hill-walkers alike to find a challenge, indeed many of these individuals use it as a place to train for more intensive environments like Africa or Europe. This accessibility is part of why I love this region so much, it offers challenge to all but is also a perfect introductory landscape for beginner adventurers, like I once was.
Top Spot: It can be overcrowded at times, but it’s hard to beat the peak of Snowdon (never Mount Snowdon!) for massive panoramic views and that wonderful sense of achievement. There are so many different routes up Snowdon that it can be tackled by anyone. Once you’ve reached the top you can have a well-earned coffee, tea or pop at the cafe.
Dartmoor is home to some unique environments and I’m not just saying this. The peat bogs on Dartmoor (which are much more pleasant than they sound, believe me) have been recognised as unlike anywhere else on the planet. Creatures and plants live there that simply can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. On top of this you’ll find the awe-inspiring tors, huge lumps of granite that seem to have been dropped from the sky. These landmarks are best used as waypoints on your hike and are great spots for some on-the-fly rambling!
Top Spot: Great Mis Tor has been named ‘one of the grandest hills in Devon’ and it gets that name for a reason with its highest point towering to an astonishing 1,765 feet. Make no mistake that this is one of the biggest challenges in Dartmoor, but the view at the top is certainly worth the effort!
This is an annual tradition that has been occurring as long as they’ve been old enough to be away from their parents (my brother and sister). In the first few years the kids were a little too young to engage in any outdoor activities, so our days out mostly revolved around indoor play centres, ten-pin bowling and the cinema.
My move out of Cardiff happened to coincide with my nephews and nieces growing just big enough to tackle some more outdoor challenges, so during their last stay we ran a real gamut of activities that proved to simultaneously stimulate and tire them out!
If you’re thinking of visiting North Wales any time soon then I can wholeheartedly recommend the following activities, especially for those families with kids big (and brave) enough to take on an exciting challenge.
I’ve never been a huge fan of swimming in the sea, the saltiness makes my skin crack and I’m always thinking about the huge reams of creatures drifting below my feet. For that reason I’ve never had a good crack at surfing beforehand. My nephews and nieces had dabbled in some body-boarding but never taken the next step to standing on a board, so Surf Snowdonia’s artificial lake seemed like the perfect place for all of us to go and build our confidence with this extreme sport.
The waves vary in size depending on what class you’re taking (there are free-style waves sessions for confident surfers) so we weren’t out of our depth, although the youngest of our group had some reservations at first. The instructors were very friendly and did a great job of explaining what we had to do before the waves began and we were able to test out our new skills. The kids had a great time and were all asleep in the car on the way home – the sign of a good day out!
After a day spent in the water, I felt that the only way to top Surf Snowdonia was by sending us hurtling through the sky. We weren’t going sky-diving (I did look into it, but the price for 4 kids and one adult were truly eye-watering!), but I had the next best thing which happened to be far more affordable. Zip World was set up by a forward-thinking business owner who wanted to create a modern tourist attraction that could grab international interest whilst showcasing the fantastic Welsh countryside.
Set on the site of a disused quarry, Zip World is an imposing sight and more intimidating still are the lines that run the stretch of the entire space. You may think that you’ve seen a big zipline before, but these really do take the biscuit. Needless to say, the kids were equal amounts of scared and excited – and so was I! The 2 hour experience had us flying through the man-made canyon on a number of zip-lines and the novelty really didn’t wear off at all. The kids loved it, but wished that they could have just one more go on Velocity 2, a line over 1.5km!
Our fun-filled weekend was over sooner than I would have liked, but the kids left breathless with excitement and gushing over North Wales which was satisfaction enough for me.
I’m a pretty active person, I like to get outdoors as much as possible, whether that’s a fun run, hiking with friends, hill climbing or riding my bike. Thankfully, I call my home in one of the best places for doing these outdoor activities: North Wales!
I’ve lived in North Wales for the past 10 years and in that time I’ve been able to discover a huge array of fantastic destinations, stunning nooks and wonderful pubs that have made stepping out of my front door a joy every morning.
I first moved to North Wales for work. I’d spent years living in Cardiff and whilst that city is hardly the busiest of urban metropolises, I’d appreciated the peace and quiet that moving to the countryside had given me. I would now wake up to the sound of birds singing in the trees and the low rumble of a car engine was a rarity, rather than the constant hum of traffic that I had become accustomed to.
This is a place for me to share my adventures within North Wales and beyond. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to have some adventures of your own!