With its sheltered coastal location, Inverness is one of the driest places in Scotland, and it’s the perfect base from which to explore the spectacular, rugged beauty of the Highlands. Of course, all the usual outdoor activities like walking, golf and cycling are available, but why not take the opportunity to try something new while you’re there?
The beauty of birding is that all you need is a pair of binoculars and a book (or for the technically minded, the RSPB’s excellent online bird identifier. Head out into the countryside and you’ll soon be spotting grebe, ptarmigan, osprey, crested tit and snow bunting – Inverness-shire is hugely popular with birders because it’s possible to see such a wide variety of species. The area and the species that inhabit it are precious precisely because they are so ecologically fragile, and the opportunity to interact with nature whilst making no impact upon it is to be treasured – you’ll leave with a camera full of photographs and new appreciation of the beauty of our wild places.
For millennia, hardy Highlanders have been taking to their lochs and rivers in search of the next meal. Today, of course, we don’t need to catch fish for food, but there’s still no taste to compare with that of a freshly grilled fresh trout, landed by you just hours before. If you’ve never tried fly fishing before, it’s best to put yourself in the hands of professionals, with expert ghillies to show you the ropes, provide all the necessary gear and give basic tuition to get you started, or more advanced classes to improve your technique. Visit Scotland has extensive information about fishing holidays all year round.
IN THE SADDLE
How better to explore the glens, moors and mountains of Scotland than on the back of a hardy, surefooted Highland pony? Start off by looking for local riding centres through an organisation like the Association of British Riding Schools (http://www.abrs-info.org/default.asp) or the Pony Club – a reputable riding school or trekking centre will take care of you, ensuring that you’re matched with a sensible equine schoolmaster, lending you the equipment you need and keeping to a steady pace until you’re comfortable on four legs. Experienced riders will be able to enjoy the thrill of exploring the most remote areas, seeing wildlife at close quarters, and splashing through the shallows as you canter along the beach.
With hundreds of miles of unspoiled coastline, secluded coves and beaches to explore, and stunning marine and bird life, Scotland is one of the world’s best destinations for sea kayaking. Whether you just want to paddle gently through calm waters, relishing the silence and natural beauty of your surroundings, or fancy taking on the challenge of choppier waters, kayaking is great fun and brilliant exercise too. To get started, you’ll need little more than warm clothing and something dry to change into afterwards (you’re unlikely to fall in but probably will get splashed!). The Inverness Canoe Club offers introductory “come and try” days for those new to the sport.
TUG AND TOSS
Are you more at home as a spectator than a participant in sport? If so, don’t stay in your hotel room watching the football on telly – venture out and experience the excitement of an authentic Highland Games. From dance competitions to bagpiping, tugs of war to caber-tossing, these events offer a uniquely Scottish blend of sport, culture and entertainment. For a full calendar of events, visit the Scottish Highland Games Association .