A mystery psychic medium from somewhere in the depths of Galloway once alleged that Bear Grylls had been a lollipop lady in a former life. Whether you're a believer or not, the wonderful thing is that either one of his incarnations and every one in between can walk, cycle, take to the treetops, play watersports, ride horses, and wild camp in the many forests that form the backbone of Scotland’s great outdoors.
Find the right activities for you right here…
Covering almost a third of the country’s wooded areas, Scotland’s forests run rings around those in Middle-earth. Local woods are perfection for pooches and their humans or for anybody looking for inspiring places in which to crush calories. Mountain vantage points bring you some of this planet’s most beautiful scenery. What are you waiting for? Get Googling one that’s near you then zip up your hiking slacks ready for the off…
Cycling brings you a whole new appreciation of a forest. Many tracks are ideal for leisurely cycle rides for the whole family, likewise serious scramblers. Wonderful places for wheels include Loch Ard near Aberfoyle and the family-friendly lochside trails in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park that are bursting with wildlife and sculptures. Mull boasts a host of forest trails complete with stunning coastal views, while Argyll Forest Park in the west highlands is your go-to for secluded glens, peace and tranquillity.
There’s a whole other world to explore up in the treetops. Get a load of what the birds, the bees, the squirrels, and god take for granted each day with a treetop adventure course. You’ll find one at Glentress near Peebles and The Lodge near Aberfoyle, and Leanachan, near Fort William. They’re the tops!
Scotland’s on the mountain biking map for riders of all ages and abilities from around the globe because of its world-class forest trail network. And talk about stunning scenery. You’ll be pleased to read that there are purpose-built trail centres in places like Dalbeattie, Glentrool, and The Forest of Ae. Many have short skills loops where you can practice some of the features you’ll find on the trails.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code has all information and guidance you need about how to wild camp responsibly. You might unnecessarily excite a metal detector enthusiast when he or she imagines they’ve stumbled on a piece of buried treasure when it’s only your old disposable barbecue. Camping is welcome throughout Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park but byelaws covering camping and firelighting are in effect in some parts of the park between March and September.
Cabins in the forest
Perhaps not the best choice if you just rewatched The Blair Witch on Netflix. But if you haven’t, how about hiring a wooden cabin by lovely Loch Long or in the stunning landscape of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. During the day you can enjoy plenty of activities for the whole family and miles of forest trails popping with woodland wildlife.
How does a gentle springtime hack through bluebell woods grab you? What about a canter through crisp autumn leaves? You see, horseback riding in Scotland’s forests can be like a Jilly Cooper novel. Minus the mucky bits. Head for the lush forest of Ae near Moffat for its stunning views across the Ae plateau from the scenic Countryside Trail. Tweed Valley Forest Park near Peebles has seven forests to choose from - Cademuir and Cardrona are good for cross-country hacks with views to die for.
Scotland's forests contain loads of waterways and lochs and you can enjoy them in whichever way you want – as long as it doesn’t involve a motor. Swim, sail, paddle, or row. Your choice. There are plenty of inland lochs and rivers to explore - try Loch Awe, Loch Eck or Loch Morlich in Glenmore Forest Park, where you can hire water sports equipment or take lessons. The rivers and lochs of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park are all superb, while the 60 mile-long Great Glen Canoe Trail is where it’s at for all you more adventurous paddlers.