Thrilling Scotland

storyWhen it comes to ultimate adventure, Scotland may be one of the world’s leading destinations. But don’t take our word for it. A new book titled Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures prominently features Scotland; in fact, the country is cited for no less than 20 thrilling places, an almost disproportionate number given its size.

Is Scotland really that exciting? Is it one of the places adrenaline junkies should put high up on their bucket lists? Well, yes, as the answer turns out. Looking for a mountain bike mecca? Scotland’s The Borders get the nod. Are you after the “ultimate train ride?” The Jacobite now immortalized in the Harry Potter films makes the grade. Those are but a couple of the varied Scottish adventures the book recommends.

Celtic Life International turned to Lonely Planet editor-at-large Emily Wolman to find out just what makes Scotland such an amazing place for adventure. “Of course, Scotland is one of the great adventure destinations,” Wolman confirms. “It has incredible mountain scenery, over 11,500 miles of extraordinary coastline and more than 790 islands.”

Yes the country isn’t a wilderness in the same way as Arctic Canada, Wolman notes. Even though the Highlands are one of the least populated areas of Europe with just over nine people per square kilometre, the whole country has been explored from top to bottom. Wolman says development is what has helped transform the country into an adventure destination: transport links are good, distances relatively short and infrastructure in place throughout the country. “Add to that some of the most progressive access laws in the world, and it’s easy to understand why Scotland has become such an adventure mecca,” she says.

When it comes to Scotland, the book features some of the toughest and most dangerous challenges in the world, such as swimming across the Corryvreckan Whirlpool at slack tide, to some of the easiest: riding the aforementioned Jacobite steam train.  The book ranges across wild adventures (racing on foot, bike and kayak through the Hebredian Islands), to urban adventures (rock-climbing in Glasgow’s suburbs at Dumbarton Rock). Asks Wolman rhetorically: “Given even that short selection, is it any wonder we featured Scotland so much?”

Nor is Scotland the only Celtic country in which to adventure. Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany are all included. “But as well as adventures in the original Celtic countries, we also feature many New World places with strong Celtic heritage, such as rafting the Franklin River in Tasmania, Australia; cycling the Confederation Trail across Prince Edward Island, Canada; or swimming the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South American,” Holman notes.

To put together the book, Lonely Planet drew upon the expertise of hundreds of their authors, in-house editors and dedicated travellers. From there, the book’s editors cut them down to 1,000, ensuring that the mix included a diversity of adventures for all abilities, budgets, interests and locations. “You’ll see our definition of adventure is wide,” Holman says. “Soaking at Blue Lagoon in Iceland holds equal weight with an ultra-marathon in Utah. Adventures are not just intrepid trips or athletic feats; they enable you to discover that you’re capable of more than you think.”

Many of the authors who recommended adventures have experienced them first-hand, often while they’re on the road for guidebook assignments. But Holman says while many of Lonely Planet’s writers are true adventurers, other do their research with their four kids in tow and still others simply don’t have time to ride their motorcycles across Africa. “Though they’ve done that!” Holman adds. “So while I can say that many of those adventures have been experiences first-hand, I don’t think we have anyone who’s raced in the Iditarod – though now that I’m thinking about it, Iditarod Team Lonely Planet has a nice ring to it!”

Holman concedes that every inch of Scotland has definitely been explored, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing as an adventure destination. “So you’re not going to climb a virgin peak here, but that doesn’t make the place any less special. In fact, its rich history is part of its appeal. Overall, in Scotland, or anywhere in the world, there are so many experiences you can’t possibly do them in one lifetime.

“There’s always something new to discover,” Holman continues. “Individuals can spend a lifetime exploring the world and growing themselves. Travel is an essential part of that – and sometimes the most remarkable discoveries aren’t as far from home as you think. It’s easy to find something that’s new to you, no matter how many times you’ve visited.”

Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures
Published by Lonely Planet; 352 pp; $22.99