Here at EmbraceScotland we like to highlight hidden gem tips shared by owners of quality holiday accommodation in Scotland and suggestions from locals for exploring ‘the real Scotland’ during your holiday. So this month, we couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to about stepping off the beaten track when holidaying in the Highlands than Wilderness Scotland, Scotland’s only accredited 5 star activity provider and Europe’s leading adventure travel company.
We interviewed Russell Murray, Business Development Manager for Wilderness Scotland, to find out more about the different experiences on offer for adventure travellers and families alike, as well as his own highlights of the Highlands.
You offer a range of holidays and wilderness experiences in some of the most remote and scenic parts of the Highlands and Islands. Could you share some of your favourite off the beaten track locations in the Highlands?
I think one of our favourite wilderness locations has to be the Knoydart peninsula where it all began for us back in 2001. Often described as the last wilderness in Scotland and normally accessed by boat, this stunning location on Scotland’s remote west coast forms the base for one of our most popular Wilderness walking holidays. Highlights on this trip include private boat transfers to Skye and the Small Isles as well as incredible local seafood at a restaurant situated along side the comfort of a private wilderness lodge- the perfect “get-away” combination if you ask me!
Your offices are based in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park – what are your ‘must-sees’ and favourite walks in the area?
The Cairngorms is truly a magical place to work, live and travel in with a wide range of walks to suit everyone. One of my favourite and perhaps most scenic walks in the area has to be the low level gentle hike around Loch an Eilein situated in the heart of the Rothiemurchus Estate which offers stunning views on to the Cairngorms as well as a rich diversity of wildlife and some fascinating cultural and historical ties (undoubtedly best brought to life through the expertise and knowledge of one of our Wilderness Scotland guides).
We like to highlight hidden gems with our readers – could you share some of your favourite lesser-known attractions/sights in the Highlands?
Without giving too many secrets away (!), there are certainly a couple of hidden gems that stand out for me, namely Aigas Gorge on the River Beauly which is a haven for wildlife such as ospreys and otters and a highlight on our open canoeing holidays that explore the central Highlands. Another lesser known but equally inspiring location is the uninhabited island of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides which features on our new 2015 Outer Hebrides walking holiday. Unlike Lewis and Harris to the North, which can be become over crowded in the summer months, Mingulay to the south is often overlooked and so a wonderful experience for the curious travel with stunning scenic walks and wild Atlantic vistas!
Which of your holiday experiences would you recommend to someone who is keen to blow the cobwebs away and start 2015 by getting active in the great outdoors?
Without a doubt our Outer Hebrides and Skye walking trip is the perfect remedy here! Travelling by foot through some of the wildest bounds of Scotland, highlights here include exceptional Highland hospitality, the rich ornithology of Lewis, Harris and Skye as well as enjoying the wild scenery and rich history of these incredible islands through the knowledge and expertise of your very own private guide.
What would you suggest to a family looking for a memorable holiday experience?
With a wide range of attractions and activities on offer, the Scottish Highlands is the perfect playground for an unforgettable family adventure. There are a number of suggestions here including monster spotting on Loch Ness (!); sea kayaking in the crystal clear waters of Arisaig; a magical journey on the Harry Potter steam train; or even a mountain bike safari in the Cairngorms National Park; and all from the comfort of our carefully selected guest houses, hotels or even your very own private hunting lodge!
We started this year by running a photography competition with the theme of ‘the real Scotland’. What does ‘the real Scotland’ mean to you?
For us the real Scotland is really about the experiential and truly “getting out there”! In other words, as with all our scheduled and private holidays, engaging with the local people (and cuisine!), learning about the history and heritage of the region and actively journeying through the wild and remote landscapes forms an integral part of the client experience and ultimately is what I would term “the real Scotland”. And with interest and access to outdoor recreation at an all time high, it is great to know that everyone who visits Scotland today can enjoy such experiences.