Thelma & Louise knew it, as did Cheryl Strayed (author of adventure memoir ‘Wild’) and Elizabeth Gilbert (of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame): there’s nothing like heading out on a new adventure or journey of self-discovery to explore new places and find oneself. With a surge in women-only retreats and women-only travel companies, there couldn’t be a better time to hit the open road.
Approximately 5.6 million women visited Scotland on a holiday in 2017*. Whether heading out with gal pals or taking the leap to explore a destination alone, the country offers a variety of exciting breaks and experiences for women with an appetite for adventure.
From scenic driving routes, white-knuckle challenges, female-dominated events, mindful retreats and tasty food & drink, the only question is how long to stay. Check out the following suggestions for an escape route to Scotland. And get packing!
Into the Wild with Wilderness Scotland
Tour operator Wilderness Scotland has introduced several women-only tours for 2019, which are fully-guided and a great introduction to Scotland, as well as providing new and exciting challenges for solo travellers and groups of friends. Their Coast to Coast mountain biking tour (runningin June 2019) takes adventure seekers on the ultimate bike ride across the Highlands, with 350km of views to breathe in en route. In addition, the Sea Kayaking tour of the Summer Isles (also running in June) explores deserted islands – passing by Ullapool and the beautiful Coigach and Assynt mountains – and sandy beaches and offers the chance to camp in remote spots under starry skies.
Prices from £925 per person. Visit www.wildernessscotland.com/women-in-adventure/ for more details and to book.
Whisky for Girls
Rachel MacNeill runs the Islay Whisky Academy and offers a day tour on Islay called Hipflasks and Drift Wood, which is focused on women. The unusual and exciting tour offers women the chance to find out more about the island’s heritage in a friendly and fun environment, including a trip across to the Isle of Jura to sample Lussa Gin, as well as a visit to the special Islay Woollen Mill, finishing the day at a driftwood bonfire tasting single malt whisky.
Prices from £180 (does not include accommodation). Go to www.islaywhiskyacademy.scot/islay-whisky-tour-hipflasks-and-driftwood/ for more details.
Women’s Tour of Scotland 2019
9-11 August 2019
A brand-new annual global female cycling event has chosen Scotland as the backdrop for its very first event. The Women’s Tour of Scotland will follow a 350km route across the country and promises to show off Scotland’s breath-taking landscape and further cement its place as an international sporting events host. The tour will show the importance of female cycling and will take place over the course of three days in August with the route to be announced soon. A mass participation event will occur on the same three days with 5000 participants from across Scotland and beyond able to participate. Not to be missed!
Check out www.womenstourofscotland.com for full details, when available.
The Solheim Cup 2019, Gleneagles, Perthshire
9-15 September 2019
The Solheim Cup is the biggest event in women’s golf and one of the most prestigious sporting events on the planet. This year it’s Scotland’s turn at the one and only Gleneagles in Perthshire. This comes just five years after the hugely successful staging of the Ryder Cup at the same venue. With more than 100,000 spectators expected to attend from across the globe, this is a must-attend occasion for golf and sports fans looking to experience the passion and atmosphere of this unique event. www.solheimcup2019.com
Fancy a drive?
Scotland’s North Coast 500 route boasts epic scenery, stunning coastal views and beautiful beaches, including Achmelvich in Sutherland. It regularly makes the list of the world’s best driving routes and should be on everyone’s list of must-dos.
The Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail also offers an unrivalled experience of 165 continuous miles of dramatic clifftops, enchanting coves, paradise beaches, charming towns and marvellous wildlife on the north-east coast of Scotland, stretching from St Cyrus & Stonehaven (home to great fresh seafood and the striking Dunnottar Castle), heading north to Cruden Bay, Fraserburgh and Macduff.
For more on Scotland’s driving routes, check out www.visitscotland.com/drivingroutes
These boots are made for….
Whether it’s a mountain climb, or a scenic stroll, Scotland offers a walk for every ability. The ruggedcoastline from Portpatrick to Killantringan in Dumfries and Galloway is a popular one for dogwalkers and ramblers alike; not forgetting the West Highland Way, which starts at Milngavie on the edge of Glasgow and stretches to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis. An alternative route could be a stroll around the Kelpies in the Helix parkland in Falkirk or along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh, to include a glimpse of the Dean Village. Or what about a walk to the top of the city’s Arthur’s Seat, with panoramic views out to the Firth of Forth, including the Queensferry Crossing bridge?
Check out www.walkhighlands.co.uk for more walking inspiration and maps.
When a walk’s just not enough
Those looking for an adrenaline-filled experience can head to the Cairngorms National Park and to the mighty River Findhorn and River Tummel in Perthshire. In addition, around Fort William and Lochaber – known as the Outdoor Capital of the UK – there are thrilling adventures aplenty, such as canyoning, gorge-walking and sailing (see www.outdoorcapital.co.uk for more details). Companies like Ace Adventures offer exhilarating experiences from their very cool glamping and camping site in Moray Speyside (prices vary, see https://aceadventures.co.uk for more details). Alternatively, Cluny Activities in Kirkcaldy, near to Edinburgh, offers fun activities from archery, to golf and Segway tours (www.clunyactivities.co.uk).
Heading to Scotland to escape from it all, the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre provides an unexpected sanctuary near Dumfries in the south-west of Scotland. The first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to have been established in the West, it provides opportunity to book courses such as mindfulness and yoga, or simply to stroll around the peace gardens, temple and Tibetan Tea Rooms. Overnight accommodation is also available, depending on availability (www.samyeling.org/visiting)
Looking for the perfect long-weekend retreat? Croft 103 in Durness in the Highlands is the ultimate escape for groups of friends wanting to relax in the Scottish wilderness, with stunning loch and mountain views (www.croft103.com). Alternatively, solo travellers might want to indulge in a bit of me-time with a stay at the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh, famous as where JK Rowling ‘escaped’ to complete her final Harry Potter book, the Deathly Hollows, in 2007. It is even possible to stay in the JK Rowling Suite! (www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-balmoral-hotel).
For more information on breaks to Scotland go to www.visitscotland.com/holidays-breaks