The mountainous one
Inverness castle is the city's focal point / Image: VisitBritain/Guy Richardson
FLY TO Inverness
THE ADVENTURE Your gateway to the Scottish Highlands, Inverness is the perfect starting point for a road trip, whether on four wheels or two. This historic city – watched over by the pink-hued Inverness Castle – is favourably positioned astride the River Ness and at the northern end of the Great Glen valley. But wherever you choose to make tracks, you really can’t go wrong, since Inverness is surrounded by Scotland’s most beautiful region: those mysterious, mist-shrouded mountains, the electric-green glens, the goosebumpy folklore – it’s all within reach. Inverness is also near the Speyside malt whisky trail, where you'll find the world's largest concentration of Scotch distilleries. Hills and hooch – the perfect holiday.
BOOK WITH While driving around in a car is nice and all, the best way to get close to the Highlands’ heather-clad peaks is by bike. Get your lycra out for Highland Cycle Tours, which runs day trips or weeklong mountain-biking jaunts near Inverness. Pedal pushers will zip between spectacular castles, whisky distilleries, higgledy-piggledy villages and mystical lochs.
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Read more: Drain a dram in Inverness
The island-hopping one
The Isle of Skye is Scotland's most beautiful island / Image: Getty Images
FLY TO Glasgow
THE ADVENTURE Scotland’s largest city may draw visitors for its bumping nightlife, cutting-edge restaurants and cool galleries – but it’s also the best launchpad for exploring the country’s beguiling west coast, with its myriad islands under infinite skies. The Isle of Arran is closest, and well worth a look for its dramatic mountains, lush forests and moody coastline – essentially, Scotland’s landscape distilled. From there, it’s easy to move north towards the bleached-white beaches of the Inner Hebrides and, eventually, the end-of-the-world magic of the Outer Hebrides.
BOOK WITH If you’re the intrepid type, you could plot your own west coast voyage – ferries operate between most major islands. But if you want to get the most out of your trip, it’s best to leave the planning to the professionals at Rabbie’s, which operates tours of Arran, plus moor-dotted Mull and small, ancient Iona.
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Read more: 6 wild road trips you can take from Glasgow
The hair-raising one
Adrenaline awaits on the River Tummel / Image: Alamy
FLY TO Edinburgh
THE ADVENTURE With elegant Georgian architecture, secretive nooks, and castles at every turn, Edinburgh’s appeals are immediately obvious. But look beneath its enchanting surface and you’ll find something pleasantly dark – like loads of shadowy historic sights that are said to be haunted by the city’s erstwhile residents. Take the spooky Mary King’s Close, a perfectly preserved 17th-century street underneath the Old Town, rumoured to be home to Scotland’s highest concentration of ghosts. But if you like your adrenaline kicks less ghostly and more get-up-and-go, make a dash for nearby Pitlochry – a picturesque town on the River Tummel where day-trippers partake in all sorts of heart-pumping endeavours from white-water rafting to gorge walking.
BOOK WITH Adrenaline junkies looking for their fix should hook up with My Adventure – a company that runs exhilarating tours through Edinburgh’s surrounds. Opt for a bit of canyoning (a wild sport that involves traversing a gorge via a mix of hiking, climbing, swimming and abseiling) mountain biking, or just some good old fashioned canoeing, among other daredevil activities.
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Read more: Feel the pull of history in Edinburgh