From the inland wilds of its hills, moors and mountains to the craggy coastline of its ocean shores, Scotland all but overflows with luxury touring options for active travel. Gray & Co.’s custom itineraries put you on the inside track.
We take you walking, hiking, biking, horseback riding and paddling to experience saltwater lochs and fresh rivers teeming with fish and emerald-green landscapes where birds roost and deer frolic. Throughout this land of rugged natural beauty, centuries-old castles hold stories of heroic battles and tragic endings, distillers have perfected the art of whiskey-making, and cosmopolitan cities offer seemingly endless cultural wonders, culinary delights and warm welcomes from some of the friendliest folks on the planet. Let’s get going!
In the capital city of Edinburgh — home to nearly 540,000 residents and more dynamic museums and great restaurants than we can count — we love the Balmoral Hotel for its great, central location and top-notch service. It’s the perfect base for adventures both urban and more rural. Start your day with an early-morning hike up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano in the heart in town, to enjoy sweeping North Sea and city views, then, following a hearty breakfast, take a tour from a local historian. You’ll travel back in time through the medieval architecture of the Old Town and the Georgian style of the New Town, with stops at Holyrood Palace (the British Queen’s residence) and the 12th–century Edinburgh Castle. Then it’s time for shopping along George Street, perhaps a fitting for a custom kilt, and afternoon tea. Outside the city, we’ll take you on daytrips to fishing villages, coastal hikes, and golf’s Holy Grail: St. Andrews. Gleaneagles Hotel, a 1-hour drive outside the city, also tempts: There you can horseback ride, golf, shoot, ATV tour, hike, road bike and fish your way through this world-class 850-acre Scottish playground.
Private jet is the best way to access Inverness, the gateway to the quiet, mysterious Scottish Highlands, where we book the entirety of Aldourie Castle, on the shores of Loch Ness, as our exclusive-use home away from home. The estate’s upscale, old-world rooms offer grandeur, comfort, beauty and tranquility in equal measure. Wander Aldourie’s 500 acres of gardens, woodlands and manicured lawns at your leisure, or partake in falconry lessons, archery and sunset cruises on the loch led by a Nessie expert. The castle’s position near Cairngorm National Park provides easy access to custom hiking, biking and kayaking. You might summit the shapely top of the 2,500-footer Creag a’Chalamain (“the peak of the dove,” in Scottish Gaelic) one day, fish for salmon in the River Spey another and enjoy a personalized whiskey tasting at some of the region’s top distillers on yet another.
Among the Hebrides — an archipelago of hundreds of enchanting islands off Scotland’s northwest coast — we love the well-known Isle of Skye for its windswept landscapes and mountains, its fairy legends and, of course, its Tallisker Whisky. But every trip to the area should also include a helicopter daytrip to several less-visited but equally magical isles: On Mull, you’ll fall for the colorful 18th-century fishing village of Tobermory, and Iona is home to an abbey that’s one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites, known as the birthplace of Christianity in the country. Staffa, meanwhile, has long been celebrated for its geological wonders, including Fingal’s Cave, which inspired Mendelssohn’s concert overture “The Hebrides.” The waters surrounding the islands — best explored by private charter — team with birds and sea life, not least basking sharks, the world’s second-largest shark species.
No matter what parts of Scotland you explore, you’ll find that the country draws you in and ignite your senses. It offers so very many enticements — natural wonders to discover, beautiful hotels and castles to sleep in, historic tales to unravel and awe-inspiring roads and trails to bike and hike — you just might never want to leave.
What they say
“Think road biking, hiking, horseback riding and kayaking. Pair these activities with the world’s best small hotels. Then add amazing meals and spa treatments, along with exclusive access along the way.”
January 14, 2018