Wintertime in Scotland brings a new adventure to your holidays. Forget the cold and remember a few plus-points, such as quieter roads for travelling in your campervan or motorhome; spectacular winter wonderland scenery; crisp blue-sky days; and a smug feeling created by being inside your warm mobile holiday home looking out at the chilly landscape.
You will also find that our Open Road Scotland rates for motorhomes and campervans are cheaper in the winter season. We are happy to hire our vans for shorter periods, too. Why not take advantage of the quieter season for a memorable week or two away with family or friends?
Great winter activities in Scotland
There are so many places to see and so much to do in Scotland, even in winter, so we have come up with six great ideas.
Swap the green and rolling hills and mountains of spring and summer for a fabulous wintry landscape covered in frost and snow. Well, there might be some mud, ice and rain, too, but getting out and enjoying the elements while dressed for the activity is all part of the fun of winter walking.
If it’s easier-going winter walks that you prefer then Scotland also boasts many atmospheric forests. Check out Forestry Commission Scotland. Some favourites include:
- Loch Ard at Aberfoyle
- Glentress, near Peebles
- Glenmore Forest, near Aviemore
- Brodick Castle Wood, Isle of Arran
- Balblair, Bonar Bridge
Another great walking destination for families is Rothiemurchus Estate, close to Aviemore in the Highlands. The trail around Loch an Eilein is not to be missed.
A section or two of a long-distance walking trail provides the ideal destination for walk that is well-trodden. Some of Scotland’s Great Trails are even waymarked for easier navigation (although in winter you should always carry a navigation device, map and spare clothes and food in case the weather suddenly changes).
Ride a funicular railway
Scotland’s only funicular railway is a unique visitor experience that allows people of all abilities to reach the Top Station at CairnGorm Mountain, near Aviemore.
At the top you’ll discover panoramic views from more than 3,500ft, the Ptarmigan Restaurant, an exhibition, shop and the highest post box in the Britain.
In order to protect the CairnGorm plateau, funicular passengers are not permitted to exit the top station to go on to the mountain unless they are booked on a guided walk or a guided mountain bike descent. The trip is a great half-day outing for families and couples.
Scottish skiing and snowboarding
Scotland boasts five ski resorts and each offers a range of skiing and snowboarding action for all. Here’s the lowdown:
Glenshee Ski Centre, Cairnwell, by Braemar
The largest resort in the UK, Glenshee covers four mountains and three valleys. There are 36 pisted runs over 40kms served by 21 lifts and tows. www.ski-glenshee.co.uk
CairnGorm Mountain, near Aviemore
CairnGorm boasts Scotland’s only funicular railway, which whizzes skiers and snowboarders to the Ptarmigan Top Station at 3500ft. There are 24 runs and 12 lifts. The longest run is 3.3kms. www.cairngormmountain.org
Experienced skiers love Glencoe, especially the UK’s steepest black run, the Flypaper. But beginners should not overlook the large plateau area for fantastic skiing. www.glencoemountain.com
Nevis Range, near Fort William
Skiers can ride Scotland’s only gondola to a large ski area at Nevis Range. Twelve lifts serve a good range of pistes from green to black, plus there’s the challenging Back Corries. www.nevisrange.co.uk
The Lecht, Aberdeenshire
The Lecht, at 2090ft above sea level, boasts of some of the most consistent snow in Scotland. You’ll find 20kms of skiing over 18 runs. www.lecht.co.uk
If you have the experience and techniques then you’ll know that ice climbing in Scotland is challenging yet hugely rewarding. A motorhome or campervan is the perfect place to bed down for a few nights as you make the most of the winter conditions.
For beginner ice climbers, head to the Ice Factor at Kinlochleven, near Fort William, where an ice-caked room offers the chance to learn the skills required for climbing outdoors.
Mountain biking in Scotland
Many people prefer to go off-road on a bike in winter rather than risk wet and icy roads. And Scotland is acclaimed as the best country in Europe for mountain biking so you have come to the right place.
We can add bike racks to our motorhomes so that you can bring your own mountain bikes, or ask us about where to hire bikes.
It is difficult to choose the best mountain bike centres in Scotland and it’s worth having a look on-line at sites such as Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, 7stanes Mountain Biking and also the MTB specific pages of the Forestry Commission website.
Five great MTB centres in Scotland
Glentress, near Peebles, has something for all and is hailed as the Mecca of mountain bike centres in Europe.
Laggan Wolftrax, near Kingussie, Highlands, has an easy green trail, a fun-filled Bike Park and lots of tougher red and black trails to keep more experienced and older members of the family happy.
Learnie Red Rock Trails, at Rosemarkie, near Cromarty, Ross-shire, offers a wealth of easy-to-intermediate blue trails as well as something for beginner riders and also black-graded toughie routes for the most skilful.
Kyle of Sutherland Trails: The Blue trail at Carbisdale, which is part of the Kyle of Sutherland Trails, is a popular destination for mountain bikers who are just getting into off-road riding. There is also a great read route at Carbisdale. For challenge black routes head to nearby Balbair, where you will also find a 3km blue trail.
Cathkin Braes, near Glasgow, is an exciting development of trails that will be used by the very best riders at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014. Try some of the 5.5km figure-of-eight route that will feature in the Games later this year. You will discover a lovely route, including moorland, woodland, climbs and fast descents, with fantastic views of the famous city in the background.
No, we have not gone mad. Surfers will tell you that some of the best conditions can be found in coastal locations in autumn and winter. Thanks to good quality wetsuits (5mm at least!), neoprene boots, gloves and hoods, many surfers brave the chilly Scottish seas in winter.
We will be bringing you a surfing blog for beginners and families for spring and summer in due course, but for winter surfing maddies there are websites to check out right now including The Scottish Surfing Federation, Momentum, Magic Seaweed and Fluid Concept.
Or you could simply turn up at a beach, where you will no doubt find other surfers with their vans, and ask them for the best breaks.
And if the sea looks too rough or cold, just stay in your campervan or motorhome, turn up the heat and look out at the amazing seascape.
Tell us about what you like to do in Scotland’s great outdoors in winter.