SCOTLAND has well and truly ditched its tartan and shortbread image and is now regarded as one of the world’s top destinations for thrill-seekers, according to a new adventure travel book.
The Lonely Planet’s 1,000 Ultimate Adventures lists destinations north of the Border in 20 of its 100 top-ten lists of activities. From wild swimming across the Corryvreckan Whirlpool in Argyll to intrepid treasure-hunting trips off Orkney or taking the wildest flights to tiny, remote islands, Scotland is listed among some of the most high-ranking and well-known travel spots in the world.
The Corryvreckan Whirlpool is ranked fifth in the world’s top ten for wild swimming, just one place behind Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated as a political prisoner.
The guide describes the Corryvreckan Whirlpool as “a wild place frequented by strong eddies, unpredictable currents, a confusion of tides and a whirlpool that can often be heard miles away, sucking and hissing. But for half an hour per tide, the whirlpool calms and swimmers have that time to swim across the 1km strait between Jura and Bute, before it starts up again.”
Daniel Start, editor of the Wild Swimming guide book series, said the whirlpool was one of the ultimate challenges for wild swimmers: “The Corryvreckan is a particularly notorious and dangerous stretch. Swimmers would need a wetsuit and a boat with an outboard motor – it’s a trip needing a lot of planning and equipment.
“Scotland also has a lot of wild swimming which many more people can enjoy, such as the Fairy Pools on the isle of Skye, where you jump in and dive through underwater arches.”
Tom Hall, editor of Lonely Planet, said adventurous travellers were always looking for the next “big” thing and that Scotland was now rated highly, as having many unexplored challenges. “The tartan, haggis and shortbread image is out of date, especially with younger travellers,” he said. “We were very struck that Scotland appears in so many of the lists ranging from wild swimming to treks, ice climbing to island flights.
“Scotland has always been known as a place which is very beautiful with wild experiences. People are always looking for what is going to give the ‘wow’ factor and now they are realising they don’t have to travel very far to get it.”
Mr Hall added that one of the greatest adventures he had experienced was flying on a small aircraft and landing on the beach on Barra in the Outer Hebrides.
Scotland grabbed two of the top-ten places for the world’s wildest flights, beating destinations such as Antarctica and Tibet. The two-minute journey (47 seconds depending on tailwinds) between the Orkney islands of Westray and Papa Westray took first place. Billed as “the shortest hop”, the guide advises travellers to “forget longhaul – there’s more kudos in taking the world’s shortest scheduled flight”.
Meanwhile, Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh was praised for its views of the city, making it to the top ten in “best city hikes”. The book also lists the Hebridean Challenge as one of the globe’s best races and the Chemin de Fer route on Dumbarton Rock as a top climbing adventure.