THE NATURAL beauty of the Scottish landscape is being celebrated this year, with tourism chiefs on a mission to encourage all of us to get out and about and appreciate the world around us.
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Scotland boasts some of the most stunning landscapes in the world and our natural environment is the number one reason why people want to spend their leisure time in our glorious country. We’re working hard to give as many Scots the opportunity to rediscover childhood haunts or explore new destinations through accommodation, attraction and activity deals that will be available online.”
Here are ten things to see and do in the Year of Natural Scotland 2013:
1 Spring Festival in Dumfries and Galloway in March and April
Scotland’s hidden corner celebrates the region’s landscapes and nature with talks, treasure hunts on horseback, guided sunset walks, pond dipping and stargazing.
2 Great Glen Canoe Trail
The first formal canoe trail along the Caledonian Canal and Great Glen crosses through stunning Highland landscapes including Loch Ness, www.greatglencanoetrail.info
3 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Speyside, 2 - 6 May
The festival includes tours and tastings at more than 50 distilleries, whisky and wildlife walks and a chance for visitors to follow the “smugglers trail” on a guided Land Rover tour.
4 The Helix, Falkirk
The Falkirk skyline is set to change dramatically over the coming months with the installation of two huge, steel-plated equine sculptures known as The Kelpies. These much-anticipated, 30-metre structures in the shape of horses’ heads will become a centrepiece of the Helix, a major land transformation project between Falkirk and Grangemouth. Key development opening from summer 2013, include a central park with its own enclosed lagoon and outdoor events space. www.thehelix.co.uk and www.thekelpies.co.uk
5 Sailing, Malin Waters
The Malin Waters off Scotland’s West Coast are reputed to be some of the best sailing waters in the world. With many companies offering ways to get out on the water, from chartering a yacht to joining a day trip, this is an exciting way to explore the coast, look out for white-tailed sea eagles, seals and basking sharks. www.malinwaters.com
6 The Enchanted Forest, Perthshire
In this land of ancient myths and legends forests have been immortalised in verse and prose, but there are few more “enchanting” spectacles than Perthshire’s own forest art show. The Enchanted Forest, below left, takes place each autumn in Perthshire’s Faskally Wood and is a unique multi-sensory display of sound and light. The award-winning show provides a unique opportunity to visit Scotland’s “Big Tree Country” at night.
7 Riverside Nature Park, Urban Conservation in Dundee
Part of a revitalisation project of around Dundee waterfront, the Riverside Nature Park opened in 2011 as a public park on the Tay estuary. The park, previously used as a landfill, now supports a thriving urban ecosystem and is ideal for bird and wildlife watching. More than 80 species of birds, including redshank, oystercatcher and curlew, have been seen on or near the park. Trees and wildflowers have been planted to encourage new wildlife habitats.
8 John Muir Day
Celebrate the first John Muir Day in Scotland on 21 April 2013, the 175th anniversary of his birth. Scottish Natural Heritage has organised events across Scotland in its national nature reserves. For details of events check the SNH website: www.snh.gov.uk/natural or the national nature reserves website on www.nnr-scotland.org.uk
9 Snowdrop Festival, across Scotland until 17 March
Running until 17 March, the Snowdrop Festival covers a diverse range of more than 50 gardens showcasing their beautiful snowdrop spots, some of which are open exclusively for the event. Properties taking part in the festival range from majestic castles and classic country estates to woodland walks, walled gardens and urban retreats. www.visitscotland.com/see-do/events/scottish-snowdrop-festival.
10 Tiree Music Festival, Inner Hebrides, 20 - 21 July
Winner of the best small festival in Scotland 2012, enjoy live music with a backdrop of white sandy beaches and spectacular island scenery. As well as a main stage, previous years have seen a ceilidh stage and fringe events. For further information, visit www.visitscotland.com/natural