Life

Travel: Wide open spaces and Covid-compliant schemes make Scotland a top pick

Scotland has big plans for the coming year as the travel industry slowly but surely begins to unfurl, writes Sarah Marshall

Scotland's wonderful beaches can look tropical if the weather is right, though the water can be a tad nippy

ANYONE who is looking further afield than Northern Ireland break-wise but reluctant to return to flying just yet can look forward to open spaces and guaranteed social distancing in Scotland – and it's only a ferry ride away.

The country is geared up for Covid-era travel, with natural attractions lending themselves to a new desire for freedom and wilderness. Even cities have ramped up their pandemic game, with businesses adhering to government safety standards given a stamp of approval. The ‘We’re Good To Go’ logo has been designed to offer travellers greater peace of mind.

Here are a few reasons why Scotland might be your first port of call.

Urban escapes can still be safe

City breaks will undoubtedly look different in 2021, but sticking to restrictions doesn’t mean you need to miss out on all the fun. Edinburgh hotel The Balmoral (roccofortehotels.com) has launched a series of in-room dining experiences called The Curfew Club, available to diners after 10pm. Enjoy a movie night accompanied by a cinematic menu or join a virtual whisky tasting with the hotel’s Scotch ambassador.

Al fresco dining can be an all-weather activity

Outdoor dining has become a safe solution for guaranteeing social distancing and maximum space. To accommodate unpredictable weather, many hotels have introduced heated pods and domes. Meldrum House (meldrumhouse.com) in Aberdeenshire offer an Under The Stars experience in their transparent domes, providing a clear view to the night sky. Fonab Castle (fonabcastlehotel.com) in Perthshire have also gone for a scenic approach, by dotting pods strategically around the estate, which looks over Loch Faskally.

Wild swimming can be a daily pursuit

Lack of overseas travel has encouraged many people to embrace cold water swimming. Scotland is fringed by white sand beaches, easily mistaken for the tropics – even if temperatures tell a different story; inland lochs and streams are safe enough for a paddle. For beginners, guided wild swimming adventures can be a great option: local operators include Soak Up Skye (toursbylocals.com) on the Isle of Skye, SwimWild (swimwilduk.com) in the Highlands and Immerse Hebrides (immersehebrides.com) in the Outer Hebrides.

It’s a good place to give back to nature

The pandemic has pulled the importance of nature into sharp focus, giving us more time to concentrate and appreciate the beauty of wild and undeveloped places. Anyone actively seeking to make a positive contribution to the environment can participate in a range of volunteering opportunities available in Scotland. Trees For Life (treesforlife.org.uk) offer Conservation Weeks, allowing participants to help preserve the ancient Caledonian Forest. Working holidays with The National Trust for Scotland (nts.org.uk) offer the chance to live and work in some of the most remote places in Scotland, while making a real difference to the country’s natural heritage.

There’s always time for a tipple

Early in the pandemic, many distilleries switched to making sanitisers, many of which can be found in hotels and restaurants across Scotland. Find out how Scotland’s first carbon neutral gin and vodka are made by visiting the new The Arbikie Distillery Experience (arbikie.com/visit) in Angus, which opens in 2021. At the top end of the country, there’s a chance to savour the UK’s most northerly dram at 8 Doors Distillery in John O’Groats.

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