If you’re in need of a wellness break (which, let’s face it, we all are), you’ll be surprised at how easily you can make that happen. Thanks to the rise of sustainable travel, the days of hopping on a ten-hour flight for a ‘retreat’ are finally on their way out. And do you know what? We’re not mad about it.
In fact, we’re already *slightly* obsessed with the location of our next city-break. That’s right, we’re heading to the historic cities of Scotland to explore the ultimate wellness getaway, right on our doorstep.
As Scotland celebrates its Year of Coasts and Waters 2021, you can take advantage of the country’s 11,000 miles of coastline, 137 miles of canals and 31,460 (!!!) freshwater lochs. Being near water, whether you’re strolling along the beach or going wild swimming, has untold benefits for emotional wellbeing, including reducing stress and anxiety. It’s safe to say that Scotland is the destination for water wellness (for advice on staying safe on the water please visit Water Safety Scotland).
From Aberdeen to Edinburgh, Stirling to Inverness (and back again), here’s why Scotland has everything you need for the ultimate wellness getaway.
Aberdeen Beach, Aberdeen
VisitScotland / Kenny Lam
Let’s start with *that* coastline shall we?
Take Aberdeen Ballroom Beach, which is located just a mile away from the city centre. As well as having an Instagram-ready, art-deco esplanade, it’s coastline stretches 3km – perfect for working up an appetite or walking off a big lunch. Oh and keep an eye out for dolphins.
Looking to ramp up the relaxation factor? Enjoy one of Scotland’s waterfall walks and be truly immersed in the natural surroundings. Whether you pay a visit to Black Spout Waterfall, a 60m woodland waterfall in Perthshire, or fancy the six mile journey to the UK’s highest waterfall, Eas a’ Chuil Aluinn in the Highlands, the combination of cascading waters and stunning scenery is the epitome of mindfulness.
If you’re wondering how you can continue to preserve this beautiful part of the world while you enjoy your walk, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code is full of useful resources.
Loch Morlich, Cairngorms National Park
VisitScotland / Airborne Lens
Ready to take the plunge? Cold water therapy is one of the fastest growing wellness practices in the UK. Experts believe that immersing yourself in cold water triggers a rush of endorphins, which can reduce stress, improve blood circulation, speed up your metabolism and boost happiness levels. And wild swimming is one of the quickest (not to mention, most fun) ways to reap all these benefits.
How wild swimming cured my anxiety
Leap into the beautiful banks of the River Tay in Perthshire and experience the endorphin rush of fresh water swimming for yourself. Be sure to warm yourself up afterwards with a trip to Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery where you can sample distinct Perthshire whiskies, distilled from the fresh water you just swam in!
Scotland has plenty of wild swimming opportunities in the most scenic of places. You can bask in the shadow of Castle Stalker, a castle dating back to 1320, which sits in the bay of Loch Laich in Argyll & The Isles. Or enjoy the tropical vibes at the secluded lagoon of Little Bernera off the coast of Great Bernera on the Isle of Lewis.
Jump into the Loch Insh and Loch Morlich at Cairngorms National Park, and get this, you can even bring your dog for moral support. While you’re there, explore the rest of the Cairngorms National Park, which is twice the size of the Lake District and has five of the UK’s six highest mountains.
Port Edgar, a marina on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, in the town of South Queensferry, in West Lothian
If you’re ready to see Scotland from an entirely new perspective, there’s only on thing you’re missing: a paddleboard.
Admire Edinburgh’s Forth Bridges as you glide along the Port Edgar Marina, or head to Galloway Activity Centre to discover the “paddlers paradise” of the stunning Loch Ken in Dumfries & Galloway.
Indulge your sense of adventure (without even leaving the city) by heading to Pinkston Watersports, which is just five minutes from Glasgow’s city centre. Here you can reap all the physical benefits of paddleboarding, from improving your mind-body coordination, to building your cardio fitness.
There are also plenty of guided paddleboarding experiences to try in Ayrshire & Arran, including SUPArran and Adventure Carrick.
Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh
Once you’ve reaped the physical and emotional benefits of bathing in Scotland’s beautiful waters, it’s time to discover the wonder of forest bathing. The Japanese concept involves soaking up the energy and beauty of leafy, natural environments and, let’s face it, Scotland has plenty of those.
The Japanese Garden at Cowden in Clackmannanshire is a great place to start. Named the “Shãh-rak-uen”, or “a place of pleasure and delight,” this garden is an authentic bridge between Scottish and Japanese culture. If you don’t fancy straying too far from the city, look out for Edinburgh’s hidden gems such as Dr Neil’s Garden, a natural haven known as Edinburgh’s ‘secret garden’.
We all know that fresh air is endlessly beneficial for our mental health. But did you know there are over 90 parks and gardens in Glasgow alone? Not to mention 282 Munros (mountains over 914 metres high) scattered around the country, from Ben Hope the most northerly Munro in Scotland, to Meall nan Tarmachan in Perthshire.
A vital aspect of wellness is caring for the planet, as well as our body and mind. And with Glasgow hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) later on in the year, sustainability is high on Scotland’s agenda.
Join the slow food movement, savouring fresh, seasonal produce, which not only nourishes body and soul, but also supports local communities. Try Aberdeen’s Bonobo Vegan Cafe, or nip to Angus’ Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery to sample climate neutral gins which boast a carbon negative footprint.
What are you waiting for?
Always check latest government advice before travel, book ahead and travel responsibly. Please note, face coverings are required in Scotland. Find out more practical information around Covid-19 in Scotland here.
It’s important to stay safe on the water so whatever activity you’re planning to do, follow the advice from Water Safety Scotland.