Have your travel plans been cancelled because of COVID? Fear not, there’s plenty to see and do right at your doorstep…
October is one of those months that always takes me by surprise. The sudden darkness, the need for hot water bottles and the almost constant rain drumming against my windows. It’s easy to get the urge to escape reality; replace the cold and the darkness for warmer skies and tropical beaches. A wee getaway to the Canary Islands perhaps? Or maybe Rome for a romantic city break, bellies stuffed with pizza and pasta? Any other year this would be an easy procedure: simply book the tickets and go. Given time and money allowed it, of course.
This year has been nothing out of the ordinary. Many adventurous dreams have been shattered and with the current number of COVID cases it seems unlikely to change any time soon. However, there’s no need for the winter blues just yet. 2020 has become the year of staycations and luckily, with Scotland at your doorstep you’re in for a treat. Here, we’ve have gathered some brilliant COVID friendly things to do this autumn:
Get lost in the woods
Tie your boots and head out for a woodland walk. Here, there is no better place to be than Perthshire. The Big Tree Country is a gem all year round, but in autumn the county truly comes alive with an array of golden colours to admire. You’re spoilt for choices of where to go, but among my favourites are The Hermitage, the Queen’s View and Lady Mary’s Walk. If you’re more of the spontaneous type, simply go anywhere in Perthshire. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.
Watch wildlife at Cairngorms
With the boots still on, grab some binoculars and head further north to Cairngorms for a splendid wildlife display. While the drier weather and well-known mating period makes spring more appealing to some, there are lots of reasons to defy the cold and head out in autumn. With the falling leaves and dying vegetation, you have greater chances of spotting various animals. Mixed conifer forests such as Glenmore Forest Park are great places to see red squirrels who are extra active at this time gathering food for the winter. Also listen out for red stags roaring as they are looking for a mate. The competition can be fierce so keep your eyes peeled for any dominance displays or possibly even fights.
Get up early for a misty sunrise
Though it may be tough to leave your warm, comfy bed, it’s well worth making the effort out for a colourful morning greeting. The cooler temperatures allow for mist or fog to form creating beautiful carpets over moorland and fluffy blankets hugging the hills – an absolute treat for any aspiring photographer. Here, you don’t even need to leave your homestead to take part in the fun. Simply find the best viewpoint in town and with a tea or coffee in hand admire nature doing its daily business. Might be worth having a wee peak at the weather forecast the night before though. While a few clouds can make for a glorious red morning, chucking down rain serves you better with a few more minutes on the pillow. If so, fear not you have another chance this evening. Those red autumn sunsets are equally beautiful.
Be a local tourist and visit a castle
While you’re discovering the beauty of your own home, why not explore those old buildings that bring in thousands of tourists each year? There has been no better time to beat the crowds and get the world famous attractions almost to yourself. With more than 2,000 castles to choose from, you’re certain to find one suiting your needs. Personally, I would head for one of the more popular castles such as Edinburgh or Stirling Castle for a unique experience with few foreign tourists struggling to grasp the Scottish tongue.
Of ruined castles, a visit to Dunnottar or Urquhart Castle would be equally awe-inspiring. Not all castles have reopened this season and most require advanced bookings so make sure to check online before you go.
Hop on a ferry and get the taste of island life
To truly get into the holiday mood, hop on a ferry to one of Scotland’s many islands to enjoy a relaxed pace of life. If you’re thirsty for a wee dram, head to Isle of Islay which is proudly home to seven distilleries. If an exhilarating hillwalk is more your thing make your way to Isle of Arran for a climb up Goatfell. On a clear day the views from the top are absolutely spectacular. If you’re spoilt of time, it is truly worth travelling all the way out west. The Outer Hebrides are ideal for wildlife watching and long strolls on white sandy beaches, listening to the turquoise waves breaking into shore. For a moment you may forget you’re in Scotland and instead picture yourself on a Caribbean island. Albeit an arctic one.