You can reach crazy heights
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No visit to Scotland is complete without bagging a Munro – local parlance for ascending to the top of the country’s 282 mountains that are more than 914.4 metres high. They’re named after Sir Hugh T Munro, who clocked some serious time cataloguing the peaks in the late 19th century. If you only have time for one hike, Ben Nevis, near Fort William, is the highest at 1345 metres.
There’s a one-of-a-kind kayak trail
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See the western coast of Scotland in a very unique way by paddling 154 kilometres along its length, from Ganavan Sands to Helensburgh. The Argyll Sea Kayak Trail is the first of its kind throughout Europe and follows some truly stunning coastline, including soaring sounds and twisting canals. If the distance seems too far, the trail is easily broken down into more manageable sections of between 11 and 29 kilometres long.
There’s a distillery with royal approval
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Less than two kilometres from Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite getaway, Balmoral Castle, lies the Royal Lochnagar distillery. But it was another queen – her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, in fact – who visited this stunning whisky spot in 1848 and declared it worthy of a Royal Warrant. These days, the Lochnagar produces fine whiskies including Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky.
It’s home to Britain’s most remote pub
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It will take dedication and a will to walk to the end of the earth for a beer if you want to sip a brew at The Old Forge, which lays claim to being the most remote pub on mainland Britain. There are no roads in or out so the only way to pull up a stool is a 29-kilometre hike or an 11-kilometre boat ride from Mallaig. Time your trip right, as the pub is only open between March and October. Image: John Horton (CC BY 2.0).
The Isle of Skye has a mystical beauty
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There are countless peninsulas and quaint towns to explore on this 50-kilometre-long island off Scotland’s west coast but there’s one place you must explore: the Fairy Pools. It’s an easy 40-minute walk to the cluster of waterfalls and crisp, clear waterways. Go for a swim if you can handle the cold.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
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Johnnie Walker Blue Label paired with blue cheese enhances the explosion of flavour.
The world’s most famous sea creature lives there
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Could you be the one to finally spot her? Though this urban legend is just that (discounting the more than 100 documented sightings), a trip to the Loch that Nessie calls home is a fun excursion. Should you have no luck in spying her supposedly snake-like head, the surrounding area has lots to explore, including Urquhart Castle and a smattering of sweet villages.
Its distilleries are incredibly picturesque
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Whisky made on the Isle of Islay, a speck of land off Scotland’s western coast, is known for its smoky, salty flavour. But it should also be known for being made in one of the most beautiful locations in the world – the island is home to rows of whitewashed homes and huge, crystal lochs. For example, Caol Ila Distillery, known for remarkable whiskies such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label, is set on the shores of Port Askaig and, from its windows, has incredible views of the Sound of Islay – a perfect vantage point as you sip a sample.
The capital is an ideal blend of old and new
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Whether you make the climb to the centuries-old Edinburgh Castle perched on the crags of an extinct volcano or spend an indulgent afternoon at one of the Scottish capital’s 34 Michelin-starred restaurants, a few days in Edinburgh truly is an experience like no other. Regularly ranked in traveller’s top destinations around the world, it’s worth a visit – especially if you can time it with the world-class Fringe Festival.
It has some incredibly unique beaches
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Experience the quintessentially Scottish seaside at the popular Portobello Beach, just an 11-minute drive from Edinburgh city centre. The promenade is dotted with cafés and shops should the weather be too inclement for a paddle. Further afield, there are wild, windswept beaches where you can walk a sandy stretch without encountering another soul, allowing you to appreciate the rugged beauty in solitude: try Yellowcraigs in the east, St Andrews West Sands near Dundee or Sango Bay in the north if you can brave the chill.
It produces some of the rarest whisky known to the world
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Highlands distillery Brora first started producing its oily, smoky single malt whisky in the early 1800s before the pumps were turned off for good in 1983. Consequently, a dram from one of the final batches ever produced has become incredibly prized among Scotch whisky connoisseurs. Collectors can now find it in Johnnie Walker’s new Blue Label Ghost and Rare Special Release whiskies, which are sourced from Scottish distilleries no longer in action, including Brora.
Even the rocks are things of beauty
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Scattered throughout the country are rock and cave formations that truly boggle the mind. The hexagonal basalt columns on the uninhabited Isle of Staff are especially extraordinary – the deep coastal hollow of Fingal’s Cave has a lasting effect on all those that enter.