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Travel: Autumnal days out to enjoy, despite Covid-19

© SYSTEMFyvie Castle in the village of Fyvie, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire.
Fyvie Castle in the village of Fyvie, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire.

The nights are getting darker, the weather cooler but autumn adventures are unfolding.

Here, VisitScotland hand-picks some seasonal highlights to help get you out and about over the coming months.


Climbing and walking

Scotland is beautiful all year round but there is something extra-special about autumn. The landscapes transform from a sea of green into an explosion of reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

Take a relaxing wander through a magical woodland, savouring the sights and sounds of this seasonal spectacular. Bag a Munro, hike along a famous walking routes or simply enjoy a stroll in your neighbourhood woodland before the darker nights draw in.

Where to go: Faskally Wood and Lady Mary’s Walk, both Perthshire, Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire or Dawyck Botanic Garden in the Scottish Borders.


Pumpkin picking

An American tradition, pumpkin picking has grown in popularity here in recent years with plenty of patches letting you pick your own. It’s a great way to support independent businesses and you’ll also love tucking into some freshly grown local produce.

Remember, agritourism is booming, from farm tours and shops to animal meet-and-greets and adventure playgrounds.

Where to go: Cairnie Fruit Farm, Fife, Craigies Fruit Farm, Edinburgh, Loch Ness Pumpkins, Inverness, and Arnprior Farm, Stirling.


Stargazing

There is something magical about watching the night sky as it twinkles with stars and distant planets. You’ll find plenty of perfect stargazing spots. And with thousands of stars visible, every night is a different experience.

To help with your next stargazing adventure, VisitScotland has created a new stargazing toolkit aimed at families.

Where to go: Galloway Forest Park is the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, Moffat is Scotland’s designated Dark Sky Town and the most northerly Dark Sky Park in the world sits within the Glenlivet and Tomintoul stretch of Cairngorms National Park.

 

© P. Tomkins / VisitScotland
Stargazing at Clatteringshaws Loch, Galloway Forest Park – the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, Dumfries and Galloway.

Wildlife watching

The change of temperature and landscapes means when autumn casts its spell it is often easier to spot some of nature’s more elusive creatures.

One to look out for is the UK’s largest mammal, the red deer. Every autumn the males rut in a dramatic battle for dominance. Now, too, is a good time to see grey seals, with silky pups enjoying their early lives warming in the autumn sun on coastal rocks. They can be seen all around Scotland.

Remember to keep your eyes on the skies where you’ll see majestic birds of prey or wintering geese who descend on shorelines in their thousands.

Where to go: Cairngorms National Park, Arran, Lochaber and Jura are among the best places to witness deer rutting. The west coast, Moray Firth, Firth of Tay and Isle of May are great places to watch for grey seal pups.

RSPB Loch of Strathbeg, Loch Leven Nature Reserve and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Caerlaverock Wetland Centre all welcome wintering geese.

Wildlife parks such as Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian, Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore, and Blair Drummond Safari Park outside Stirling all offer the chance to see some of the most exciting animal species in the world.


Eating and drinking

There’s something about this time of year that makes comforting meals more appealing. There are food trails covering everything from chocolate and seafood to cheese and ale. The chilly temperatures also provide the perfect excuse to pop into a cosy pub for a warming meal and, of course, another relaxing way to stave off the cold snap is by enjoying a world-class dram at a distillery.

Where to go: For cosy pubs, try Clachaig Inn, Glencoe, known for its magnificent views, fab food and warm welcome, or the Traquair Arms in Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders where locally brewed ales are on tap. Borders, Oban and Glenturret distilleries offer tours, while the Macallan reopens on Saturday.


Cruising

As Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, 2020 has marked a celebration of our seas, rivers and lochs, and the cultural heritage and food and drink of our islands.

Paddle boarding and kayaking are fantastic ways to explore waterways while beautiful beaches are as postcard-perfect on a crisp autumnal day as they ever are at the height of summer.

Although many events planned for this year have been postponed due to the pandemic, there are still a number of online experiences which let you enjoy Scotland’s waterways from the comfort of your couch.

Where to go: The Great Glen Canoe Trail, a 60-mile stretch of the Caledonian Canal, is the first trail of its kind north of the border. Take a trip on Scotland’s longest river. Outdoor Explore offers kayak trips on the River Tay. Or explore underwater with a snorkel trail in the north-west Highlands.

Online events include the Scottish International Storytelling Festival (October 17-31) which celebrates Scotland’s coasts and waters through music and tales. Meanwhile, discover the story of our coastal places through the Scotland’s Coasts exhibition organised by Historic Environment Scotland.


City living

Why not spend time discovering hidden gems in seven beautiful, vibrant cities? Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth, Dundee and Stirling all boast delicious eateries, comfortable accommodation and fascinating attractions. Whether you’re a history buff, culture vulture, lover of beautiful scenery or just want to live like a local – these cities have it all.

Where to go: Running until January, the Mary Quant Exhibition at V&A Dundee is the first international retrospective of the work of the iconic British designer who kick-started a fashion revolution. The City of Discovery’s waterfront museum has welcomed more than a million visitors since opening two years ago. Voted best attraction in the UK, by Which? members, the Royal Yacht Britannia, berthed in Leith, Edinburgh, is the Queen’s former floating palace.

Described as the jewel in its city’s cultural crown following a multi-million-pound redevelopment, Aberdeen Art Gallery is welcoming visitors again following lockdown. And explore Glasgow’s artistic side with a new self-guided tour of the city’s public places.

How about an autumn road trip? The North Coast 500 route runs in a loop around the north of Scotland. Along its 516 miles, stop off to enjoy gorgeous woodland walks, hill hikes and star-lit skies.