As Scotland reflects on a massive year for tourism, Richard Jones looks at why the future could hold even more promise.
It has been a great year for tourism in Scotland. Before the 40th Ryder Cup arrived in Perthshire, Glasgow hosted the “best ever” Commonwealth Games, there were a record-breaking number of visitors at the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, and the referendum in September had everyone considering Scotland’s role both as part of the UK and on a global level.
Visit Scotland’s advertising campaign promises that “One moment you’ll be watching the stars, the next you’ll be looking up at them”.
Indeed, The Year of Homecoming will go down in history as a landmark one for Scots. Europe retained the Ryder Cup and Gleneagles did itself proud hosting golf’s premier team event. And yet Scotland has so much more to offer than high-end golf, as I was to discover.
A couple of days before Paul McGinley’s men were splashing out of bunkers and sinking putts on their way to glory, my friend and I were doing some splashing and sinking of our own, just down the road on the shores of Kenmore.
Stand-up paddling (SUP) is one of the fastest growing leisure activities in the UK and we were fortunate enough to have a lesson with Wilderness SUP on the stunningly beautiful Loch Tay.
Aside from SUP and golf, there is plenty of adventure to be had in Perthshire or “Big Tree Country”, with its tranquil glens, dramatic waterfalls and lush forests providing a perfect setting for activities such as hiking and pony trekking.
The area is also home to an abundance of wildlife including red deer, red squirrels and, of course, golden eagles.
After a long day watching or playing golf, or enjoying the great Scottish outdoors, Perthshire’s superb restaurants, bars and pubs are ideal places to kick back and relax. Dine at the 16th century Ardeonaig Hotel & Restaurant (www.ardeonaighotel.co.uk), which makes the most of the area’s extraordinary natural larder on the southern shore of Loch Tay.
For those with a sweet tooth, just down the road between Aberfeldy and Pitlochry is the Highland Chocolatier (www.highlandchocolatier.com), which hosts special tours and tasting sessions at its shop, Legends of Grandtully.
To relax after all that excitement we returned to our accommodation at the five-star Mains of Taymouth in Kenmore (www.taymouth.co.uk). Set in more than 160 acres of forests, river walks and scenic views over Loch Tay, this stunning self-catering estate is the perfect base from which to explore Perthshire.
For more information on holidays in Scotland go to www.visitscotland.com