Europe

Active Scotland

written by | Posted on July 1st, 2010

“People love its quaintness,” says Jamieson. “We have quite a large number of international guests from mainland Europe which allows us to run at a 70 percent occupancy rate most of the year.

“Avid fly fishermen and hunters come in the summer; skiers and snow hikers visit in winter. Despite its quiet seclusion, Fortingall is quite a sportsman destination.”

Rates range from approximately $200 pp per night, to about $300 for a family room and annex, with a $60 sgl person supplement.

Although getting here is easy for those arriving by car, others may find it more convenient to use a tour company like Wilderness Scotland, a firm with a solid standing in introducing travelers to Scotland’s active vacation treasures.

Wildnerness Scotland is a sister company of Wilderness International, which operates in 20 different countries. Its tours include hiking in Greenland, mountain biking in Bhutan and many others. Its photography tours of Africa are legendary.

“We offer 36 itineraries and nine different activities in Scotland,” says Myles Farnbank, director of training for Wilderness Scotland and a native Londoner who has lived in Scotland for 16 years, “including sea kayaking in the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye, open canoeing through rivers, summer and winter hiking, skiing, mountaineering, sailing, mountain biking, photography tours and wildlife watching. We use the Fortingall Hotel as one of the bases from where we set off to explore and participate in all the active sports found in the Highlands.”

Farnbank adds that Scotland currently ranks as Europe’s number one wildlife destination. “Here,” he says, “one sees everything from ospreys on the River Tay, to golden eagles in the Highlands. Red deer and fox are common in the forest where we have spotted the elusive European wildcat. Along the coast there are whales, otters and some of the best marine life in the world.”

One of Wilderness Scotland’s most popular tours is a bicycle tour bisecting Scotland from coast to coast. It lasts eight days and cyclists overnight in attractive and historic hotels like the Fortingall or the Boat Hotel in the oddly named town, Boat of Garten near Aviemore, another Highlands town only two hours from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

There are few towns that capture the imagination merely by their name and Boat of Garten, smack in the middle of The Cairngorms—the highest landmass in Great Britain—is one of them.

The town was named after a ferryboat once used to transport carriages and people across the river. “The Boat,” as locals call it, is a pretty village of stone houses, old churches, Victorian cottages that seem like the setting of a fairytale and a nifty railroad yard full of old European railcars sure to make train lovers drool. It’s also known as the Osprey Village because the place is something of a gathering point for hordes of the raptor birds landing here every spring since time began. They wing it all the way from Africa to build their nests in the Scottish pines of the area.

Ornithologists say that ospreys will find their way to the woods surrounding this charming village as long as there are salmon in the nearby River Spey. The river draws serious anglers from all over Europe to cast lines in its chilly waters.

Clients who want to test their mettle against the pugnacious fish of the Scottish Highlands will find Boat of Garten a first-rate destination. In addition, the village offers superb hiking and cycling—and those with a taste for legendary Scotch whisky will relish the fact that more than half of the country’s ancient distillers have set up shop nearby. Scotch whisky is the country’s largest industry, with tourism trailing not too far behind.

In winter, a large number of skiing resorts thrive, as The Cairngorms is one of the premier skiing areas in Britain. Summertime offers golf. Boat of Garten’s James Braid-designed course is a challenging sprawl favored by British and German golfers. Unlike Scotland’s legendary St. Andrews Old Course, where it’s very difficult to get a tee time, it’s easy to set up a round or two here.

With all the activities around these parts you’d think that Boat of Garten would be a bustling tourism spot. Yet, this village of only 700 is practically unknown outside Scotland. There’s only one true hotel in the area, The Boat, a charming 1895 structure that casts its shadow on a rail yard across the way.