Small ponies mark big celebrations for Year of Natural Scotland
Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty will be celebrated this year as the country showcases the best of its historic landscapes, natural playgrounds and fascinating wildlife as part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013. For more information go to www.cometoscotland.ca
With a spotlight on events and new attractions, this year’s highlights include Up Helly Aa; Europe’s largest annual Viking fire festival in Shetland in January, illuminated woodland trails as part of Snowdrops by Starlight at Cambo Estate in Fife in February, and family treasure hunts on horseback during the Wild Spring Festival in Dumfries and Galloway in March and April.
Visitors can sample some of the best of Scotland’s natural larder at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in May, while the famous Royal Highland Show in June celebrates its 173rd birthday and showcases the very best of rural life with activities from axe throwing to sheep shearing. Later in the year, Scotland’s Food and Drink Fortnight sees food and flower festivals and a host of markets taking place in September.
Other developments that span the length and breadth of the country include John Muir Day on April 21. Celebrations will mark the life of the Scots-born American conservationist and precede the extension of the John Muir Way, which will continue to Helensburgh in Western Scotland in 2014 to create a coast to coast trail.
In addition, The Helix, a sustainable new gateway in Central Scotland, is set to be launched in the summer. The site will be home to two 20 metre high statues of supernatural water horses known as Kelpies, and will include a canal hub, walkways, lagoon and woodland area.
The UNESCO Heritage Site of the Antonine Wall also cuts through the development, which will be transformed into a new visitor destination on completion.
Further activities on offer include stargazing in the UK’s first Dark Sky Park in Dumfries and Galloway, joining Bear Grylls first Survival Academy in the Scottish Highlands, celebrating the 10th birthday of Britain’s largest National Park at the Cairngorms National Park, and golfing on Machrihanish Dunes; one of the world’s top eco golf courses.
There has never been a better time to enjoy Scotland’s natural landscapes and heritage.
Highlight events include:
Up Helly Aa, Shetland
Europe’s largest annual fire festival; the event culminates in a torch-lit procession and burning of a Viking long-ship.
Snowdrops by Starlight, Fife
13 – 17 February
Fife’s Cambo Estate is brought to life this February as the estate takes part in Scotland’s Snowdrop Festival. Light and sound trails are set to illuminate the woodland paths which are set within 70 acres of snowdrops.
Dumfries and Galloway Wild Spring Festival, Dumfries and Galloway
29 March – 18 April
Scotland’s hidden corner celebrates the region’s landscapes and nature with talks, treasure hunts on horseback, guided sunset walks, pond dipping and stargazing close to the UK’s first Dark Sky Park.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival , Speyside
2 – 6 May
The festival includes tours and tastings at over 50 distilleries, whisky and wildlife walks and a chance for visitors to follow the ‘smugglers trail’ on a guided Landrover tour.
Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh
20 – 23 June
The 173rd show takes place this year and welcomes prize winning livestock, a celebration of rural skills and countryside living, and exceptional local produce. Last year saw sheep shearing competitions to shopping opportunities, and axe throwing to ceilidhs.
Tiree Music Festival, Inner Hebrides
20 – 21 July
Winner of the best small festival in Scotland 2012; enjoy live music with a backdrop of white sandy beaches and spectacular island scenery. As well as a main stage, previous years have seen a ceilidh stage and fringe events, which can include family beach parties, sports days and agricultural shows.
Scotland’s Food and Drink Fortnight, Scotland-wide
7 – 22 September
Uncover the very best of Scotland’s natural larder in venues across the country.