Monday, 8 September 2008 12:00 AM
While some adventurous spirits travel the length and breadth of the globe in search of the next adrenaline-fuelled experience, those in the know simply head to the north of the Scottish Highlands.
With the area offering an ideal location for the enduringly popular attractions of walking and rambling, as well as a host of new extreme sports and outdoor pursuits, the north Highlands can be enjoyed by everyone at any time of year.
During the winter the region also takes on an additional rugged hue, presenting a welcoming set of challenges for those searching for their next active sports location.
The region has also been proactive in preparing itself for an influx of visitors.
For example, to facilitate the growth in demand for mountain biking the Forestry Commission in Scotland has provided enthusiasts and beginners alike with an extensive network of trails throughout the area.
The trails are also some of the wildest and most developed in the UK.
Chief among them is the new Wildcat Mountain Bike Track at Golspie. Opened late last year the trail is a fantastic addition to the area and now features on all keen mountain bikers’ hit list.
It will eventually form part of to the longest trail in Scotland – set against the wonderful backdrop of Ben Bhraggie and Dunrobin Woods.
For a more laid-back route heading south into the depths of Borgie Forest in Sutherland – where you will find fine views over to Ben Stumanah and Ben Loyal – Balnain Bike Park also offers an energetic test of skill.
If cycling is not your thing but you still want to get the adrenaline going, pay a visit to Thurso, the most northerly town on mainland Scotland, and the country’s prime surfing venue.
The powerful waves which roll in from the Atlantic have been compared to those of Hawaii – although the temperature is decidedly cooler.
Despite this, last year Thurso hosted a European Surfing Championships qualifier attracting surfers from around Europe to compete in Scottish waters.
Or if getting active for you is usually a more relaxing experience, try a challenging day’s golf at the Championship course at Royal Dornoch.
One of the jewels among Scotland’s golfing crown, Royal Dornoch and the surrounding area is a true haven of peace and tranquillity and is only 45 miles from the bustling city of Inverness.
The course was once described as “magical” by eight time major winner Tom Watson, and still regularly ranks among the top 15 in the world.
Alternatively, other fine links courses in the area include Brora, Golspie, Tain, Wick, Thurso and Reay.
Amid all the action is also important not to forget one of Scotland’s most famous of all outdoor pursuits – fishing.
From Lochs, rivers, harbours and open sea, opportunities abound for not just the famous Scottish salmon but for trout, grayling, haddock, whiting and cod.
The River Thurso is the most northerly salmon river, and the finest in the far north, whereas further south on the Spey you will find the equally mesmerising trout.
Where to stay
For those looking for a place to stay Visit Scotland recommends hotels in Forres, Moray and Crieff, Perthshire.
In Moray the Cluny Bank Hotel, built in the early eighteen hundreds, is situated in idyllic woodland just ten minutes drive from Findhorn Beach.
In Crieff Achray House Hotel continues to beguile visitors, nestled on the banks of Loch Earn inside the boundaries of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.