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For a country that's roughly the size of South Carolina, Scotland boasts one of the wildest landscapes in Europe, from heather-covered moorlands to wide, bog-choked fields to remote islands, stashes of mountainous backcountry, meandering rivers, and rocky coastlines.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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You can find snow on the peaks of Glencoe—a scenic two-hour drive from Glasgow—even in late spring. These mountains, which share the same geographical composition as the Himalayas, serve as training ground for Everest hopefuls. But the wider world might recognize this panorama from the Harry Potter films; The Prisoner of Azkaban was filmed here.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Scotland has only three national parks, but unlike parkland in the United States, here the boundaries include established towns, shops, roads, and train stations that were there before the park's foundation. Cairngorns National Park (pictured) was established in 2003.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Protecting vast swaths of land isn't as essential here as it is in other countries, thanks to the Freedom to Roam Act. This law dictates that any land—public or private—can be used for no-impact traverse, opening virtually the entire country to biking, backpacking, day hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, and sea kayaking.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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With so many options spread across such a small country, it can be challenging to find the right way to get the most out of Scotland. Enter outfitters like Wilderness Scotland, who demonstrate a vast appreciation for, and expertise in, all activities possible in this island nation. Here, one of their lead guides navigates the calm waters of River Tay.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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First established in 2001, Wilderness Scotland has since risen to become the lead tour operator in the country. They have 35 different trips that focus on nine different activities. A max of eight clients per trip assures a personalized experience, and they can also arrange self-guided tours and tailor-made itineraries.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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One of their more heralded programs remains the Coast to Coast mountain biking trip, a seven-day route that hits some of the most rugged and remote terrain in Scotland, with overnights in quaint guest houses in small towns that personify the best in Scottish hospitality.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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While there in October 2010, I had the good fortune to pedal along with a few of the Wilderness Scotland guides. Our ambitious three-day itinerary was thwarted by cold temps and a six-hour drizzle that introduced me to the truly boggy banks of Scotland. Harsh 90-mph winds also made the proposed route over Gaick Pass next to impossible. Instead, we headed for the land around Loch Tay.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The new route carved over single- and doubletrack, fire roads, cattle-fence crossings, hike-biking through fields of dense ferns….  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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…and the requisite pit stops (whisky flasks optional).  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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In addition to the backcountry routes, Scotland also has some of the world’s best man-made mountain bike terrain, from the 7stanes—250 miles of biking anchored around seven central hubs throughout Scotland—to Laggan Wolftrax (pictured).  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Located in Cairngorns National Park, Wolftrax boasts three different routes for various skill levels, from the highly technical Black Route to the more mellow green and blue runs. Full suspension day and half-day rentals are available at reasonable rates, but those with their own rigs can cycle for free. Local outfitters like Go Where can aid with all logistics.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The country, of course, has its more serene sides as well. Witness Loch Lomond, a freshwater lake—the largest in Great Britain.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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You can visit Loch Lomond, Glencoe, and the more well-known Loch Ness in a single daytrip out of Glasgow. If you ache to catch of glimpse of Nesse, the creature that's supposed to lurk beneath the waters, head to the gift shop. Other attractions, like Urquhart Castle (picured), can be seen via a short boat ride across the lake.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Scottish culture is equally vibrant, and just as easily accessible while traveling the country. Places like Fortingall Hotel near Loch Tay and Cairngorns National Park provide a welcome glimpse into both the past and present worlds of the country.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The hotel stands adjacent to a parish church, which dates back to around 700 AD, adorned in intricate carvings. In the hotel's dining room, the cuisine belies any negative expectation of bland food. Working with farm-fresh ingredients, you'll dine on the best meat, cheese, bread, and fruit alongside such staples as black pudding and haggis.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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