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20 Things to Do in Scotland in Your Twenties

Picture of Tori Chalmers
Updated: 1 October 2017
A decade for trial and error and exploring new things, your 20s are a chance to expand the frontiers of creativity. Go on that adventure. Take that risk. Speak to whoever the hell you want about anything your heart desires. Read. Love. Cry. Be spontaneous. Think out the box. Show humility. Because when you do, the world becomes a whole lot bigger. To help get the journey started, go wild with our list of 20 things to do in Scotland in your 20s.

Go off the grid

Truly going off grid, if only for a day, is like medicine for the mind, body and soul. Pick a dot on the map, temporarily disable all social media apps and visit a new place, preferably somewhere wildly remote like Shetland, Orkney or a wee but and ben tucked away in the Highlands. Roam around, see where the wind guides you and ponder about life — you may even find yourself. If you don’t, no need to worry. There’s plenty of time for that!

Dawn In The Highlands
Dawn In The Highlands | Dawn In The Highlands

Get those Munros in the bag

Adrenaline junkie or not, get out of that comfort zone and make Munro-bagging a personal goal. The game is simple — climb as many Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000ft) as possible, from the famous to the far-removed. Oh, and there are 282 Munros in Scotland so you may want to spread it out over the decade. Then again, bagging just one is still a victory. Those views though.

Munro Bagging In Scotland
Munro Bagging In Scotland | Munro Bagging In Scotland

Rough it for the night in a Scottish bothy

But first, you must find it! Hiding deep in the hinterland of Scotland’s most isolated areas, bothies are abandoned cottages, crofts and farmsteads. These atmospheric shacks are entirely free and can be reached by walking, hiking and cycling over unpredictable terrain. Devoid of running water and creature comforts, many of life’s greatest conversations and epiphanies arise in front of a fire in the middle of nowhere underneath the vast sprawling stars.

Oban Bothy
Courtesy of Oban Bothy

Discover Scotland’s underground club scene

With underground club nights like Dundee’s Reading Rooms and Glasgow’s influx of incognito gatherings lighting up derelict industrial spaces into the wee hours of the night, Scotland’s underground club scene is a force to be reckoned with. A collective of creatives, artists, thinkers and musicians dedicated to breaking the status quo. Those in the know are in for the rave of a lifetime.

Night Club
Night Club | Night Club

Try wild camping Scottish-style

Whether on a remote bay in the southernmost inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides, the banks of Loch Assynt, the magical Quiraing of Skye or the Lost Valley in Glencoe, wild camping adopts an entirely new meaning in Scotland. With the exception of a couple of places, campers can pitch up a tent wherever they please.

Suilven Wild Camp
Suilven Wild Camp | © John McSporran/Flickr

And wild swimming…with the fairies!

A popular pastime amongst free-spirited souls with a discerning sense of adventure, wild swimming brings out the daredevil in the best of us! And Scotland just so happens to be the spot. One for the bucket list, dive right into the gleaming crystal Fairy Pools of Skye.

The Fairy Pools, Isle Of Skye
The Fairy Pools, Isle Of Skye | The Fairy Pools, Isle Of Skye

Ride Europe’s gnarliest right-hand breaking wave

That is, if you happen to be a skilled surfer with skin as tough as the swells you conquer. Otherwise, check out the myriad Scottish surf spots suited to all skillsets! Upon first glance, Scotland doesn’t scream ‘surf central’ but don’t let this deceive you. Remote and uncrowded, Thurso has long been a magnet for beach bums and surfers ready to tackle the insane temperatures and one of the most celebrated right-hand breaking waves. Challenge accepted.

Thurso Surfing
Courtesy of Thurso Surfing

Pull an all-nighter at the Fringe

And see as many free shows as humanely possible. Whether cheeky day off or weekend wandering, head to Edinburgh in August and experience the famous Fringe first-hand. There’s nothing like it. Thousands of shows and performers permeate every nook and cranny of the city. Some completely off-the-wall odd, others life-affirming, there’s no better time to have a Fringe marathon than in your 20s. Ye know, broadening your horizons and all that jazz!

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Courtesy of Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Drink at the most remote pub on mainland UK

Seek and you shall find! Yet another one for the bucket list, the Old Forge takes the crown as the ‘most remote pub on mainland UK’. Seriously, there are no roads coming in or out — just Munros and water. After having a pint or three in Knoydart, why not take it a step further and do a booze tour of Scotland? You know you want to.

Old Forge Pub
Old Forge Pub | Old Forge Pub

Rooooooooaaaaaaaad Trip!

Ah to be young and free. Take advantage of Scotland’s own Route 66, the North Coast 500, and explore all pockets of Scotland from dramatic Highland vistas to historic hidden gems. Culture Tripping never looked so appealing.

Road to the Cairnwell
Road to the Cairnwell | Road to the Cairnwell

Brush up on Scottish literature

A place where magic melds with reality, Scotland boasts a long list of prolific writers, poets and authors who made their stamp on the world with their words. Between Edinburgh’s respected City of Literature status, the esteemed Edinburgh International Book Festival and the myriad famous Scots novelists, it shouldn’t be hard to pick up a book with some link to Scotland.

Scottish Fiction
Scottish Fiction

Spit on the heart of Midlothian

Find the iconic granite heart mosaic camouflaged into the cobblestones of the Royal Mile and spit on it. Preferably when there’s a sizable crowd lingering! For only then will you be a true (or honourary) Scot.

The Heart Of Midlothian
The Heart Of Midlothian | © Neal Fowler / Flickr

Go to a live gig in Glasgow

Oh Glasgow. A Unesco City of Music, this hip place boasts some of the most epic live music venues in Scotland, from King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut to the Barrowlands. Gaun yersel!

O2 Academy In Glasgow
Courtesy of O2 Academy In Glasgow

Hit up Glasgow’s vintage shops

Not just a city of music, Glasgow plays host to the best shopping in the UK outside of London. From the adored style-mile to the trail of timeless vintage shops, treat yourself to some retail therapy and experiment with new trends.

Glasgow Vintage Shopping
Glasgow Vintage Shopping

Experience Scotland in song with a music festival extravaganza

Ever been to a real party? Hold onto your wits and let your soul run free at one of Scotland’s music festivals — think Electric Fields lighting up the already magical grounds of Drumlanrig Castle, Glasgow’s hot new TRNSMT Festival at Glasgow Green, Shetland’s famous Folk Festival and Loopallu in Ullapool. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Electric Fields Festival
Courtesy of Electric Fields Festival

Explore the Highlands and Islands

One of the few regrets expressed by many students studying in Scotland is that they didn’t get out and truly explore the Highlands and islands when they had the chance. Overrun with sensory riches and idyllic watering holes, what’s not to love?

Leaving Jura
Leaving Jura | Leaving Jura

Brave the Loony Dook

Because if you don’t bite the bullet in your 20s, when else will you do it? For those of you who don’t know, it’s kind of what it sounds — a barking mad dip in the baltic Scottish sea! Quite the spectacle, punters from far and near — many sleep depraved and saturated with booze from Hogmanay — jump into the freezing Forth for charity. Dressed in ridiculous attire.

Stoats Loony Dook
Courtesy of Stoats Loony Dook

Experience an Edinburgh Hogmanay Party

Or anywhere in Scotland for that matter. Sure, the likes of London and New York are fun but the Scottish NYE is a show like no other. Streets lined with parties, famous bands, outdoor ceilidhs, gourmet food, fireworks a plenty and barrels of booze. You can’t beat it.

Midnight Fireworks
Midnight Fireworks

Go on a Dark Sky Discovery Getaway

Sometimes all it takes is looking up to make sense of the world. Jet black canvases awash with a carpet of dancing stars, Scotland’s skies are some of Europe’s darkest — hence its many designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites, Dark Sky Island and Dark Sky Park. So, grab a bunch of pals and make a holiday out of it. Who knows, you may even see the Mirrie Dancers.

Stars Above Dunure Castle
Stars Above Dunure Castle | Stars Above Dunure Castle

Stay in a Scottish hostel

Because your 20s are a time for adventuring, meeting new faces and experimenting. Sure, you may stumble across some unexpected moments or witness things you didn’t anticipate, but that’s all part of the hosteling charm. From the Highlands to the cities, Scotland’s hostels are second to none.

The Mackintosh Building, Glasgow School of Art
The Mackintosh Building, Glasgow School of Art | © Richard P J Lambert/Flickr