From the wrecks of Scapa Flow to topside treks along the whiskey trail in the Highlands, Scotland offers the quintessential Euro dive adventure
1. SMS Karlsruhe, Scapa Flow
The scuttled German battleships at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands date to 1919 and offer an eternity of discovery for wreck fanatics with what’s considered among Europe’s best diving. The most accessible wreck here is the SMS Karlsruhe, a 500-foot-long ship resting to starboard in 80 feet of water.
2. Hispania, Sound of Mull
More world-class wreck diving awaits in the Sound of Mull on Scotland’s west coast, where this Swedish merchant ship that hit a reef and sank in 1954 is the crown jewel. Try to visit in summer, when the ship’s crust of marine life is at its most lush, with anemones, crustaceans and urchins carpeting nearly every inch of the hull.
3. St. Kilda
For a break from Scotland’s usual bottle-green waters, travel by liveaboard to the volcanic archipelago of St. Kilda. The water is a crystal-blue hue here, and the visibility among the very best in Europe. Exotic seabirds, including puffins, dwell on the plunging cliffs. When you dive down, cliffs, caves and arches make for more fascinating topography to explore and photograph.
4. Edinburgh Castle
No trip is complete without a visit to the most famous castle in the land, the circa 11th-century Edinburgh Castle. It’s more than a hilltop fortress, with crown jewels, a military museum and a Romanesque chapel among the sights to explore.
5. Falls of Lora
Experienced divers thrill with one of Europe’s most adrenalineinducing drift dives at Loch Etive near Oban, on Scotland’s west coast. Rush along with the current as the kelp around you bends like palms in a hurricane and crabs scurry below. You’ll definitely want a guide for this one, and local shops can ease you into the experience with local preparatory drift dives.
6. The Home of Golf
Just as Scapa Flow is a mecca for wreck divers, St. Andrews fulfills every golf fan’s fantasies. The Old Course here is one of the — you guessed it — oldest in the world, with the first rounds said to have been played in the early 15th century.
7. Whiskey Tasting
So much single malt, so little time. If you feel the same, you’ll want to head straight for the Scottish Highlands and beyond to taste some of the greats, straight from their distilleries. In Speyside, don’t miss the Macallan and Glenlivet.
8. Blockship Tabarka, Scapa Flow
A shallow wreck accessible as a shore dive, this Dutch-built blockship was sunk to impede access by enemy subs to the entrance of Scapa Flow. Because it sits in an area of strong tidal currents in Burra Sound, the ship’s nutrient-rich environment has blanketed it with colorful, swaying anemones that add a riot of life to the metallic feast.
9. Whales and Seals in Moray Firth
Scotland’s marine life is impressive, but you’ll hardly see it all while diving. Head out on twohour boat trips from Cromarty to spot resident dolphins and scout for minke whales and common and gray seals in the North Sea inlet at Moray Firth.
10. Ben Nevis
Serious hikers won’t want to miss the chance to bag Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, which reaches 4,406 feet, near pretty Fort William in the Grampian Mountains. It takes about eight hours to climb, and there’s a hut for convivial overnighting.