It welcomes millions of visitors every year in search of history and heritage, but now Scotland’s great natural wildernesses and spiritual centres are to be harnessed for a major new tourism push promoting the country as a leading “wellness” destination.
VisitScotland, the national tourism agency, has produced its first themed itinerary dedicated to health and wellbeing after commissioning research that found nearly a third of people see Scotland as the ideal place to embark on a so-called wellness holiday.
From ancient standing stones and Buddhist retreats through to rural spas and historic abbeys, the bespoke guide seeks to emphasise the appeal of Scotland’s “abundant natural assets”, as well as its spiritual attractions.
The new itinerary is explicitly targeted at those people looking to “escape the stresses of modern-day life” and refresh “mind, body, and spirit”, according to the agency.
With the global wellness tourism industry estimated to be worth nearly £490 billion and growing more than twice as fast as traditional tourism offerings, the agency said Scotland was “well placed” to take advantage.
Among those destinations included in VisitScotland’s suggested itinerary were well-known tourist hotspots such as Stobo Castle in the Borders, the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, and Iona Abbey.
However, it also recommends visitors take roads less travelled and pay a restorative, relaxing visit to the likes of the Fife Pilgrim Way, Faskalla Wood near Pitlochry, and Kelso, where the delights of alpaca trekking await.
VisitScotland pointed to research carried out by YouGov, which shows about 32 per cent of Britons see Scotland as somewhere to head off and recharge the batteries.
The figure rose to 47 per cent among those who have previously been on a dedicated wellness holiday.
With people across the UK making 11.8 million visits a year to Scotland, the agency is particularly keen to target Londoners seeking a quieter, more reflective getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
More than a quarter (26 per cent) of people in the UK capital have already been on a wellness holiday, the research shows.
By promoting Scotland’s panoramic landscapes and low levels of light pollution, VisitScotland wants to draw even more people north from England’s south-east.
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Visitors come to Scotland for many reasons, but the opportunity to enjoy our scenery and landscape is consistently top of the list.
“People feel better for simply experiencing our country’s natural beauty. For those looking to get away from the everyday stresses of modern life, Scotland offers a variety of locations and attractions to support and improve visitors’ overall wellbeing.
“This online guide showcases the many choices for visitors, allowing them to return time and time again.”
Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland’s chief executive, said: “Whether it’s wellness through spirituality, creativity or embracing the great outdoors, our handy new online itinerary is packed full of fantastic suggestions, ideas and relaxing options that visitors can enjoy while improving their health and wellbeing.
“Scotland’s abundant natural assets lend themselves well to the growing wellness tourism trend and there is a real opportunity for the country to position itself as a top destination for these types of experiences.” The itinerary is available at www.visitscotland.com.