The Scottish Highlands are Scotland’s most romanticised region and evoke all sorts of Scots stereotypes: tartans; castles; lone pipers; bleak but beautiful heathery mountains; a strong sense of tradition; and a stoic pride.
They’re also pretty sparsely inhabited; the more so the further north you go. Eventually it’s just a matter of single-track roads snaking their way between herds of quietly grazing sheep.
The pace of life here also tends to be slower and the service industry more relaxed – with shorter hours and more modest offerings. Though frustratingly inconvenient at times, it does provide a simplicity to match the general air of peace.
Despite its rugged vastness you can get a good flavour for the Highlands in 3 or 4 days, though the more time you give it, the further you’ll get off the beaten track, and the more rewarding it will likely be. You’ll need several days more and some pouring over ferry timetables to get anything out of the more remote Outer Isles, though Skye can provide a quick and accessible taster.
The choice of destinations in Highlands is so vast that it can be a little overwhelming at first, but thankfully much boils down to regions that surround just two towns – neither town is pretty, but both can be good bases even for several days: Aviemore, which is easily accessible from Scotland’s major cities and on the doorstep of Cairngorms National Park; and Fort William, which is a better hub for a longer stay since there’s even more of interest in the region. Fort William is close to both the wild and beautiful Glencoe and Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. Also in the vicinity is the isle of Skye, the pretty lochs of Argyll; and the dramatic Great Glen which leads up the likeable Highland capital Inverness.
Wherever you are in the Highlands it can be pretty rainy at any time of year… but that at least helps give local waterfalls some body, right?!
Ardnamurchan – remote and lovely peninsula.
Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest peak.
Cape Wrath – bleak beauty at most north-westerly point in mainland Britain
Castle and Gardens of Mey – The queen mother’s plaything
Culloden Moor – site of the last great bloody battle on British soil.
Eilean Donan – iconic castle on a brooding loch.
Fort William – pivotal service town near Glencoe.
Inverness – likeable main service town for the whole Highland region.
Inverewe Gardens – famed for exotic plants.
Glencoe – large, wild and beautiful glen.
Glenfinnan Monument – stirring Jacobite monument.
Jacobite Steam Train – better known to many as the Hogwarts Express.
Loch Ness – centrepiece of the Great Glen and home to the Loch Ness Monster (yeah, right?!).
Skye – one of the largest, most accessible and scenic of Scotland’s islands.
Torridon – village surrounded by some of Scotland’s most dramatic mountain scenery.