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The 11 Best Things To Do In The Scottish Highlands

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Friday, 15 September 2023

The 11 Best Things To Do In The Scottish Highlands

If you’re looking for a holiday in Britain with a great variety of things to see and do, head for Scotland and the magnificent Highlands. The Scottish Highlands takes in soaring peaks, windswept cliffs and astonishingly beautiful lochs. It’s a landscape rich with Scottish history, and is home to one of the country’s most famous legends.

In no particular order, here is the Handpicked Cottages’ selection of the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands

See lots of castles

There are simply so many castles in the Scottish Highlands. You’ll recognise Eilean Donan Castle from its famous island setting, which contrasts with the almost fairytale-like architecture of Dunrobin Castle. Explore the ruins of the fascinating medieval Urquhart Castle in its beautiful location on the shores of Loch Ness.

Take the ferry to Skye

You could drive over, but really? The best way to arrive at Skye is by ferry from Glenelg, which runs from April until October (please check the website for times and updates). If you’re spending just a day on Skye, try to visit the Fairy Pools, the Fairy Glen and Dunvegan Castle.

Watch out for monsters

It just has to be done, doesn’t it? The Highland region includes beautiful Loch Ness with its legendary resident. The Loch Ness Centre is a must-visit, and you can book onto a tour or loch cruise from here. Places to visit around the lake include Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and Dores.

Go to a distillery

It just has to be done, part 2. There are over 40 whisky distilleries in the region, producing malts of all depths and tones. Book onto a tour at the Glen Ord Distillery, home of The Singleton, or call into the visitor centre at the Tomatin Distillery. Scotland’s oldest working distillery, The Glenturret, also has a fine dining restaurant.

Climb Ben Nevis (or at least, go to the Visitor Centre)

There’s a choice of routes up Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. Some are more challenging than others, and we’d certainly recommend you do your research before lacing up your boots and striding out. Walk Highlands details the different paths to the summit. You can find out more about this imposing peak at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre.

Discover the coast

When we think of the Scottish Highlands, most of us probably picture majestic mountains and inland lochs; however, this part of Scotland also has a beautiful coastline. Try beautiful Achmelvich Bay, or walk the route from Blairmore to Sandwood Bay.

Spend a day in Inverness

The city at the mouth of the River Ness is definitely worth a day or two on your Highlands itinerary. Inverness, the largest city in the region, has everything from the imposing Fort George to a Victorian Market. Explore the evocative Old Town (taking in plenty of places to eat and drink) or unwind in the Inverness Botanic Gardens.

Take a ride on a steam train

Could there be a more spectacular setting for a railway journey than this 84-mile round trip from Fort William to Mallaig? Take time for this splendid trip on the Jacobite Express, which includes the Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter fans will recognise this from the route of the Hogwarts’ Express!).

Walk in Glencoe

If your idea of the perfect holiday in the Highlands involves hiking, Glencoe is a must. The village lies in the dramatic, steep-sided Glencoe Valley, much of which is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The best place to start your trip is at the Glencoe Visitor Centre, where you can learn about the history, legends and wildlife of this most beautiful of valleys.

Visit Culloden Battlefield

Culloden was the site of the most bloody battle of the Jacobean Rising. Today, Culloden Battlefield is an eerily atmospheric place to visit. There’s an excellent visitor centre (again, it’s National Trust for Scotland), where you can find out more about the battle and the politics behind it. If you’re interested in this period of Scottish history, combine your visit to Culloden with a tour of Fort George in Inverness.

Explore Highland villages

The Highlands is scattered with lovely villages. If you’re shopping for local produce or looking for a cosy pub for lunch, you’re definitely spoilt for choice in this part of Scotland. Charming little Plockton is often regarded as Scotland’s prettiest village, or try Applecross on the coast (the drive here is like something out of a car advert). Braemar in Aberdeenshire is famous as a location for the Highland Games, and the northern part of this county has a cluster of tiny, traditional fishing villages to explore (as seen in Local Hero).

Find your perfect holiday cottage in the Scottish Highlands

After a busy day walking in the glens (or sampling whisky in the local distilleries), it’s good to come back to your own comfy cottage. Here at Handpicked Cottages, we have a wide choice of holiday cottages in the Scottish Highlands, from modern lodges to traditional old houses.

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