The light in the Highlands is magical, no matter the season or the time of day, but it is perhaps most stunning as the sun sets and rises, low light creating bright flashes across river, loch and burn.
The right to roam across the Highlands is bound into the culture. Following small tracks – perhaps on foot, perhaps by bike – will often lead to the perfect place for a picnic, or maybe make you ask, ‘Who lived here, and when?’
It is not just crofts and cottages that lie abandoned. Infrastructure from times now long gone is to be found across the region, whether drover’s roads, coffin trails, or bridges constructed for pack horses many, many years ago. Secrets are still waiting to be discovered.
Other castles are ruined, looking like they spring from the very rock upon which they are built, like the old castle at Keiss here, hiding mysteries and secrets.
Scotland has a lot of water, such as tiny rivulets running down hills, the deepest lochs in the UK and some wonderful rivers. This water brings life and beauty, sometimes moving like this wee river in Torridon.
Still, Deep Waters
There are waters so still you could use them as a mirror. Just beware any mythical beasts who may be lurking, whether Nessie or Kelpies!
In winter the days are short, but the cold has a beauty of its own. Winter sports options are available across the region, but sometimes it is enough just to sit and stare at the late dawn across a frozen and snow-clad loch, hiding her secrets until spring.
Dark Skies and Bright Stars
During winter the sun leaves long hours of night — which is the perfect time for stargazing. With some of the darkest skies in the UK, the Highlands regularly offer stunning spectacles of stars and unforgettable natural phenomena.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is often bright across the skies here, looking for all the world like a splash of paint. Here it is accompanied by a small aurora on the horizon. There are times when these northern lights (or Merry Dancers) are high overhead, dancing and flickering.
The iconic Highland cow, built to withstand the Scottish weather and thrive. They are friendly and often inquisitive, almost as though they demand their photo be taken.
Art in Strange Places
Sculpture and public art are to be found in the strangest of places, such as here at Loch Earn, with the silver Mirror Man…
Wild, Free-Range Sculpture
…and also here in the shadow of the bulky Ben Hope, near Durness in Sutherland — one of the wildest corners of Europe, yet art still roams free. This is the sculptor Lotte Glob’s work, and well worth a visit if you drive the North Coast 500.
Queen of Mountains
Known as the Queen of Scotland’s mountain, Ben Loyal rises 764 metres (2507 feet), not quite a munro, but seeming taller for its proximity to sea level. The mountain also stands near the northern coast.
Oban is a beautiful and photogenic wee coastal town, a gateway to places such as Barra, Coll, or Lismore, reached by ferry, but also worth exploring in its own right.
Visit the Highlands and it can be guaranteed you will see a tiny road winding somewhere unknown, disappearing into the mountains and moors, tempting you to follow.
If you climb to the tops of the peaks, you often find you have the view and pinnacle to yourself (the busy Ben Nevis is perhaps the obvious exception) and at times like these, you can feel a solitude and peace unlike anything to be found elsewhere.
Sheltered, Secret Bays
Did we mention the beaches? High though the Highlands may be, they also descend to some of the richest and most beautiful waters in the world, with miles of sand all to yourself (apart from the odd seal or otter maybe), or secluded and sheltered bays like this one. The waters are often warmer than you may think.
There are few railways across the Highlands, simply because it is too mountainous and there are too few people to warrant building more, but the routes that do exist, like the West Highland Line here offer stupendously beautiful journeys. This is The Jacobite steam train crossing the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct (AKA The Harry Potter Bridge!).
Even when you reach the coast of the Highlands the land does not stop, instead it frays into thousands of islands, from the large like Skye, to the small like this tiny islet here. If you kayak or sea canoe, these places are magical to camp upon.