Must-Visit Attractions in the Highlands

The Scottish Highlands offer some truly wonderful things to see and do
The Scottish Highlands offer some truly wonderful things to see and do | © Andrew Hopkins / Alamy Stock Photo

The Highlands of Scotland are full of things to do – whether you want to camp in wild places, explore ancient castles, visit small towns and villages, taste fresh locally sourced food, or discover fascinating histories and culture. Here is a wee selection of just a few ideas for your next Highland adventure.

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John o’ Groats

Architectural Landmark

A good place to start, this tiny village is often the last place people visit, simply because they’ve walked, run, cycled or driven the length of the UK – typically from Land’s End. It’s not actually the northernmost point on mainland UK, as many think – that honour goes to Dunnet Head, just down the road – but it’s a great place for a coastal walk or, if you’re lucky, to see the Northern Lights.

Glencoe

Natural Feature

© Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

In a word: iconic. The scenery here is stupendous and if you are the outdoorsy type you will find much to do. If you aren’t, then the road through the glen affords some incredible views nonetheless. During the colder months, fun activities you can enjoy here include snowshoeing and dog sledging – both of which form part of our four-day winter adventure in the Scottish Highlands.

Highland Wildlife Park

Park
This is one of the best places in the region to get up close and personal with the native wildlife of Scotland. Red squirrels run free across the park and a captive breeding programme for the Scottish wildcat offers hope for this rare species. Other residents include amur tigers, European grey wolves and red pandas.

McCaig’s Tower

Architectural Landmark

© Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

Built at the end of the 19th century, this tower was never finished to John McCaig’s original design. Instead, it houses a beautiful garden and affords wonderful views over the wee town of Oban and beyond.

The Jacobite Steam Train

Architectural Landmark
Travelling the last part of the West Highland Line – from Fort William to Mallaig and back – over summer, this steam train carries people along a railway regularly voted the best in the world. Harry Potter fans will recognise parts of the line, too.

Glenfinnan Monument

Memorial

© Ian Rutherford / Alamy Stock Photo

Visible from the appropriately-named Jacobite train, this monument marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie unfurled his banner and rallied the clans to his cause. Beyond is Loch Shiel, a stunningly wild area. Expect to see deer, eagles and more.

Castle Tioram

Memorial
Less famous than the renovated castle on Eilean Donan, the ruined Tioram guards the western entrance to Loch Shiel and remains an awe-inspiring sight. Located on a tidal island, a visit here is likely to avoid the crowds associated with some of the other Scottish castles.

The Old Forge Pub, Inverie

Pub, Seafood, British, $

© John Peter Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

The most remote pub on the mainland of the UK, you can only get here via a ferry ride – or a very long walk indeed – as there are no roads into the tiny village. Once you arrive, you may be surprised at just how good the locally sourced food is. The friendly welcome and warm atmosphere should keep you entertained for many hours.

Culloden Battlefield

Memorial, Ruins
A visit to Culloden – located just outside Inverness – is a poignant one. The wind that almost constantly blows across the battlefield adds to this feeling, as though the past is somehow much closer. The visitor centre is full of interesting artefacts and stories, but it’s the battlefield itself that will leave a lasting impression.

Highland Cattle

Natural Feature
These fluffy coos need little introduction. They are to be found all over the Highlands and come in several different colours. Driving around the back roads of Scotland, it’s a common sight to see people pulled over and taking selfies with these friendly beasts.

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

Museum, Ruins

© Unknown1861 / Alamy Stock Photo

The ruins of Urquhart are a short distance along the Great Glen from Inverness and attract not just fans of history, but also those keen to use the tower as a viewpoint to spot Nessie. Loch Ness is vast, but there are few more iconic shots of the loch than those with this castle in the frame.

Laidhay Croft Museum

Museum
On the North Coast 500 route, this little museum crams a lot into a small space. If you want to see how the crofting communities in this part of the world lived and worked, the tools they used and the homes they lived – and still live – in, this is a fascinating place to visit. There is also an excellent tearoom to enjoy a late afternoon tea in.

Wick

Architectural Landmark
Until recently this small town was overlooked, as visitors rushed north to catch the ferry to Orkney. However, this is changing and for good reason – Wick has a long history and a wonderful museum to showcase it all. A walk around the former herring town is fascinating and includes the shortest street in the world. In winter, this is also an excellent place to try and catch the Northern Lights – or the Merry Dancers, as they are known in this part of the world.

Smoo Cave

Natural Feature

© Pxl Store / Alamy Stock Photo

In one word: vast. This huge cave is near to Durness on the far north-western coast of the Highlands and features an array of fascinating geological features – an underground waterfall and lake being just two. Although entry to the cave is free and it’s open all year, in order to get the most from the experience, it’s worth joining a tour that operates from April to September.

Dunrobin Castle

Historical Landmark

© Tomas Darguzis / Alamy Stock Photo

A fairytale castle on the eastern side of the Highlands, Dunrobin also has stunning gardens and an array of activities – including a famous falconry display.

Plockton

Architectural Landmark

© Andrew Hopkins / Alamy Stock Photo

Plockton is a picture-perfect wee village, situated where the mountains reach the relatively warm waters of the west coast of Scotland. How much warmer is it here than the east coast? Perhaps the palm trees growing in the village will give you a clue.

Ullapool

Architectural Landmark
Ullapool is a popular spot for refuelling, whether refilling cars to make the epic journey further north or for filling your stomach. There is a ferry west to Stornoway and attractions in the area include the spectacular Corrieshalloch Gorge, a local heritage museum and both a book festival and a music festival – the wonderfully-named Loopallu.

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