20 Must-Visit Attractions in the Highlands

The Famous Sign At John o'Groats | © Dario Tortora/Flickr
The Famous Sign At John o'Groats | © Dario Tortora/Flickr
Photo of Alexander Crow
25 August 2017

The Highlands of Scotland are full of things to do, whether majestic wild places to explore, ancient castles to marvel at, or small towns and villages crammed with local colour, fresh locally-sourced food, and fascinating histories and culture. Here is a wee selection of just a few ideas for your next Highland adventure.

Highland Wildlife Park

Park
Map View
Scottish Wildcat Kitten
Scottish Wildcat Kitten | © Peter Trimming/Flickr
This is one of the best places to get up close and personal with native wildlife, as well as species that are definitely not native! There are red squirrels running free all over the park, and the captive breeding programme for the Scottish wildcat offers hope for this rare species.

Glenfinnan Monument

Memorial
Map View
Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel
Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel | © mendhak/Flickr
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.

The Old Forge Pub, Inverie

Pub, Seafood, British, $$$
Map View
The Old Forge, Inverie
The Old Forge, Inverie | © GariochT/Flickr
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
Map View
Culloden Battlefield | © nymeria/Flickr
A visit to Culloden, located just outside Inverness, is a poignant one. The wind that almost constantly blows across the battlefield adding to this feeling, as though the past is somehow much closer. The visitor centre is full of interesting artefacts and stories, but it is the battlefield itself that will leave a lasting impression.

The Highland Folk Museum

Museum
Map View
18th Century Home, Highland Folk Museum
18th Century Home, Highland Folk Museum | © Neil Williamson/Flickr
A remarkable collection of buildings, this outdoor museum is a fantastic way to understand how people in the Highlands lived over time. The photo below shows how clans would have been living at the time of Culloden, for example, which adds a social aspect to the history of the area.

Highland Cattle

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

Fluffy Highland Cattle | © Jonas Carlberg/Flickr

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

Museum, Ruins
Map View
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness | © Guiseppe Milo/Flickr
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
Map View
Laidhay Croft Museum
Laidhay Croft Museum | © Courtesy of the Author
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 an fascinating place to visit. There is also an excellent tearoom!

Wick

Until recently this small town was overlooked, as visitors rushed north to catch the ferry to Orkney. However, this is changing, and with 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 Merry Dancers, as they are known in this part of the world).

Wick Heritage Museum, Wick

Merry Dancers Over Wick | © Courtesy of the Author

Smoo Cave

In a 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 is open all year, in order to get the most from the experience it is worth joining a tour, which operates from April to September.

Smoo Cave, Durness