Incredible Historical Places to Visit in the Scottish Highlands

From ancient days to modern times, the Highlands are full of historic places to visit like Ardvreck Castle
From ancient days to modern times, the Highlands are full of historic places to visit like Ardvreck Castle | ©  Tim E White / Getty Images
Photo of Alexander Crow
14 October 2021

The Highlands of Scotland have been occupied since the end of the Ice Age, many thousands of years ago. Although its earliest dwellers left little evidence of their existence, hundreds of subsequent generations left plenty – scattered across numerous historical sites to visit in Scotland. Here we share some of the best across the Scottish Highlands.

Planning a trip to the Scottish Highlands in the near future? Join our winter adventure to Glencoe and the surrounding valleys for some active outdoor therapy and cultural activities led by our Local Insider.

Culloden

Natural Feature
Map View
Culloden Moor was the site of the Battle of Culloden in 1746 near Inverness, Scotland, UK
© Rob Atherton / Alamy Stock Photo
No visit to the Highland capital, Inverness, is complete without a trip to the Culloden battlefield, where the Jacobite uprising ended in bloody defeat and changed the course of British history. Windswept, poignant and haunting, the field itself leaves a lasting impression. At the visitor centre, you can experience the legendary fight yourself in the 360º battle immersion theatre, which puts you right in the heart of the action. There is also an on-site museum, where unique artefacts are displayed – plus a restored 18th-century cottage with thatched roof made from heather picked from the battlefield.

Fort George

Ruins, Historical Landmark
Map View
Fort George at Inverness in the Scottish Highlands; Scotland
© Andrew Woodacre / Alamy Stock Photo
In the wake of the Jacobite uprising, the British government commissioned this artillery fort in order to secure its army and prevent any future threat – but luckily for them, it was never put to the test. Inside the thick, geometric walls of the fort, you can visit the Highlanders Museum – Scotland’s largest regimental museum outside Edinburgh – explore the grand magazine and its impressive collection of weapons and visit the old barracks to see a graphic recreation of soldiers’ living conditions over the centuries. The walls are also an excellent spot for spotting wild dolphins leaping from the waves in the distance.

Ardvreck Castle

Ruins
Map View
Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt, Sutherland, Scotland
© Lynne Sutherland / Alamy Stock Photo
Ardvreck is surrounded by some of the most beautiful and wild scenery in the UK. Built in 1590 by the Clan MacLeod and destroyed fewer than 100 years later, the ruins stand on a promontory in Loch Assynt as a stark reminder of the past to those who travel the nearby road, the route of the North Coast 500. The location is definitely worth a visit, the surrounding countryside is inspiring and the ruins, loch, mountains and moors make for excellent photographs.

Broch Dun Dornaigil

Ruins, Historical Landmark
Map View
UK Scotland Highland Sutherland Dun Dornaigil Broch
© Albaimages / Alamy Stock Photo
Not only is this Iron Age Broch a fantastic place to visit in itself – the narrow and winding road to reach it is epic, passing through wild and remote parts of the Highlands. Dun Dornaigil was built around 2,000 years ago, but no one is exactly sure why brochs were constructed. These circular stone towers are found only in northern Scotland and surrounding islands and contain a stairway leading up to chambers and galleries. Today, Dun Dornaigil stands at 23ft (7m) at its tallest surviving point, but would likely have been at least twice that height all those years ago.

Dornoch Cathedral

Cathedral, Ruins
Map View
DORNOCH CATHEDRAL SUTHERLAND SCOTLAND FOOTPATH TO DOOR AND SURROUNDED BY AUTUMNAL TREES
© John Bracegirdle / Alamy Stock Photo
Built in the 13th century by the Bishop of Caithness – and later Saint – Gilbert de Moravia with funds from his own pocket, Dornoch Cathedral was eventually burnt down in a clan feud in 1570. It stood in ruins until it was extensively renovated and repaired during the 1800s and brought back into use. Some of the stained glass windows were donated in memory of Andrew Carnegie, who stayed nearby on his estate at Skibo. The town of Dornoch also features a castle and a premium golf course.

Beauly Priory

Ruins
Map View
Beauly Priory in the Highlands of Scotland.
© Jan Holm / Alamy Stock Photo
The original monks of Beauly hailed from France and named the valley they migrated to ‘Beau Lieu’, meaning ‘Beautiful Place’. Originally constructed in the 13th century, the Priory remained in use until it was dissolved during the reformation in 1634. The standing ruins are extensive, with remarkable and well-preserved stonework still present on the site. Not far from Inverness, Beauly Priory is a must-see if you’re staying in the Highland capital.

Camster Cairns

Historical Landmark, Ruins
Map View
The Grey Cairns of Camster are two large Neolithic chambered cairns located in Caithness, Highlands of Scotland
© Andrew Wilson / Alamy Stock Photo
These twin Neolithic tombs date back more than 5,000 years – and are among two of the oldest stone monuments in Scotland. They’ve undergone several reconstructions through the years, but the Grey Cairns of Camster still provide a fascinating insight into Neolithic funerary practices. The long cairn leads down a tunnel of 200ft (60m) to two internal chambers – you can crawl through it, although there isn’t much room so perhaps not a great idea if you are claustrophobic. Inside the chambers there are skylight windows, allowing light to enter in long beams.
These recommendations were updated on October 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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