The Scottish Highlands are home to some of Britain’s most dramatic landscapes – from craggy peaks and tranquil lochs to heather-clad moorlands and remote windswept beaches. For solo travellers, it’s the ideal place to disconnect from the daily grind and embrace the great outdoors, whether you fancy hiking, skiing, kayaking or swimming.
What’s the vibe in the Scottish Highlands?
There’s a strong resemblance between parts of the Scottish Highlands and Scandinavia, with fjord-like lochs, snowcapped mountains and pine forests aplenty. Unlike the weather, the people are renowned for their warmth – although the accent may take you a while to follow.
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Safety in the Scottish Highlands
The greatest danger here is the weather. When you’re heading off hiking in remote areas, do tell someone roughly where you are going before you set off. Make sure you have sufficient clothing for all weathers – it can close in quickly – as well as food and water and, of course, your phone. Download the What3Words app, where each 3m square has been allocated three words, which is as accurate as GPS coordinates. It’s also sensible to carry a compass.
Sleep in the Scottish Highlands
This family-run hostel is a great budget base, handy for Fort William and Ben Nevis. It has a well-equipped kitchen, laundry facilities, clean bathrooms and a cosy lounge area where you can meet fellow travellers. It’s very popular, especially in summer, so book well in advance.
This tranquil retreat stands at the foot of Buachaille Etive Mor mountain, on the West Highland Way – one of Scotland’s most treasured walking routes. Tuck into gourmet Highland dishes at the restaurant and sip whiskies by the fire in the bar after tackling the majestic surroundings.
A three-night stay at the Kingshouse Hotel is included in Culture Trip’s exclusive four-day Scottish Highlands adventure.
Eat and drink options in the Scottish Highlands
This family-run favourite on the northern shore of Loch Ness is one of the very best pubs in the Highlands. The menu is traditional Scottish: Highland-reared steaks, pan-fried salmon and haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) plus several vegetarian options, too. Book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Fancy a light bite, a three-course dinner or an evening of drinks and live music? This chalet-style pub, aka the Winky, can deliver. It’s a prime spot in the Cairngorms National Park, serving an extensive choice of draught and bottled beers from the Cairngorm Brewery. Dogs are welcome in the bar.
Fort William Town Pier is this essential stop for freshly caught langoustines from Loch Linne and mussels from nearby Kinlochleven to roasted Mallaig cod – a few of the mouth-watering treats on the menu. The quality of the food is matched by the idyllic setting and homely ambience.
What to do in the Scottish Highlands
Hike or ski in the mountains: Hiking opportunities in the Scottish Highlands are virtually limitless – from strenuous mountain climbs to multi-day treks where you’ll go miles without passing another soul and many more accessible routes. In winter, go skiing at Glencoe, Glenshee, the Cairngorms or the Nevis Range. Conditions vary significantly from year to year, so check before you visit.
Visit famous movie locations: Turn off the A82 shortly after crossing the River Etive near Glencoe and you’ll reach the spot where James Bond pulled up in his Aston Martin in Skyfall (2012). The Glenfinnan Viaduct, meanwhile, is one of many Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland – recreate the Hogwarts Express scene by riding the Jacobite steam train across it.
Paddle across a loch: There are thousands of lochs in the Scottish Highlands; some formed millennia ago by glaciers carving U-shaped valleys, while others simply freshwater lakes. Loch Ness and Loch Lomond are the best-known, but smaller ones – Loch Affric and Loch Maree – are also worth seeking out. Consider renting kayaks, or, if you’re feeling brave, try wild swimming.
Getting around the Scottish Highlands
Rent a car or use your own and you’ll get the most out of your Scottish Highlands trip. Road networks are extensive and mostly well-paved and you’re never far from the nearest town or village. Public buses are a cheaper alternative, with regular services between the major towns.
Train travel is more expensive, but you have minimal hassle, maximum comfort and magnificent views. Highland towns such as Fort William, Oban and Aviemore are all easy to reach from Inverness, Glasgow or Edinburgh – and the tracks continue up to Thurso, at the northernmost point of the British mainland.
Ready to book? Join our specially curated four-day small-group adventure in the Scottish Highlands, featuring dog sledding, a visit to an artisan chocolatier and more.
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