The Best Things to Do and See in the Scottish Highlands

The Vast and Empty Sands of Sandwood Bay | © Andrew/Flickr
The Vast and Empty Sands of Sandwood Bay | © Andrew/Flickr
The Highlands of Scotland are full of things to see and do, no matter the season, your tastes, your budget or your age. With eye-catching views wherever you look, fantastic food, friendly, welcoming locals and so much more, there are a wealth of excellent options. Here, we narrow them down to eight ideas.

Climb a Mountain

The beauty of the Highlands is that there are many tall vantage points to choose from. Whether you want a more gentle stroll or something technically challenging and strenuous, the Highlands have got you covered; it is in the name, after all! Any mountain over 3,000 feet (914 metres) is classed as a ‘Munro’, named after Sir Hugh Munro, who was the first to come up with the idea of classifying the peaks in this corner of the world. If you do not fancy walking all the way up to the top of a mountain, there are always slightly easier ways to get there, such as using ski lifts!

View from Stac Pollaidh © Simon Blackley/Flickr

Learn to Fly Fish

Scotland attracts fishermen from across the globe. The places between the peaks’ harbour burns (streams), rivers and lochs (lakes), and where there is water in the Highlands, there are fish. This is an excellent spot to learn fly fishing. And you can learn to catch them, with tuition available from those who truly know their waters. Many people just use the fishing as cover, however, for an excuse to get out into truly beautiful and wild places.

Go Wild Swimming

If the idea of casting a fly does not appeal, then perhaps you’d rather practise wild swimming with the fish. From sheltered lochans (small lochs) and riverine pools, to the many thousands of miles of coastline, Scotland offers some of the best wild swimming in Europe. Although the waters can be less frigid than anticipated, it is rare they can be truly warm. Go prepared, do your homework on conditions, and you will be rewarded with close encounters with nature and the sense of belonging that comes with wild swimming.

Glen Torridon © Oliver Clarke/Flickr

Visit a Museum

The Highlands are blessed with a wide-ranging and excellent array of museums. These may be smaller and locally run affairs, such as at Strathnaver or much larger (and often free) county museums, such as the must-see Inverness Museum. Whatever your interest, you will find a museum to keep your attention. Such a visit will broaden and deepen your understanding of the Highlands.

See the Wildlife

The Scottish Highlands are a magnet for nature-lovers. It is not just the sheer variety of species to see here, which changes depending on the season and the location, but it is also the fact you can often have a mountain, moor, forest, river or beach entirely to yourself. Yourself and all the plants and creatures that call it home, that is. Take a camera, bring binoculars or just sit and soak in the experience. There are even wildlife safaris available as well as guided nature-spotting tours.

Otters Crossing! © Catriona Savage/Flickr

Eat Your Bodyweight in Seafood

Or haggis. Or locally-foraged fungi. Or several other wonderful specialities; Scotland has a remarkable bounty of fresh and local ingredients and chefs who truly know how to use them. With many restaurants and cafés putting on several different menus throughout the year, depending on what is in season and available, there has never been a better time to sample the delights of Scottish fare.

Travel the North Coast 500

Despite only being launched in 2015, the North Coast 500 (NC500) has rapidly established itself as the premier road trip in Europe. It has also appeared on several ‘best in the world’, lists and it is not hard to see why. Starting and ending in the Highland capital of Inverness, the NC500 is 500 miles of beautiful and endlessly changing scenery, fantastic roads to drive (or cycle), great attractions and mouth-wateringly good places to eat along the way.

The Vast and Empty Sands of Sandwood Bay © Andrew/Flickr

Whirl and Twirl at a Ceilidh

The Scottish Highlands have adeptly preserved the tradition of social gatherings, especially on long winter nights, with a warm welcome extended to all, whether old or young. These are usually informal and fun affairs; kilts are welcome but not essential, and the same goes for alcohol — you can have a dram or two of whisky, but there’s no need. Dance steps are taught to beginners, and you will find it very hard to sit out dances for long! The music and memories will stay in your head long after the hard-earned ache in your legs has faded.