Top 10 things to do in the Highlands

The Highlands are incomparable. There is magic in the air, whether you’re hiking the heather-draped hills, clambering around an ancient castle or searching for that infamous monster in Loch Ness…

Explore a city in the mountains

Inverness, Highlands, Scotland

The gateway to your Scottish adventure, Inverness is known as the capital of the Highlands and is a great place to base yourself. Discover the historic city with its cathedral, riverside and traditional tartan kilt-makers, then head out to nearby attractions like Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor Castle and – of course – Loch Ness.

Go Nessie spotting

Loch Ness is the ultimate destination for legend hunters. This mysterious, often mist-cloaked loch is where that elusive monster supposedly lurks. Try and spot her from a boat tour out on the loch, a hike or bike along the water’s edge, or visit the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre to find out more.

Discover a mountain-lover’s paradise

The Cairngorms National Park is the place to go for forest trails, mountain ascents, wildlife spotting and even a spot of skiing. There is a high concentration of the UK’s mountains here – with 5 of the country’s 6 highest within the park, plus there are 55 munros – what the Scots call mountains that are over 3,000 ft (914m). Look out for beautiful red deer roaming wild too. 

Roam around an ancient castle

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland

Crumbling yet still mighty, and perched on the shores of Loch Ness, ancient Urquhart Castle makes for endless photo opportunities. You can add to the feeling of adventure and approach the castle by boat on Loch Ness, with Jacobite Cruises. 

Ride the Hogwarts Express

It was the striking structure and stunning location of Glenfinnan Viaduct that leant itself to the Harry Potter films; the Hogwarts Express is seen chugging across it. In real life you can see much of the same – on the Jacobite train run by West Coast Railways from Fort William to Mallaig. You will also spot the Glenfinnan monument looking out across the beautiful Loch Shiel.

Glen Ord Distillery, Scotland

You can’t visit Scotland without trying the favoured local tipple. And there’s the chance to see how whisky is made with dozens of distilleries offering tours across the Highlands. Glen Ord Distillery is near Inverness and, founded in 1838, it is Scotland’s oldest distillery. See how the barley is malted, the fermentation process and the still room, then try some!

Drive Britain’s steepest road

You’ll find breathtaking scenery on the Applecross Peninsula, on the west coast of Scotland. Brave drivers should not miss the Bealach na Bà – a mountain pass with switchback bends, it’s the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK, and rewards you with view after view.

Drive Scotland’s answer to Route 66

The North Coast 500 (NC500) road route curls around the very northern coastline of Scotland, starting and finishing at Inverness. Passing snow-flecked mountains, remote sweeping beaches and craggy castles, you’ll tick off many of Scotland’s most beautiful sights along the way.

Explore Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

This national park offers the tranquil waters of Loch Lomond, whose banks are lined with lush green forests and peppered with pretty villages. Stretch your legs with a hike up the hills. Ben Lomond (3,196ft/974 metres) is a great option to climb – it stands out in the landscape with its often snow-dusted summit.

Hop over to the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is officially in the Inner Hebrides, but it’s easy to tack on a visit to your Highlands tour. Hop over by ferry from Mallaig or cross over the Skye Bridge. You’ll find yourself on a magical isle with such spectacular landscapes it’s often used as a film location – the most recent was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and The BFG.

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