It may be one of the most recognisable corners of Scotland, but there is still a lot to discover about the Highlands, and autumn and winter offer incredible chances to uncover its hidden wonders.
Witness the stark beauty of the region, where you’ll have vast open landscapes all to yourself. Watch enchanting wildlife and get to know the fun-loving local people that call the Highlands home.
For new experiences and unexpected discoveries, head for the Highlands!
1. Take an invigorating walk in nature
A stroll in the autumn or spring will reward you with crisp fresh air and excellent opportunities to embrace and photograph the natural surroundings. Follow the six km loop around Loch Morlich near Aviemore, and see eye-popping views of the northern Cairngorm mountains, which look especially majestic dusted with snow in the winter. A freshwater loch surrounded by the lush pine scents of the Glenmore Forest and lovely sandy beaches, this route is an ideal wintry afternoon amble.
2. Join in with an iconic Scottish celebration
If you visit during the winter, you’ll be able to join in with some iconic Scottish celebrations. On St Andrew’s Day (30 November), Scots and Scots-at-heart celebrate the patron saint of Scotland with ceilidhs, haggis and general merriment across Scotland.
Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve, is another fantastic time to visit the Highlands – the locals know how to bring in the New Year in style with parties, whisky, and enthusiastic rounds of Auld Lang Syne when it’s time for ‘the bells’. The Red Hot Highland Fling in Inverness is the ideal spot to join the revelries.
3. Ceilidh the night away
The word ceilidh comes from the Gaelic for ‘gathering’ or ‘party’ and in the Highlands, it’s a key part of the social calendar and the ideal way to warm up in autumn and winter. You’ll always meet a friendly soul on the dancefloor to help you learn the steps if you’re not sure! In the town of Ullapool in the north-west Highlands, stop for a dram with some dancing and traditional music thrown in for good measure at the Ceilidh Place and spend a night in the cosy inn.
Another place famed for throwing an excellent ceilidh is the wee Isle of Eigg! This stunning isle can be reached by ferry all year round and it’s possible to walk across the island in around one to two hours.
4. Gaze up at the stars
Parts of the Scottish Highlands offer some of the best stargazing in the UK, with low levels of light pollution and remote areas making it possible for glittering stars to sweep across the skies during the darker months of the year.
The Isle of Skye, for example, has nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites, for stargazers exploring the island. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to witness the magical Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis dancing across the skies too.
5. Try an authentic Highland whisky
Nothing says winter warmer like a wee dram of whisky and if you love the renowned Scottish tipple, the Highlands is the region for you! One of the five whisky-making regions in Scotland, its famed for some of the world’s best single malts. There are age-old distilleries dotted across the landscape, many of which are open all year round.
At Dalwhinnie, there’s even a hot chocolate and whisky tour to warm the soul. After exploring the landscapes of Glencoe, a stop at the Claichaig Inn is essential for some tasty pub grub and a wonderful selection of drams.
6. Spot rare wildlife on a Cairngorms hike
In autumn and winter, witness an amazing array of wildlife roaming the vast Highlands, from otters during the daylight hours to snow-white mountain hares hopping across the hills. Red squirrels love to roam around the Cairngorms National Park, scuttling between trees and searching for nuts. You might also see some red deer, who are most vocal during the colder months, and venture onto lower lands as temperatures start to dip.
7. Ski on snow-capped mountain peaks
Situated near Fort William in Lochaber, the Nevis Range is the highest winter sports destination in the country. You can get your adrenaline fix from late December until April with a choice of activities set against a stunning snowy backdrop. Newbies can grasp the basics on the gentle beginners’ ski and snowboard slopes, while skilled skiers can tear down the challenging black and red runs and off-piste options.