Discovering the Magic of the Scottish Highlands

Here’s our guide to visiting the Scottish Highlands

There is no place quite like the Scottish Highlands for magical holidays. With rugged mountains, tranquil glens, shimmering lochs, varied wildlife, and breathtaking views, it is perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors. The numerous castles and monuments make it a historically significant place to visit, as well as a culturally rich destination. Whether you are interested in outdoor sports like hiking, biking, and water sports, or you want to explore the region’s whiskey distilleries, the Scottish Highlands has something for every traveller. How long will you need to spend truly experiencing the allure and mystique of this gorgeous destination? We recommend you allow yourself several days to soak in all the Highlands have to offer.

Unveiling the Natural Beauty

When you get the opportunity to explore the Scottish Highlands, the diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes are a great place to start. All year long, the scenery is stunning, with vibrant greenery from June to August, a tapestry of reds, yellows, and oranges in September and October. From November to February, the Highlands are a winter wonderland, blanketed in snow, and when spring comes in April it brings a sense of renewal, with blooming flowers and warmer weather. No matter when you travel to the Scottish Highlands, you will have the opportunity to enjoy some of the most amazing scenery in Europe, from mountains to valleys to tranquil lochs. Are there any more iconic Scottish Highlands places to visit than Loch Ness? It is one of the largest lochs in Scotland, if you visit, you can try to catch a glimpse of the elusive Loch Ness Monster. Another wonderful place to visit is Glencoe, where a magnificent glen affords impressive views of the surrounding mountains. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland, and certainly holds some of the most impressive Scottish Highlands landscapes. 

A Tapestry of History and Culture

The rich history and culture of the Highlands can be explored through the region’s abundant castles and monuments. The earliest evidence of human civilization in Scotland dates back to 8500 BC, and the Highlands have been occupied since just after the Ice Age, so there is plenty to learn,do and explore in this amazing country. The major social unit of the Highlands, throughout history, was the clan, but Scottish kings saw these clans as a challenge to their authority, and the Highlands were perceived as a lawless region. One reason for the collapse of the clan system was the Jacobite rising, an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to reclaim the British throne. After the rising failed, the British government enacted laws intended to suppress the clan system, but by the end of the 18th century these laws were largely repealed, and a rehabilitation of Highland culture followed. Tartan was soon used by the British Army for Highland regiments, and in the 1820s, tartan and the kilt became an international craze, as the Highlands were idealised and romanticised. ‘Highlandism’ was furthered by Queen Victoria, who was very interested in the country and made Balmoral a major royal retreat. 

You can visit many of Scotland’s important historical sites, including the iconic Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, and the Eilean Donan Castle, an oft-photographed, picturesque castle on an island in the middle of Loch Duich. A more sobering historical site is the Culloden Battlefield, where the final battle of the Jacobite uprising was fought, bringing a complete and devastating defeat for the Jacobites. You can also visit some of the Highlands’ beautiful cathedrals, like the Dornoch Cathedral, or ruins, like the Beauly Priory, not far from Inverness. Want to travel back further in history? Check out Broch Dun Dornaigil, an historical landmark dating back to the Iron Age, or Camster Cairns, twin Neolithic tombs dating back over 5,000 years. 

If you’re interested in traditions and folklore, the Scottish Highlands are overflowing with lore and legends. One good indication of their love of mythology is the use of the unicorn as the Scottish national animal! Tales of water spirits, ghosts, and monsters abound, and it is not hard to learn some legends by just speaking with the locals. Engage in the region’s rich heritage while you are visiting by enjoying some of the Highlands’ many festivals and events. From Hogmanay to the Highland Games, there is always something going on in the Scottish Highlands, including the Edinburgh Festival, the largest arts festival in the world. 

Outdoor Adventures and Activities

In the Scottish Highlands, things to do are never in short supply. It is the perfect place for hiking, with stunning trails from which to explore the regions rugged mountains and serene glens, and mountain bikers have plenty of options for trails, as well. The vast number of lochs and rivers provide opportunities for water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, and the abundant variety of wildlife makes it the perfect place for wildlife watching. Those seeking an active adventure can find beginner’s hiking trails at the Locks of Killin, Glen Affric, The Trossachs, and The Quiraing, while more advanced hikers will enjoy The Cuillan Ridge, The West Highland Way, Ben Nevis, or the Lairig Ghru. Mountain bikers can find their perfect ride in many of the same spots. Looking for Wildlife? Check out the coastal haven of St Abb’s Head for thousands of seabirds, visit the Balmacara Estate to see seals, seabirds, otters, whales, and dolphins, or head to Inverewe to see red squirrel, red deer, golden eagle, otter, and harbour seal. Of course, you will want to take some time to meet some ‘hairy coos’, the gentle, photogenic, shaggy haired Highland cows. 

Culinary Delights and Local Flavors

Scottish Highland cuisine is unique and delicious, designed to provide sustenance and comfort to power you through brisk walks on rugged landscapes. From fresh seafood to delicious Highland cheeses to mince pies and shortbread, you are sure to find local delicacies to warm your body and soul. Visit a local pub for a nourishing Highland meal, and sample some of Scotland’s finest whiskies while you are there. 

Planning Your Highland Adventure

It is easy to fly into Scotland, and just as easy to take a road trip through the Highlands, as long as you follow speed signs, watch out for local wildlife, and hug the line. You will find plenty of welcoming accommodations across Scotland, from cosy bed and breakfasts to luxury lodges. Looking for a memorable Highland road trip? Try Applecross, one of the highest drives in all of the UK, often called the ‘edge of the world’, or drive from Inverness to Edinburgh, through the Cairngorm National Park. Alternatively, you can take the North Coast 500, also called the NC500, one of the most scenic drives in Europe.

If you’re traveling the NC500, it only makes sense to stop off at John O’Groats, in its iconic ‘end of the road’ location. Situated at the very tip of Scotland, this village is a wild, dramatic spot among jaw-dropping scenery, where, in summer, you can go whale watching, see grey seals, spot an assortment of seabirds, and enjoy beautiful coastal walks. Enjoy the untamed wildness of the place while staying in luxurious glass-fronted lodges and contemporary apartments on the Highland coastline. When you are ready to plan a grand adventure in the Scottish Highlands, Together Travel Co. is here to bring your holiday dreams to life. Find out how we can make your trip amazing by contacting our expert concierge team at +44(0)1625 416430 or emailing us for more information.