Known for both its hiking and its history, the Scottish Highlands is filled with hundreds of landmark destinations. Located in northern Scotland, the Highlands is a picturesque destination brimming with ancient forests, mountain ranges, and of course, many famous lochs. Its rugged yet serene landscape adds to its mystic appeal, making it an ideal destination for anyone looking to experience Scotland’s natural beauty. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights on your next trip. Here are some of our favorite things to check out next time you’re across the pond.
Jacobite Steam Train
In order to get around the Highlands, trustworthy transportation is a must. The region is home to the infamous Jacobite Steam Train, which many may recognize from its appearance as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series. This train travels from Fort William to Mallaig and over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where it is typically photographed on its route. This steam train is more than just every Harry Potter fan’s dream - it also takes guests to various destinations across the region while providing a scenic ride through villages, glens and lochs along the way.
We’ve all heard of the Loch Ness Monster, but this loch is more than just the legend. This scenic freshwater lake is the UK’s most voluminous body of water. Visitors can experience the mystery of the loch by taking boat trips from surrounding villages such as Inverness, Fort Augustus, and Drumnadrochit. In addition to villages, the loch is also surrounded by rugged landscapes as well as lighthouses and ancient ruins, including the famous Urquhart Castle. The ruins of this 13th century castle survived through the Jacobite rebellions and are sat overlooking the loch on Strone Point. While catching a glimpse of Nessie from here is unlikely, many travelers frequent the area to explore the mythical charms and unbeatable views of Loch Ness.
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides and is renowned for its scenic green landscapes and history of clan warfare. The island is one of Scotland’s top destinations with landmarks such as Trotternish and the Cuillin Ridge, along with castle ruins left behind by Clan MacDonald and Clan MacLeod. The island also draws many for its stunning coastline and boating excursions, as well as mythical fairy pools and dinosaur footprints, which can be seen along the coast of the island during low-tide.
Highly considered to be Scotland’s favorite glen, Glencoe is a hiker’s dream getaway. Here, stunning views are impossible to miss. No matter where you stand in the area, you will be surrounded by breathtaking views of peaks, valleys, and rivers. Glencoe is home to some of the Highlands’ most beautiful hikes, including The Lost Valley, an old farming area formerly used by Clan MacDonald that now serves as a walking park. Additionally, Glencoe is home to Buachaille Etive Beag, a scenic mountain walk where visitors can overlook much of the Highlands below. For those searching for a more intense hike, travelers can visit The Three Sisters and Buachaille Etive Mor - two of Scottish hikers’ top picks because of their photographic scenery.
While Glencoe is certainly the hub of outdoor adventure, it has played a significant part in Scotland’s history as well. In the 17th century, the Massacre of Glencoe was a treacherous event where soldiers slayed Clan MacDonald for refusal to promise loyalty to the new king, forever changing clan life in Scotland. Remnants from this event as well as tokens of Clan MacDonald’s presence in the Highlands can be found across much of Glencoe today.
West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is Scotland’s first and most popular long-distance walking route that stretches almost one hundred miles from Glasgow to the foot of Ben Nevis. On the trail, visitors are able to walk through peaks, valleys, and rolling green acres while passing some of the most serene rivers and lochs, including Loch Lomond and Loch Leven. Since one hundred miles is a big feat for most, travelers can walk sections of the trail as they please, such as the Devil’s Staircase, a six-mile route with an outstanding view of the Highlands.
Cairngorms National Park
This mountain range is the largest national park in Great Britain, and is the perfect location for anyone who is seeking an outdoor experience in the heart of the Highlands. This range is popular year-round and is a hotspot for all things active - like watersports, skiing, and hiking. The park’s most famous mountain is Ben Nevis - the highest peak in all of the British Isles, so much so that it was named after the Gaelic translation of “mountain with its head in the clouds”. Now an inactive volcano, this mountain has trails that lead you through rivers, glens, and waterfalls as well as misty peaks that overlook the town of Fort William. Visitors typically finish their hikes at the Ben Nevis Distillery, where they are able to sit and enjoy a pint or even grab a glass of the region’s own local whisky.
To learn more about what the Highlands and the rest of Scotland have to offer, click on the link below.