Scotland’s Highlands are purple mountains, mist, heather, bagpipes, and heroes hiding in the hills… Extraordinary measures, clans, romance, and castle intrigue. Unbelievable scenery, an idealized past, and a tug at your imagination. Peace and small winding roads.
Weather? It’s not always great, and it changes by the minute, but rain does bring out the best in waterfalls. All of these are the Highlands, the area we often associate with Scotland’s soul.
During the Ice Age glaciers dug a deep trench causing a split in the land mass of Scotland. The valley that resulted is known today as the Great Glen. Loch Ness is the celebrity around here. Get on a boat and look for the reclusive monster with special Nessie-finding gear. Be prepared to sigh and breathe deeply when you spot the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Go!
Ben Nevis and Fort William:
Britain’s highest mountain is 4,046 feet high and makes a great walk when the weather cooperates. But, the peak is often covered in mist, and the drive up to Glen Nevis may be a better way to see the waterfall. Fort William sits below the mountain and is a major shopping town with lots to see and do. The West Highland museum there has Jacobite relics, and the “Treasures of the Earth” showcases glittering heaps of gems.
This Highland peninsula has rugged mountains, sweet villages and one of the nicest roads in the country. Follow it, and you’ll meet up with a strand of white sand that’s almost poetic. Acharacle is a famed hang out for musicians, while the town of Glenmore is home to a Natural History Center that boasts a “living building.” What?! Watch the wild deer graze on the roof for yourself! From Kilchoan Town you can catch a great ferry to Mull.
Eilean Donan Castle:
No one manages to drive past this castle without grabbing their camera. The restored 13th century island fortress of clan Macrae is just off the shoreline road to Skye.
These world-famous Highland gardens were nurtured into extravagant fertility in 1862 by Osgood Mackenzie. They became his life’s work. It’s worth a drive to see the exotic plants, shrubs, and plants from around the world. In this surprising location in the Highlands, on Loch Ewe, it is doubly amazing and due to the warm Atlantic winds.
The Road to Applecross:
To get to this small coastal village—trust us—you’ll be driving on pure adrenalin. The road climbs 2,000 feet in twisty-turns and switchbacks all the way to the Pass of the Sheep. (Even the sheep hold on tight!) The view across to Skye is absolutely magnificent. Deep breath and drive down the hill. It’s a gradual descent and you’ll land in pretty Applegate.
Madonna chose it for her wedding, and 16 earls of Sutherland requested it for their burials. This is a magnificent 13th century cathedral, and it’s now the parish church.
Ullapool Delightful Grid:
This tidy village has Gaelic street names, boat trips, ferries to the Western Isles, a museum and the dreamy Assynt Mountains. Visit Corrieshalloch Gorge en route.
This is definitely in the running for Scotland’s’ prettiest west-coast village—and the most surprising. Plockton has sea, palm trees (!), and a Rare Breeds Animal Farm.
Gairloch Heritage Museum:
This local exhibition has old-time industry demonstrations such as spinning, corn-milling, and butter-churning. Brings history into the present and it’s terrific fun!