Breath-taking scenery, beautiful heritage sites and a whole lot of fearsome history are what’s in store if you settle on a Scottish Highlands getaway. The stunning region is ideal for an intrepid road trip and offers up exciting things to see and do for every age and interest!
As an area which covers and features jaw-dropping coastlines, magnificent mountains and mirror-clear lochs, it can be tricky to know what exactly to set your sights in. If you’re driving itinerary isn’t set in stone yet, take a look at our awesome suggestions below on how to spend your time in the Scottish Highlands.
If you do like to be beside the seaside…
The Scottish Highlands isn’t just about glistening lochs and dramatic wilderness. There are also lots of coastal spots to enjoy – especially on the region’s neighbouring islands. Why not drive across the Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to the Isle of Skye for a jaunt to beautiful Camas Daraich? You won’t want to miss this remote beach on its most southerly tip.
Harris is blessed with white-sand beaches which wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean – Luskentyre Sands is a must-see with water so clear that you’ll definitely be tempted to take a plunge! You might quickly regret that one though!
Back on the mainland, the north east coast has numerous beaches with stunning sand dunes and stop-you-in-your-tracks views of the North Sea, including unspoilt Reiss Beach at Sinclair Bay.
If you want to stand in the centre of a battlefield…
Scotland’s infamous Jacobite Risings not only saw the end of the Highlander way of life, but also numerous fights taking place across the region. Few battles from that period of the nation’s history are more well-known than Culloden!
The site of the battle (Culloden Moor) is a vast field located just outside of Inverness and it was made a National Trust site in 2007. Walk where Highlanders and opposing British soldiers were once slain and stop to look at poignant stone cairns featuring the names of every clan who took part in the bloody battle on the 16th April in 1745. There’s also a great visitor’s centre where you can swot up on your history knowledge and buy some tartan mementos.
If you want to feel like a laird or lady, Eilean Donan Castle is the location for you
It’s not possible to holiday in Scotland and never glimpse a castle! The Highlands in particular are dotted with fantastic forts – including Eilean Donan. It’s located on its own tiny island near Kyle of Lochalsh (the gateway to Skye) and is one of the most iconic castles in the UK.
Once the site of a monastery, Eilean Donan itself has been rebuilt many times over the years and even helped keep out Viking invaders in the 13th century! You’ll get to wander around its epic halls, view the loch from its battlements and learn all about its history – including how it was attacked by cannons and then blown up by the Royal Navy in 1719!
If you want to hike to the UK’s tallest peak, don’t miss Ben Nevis (you really can’t miss it!)
Whether you’re a keen hiker or you just want some great photos for the family albums, a weekend spent walking in the shadow (or to the summit) of Ben Nevis is ideal. Once an active volcano, it’s now the highest mountain in the British Isles and sits just 20 minutes from Fort William.
There are numerous trails which snake up the mountain side. If you’d rather take it easy, park up at the Upper Glen Nevis Car Park and walk along the trail which heads east to the 120m-high Steall Waterfall – there’s even a fun rope bridge en route!
If you’re still waiting for your letter to go to Hogwarts, make your way to Glenfinnan Viaduct instead
If you’ve binged watched all eight of the Harry Potter films more times than you can count, you’ll definitely recognise this scenic spot! Located in the West Highlands, the monumental Glenfinnan Viaduct is a Victorian railway viaduct built in 1897.
While you can’t jump on the Hogwarts Express, you can journey across the viaduct on the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig. Alternatively, park up at Glenfinnan station and stroll along the Glenfinnan Trail viewpoint to see it from afar.
If you’re taking the train, keep an eye out the window for the Glenfinnan Monument – a huge stone tower built in 1803 to honour clansmen who supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Jacobite Risings.
If you want to spot the legendary Nessie, keep your eyes peeled at Loch Ness
You can’t go to the Highlands without seeing at least one loch! Loch Ness is a prime choice thanks to the legendary monster which is rumoured to lurk beneath its surface…
Known for being one of the largest and deepest lochs in Scotland (it’s 225m deep at its centre!), it’s possible to drive all 23 miles/37km of the loch’s western shore right next to the water. Pull over and wander down to the rocks to admire the views – and don’t forget to keep an eye out for Nessie! Who knows what’s really in there…?
If you’re fond of a dram or two, you can’t miss Blair Athol Distillery
Call yourself a whisky drinker? Scotland’s Highlands are the birthplace of some of the world’s oldest and most beloved bottles. While you’ll find over 40 distilleries across the region to enjoy a dram (the Scottish term for a measurement of whiskey), Blair Athol is a good pick.
Found in Pitlochry, a pretty town on the road up to the Cairngorms, it offers great group tours as well as tasting sessions in its atmospheric bar. If you’re driving, why not pick up a bottle of classic Blair Athol 12 Year Old Single Malt to try later?
If you want to see how Highlanders lived in olden times, travel back to the past with a trip to the Highland Folk Museum
This amazing living museum is situated on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (home to some great ski resorts, plenty of craggy peaks and the Queen’s summer pad, Balmoral). Made up of a life-size village inhabited by actors dressed up in historic garb, the museum gives visitors wonderful insight into the lives of Highlanders during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Highland Folk Museum’s authenticity has even made it a filming location for many films and TV series, including Outlander! If you have time, drive ten minutes up the road to the Highlands Wildlife Centre just outside Kincraig where you can get up close to native species like red squirrels and Scottish wildcats.
Getting to the Scottish Highlands
So, you’ve got your Scottish sights sorted – but what about the logistics of a Highlands road trip? Luckily, it’s actually a pretty great place to tackle by road. Rent a car from any of the major Scottish cities (Aberdeen or Inverness are the closest to the region) and get ready to cover many miles of open road surrounded by awe-inspiring vistas!
If you’re planning a trip in the cooler months, be warned that snowfall can be heavy in the mountains. You might want to upgrade to a 4×4 or make sure you have snow tires. Some areas of the Scottish Highlands are super remote too – remember to refuel before you set off from a town or city to avoid breaking down in the middle of nowhere!