Breathtaking, inspiring, atmospheric… these words are often used to describe the Scottish Highlands. Home to the UK’s highest mountains, deepest inland waters and largest National Park, and the area is known for its rugged beauty and remote landscapes. However you want to experience the beautiful glens, winding coastal roads, and spectacular mountain ranges, you are sure to be swept off your feet by the landscapes rolled out before you.
To help you plan a holiday in the Highlands, we have divided the vast region into four different areas for the purposes of our focus this month: Inverness, Aviemore and the Great Glen; the North Highlands; Fort William and Lochaber; Skye and Lochalsch.
The Great Glen and the wider area that encircles it is home to some iconic Scottish sights, such as Urquhart Castle and the majestic Loch Ness – but if you’re looking for some lesser-known gems to discover in the area, take a look at these tips from local holiday home owners.
Culloden, on the east of Inverness, is the site of the last battle fought on British soil. But to journey much further into the past you don’t have to go far – a well-preserved prehistoric site lies nearby. The Clava Cairns are Bronze Age circular chamber tombs; the two outer cairns have entrance passages, and each cairn is surrounded by standing stones. Early morning or early evening are said to be the best time to view the cairns, as the sun rises or sets, and as well as crawling along the passages and exploring the burial site, you can also take a look at the remains of a medieval chapel not far from the cairns.
This lovely loch on the edge of Aviemore is edged by forests and beaches, and offers spell-binding views of the Cairngorm Mountains. You can walk the circuit around the loch in around two hours and enjoy the mountain scenery from different angles. Start from any car park around the loch (you have to pay a small fee) and follow the dark red marker posts. The combination of sand, forest and snow-covered mountains is something quite special – my favourite spot is the wide stretch of beach beside Loch Morlich Watersports.
If you head south from Aviemore and loop back up towards the Great Glen, you will take the A86 from Newtonmore, which runs alongside Loch Laggan. This is ‘Monarch of the Glen‘ land. Laggan Beach, at the head of the loch, is the largest freshwater beach in the UK (and was often featured in the BBC drama). It lies in the Ardverikie Estate (Glenbogle to fans of the programme) and is a beautiful, quiet place to bask in Highland scenery.
South Loch Ness and Falls of Foyers
The diagonal tear of Loch Ness rips through the landscape from Dores, south of Inverness, to Fort Augustus and is a truly magnificent sight. Many visitors follow the A82 along the edge of Scotland’s most famous loch, experiencing Urquhart Castle along the way. For a quieter route, you can take the B852 along South Loch Ness. As well as offering picturesque views, the south side is known for its many lovely walks and the spectacular Falls of Foyers. It’s a short walk (but quite a steep path) down to view the falls as the River Foyers plummets into a gorge. You can also walk down to the shores of Loch Ness from here, following a 1-2 hour trail that loops back up to the falls.
The fantastic Scottish Natural Heritage guide on the Great Glen has more information on South Loch Ness Trail walks, as well as other tips for visiting the area.
Home to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, Drumnadrochit is a popular visitor attraction for those wanting to find out more about the loch and its legend. To step off the beaten track from here, why not head into Strathglass – an area made up of Glen Strathfarrar, Glen Affric and Glen Cannich. Glen Cannich lies 12 miles to the west of Drumnadrochit and is the lesser visited of the three glens. It is a truly wonderful place to walk, enjoy the mountain scenery and spot red deer.
Our holiday home owners recommended Strathconon as another excellent place for hill walking, further north of the Great Glen (just over an hour’s drive from Drumnadrochit). With the ever-enchanting mix of mountains, lochs and rivers, this scenic glen is home to red deer, otters and golden eagles, and is an ideal place to let the beauty of the Highlands wash over you.
Is this your favourite part of the Highlands? Do you have any suggestions of your own? If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below – we love to hear from you.