Varis, Balmacara

The Highlands is a great region to explore all year round, no matter what your interests are. Varis is a spacious, three-bedroomed holiday home in Balmacara, perfectly located for all types of exploration. We spoke to the owner, Debra Storr, who gave us some tips for a Highland getaway.

Cows at Durnish

Let’s start at Balmacara. Tell us a bit about the immediate area.
Varis sits between the National Trust for Scotland Balmacara Estate and a large area of forestry managed by the NTS on behalf of the Forestry Commission.  The woodland is interesting for its old oak forest remnants – a rare type.  The Balmacara Estate remains a crofting estate, famous for its free roaming highland cattle at Duirinish.  The traditional farming patterns retaining in this estate provide a valuable habitat and more interesting scenery than modern methods.

Coral sunset

Skye, The Highlands and Islands is a massive area of the country, but what would you consider the ‘must-sees’ during a visit?
There are the three castles of Eilean Donan, Dunvegan and Castle Stewart but I rather like the smaller gems like hunting dinosaur footprints at Staffin beach or imagining the life in the well preserved brochs of Dun Telve and Dun Trodden at Glen Elg.

What about the lesser-known sights or hidden gems? Have you got anything a wee bit different that you’d recommend?
The Oyster BarThe local seafood is the hidden gem with the Skye Oyster Shed beyond Carbost and the hand dived scallops at Sconser being particularly fine. A trip on the Skye Ferry at Glen Elg is a must (Easter to October) – who can resist the last turntable ferry in the world at the original Skye crossing.

What are the main activities in the area?
Walking is of course massive with some of the best scenery in the world on the doorstep including at least 30 Munros within a 30 minutes drive.  There are plenty of options from a couple of kilometres to Coral Beaches or the long treks like the Five Sisters of Kintail (possible by public transport from Varis, if only a few want to try this.)

kayaking

An Otter at the Glenelg FerryThe Highlands is known for being a real adventure destination. Do you have any suggestions for the big thrill seekers?
Take to the water.  There are a number of excellent kayak schools around who offer everything from a half day family friendly taster sessions in sheltered water to tackling open water and some of the more interesting tidal races in the narrows at Kyle and Glen Elg.   People rightly travel from all over the world to enjoy this unique view of the scenery and an opportunity to get really close to seals, dolphins and occasionally otters.

And for those looking for something a bit more sedate?
Take one of the boat trips from Kyle, Plockton or Elgol – but in colder weather, do borrow the fleece blankets we provide as it can be cold on the water.  The boats have really good information on where to find seals, otters and eagles and rarely disappoint.  The bus wildlife tours are good too and its nice for drivers to get a day off.

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