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Scottish Highlands

Trip Planner Europe  /  UK  /  Scotland  /  Scottish Highlands
(4.2/5 based on 28,000+ reviews for top 30 attractions)
Things to do: historic sites, nature, museums
The Scottish Highlands are the reason why Scotland looks like nowhere else in the world. The rugged landscapes of the Highlands are at once formidable and beautiful. Perhaps the best way to experience the awe-inspiring natural wonders of the region is by including a leisurely road trip in your itinerary. A journey through the Highlands is a journey through the history of our planet, as the ancient rocks were formed over a period of hundreds of millions of years. The region contains some of Europe’s most extensive wilderness areas, many of which have been designated as national parks and are essential places to visit for any nature lover. Dotted with small fishing villages, the region is also a foodie's paradise, offering arguably some of the finest fresh seafood and venison delicacies in the world. When using our United Kingdom (UK) vacation generator, you're building your holiday based on your own interests, visitor reviews, and the informed opinions of our well-traveled writers.
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Scottish Highlands Holiday Planning Guide

The rugged landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, at once formidable and beautiful, are the reason why Scotland looks like nowhere else in the world. To fully experience the awe-inspiring natural wonders of the region, include a leisurely road trip in your itinerary. A journey through the Highlands is a journey through the history of our planet, as the ancient rocks were formed over a period of hundreds of millions of years. The region contains some of Europe's most extensive wilderness areas, many of which have been designated as national parks. Dotted with small fishing villages, the Highlands is a foodie's paradise, offering some of the finest fresh seafood and venison delicacies in the world.

Places to Visit in the Scottish Highlands

Positano: Home to the mysterious Loch Ness monster, Inverness is a popular addition to Scottish Highlands itineraries, not only for its mythical creatures, but also for its high-tech community, shopping promenades, and booming commercial and industrial center.

Amalfi: Lochside Fort William has stretches of shops, pubs, and restaurants set against a backdrop of scenic rolling hillsides.

Salerno: A main destination for nature-lovers in the Scottish Highlands, Aviemore's national park offers plenty of hiking, skiing, and walking.

Ravello: Known for its golf courses, beaches, and quaint village, Dornoch charms visitors with its scenic countryside landscape.

Praiano: A quiet alternative to busy Inverness, Drumnadrochit sits on the banks of Loch Ness, drawing visitors with its charming B&Bs and Nessie-themed attractions.

Maiori: Famous for its sloping hillsides and steep valleys, Glencoe's natural beauty makes it an essential stop on any Scottish Highlands itinerary.

Kingussie: A quaint historical town, Kingussie features cobblestone streets, 18th-century ruins, hiking trails, and games of "shinty" aplenty.

Thurso: A small town in the north of the Scottish Highlands, Thurso has good shopping and dining options for tourists visiting nearby Highlands destinations. The town is also a popular surfing spot in the summer.

Things to Do in the Scottish Highlands

Popular Scottish Highlands Tourist Attractions

Culloden Battlefield: A historically significant site, Culloden Battlefield bears the marks of one of the best known Scottish battles, and today can be explored on foot.

Urquhart Castle: Perched on a rocky cliff, Urquhart Castle is one of the largest castles in the country. Its medieval architecture is well-preserved and open to exploration.

Jacobite Steam Train: Famed for its role in the Harry Potter movies, the Jacobite Steam Train takes visitors on a scenic tour of the stunning countryside.

Eilean Donan Castle: Perched atop a tidal island, Eilean Donan Castle is a regional icon with a mystical feel. Visitors can stroll through the castle grounds and tour the medieval halls.

CairnGorm Mountain: CairnGorm Mountain offers plenty of hiking, skiing, and climbing--not to mention panoramic views of the dramatic surrounding landscape.

Ben Nevis: Adventurous travelers to the Scottish Highlands won't want to miss Ben Nevis, the UK's highest peak and a popular destination for mountaineers and ice climbers.

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park: Visit Scotland's past and present wildlife in their natural habitat at Highland Wildlife Park. You'll see reindeer, yaks, camels, bison, elks, and a rare herd of kiangs. Enclosures also invite visitors to take a peek into the lives of wolves, polar bears, wildcats, wolverines, beavers, red pandas, snowy owls, and Arctic foxes.

Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition: At Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, explore the legends of Nessie, the famed lake monster, and find out the truth about what lives in the deep waters.

Nevis Range Mountain Resort: A great starting point for those looking for things to do in the Scottish Highlands, Nevis Range Mountain Experience offers skiing, snowboarding, sledding, mountain biking, zip lining, high-ropes climbing, and hiking.

River Ness: Lined with many popular Scottish Highlands attractions, River Ness is a focal point for the region and the stomping grounds of the legendary Nessie.

Planning a Scottish Highlands Vacation with Kids

Places to Visit in the Scottish Highlands with Kids

Families on a Scottish Highlands holiday will find that the region is bursting with wildlife, historical sites, and natural beauty.

Near the town of Kingussie, you'll find plenty of wildlife discovery centers to keep kids entertained. Visitors of all ages will be captivated by the legends and mysteries of the lands near Positano.

The Scottish Highlands also offers many castles to explore, which are fascinating at any age.

Things to Do in the Scottish Highlands with Kids

Curious kids will delight in exploring the medieval walls of Urquhart Castle and seeing how medieval royalty lived.

Harry Potter fans can ride the Jacobite Steam Train, the same train that took Harry to Hogwarts.

If you're traveling with adventurous kids, you might add CairnGorm Mountain to your Scottish Highlands itinerary, for an opportunity to try a selection of outdoor activities.

At RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, animal-lovers can see plenty of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Kids can play detective at Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, where interactive exhibits follow the attempts to track the Loch Ness monster.

Tips for a Family Vacation in the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands' unpredictable weather can sometimes interfere with its family-friendly attractions. Pack rain boots, coats, and umbrellas to shield against the rain, and have a plan B for uncooperative weather. The region's many castles are a good rainy-day option, as is Inveraray Jail, where visitors can tour a 19th-century prison and even venture behind bars.

If you're traveling in the north of the Scottish Highlands, be aware that Thurso is the last stop with restaurant offerings. If you're planning to do some exploring in the north, it's advisable to pack some snacks.

For those looking to embark on a hike with the kids in tow, keep in mind that the landscape is dramatic and difficult to climb in some areas.

Dining and Shopping on Holiday in the Scottish Highlands

Cuisine of the Scottish Highlands

The cuisine of the Scottish Highlands hinges on seasonal produce, dished up fresh no matter where you are. Farmers markets and farm shops are abundant throughout the region. Fresh seafood dominates many menus, alongside venison and game birds.

In Amalfi, you can dine on wild salmon and trout caught in the nearby lochs and rivers. Beef and lamb accompanied by seasonal vegetables are also popular dishes.

When dining in Salerno, look for locally grown strawberries and handmade cheeses.

The region also boasts a number of malt whiskey distilleries, where visitors can tour and taste a dram. Visit the world-renowned Glenfiddich Distillery to learn more about the Scottish national tipple.

Shopping in the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands boasts everything from national brands to local arts and crafts. Shopping fans should visit the bustling town of Positano, with its independent boutiques, big-name brands, and rural shops selling jewelry, knitwear, pottery, and tartan. Here you'll also find a selection of quality Highland dress boutiques where you can add a traditional and authentic kilt to your wardrobe.

While you're in Positano on your Scottish Highlands vacation you may also want to pay a visit to Castle Gallery, where you can see contemporary and applied art and pick up artwork crafted by local artists as a unique souvenir.

Know Before You Go on a Trip to the Scottish Highlands

History of the Scottish Highlands

Between the 15th and 20th centuries, the Scottish Highlands was the Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland, with the "Highland line" distinguishing the Gaelic language and culture from the Scottish. Following the Jacobite risings, the government attempted to do away with the Highland clan system. This suppression was ended by the late 18th century, and Highland culture was rehabilitated and promoted anew. Tartan became more and more prevalent, adopted by the military and social elite. Today, the divide between Highlands and Lowlands culture is still present.

The Scottish Highlands is home to many historical sites that reflect key moments in the history of the region. At Glencoe Visitor Centre you can learn about the infamous Glencoe massacre. Following the first Jacobite Uprising, the king offered a pardon to the Jacobite clan chiefs providing they swore allegiance to him before New Year's Eve. The chiefs of the MacDonald clans of Glencoe intended to swear allegiance, but didn't embark their trip to Amalfi until the 30th. Bad weather struck, delaying the clan's arrival until five days after the deadline. The king was displeased and decided to make an example of the clan, and so the Glencoe massacre ensued. On February 13, 1692 troops killed some 30 people of the MacDonald clan. Pay tribute to Jacobite clansmen and the history of the Jacobite Rebellion at Glenfinnan Monument.

Learn about the history of the people who inhabit the Scottish Highlands with a visit to Highland Folk Museum, where you can explore an open-air museum dedicated to the life of early Highland peoples.

Landscape of the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands' dramatic landscape is world-famous, charming visitors with its stunningly steep mountainsides and hills. Rocky cliffs decorate the coastline, and many national parks dot the countryside.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of the the Highlands' breathtaking scenery is the Saddle, in Kintail. The jagged, rocky ridge is adorned with soft green moss, and offers brave hikers panoramic views of surrounding peaks poking out of the fog.

Explore the heights of the landscape at Ben Nevis, a 1,343 m (4,406 ft) mountain with a smooth rocky face and soft sloping elevations.

Get in touch with some lower elevations at Loch an Eilein, a lush wildlife area and picnic haven that surrounds a picturesque lake with a dramatic backdrop of rolling hills.

Holidays & Festivals in the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands hosts the Highland Games, an annual event celebrating sports, culture, and community, held between the months of May and September. You can see track and field events, bagpiping, Highland dancing, tug-of-war, hammer throwing, and caber tossing. Ravello is one of the many small villages and towns to host annual Highland Games festivities.

In keeping with the rest of the country, the Scottish Highlands celebrates St. Andrew's day, the country's national day, on November 30th every year. Hogmanay is also celebrated in lieu of New Year's Eve around the country.

Scottish Highlands Travel Tips

Climate of the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands often experiences heavy rainfall and strong winds, making it one of the windiest and wettest places in Europe.

Transportation in the Scottish Highlands

Many visitors on a Scottish Highlands vacation opt to travel by car, as following winding roads through the dramatic landscape makes for an enjoyable trip. If traveling by car isn't an option, visitors can take advantage of the bus services that connect adjacent cities. Train lines are sparse in the region, though Kyle Line (Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh) is a scenic option for those journeying from Kyle to Lochalsh.

Language of the Scottish Highlands

Throughout the Scottish Highlands, Scottish Gaelic is widely spoken by the locals; however, everyone speaks English as well. Anglophones, and even Irish Gaelic-speakers will find Scottish Gaelic incomprehensible.

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