The Scottish Highlands

by Ian Rose  
Scots: Hielans ; Scottish Gaelic: A’ Ghàidhealtachd


The Scottish Highlands form one of the most scenic landscapes in Europe. But it can be a little daunting to plan a trip. There is so much to see, and each town, village and attraction has its own unique charms. To get started planning your trip to the Highlands, check out our interactive map below. Each red star indicates a location in the highlands that we have written about on this site. Click on the stars to navigate around the site and learn more about the Highlands.

Location

The Scottish Highlands doesn’t have a formal boundary, but is generally thought to include the area of Scotland north and west of Highland Boundary Fault. The area has some of the most rugged terrain in Scotland, and includes the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis.

Cities

Inverness is considered, by tradition, the Capital of the Highlands. Aberdeen can be considered the largest city in the Highlands if we use the broader definition of the area. Other towns in the area include: Aviemore, Fort William, Nairn, Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig, Oban, Tain, Thurso and Ullapool.

Wilderness and things to do

The Highlands contain Britain’s most extensive wilderness area. There are two national parks here: The Cairngorm Mountains and The Trossachs.

The national parks and the area around Loch Ness are very popular among hikers, cyclists and walkers. During winter, there are several ski areas for those who fancy skiing: Nevis Range ski centre, Glencoe Ski Centre, The Lecht ski centre and Cairngorm Ski centre. The West Highland Way is a popular hiking trail along the southwestern part of the Highlands, from outside of Glasgow to Fort William.

Within the area, there are also quite a lot of places to visit, which include:

Castles

  • Balmoral Castle: queen’s favorite summer residence
  • Carrick Castle: dating from the 13th century, the castle is currently restored to its former glory
  • Castle Stalker: although privately owned, the castle can be visited (booking in advance)
  • Castle Tioram: the castle is in ruins today and although it can be reached, it’s advisable not to venture inside. It’s believed to date from the 13th century.
  • Crathes Castle: the castle and grounds are open to the public. Build in the 16th century, it’s been inhabited by the same family for the past 400 years.
  • Duart Castle: dating from the 13th century, at one point the castle was abandoned. It has been rediscovered in the early 1900s and has been restored to its former glory.
  • Inveraray Castle: a rather new addition to the castles’ list in Scotland, it’s privately owned and is one of the most popular attractions in the area. It’s open for the public at certain times during the year.
  • Kilchurn Castle: built in the 14th century, now in ruins, it’s one of the most photographed structures in Scotland.

Places to stay

For information on places to stay in the highlands, check out:


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