There are so many places to visit in Scotland, particularly in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, that it can be tempting to try and fit loads in just a short trip. But we recommend taking it easy and really exploring a particular area as we’re sure you’ll be back again to check out somewhere new…
Check out the photos below for our pick of places to visit in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.
Volcanic eruptions and icy glaciers carved out the deep valley and huge mountains of Glen Coe in the Lochaber Geopark. The drive through the glen’s spectacular scenery is impressive but even better if you have time to go for a walk to really explore this incredible place.
The Cairngorms National Park is a place of extremes. It’s the UK’s largest national park and of the UK’s six highest mountains, five are in the Cairngorms. If you prefer something a little smaller, there are also 55 Munros (mountains over 3,000 ft).
The Cairngorm plateau is the highest, coldest and snowiest plateau in Britain and even in the summer there are patches of snow.
Wildlife watchers need to keep their eyes open for mountain hares, snow bunting, Scottish crossbill, crested tit, red squirrels, golden eagles, osprey, ptarmigan, capercaillie and the elusive wildcat.
Ben Nevis is not only the highest mountain in Scotland but also the UK’s highest peak at 1,344.527m above sea level. You can admire this majestic moutain from a distance or walk or climb to the summit.
On the Road to the Isles at the head of Loch Shiel is the Glenfinnan Monument, a tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died in the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The stunning viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter film is also worth viewing to appreciate the architecture of this grand structure. If you time it right, you may also see a steam train go past.
Rum is the largest island in the Small Isles which are part of the Inner Hebrides. Kinloch Castle is a building of great architectural interest. It’s built from red sandstone and was the first private residence in Scotland to have electricity.
Even if you don’t recognise the name, you’ve probably seen a photo of Eilean Donan Caste. One of the most popular places to visit in Scotland, Eilean Donan is a classic Scottish castle in a beautiful setting on a tiny island where three sea-lochs meet. Surrounded by mountains and forests, this romantic castle is on most itineraries. Most of the castle rooms are open to visitors and you can see antique art and furniture as well as Jacobean artefacts.
The Quiraing is part of the Trotternish ridge where a massive landslip has created towering cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock. The best way to explore this almost supernatural landscape is on foot but it’s worth viewing from the road too.
If you love wildlife and dolphins in particular, Chanonry Point is worth spending at least a few hours at. Chanonry Point is the best land-based dolphin-watching spot in the UK and probably the world! Due to the way the beach shelves steeply, the dolphins can come unbelievably close to the shore as you can see in this photo taken by photographer and WDC Field Officer, Charlie Phillips. Charlie shares his Local tips: Things to do in the Scottish Highlands & Islands – Charlie Phillips, photographer on our blog.
In 1850 a storm uncovered the prehistoric village of Skara Brae. So important is this stone-built Neolithic settlement that it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Luskentyre beach on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides is a favourite with many people including Christopher Swan, an award-winning photographer who shared his Local tips: Beautiful places in Scotland’s Highlands & Islands with us. I agree it looks absolutely amazing but when you’re looking for places to visit in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. I have my own favourites (ncluding Achnahaird beach near Ullapool shown below) and you will too if you take the time to explore the nooks and crannies of this incredible coastline.
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Our local experts share their top tips and some less well-known places to visit in Scotland in our What to see in Scotland: Local Tips section.