The Scottish Highlands and Islands are one of the most incredibly beautiful areas of the UK. If you’ve been there, you’ve probably fallen in love already. If you’ve not made a trip there yet, what are you waiting for?

Scottish Highlands and Islands - Iona beach
Beach on the Isle of Iona, Inner Hebrides

Why visit the Scottish Highlands and Islands?

Scotland’s Highlands and Islands have it all – imposing mountains, breath-taking beaches, rugged cliffs, Caledonian pine forests, deep glens, lochs, rivers and more.

Dramatic landscapes

Just driving around the Scottish Highlands is an experience. Try to be the passenger not the driver if you can so you can really appreciate the stunning scenery! Or even better why not do a coach holiday tour or a few day trips by coach. The drive through Glen Coe is one that should not be missed.

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, overshadows the town of Fort William. You can walk up it and bag yourself a munro or just admire it from a distance.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness, home of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster and the largest lake in the British Isles by volume.

Wildlife and the natural world

The Scottish Highlands and Islands are a fantastic place to watch wildlife and that’s one of the main reasons we spend virtually all our holidays there.

The Cairngorms National Park is the largest National Park in Britain and wildlife fans will love the variety of species to be seen including red squirrels, pine marten, badgers, wildcats, water vole, and otters. Bird watchers will want to see the Scottish crossbill, the only bird unique to Britain. You can also see ospreys, golden eagles, dotterell, capercaillie, and crested tit. Don’t forget to also visit the reindeer!!

If you want to see white-tailed sea eagles, the Isle of Mull is one of the best places to go but keep your eyes peeled as these flying barn doors are spreading out around the Highlands and Islands.

Marine wildlife

The seas around the Scottish Highlands and Islands are full of magnificent creatures from otters to whales to the second-largest shark in the world – the basking shark. Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth is one of the best land-based places to watch dolphins so put that on your itinerary too.

Northern Lights in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands

Did you know that you can see the Northern Lights in Scotland? The Scottish Highlands and Islands is the best place to see them in the UK. We have a great guide to where to see them and our tips on how to increase your chances of seeing this amazing spectacle. You can also see some photos of the Northern Lights in Scotland.



Activities

Outdoor enthusiasts, thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies will find plenty to do in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, particularly around Fort William which is also known as the “Outdoor Capital of the UK”.

If your outdoor interests are of a more sedate nature, this is the perfect place to go walking, fishing and play golf. Photographers will be spoilt for choice. Check out some fantastic images from some of our favourite photographers, Christopher Swan and Douglas Griffin, in their Local Tips:

History

The Scottish Highlands and Islands has more than it’s fair share of castles in various states of decay but all with their own unique beauty. Eilean Donan is probably the most famous and but I also have a soft spot for the ruins of Castle Tioram and Castle Stalker. You will find your own favourites and no doubt disagree with me.

Other historical sites to put on your list are the Glencoe visitor centre, Culloden battlefield and the ancient standing stones at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

If you want to trace your Scottish ancestors, you will find that many areas have archives to help you with your research including the Highland Archive Centre.

City life

If all that natural wonder gets a little too much, Inverness is the capital of the Highlands and offers bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment.

Scottish food and drink

Think of Scotland and you think of whisky. Visit a distillery to learn how Scotch whisky is made and sample a dram or two. Real ale fans will enjoy a tour of one of the many craft breweries popping up around the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

When it comes to food try a traditional meal of haggis, neeps and tatties or eat at a fine dining restaurant. The seafood is pretty hard to beat when it’s this fresh and there are lots of little local, independent businesses offering homemade food including amazing cake.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t forget to try some of the homemade tablet (a Scottish fudge) which you can find at food and craft markets and in local shops. Or do you like the sound of Irn-Bru humbugs?

Ready to plan your holiday to the Scottish Highlands and Islands?