The Scottish Highlands should be on everybody’s bucket list. Full of captivating history, spectacular rugged landscape, friendly faces (some of them may or may not belong to animals) and towns yet to be discovered by most tourists, the Highlands has something for everyone. Whether you’re ready to hunt monsters or cuddle furry cattle, this destination really is unlike any other place on earth.
Whatever way you choose to spend your time in the Highlands, you’ll come home with memories you’ll never be able to forget. Keep reading to find out what 10 things you should definitely do in the Highlands of Scotland.
10 Visit The Isle Of Skye
If there’s one thing you do during your trip to the Scottish Highlands, it’s visiting the Isle of Skye. The largest of the Scottish Isles, Skye boasts medieval castles to explore, fishing villages to stroll through, and rugged landscape to see.
Aside from witnessing the natural wonders of Skye, you will also have a chance to delve into the fascinating history behind the Isle. Check out the prehistoric sites on the island, and learn about the feuds between rivaling clans of the past, as well as the infamous Jacobite battles.
9 Be Humbled By Glencoe
When you visit the valley and mountains of Glencoe, it will probably take you a few seconds to catch your breath. The iconic scenery here often leaves visitors in silent wonder that something in this world could be so beautiful.
Among the most iconic pieces of scenery in the Highlands, Glencoe is a must for any visitor. See the real-life filming locations for films such as Harry Potter and James Bond’s Skyfall, and discover the history behind how the area was formed through volcanic explosions and icy glaciers.
8 Go Monster-Hunting Near Inverness
You can’t go to the Highlands and not visit Loch Ness. Located in the southwest of the city of Inverness, the loch is the largest lake in Scotland and is said to be home to the most famous monster in the world.
You can travel across the loch by boat, but if you don’t spot the Loch Ness Monster, don’t sweat it: you can find her sitting comfortably by the side of the water, greeting visitors just near the Clansman Hotel! There is also plenty to do around the shores of the Loch, including a visit to Urquhart Castle.
7 Check Out Ben Nevis
No trip to the Highlands would be complete without Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the British Isles. Sitting above the town of Fort William, the ‘Ben’ dominates the skyline (unless she’s covered in clouds — which she usually is!).
Interestingly, the summit was a popular tourist destination for the Victorians, according to Visit Scotland. A hotel one stood at the top to accommodate travelers, but only ruins remain of it today. You can still hike up to the top if the weather permits, though. There’s no longer anywhere to sleep, but you can still check it out!
6 Ride The Jacobite Line
The scenery of the Scottish Highlands is so mesmerizing that, sometimes, you’ve just got to sit back and let it whiz past you while you try to take it all in. That’s why the Jacobite Line is often thought of as the greatest railway journey in the world — the 84-mile trip showcases some of the most stunning sights in Britain.
On the journey, you’ll get to see Loch Morar, River Morar, and, Loch Nevis. You’ll also see the village of Glenfinnan, and the charming surrounding localities, as well as the Southern Isles.
5 Meet A Hairy Coo
You might know them as Highland cattle, but the locals call them hairy coos. These fluffy gentle giants are one of the main reasons to go to the Highlands — you’ll often see them in paddocks as you drive throughout the Highlands. Often, tourists will stop to have a pat and a photo with them, since they have a reputation for being as friendly as they are cute.
There are some tours through the Highlands that actually include a meet and greet with the local hairy coos, which come in a range of colors.
4 Check Out The Village Of Wick
There are several towns and villages that you’ll want to check out when you’re in the Scottish Highlands. One of the most underrated is Wick, a former herring town with a rich history. Check out the local museum which showcases the story of the town, as well as the world’s shortest street.
If you happen to be in Wick in winter, it is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. Known as “Merry Dancers” to locals, the lights can be seen clearly here without being blocked by floods of spectators.
3 See The Famous Eilean Donan Castle
One of the most famous castles in Scotland, Eilean Donan should definitely be on your Highland bucket list. Located on its own island overlooking the Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan Castle is a sight that will leave you in awe. It is surrounded by three great sea lochs and the magical mountains of Kintail and, honestly, is the perfect place for a picture.
Inside the castle, you’ll learn all about its intriguing history. Alexander II established Eilean Donan in the 13th century as protection against Viking invaders from Scandinavia.
2 Soak Up The History At The Culloden Battlefield
The Highlands is a paradise for any lover of history. One of the most historically significant spots is Culloden Battlefield—the site of the last Jacobite Rising. In 1746, those who wanted to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne, known as Jacobite supporters, fought the troops representing the Duke of Cumberland. In less than one hour, 1,500 men lost their lives.
While visiting the battlefield, you can see the various artifacts displayed in the Visitor’s Center and pay your respects at the gravestones of the clansmen who gave their lives to the Jacobite cause.
1 Explore Smoo Cave
Natural wonders are to be found at every turn in the Highlands, and Smoo Cave is no exception. Set in the limestone cliffs on the northwestern coast close to Durness, the cave is one of the biggest sea caves in Britain and features an underground lake and waterfall. It’s definitely worth exploring!
The cave is free to enter and can be explored either by boat or on foot. But the best way to go about it is to join a guided tour. These operate during the warmer months between April and September.