A few weeks ago I visited the Scottish Highlands and with their tranquil lochs, towering mountains and incredible wildlife they are a unique place to visit. So here’s a handy guide of everything I learnt whilst there.
The region defined as the Highlands spans an area of 30, 000 km² and contains the Cairnogorms National Park and the Ben Nevis mountain range. The area is very remote and peaceful making this a completely different kind of trip but the perfect place to escape life’s constant rush and fully wind down.
Places of Interest
- Inverness – towards the northern tip of the Highlands the city of Inverness is bursting with sights to discover including the castle and the port. Here you can catch a boat out into the surrounding waters of the Moray Firth and see where the River Ness flows into the sea. There’s also plenty of time to go shopping whilst appreciating the surrounding backdrop of towering mountains. The city also has an airport making it easy to travel to and start your Highland adventure. History is rife throughout the area – the Culloden battlefield is just round the corner, where many Jacobite uprisings took place
- Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in Britain standing proud at a height of 4,000 feet. And the surrounding mountains are an impressive site
- Loch Ness – of course nearly everyone has heard of Scotland’s most famous loch thanks to the famous legend of the Loch Ness monster that is rumoured to dwell in the depths of this huge expanse of walking. For keen photographers there are some perfect shots to capture, not just of the loch but also the surrounding forests and valley
- Glenfinnan viaduct – this was one of my absolute must sees on the trip and the visit did not disappoint despite it being a slightly rainy day, hence the slightly misty picture below! The bridge became famous after being the shooting location as the Hogwarts Express Bridge in the Harry Potter films.
- Rural villages – dotted in the middle of nowhere are some characterful villages including Fort Augustus, Fort William and Glencoe
- Islands- the many isles surrounding the coast all have their own unique charms, from the wildlife of Skye to Tobermory’s row of rainbow houses of Mull
- Neptune’s staircase – just outside the Fort William this series of locks along the canal is quite impressive to see
Nature and Wildlife
The cast amounts of habitat mean that a whole host of nature is present in the area, some of which include:
- Red squirrels – the Scottish Highlands are one of the last few places were these cute fluffy creatures are still common, having been driven out of many other arts of the UK by the more successful and larger grey squirrels. Smaller than the greys these squirrels have fluffier tails and can be spotted throughout the forests. The shores around Loch Ness is where we most frequently spotted them
- Marine Life – a surprising amount of marine mammals are present off the coast of Scotland, particularly in the Moray Firth, with everything from bottlenose dolphins and numerous boat trips on offer you may catch a glimpse of these animals in their natural habitat
- Birds of prey – cast your eyes to the skies and see if you can catch a glimpse of a golden eagle soaring high above. Osprey, red kites and peregrine falcons have all been spotted in the area
- Red deer – if you’re lucky enough you may catch a glimpse of one of these shy mammals making its way through the forest
- Otters are another elusive creature that can be spotted on the islands off the west coast
Throughout the Highlands there are plenty of opportunities to channel your more adventurous side and get up close and personal to the impressive mountain scenery. Walking is a great way to see some of the nature and the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way both run through the area. Or for those looking for a faster way to travel there are two cycle routes – 78 and 7 to explore but be aware the terrain is very hilly but the rewarding views make the experience worthwhile! There are many outdoor activity centres throughout the region offering everything from mountaineering to white water rafting.
And of course no trip to Scotland would be complete without the mention of whisky – many distilleries are present across the Highlands, there’s even a trail to follow visiting some of the most popular sites in the area.
My top tips
- Take insect repellent – midges are present in high numbers particularly around the lochs and the bites are extremely itchy
- Talk to the locals – something you should always do whilst travelling anyway but I found the people in the Highlands to be extremely friendly and more than happy to recommend a good pub or the best route to get to somewhere
- Take snacks and drinks – the area is very remote and as a result there aren’t many refreshment stops so you will need to bring your own food particularly if your are exploring by bike or on foot
- Download any maps you may need before you leave your accommodation or stick to the old fashioned method and take paper copies – the remoteness means that you won’t be able to pick up a signal to use our data and you don’t want to end up being caught out and getting lost
- Bring a power bank – if you’re using your phone to take loads of pictures this is always helpful to make sure you don’t run out of charge
- And lastly but most importantly take a camera to capture the breathtaking views that surround you