This is the sign to book that Scottish Highlands holiday!
Have you ever dreamt of a getaway that’s filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, rich history, and a sense of enchantment at every corner? If so, you may want to plan a trip to the Scottish Highlands — a destination that truly has it all. From towering mountains and vast lochs to charming villages and medieval castles, the Scottish Highlands is a world of its own.
In this post, I will take you on a journey through 10 must-visit places for the ultimate Scottish Highlands holiday. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, the Scottish Highlands promises to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t soon forget.
So buckle up, put on your hiking boots (or posh Wellies!), and get ready to explore this enchanting corner of the world!
*This post contains affiliate links, so I may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!
10 Must-Visit Places In the Scottish Highlands
Ah, Scotland — As soon as I stepped foot in this beautiful country, I was in love!
Having visited during the winter months of January 2019 for a family gathering, the chill of the air didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and appreciation for what Scottish Highlands had to offer. From its sweeping landscapes to its delightful culture, the Highlands is definitely one of the most unique places I have ever visited.
And here are the 10 reasons why!
#1: Isle of Skye
Best for: Outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and photographers who want to explore Scotland’s stunning landscapes, rugged coastlines, and picturesque fishing villages.
Nestled in the Inner Hebrides, northwest of the Scottish Highlands, lies the magical Isle of Skye. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, Skye lures visitors with its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife.
The island is home to charming villages, each with its own unique flair, and offers a plethora of outdoor activities to suit every taste. Keen climbers can tackle the challenging peaks of the Cuillin Range, while those seeking a more leisurely activity can visit the Fairy Pools, a serene spot of crystal-clear cascading waterfalls, that offers jaw-dropping views of the surrounding areas. Brave swimmers can even take a dip in its chilly waters to cool off from the hike — with a wetsuit of course, to keep hypothermia at bay!
Visitors can also explore the Isle of Skye by boat, hiking, or simply driving around. The Quiraing or Old Man of Storr hiking trails provide glimpses of some of Scotland’s most iconic geological features, while the Nesit Point Lighthouse offer an unforgettable view of the dramatic Skye coastline.
Those looking for a unique perspective can also experience Skye’s rugged coastline and dramatic landscapes by taking a boat trip around the island — a unique and unmissable opportunity to soak in the beauty of Scotland’s natural wonder.
All in all, whether you’re an adventurer or a nature lover, the Isle of Skye promises an unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever.
Take a day trip from Inverness to the Isle of Skye and Fairy Pools
Or: Discover the breathtaking beauty of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye with a 3-day tour starting from Edinburgh
#2: Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
Best for: Those who want to learn about Scotland’s history and legends, and for families who want to enjoy a boat cruise on a world-famous loch
Nestled in the dense forests of the Scottish Highlands is the legendary Loch Ness — a vast, mysterious body of water that has fascinated the world for centuries. Surrounded by rolling hills and with no signs of human activity for miles (bar the tourists), Loch Ness embodies a sense of mystique that has captured the imagination of countless travellers.
The loch is also home to one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, the Urquhart Castle. The ruins of this 1,000-year-old ancient fortress are a testament to the battles, invasions, and siege attempts that raged here for centuries, making it a fascinating destination for history buffs. From the castle’s walls (or rather Grant Tower), visitors can take in the breathtaking views of Loch Ness that stretch out into the horizon. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the legendary creature Nessie said to reside in the depths of the loch.
A visit to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle is not just a must-see for any traveller exploring the Scottish Highlands but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the natural beauty and rich history of Scotland’s iconic sites.
Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness by embarking on a boat tour from Clansman Harbour to Urquhart Castle and back, revelling in the breathtaking views
#3: Glenfinnan Viaduct
Best for: Harry Potter fans and railway enthusiasts who want to cross one of the most iconic viaducts in the world
Perched high atop a hill in the Scottish Highlands lies the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a majestic feat of engineering that has enchanted visitors with its sheer beauty since its opening in 1901. Its graceful curves and sweeping arches stand against a backdrop of (at times snow-capped) mountains, creating one of Scotland’s most arresting views, while the lush valley below is an ideal spot to admire its grandeur.
As you take in the breathtaking scenery, you can also reflect on the historical importance of this impressive structure. Built to carry passengers along the West Highland Line, it was instrumental in connecting people and communities across Scotland for over 100 years. Recently, it became a pop culture icon after being featured in several movies and TV shows, most notably Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.
If you’re looking for an awe-inspiring destination on your next trip to the Scottish Highlands, then look no further than Glenfinnan Viaduct — a marvel that will leave even the most experienced travellers dazzled by its captivating beauty and grandeur.
Grab a seat on this 2-Day Highlands tour with Hogwarts Express (from Edinburgh)
Best for: Outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and tranquillity, and those interested in exploring Scotland’s rich history and culture.
Glencoe is a must-visit destination for any traveller seeking to explore the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. With its challenging peaks, rolling hills, and the tranquil valley stretching out below, Glencoe boasts breathtaking scenery that will leave you spellbound.
But this magnificent landscape holds much more than meets the eye — it hides a rich cultural history that goes back centuries:
- One place to visit in Glencoe to learn more about its history is the Glencoe Visitor Centre. Here, visitors can explore interactive exhibits that delve into the history and culture of the area, including the infamous Massacre of Glencoe. The centre also offers guided walks and talks that provide visitors with an insight into the stunning natural environment and the impact that it has had on the local community.
- Additionally, the nearby Glencoe Folk Museum is also worth a visit, as it offers a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of the local people across the ages.
So take some time to explore this beautiful area and uncover its (at times tragic) history through monuments from Highland clan battles and ancient burial sites.
All in all, Glencoe offers diverse experiences that cater to any type of traveller, making it a must-visit destination on any Scottish Highlands holiday.
Jump on a bus that takes you from Edinburgh, all the way to Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands!
#5: Cairngorms National Park
Best for: Outdoor adventurers who want to go hiking, skiing, wildlife watching, and exploring some of the most diverse landscapes in Scotland
Cairngorms National Park is the perfect destination for travellers looking to immerse themselves in the natural grandeur of the Scottish Highlands. From its awe-inspiring mountain peaks and glacial valleys to its lush forests and rolling hills, this stunning landscape provides breathtaking vistas no matter where you look.
Whether you’re looking for a tranquil walk through vast open meadows or an adrenaline-pumping ski run down a nearby slope, Cairngorms has something for everyone.
Its unspoiled beauty also makes it one of the best places in Scotland to observe the unique natural wildlife that inhabits the area. So, get your camera ready – you’ll be sure to capture some truly unique moments as you explore this remarkable national park!
Take a journey from Inverness to experience the wilderness of Cairngorms National Park and indulge in a whisky tour!
#6: Eilean Donan Castle
Best for: History buffs and castle enthusiasts who want to explore one of the most iconic castles in Scotland, located on a small tidal island
Eilean Donan Castle is one of Scotland’s most iconic and captivating historical monuments. Located on a picturesque small tidal island where three sea lochs meet, surrounded by stunning mountains, the majestic landmark, built in the 13th century as a fortress to protect local clans, serves as an inspiring reminder of Scotland’s turbulent past.
Visitors can visit the castle and its exhibitions, and learn about its history (see opening hours here), or for an even more mesmerizing Scottish Highlands experience, add nearby attractions Loch Duich or Kintail to their itinerary to fully capture the essence and beauty of this extraordinary corner of Scotland.
Embark on a tour from Inverness to explore the picturesque Isle of Skye and the stunning Eilean Donan Castle!
Best for: History enthusiasts who want to learn about the famous Battle of Culloden and visit the site of the last battle fought on British soil.
When it comes to Scotland’s heritage, few places are as deeply rooted in history and emotion as Culloden Battlefield. Located a few miles east of Inverness, the site marks the place where the last major battle on British soil was fought in 1746, where thousands of Jacobite warriors clashed with government troops.
Today, Culloden Battlefield is preserved as a memorial to the fallen soldiers. Visitors can explore the moorland and take in its atmosphere of tragedy and loss, or view exhibits and artefacts at the nearby visitor centre (opening hours here) that offer further insight into this historic event.
Take a Glen Affric, Culloden and Clava Cairns Tour from Inverness
Or: Go all out on a 4-Day Outlander Trail From Edinburgh!
#8: Fort William & Ben Nevis
Best for: Mountain climbers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those who want to enjoy the stunning views of Scotland’s highest mountain
For those seeking a true Scottish Highlands adventure, Fort William and Ben Nevis are must-visit destinations. The awe-inspiring natural landscapes are simply breathtaking, with winding hillsides and shimmering lochs that are a photographer’s eldorado. With their soaring peaks and rolling hills, the area is a paradise for hikers and trekkers, who can explore the stunning countryside dotted with pine forests, wildflowers, and an abundance of wildlife. Even less adventurous travellers will find it hard not to be captivated by these stunning locations.
But the natural beauty is just the beginning – Fort William and Ben Nevis offer an abundance of experiences to thrill every kind of traveller. Visitors can learn about the area’s rich history, from ancient castles to impressive monuments, and sample the area’s whiskey on a distillery tour. The charming town of Fort William offers a taste of Scottish culture, complete with quaint shops, restaurants, and lively bars showcasing live traditional music.
And if that’s not enough, the magnificent West Highland Line railway, which connects Fort William to Glasgow, offers a spectacular journey through some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery in the world.
Go Seal Spotting at Fort William!
Best for: Foodies and those who want to learn more about Scottish culture and traditions, with a wealth of seafood restaurants, whisky distilleries, and cultural events
Nestled in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Oban is a charming seaside town that is a must-visit destination for any traveller seeking a perfect Scottish holiday. Known as the “Gateway to the Isles”, Oban boasts a colourful history that has long made it a hub for trade and commerce. Today, the town offers a unique mix of traditional Scottish culture, stunning natural beauty, and culinary gems.
The charm of Oban lies in its picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets, adorned with historic buildings and charming shops, enchanting visitors with its quaint and unique character. Along the harbour, visitors can soak up the vibrant atmosphere of a bustling port, dotted with colourful fishing boats, creating an unforgettable experience.
Oban is also a veritable paradise for foodies, with its abundance of fresh seafood caught daily from its pristine waters and prepared by talented chefs and its locally distilled whiskey that expertly captures the essence of the area’s rich history and culture.
Whether you’re looking to relax and soak up the vibrant local culture, or immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Scottish Highlands, Oban is the perfect destination for a truly unforgettable holiday.
Go On a Historical Tour of Oban with a Seafood Lunch
Or: Opt for a 4-Day Tour of Islay and The Whisky Coast, including Oban, from Edinburgh
#10: John O’Groats
Best for: Those who want to experience the thrill of being at the northernmost point of the UK mainland, with stunning views of the North Sea and a range of outdoor activities to try.
Located at the northernmost point of Scotland, John O’Groats is a small coastal village that offers visitors breathtaking scenery and unforgettable experiences. This historic landmark has gained popularity over the years due to its significant geographical location, as well as some well deserved TLC it received after being named Scotland’s most dismal town.
Luckily the town has since been transformed into a destination befitting its position on the historic “Land’s End to John o’ Groats” route — a scenic route that stretches 874 miles across the United Kingdom, connecting the southwesternmost point of England, Land’s End, to the northernmost point of Scotland, John o’ Groats. It has become a popular destination for cyclists and ramblers alike as they attempt to conquer this historic path and take in some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK including wild moorlands, rugged coasts and quaint villages.
Visitors flock here to explore its dramatic coastline and witness some of Scotland’s incredible wildlife, including seals, whales, and puffins. Known as the “end of the road”, John O’Groats also offers tourists a chance to experience a unique part of Scotland that provides stunning views of the neighbouring archipelago of Orkney Islands, where visitors can witness ancient Neolithic ruins, and abandoned villages and experience unrivaled natural beauty.
Embark on a John O’Groats and the Far North Tour from Inverness
FAQs | Scottish Highlands Holiday
Is It Worth Going to Scottish Highlands?
Absolutely! The Scottish Highlands offer some of the most stunning scenery and rich experiences that anyone could ask for. From the rolling hills, crystal clear lakes, ancient ruins, and vibrant culture, the Scottish Highlands is a destination that should definitely be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
How Many Days Do You Need In the Scottish Highlands?
The number of days needed to fully experience the Scottish Highlands depends on what activities and places you want to see. However, to get a decent taste of this wondrous region, at least a week is recommended.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Scottish Highlands?
The summer months (June to August) are the most popular, as the weather is generally warm and dry. However, the shoulder seasons (April to May and September to October) are also great times to visit, with fewer crowds and beautiful autumn colours.
What Is the Best Way to Explore the Scottish Highlands?
The best way to explore the Scottish Highlands is by car, as it provides the most flexibility and access to remote areas. However, there are also tours available for those who prefer not to drive. Another popular way to explore the Highlands is by hiking, as there are many trails that lead to incredible natural wonders.
Is It Necessary to Rent a Car to Explore the Scottish Highlands?
While it’s possible to explore the Scottish Highlands without a car, renting a car is recommended as public transport options can be limited, and many of the best attractions are situated in remote areas that are best accessed by car.
What Kind of Clothes Should I Pack for a Scottish Highlands Holiday?
Even in the summer months, temperatures can be cooler than expected, particularly in the evenings. Pack warm and waterproof clothing, with layers that can be easily removed if the weather warms up.
Visiting Scotland’s iconic Highlands is a timeless and wondrous experience, one sure to satisfy even the most daring and ambitious of adventurers. From hikes and swims in the deepest glens of Glencoe, to moonlit tours through Eilean Donan Castle, immerse yourself in all that Scotland has to offer on your ultimate Scottish Highlands holiday. Whether you are looking for romantic sites or awe-inspiring hikes, there’s something for everyone at these must-visit locations!
With breathtaking views at every turn and infinite memories awaiting your discovery, make time to explore the rich cultural heritage and unconquerable nature of Scotland’s Highlands. Make sure you don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; the perfect Scottish Highlands holiday awaits!
Best of Scottish Highlands [Mapped]
Looking for more UK inspiration?
- If rich history and stunning natural land- and sea-scapes are your thing, why not check out the gem of Falmouth, Cornwall at the other end of the country?
LIKE THIS POST? SHARING IS CARING!