Wondering what to do in the Scottish Highlands besides spotting “Nessie”?
The Scottish Highlands is one of the most pristine and unspoiled regions of the United Kingdom and it’s a fantastic destination to travel for a bit of an adventure! Besides outdoor pursuits, wilderness camping and hillwalking, other popular things to do in the Highlands of Scotland include:
1. Explore the Prehistoric stone circle at Brodgar, the Midhowe Broch stone settlement and the Standing Stones of Stenness in the Orkney Islands.
2. Take a whisky distillery tour in Oban or the isle of Islay
3. Boat ride to the isle of Staffa to see the magnificent basalt columns and sea caves
4. Take a scenic drive through the Highland coastline
5. Day trip to isle of Lewis to the see the circular stone fort at Carloway and the beautiful beaches at Bhaltos.
6. Shop for traditional hand-woven “Harris Tweed” knitwear in the Isle of Harris
7. Walk along the scenic West Highland Way
The West Highland Way, or known locally simply as “The Way”, is one of the longest and most popular hiking routes in Scotland. The Way is a little short of 100 miles long and runs from Fort William to Milngavie (just outside of Glasgow).
Hiking the entire route takes several days (4-5 days), though you don’t have to do the whole route to enjoy the experience. The most popular section of The Way is from Inveroran to Kinlochleven, which passes through the famous “Devil’s Staircase” (the highest point along the route). Another popular section on The Way is from Balmaha to Rowardennan. Most of this section runs along the beautiful Loch Lomond, which is a popular spot for boat rides during the summer months.
The vast majority of people walk The Way during the summer (July/August), though if you want to avoid the infamous flies (midges) is best you do it in early May.
8. Tour the Culloden Battlefield Site
Culloden Battlefield is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Scottish Highlands and a must do whether you’re into history or not. Touring the battlefield and watching the film re-enactment of the Culloden battle at the visitor’s center offers an interesting (but somber) insight into highland culture, the English empire and the Jacobite uprising.
Another great thing about visiting Culloden is that it’s easily accessible from Inverness. It takes no more than 25 minutes by bus from the centre of Inverness.
9. Day tour to Loch Ness
A trip to the Scottish Highlands would not be complete without visiting the site of the mythical “Loch Ness Monster”. A tour of Loch Ness is one of the most popular things to do in the Highlands of Scotland and, while many people feel is a bit of a tourist trap, it’s totally worth visiting it if you’re staying in or around Inverness.
Whether you believe in the Loch Ness monster or not, Loch Ness is beautiful and it’s surrounded by imposing Highland mountain scenery. There are also the ruins of castle (Urquhart Castle) overlooking the lake, which offer stunning lake views.
If you’re staying in Inverness, you’ll find many tour companies offering coach tours to Loch Ness for around $20, though if you can it’s best you hire a car and drive there yourself (it only takes around 30 minutes).
Alternatively, you could catch a citylink bus or Rapson’s bus from Inverness city centre with direction to Drumnadrochit or Fort William.
10 .Walk the Highlands Ring of Steall
The Ring of Steall (Mamore range) is without question, the most spectacular hill-walk you can do in the entire Scottish Highlands. If you’re looking for a true highland hiking experience, the Ring of Steall route will not disappoint since it boast fantastic trails and impressive climbs.
Walking the Ring of Steall is truly a rewarding experience and you get to walk past ridges, waterfalls and mountain summits over 3000ft. The wire bridge crossing over Nevis Gorge is another highlight of this walk as it offers stunning views of the Steall Falls.
11. Take a nostalgic ride on an old steam train
If you’re traveling with kids or are looking for fun things to do in the Highlands of Scotland, you won’t want to miss taking a ride onboard the Strathspey Steam Railway in Aviemore.
The steam train runs between Aviemore, Boat of Garten and Broomhill and offers nice views of the Cairngorm Mountains and the River Spey along the way. Round-trip tickets cost roughly $19 and the entire trip takes a little over 90 minutes.
12. Visit Scotland’s most famous castle
Castles are a top attraction in the Highlands of Scotland and none are more acclaimed than the famous Eilean Donan Castle. This castle has appeared in many movies such as Highlander – starring Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert.
It’s not difficult to see why so many age-old movies have been filmed at the castle since Eilean Donan Castle represents the perfect example of Medieval castles. Eilean Donan is also located in what is, unarguably, the most picturesque area of Scotland.
You can visit Eilean Donan Castle anytime of the year and explore the main areas and artifacts of the castle and, of course, enjoy the magnificent views of the three lochs.
If you have access to a car, you could simply drive there and pay the $10 admission fee, or you could alternatively book a bus tour to Eilean Donan Castle with a tour operator (i.e. the Hebridean Explorer, Haggis Adventures and Timberbush Tours) from Inverness, Glasgow or Edinburgh.
13. Discover the live of a highlander back in the 1700’s
You can’t leave the Scottish Highlands without learning how people in the Highlands lived centuries back. One of the best places to go in the Highlands of Scotland for an interesting insight into traditional Highland way of live is at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore (nestled within the Cairngorms National Park).
Besides seeing old farming tools, you can wander around the folk musuem site and see old buildings such as an old-fashioned sweet shop and blackhouses.
14. Spend a few days at Rothiemurchus Estate forest
The Rothiemurchus forest is Scotland’s last remaining Caledonian Forest left in the country and one of the best places in the Scottish highlands to spot and photograph wildlife…deer, sea hawk, Scottish crossbill, capercaillie and the crested tit call this forest home.
Besides wildlife viewing, the forest is a popular destination in the Scottish Highlands to enjoy fun outdoors activities because of the Rothiemurchus Estate. This place offers a ton of outdoor activities such as camping, quad trekking, archery, jeep safaris, clay shooting, horseback riding, ranger-led walks, tubing, canoeing and pony trekking.
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