The Scottish Highlands (Scottish Gaelic: A' Ghàidhealtachd, "the place of the Gaels") is the rugged northern and north-western portion of Scotland. This is the Scotland conjured up by visions of tartan, kilts, Bonnie Prince Charlie and all.
Cities, towns and villages
- 2 Aviemore (Gaelic: An Aghaidh Mhòr)
- 3 Campbeltown (Gaelic: Ceann Loch Chille Chiarain or Ceann Locha)
- 4 Dunoon (Gaelic: Dùn Omhain)
- 5 Fort William (Gaelic: An Gearasdan)
- 6 Inveraray (Gaelic: Inbhir Aora)
- 7 Mallaig (Gaelic: Malaig)
- 8 Oban (Gaelic: An t-Òban)
- 9 Thurso (Gaelic: Inbhir Theòrsa)
The Scottish Highlands contains some of Europe's most extensive wilderness areas, some of which have been proclaimed as National Parks:
- 1 Ben Nevis (Gaelic: Beinn Nibheis) – Scotland's tallest mountain
- 2 Cairngorms National Park (Gaelic: Pàirc Nàiseanta a' Mhonaidh Ruaidh) – Scotland's largest National Park
- 3 Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (Gaelic: Pàirc Nàiseanta Loch Laomainn is nan Tròisichean) – Scotland's first National Park
- 4 Loch Lomond (Gaelic: Loch Laomainn)
- 5 Loch Ness (Gaelic: Loch Nis)
- 6 Black Isle (Gaelic: an t-Eilean Dubh) – a peninsula north of Inverness linked to the city by the Kessock Bridge
English is predominant everywhere in the Scottish Highlands. Scottish Gaelic is spoken by a small minority of locals, especially in the west, but all of them speak English as well. Some road signs are bilingual, but Gaelic is less obvious here than Skye and the Outer Hebrides.
The main airport serving the Scottish Highland region is Inverness Airport (INV IATA), with scheduled flights from locations around Scotland and England as well as international scheduled flights from Amsterdam, Dublin and Düsseldorf. Served by FlyBe (both their own flights and flight operated on behalf of Scottish based airline Loganair to Kirkwall, Sumburgh and a few Western Isles), Easyjet and some seasonal charter flights. It is sited between Nairn and Inverness and accessible from the Inverness-Aberdeen road. Limited charter services fly out from this airport.
There are smaller airports within the Scottish Highlands at Campbeltown and Oban that offer scheduled service from connecting flights into Glasgow; as well as Wick Airport which offers connecting flights from Edinburgh Airport and Stornoway Airport that can be reached from scheduled services from Aberdeen Airport.
Scotrail offers services from Glasgow and Edinburgh (via Perth) and Edinburgh (via Aberdeen) north towards Inverness several times a day. The West Highland Railway runs from Glasgow's Queen Street Station to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig. There is also the Caledonian Sleeper from London's Euston Station to/from Fort William and Inverness via Edinburgh. This overnight service must be booked in advance. Passengers heading for Fort William in the seated carriage must change carriages at Edinburgh Waverley.
Scottish Citylink offers a relatively frequent service to many parts of the Highlands from Glasgow, Perth and Inverness. West Coast Motors offers bus services throughout the Argyll and Bute region as well as buses from Glasgow to Campbeltown and Oban. Stagecoach offers services across the Highlands. National Express and Megabus run buses from England.
There are numerous roads from the Central Scotland region into the Scottish Highlands. One of the most scenic involves the drive along Loch Lomond, out to Oban then north to Fort William and along Loch Ness to Inverness.
Inverness can be reached from the south by the A9 from the south (Perth & M90 from Edinburgh, Glasgow) and from Aberdeen, 110 miles by the A96 road. The A82 reaches Inverness from the south-west, Loch Ness, Fort William and eventually to Skye. None of the roads to Inverness are entirely dual-carriageway. The A9 continues to Thurso on the extreme north coast of the Scottish mainland.
Scottish Citylink, West Coast Motors and Stagecoach should help to get you moving around the region if you are not in a car. Air service means connections in Glasgow while there are only a few train lines through the region, notably the West Highland Railway. There are two scenic lines: to Thurso and Wick, and to Kyle of Lochalsh.
Many of the roads, especially in the more remote areas of the North West are single track with passing places. Driving there is a pleasure.
Hitchhiking is a good way to get around in the Highlands, with up to one in ten cars stopping for hitchhikers, but has two significant downsides. First, the road network is quite sparse in places. Also, many of the country roads that do exist have very low traffic density.
- Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie - is one of the most recognized castles in the world. It has appeared in many films including "Highlander" and James Bond film "The World Is Not Enough"
- Dunrobin Castle, Golspie - Gorgeous castle with fantastic exterior, gardens and falconry demonstrations from 11am and 2pm every day. About an hour and a half north of Inverness. Adults £8.00, children £5.00 OAP's and students £7.00 for castle and gardens. It should be noted that there are no falconry demonstrations on Sundays.
- Applecross - See the views from Scotland's highest mountain road on the way to Applecross at about 2000 ft! Isolated peninsula known for its rugged beauty. Seal trips with Calum's at Plockton guarantees seals on your excursion or your money back. Not far from Kyle of Lochalsh area.
- Inverewe Gardens, near Gairloch - Lovely National Trust For Scotland garden, an hour north of Kyle of Lochalsh. Wonderful NTS Gardens that take full advantage of the Gulf Stream to grow tropical plants at this very un-tropical latitude.
- Cape Wrath, north-west of Durness - the extreme north-west point of Scotland. It can be reached either by a long walk or by a ferry followed by a minibus along a road unconnected with any other.
- Loch Maree (correct spelling), between Gairloch and Torridon - possibly the finest inland loch in the Scottish mainland, surrounded by peaks of Torridonian Sandstone.
- Sandwood Bay, near Kinlochbervie - reckoned by Undiscovered Scotland to be the best beach in Great Britain.
- The Summer Isles - an archipelago of small islands near Achiltibuie
- Handa Island - wonderful bird reserve north of Kylestrome. Headware is advised in the breeding season as skuas are quite aggressive.
A mountain above 3000 feet is called a Munro, and a mountain between 2500 and 3000 feet is called a Corbett.
There are far too many mountains in Scotland to cover them all here. Here are some popular mountains by group (pronunciations of difficult names in italics):
- Ben Hope
- Ben Loyal
- Ben Stack - neither particularly high nor well known but a little gem.
Northern Torridonian mountains
Mountains of Torridonian sandstone north of Ullapool.
- Quinag - An easy Corbett for beginners as it's possible to start well up from the main road south from Kylescu.
- Suilven - easier than it looks but its distance from roads makes it a challenge.
- Cul Mor
- Cul Beag
- Stac Pollaidh (pron. "Stack Polly") - Less than a Corbett but with an outstanding shape and rock ridge -unfortunately much eroded because of its proximity to the road.
- An Teallach (pron. "An Tyallach") - a fairly hard ridge walk above Little Loch Broom.
- Slioch - on the 'non-road' side of Loch Maree.
- Bein Eigh - above the Loch Maree road and much of the road from Kinlochewe to Torridon.
- Liathach (pron. "Lee-a-hach") - above the village of Torridon.
- Beinn Aligin - above the minor road from Torridon to the Aligins and Lower Diabaig.
- Bein Bhann - otherwise known as the Applecross mountains.
Glencoe and Fort William
- Ben Nevis - the highest start from the distillery on the road north.
- The Mamores - a picturesque group of numerous Munroes between Glen Nevis and Kinlochleven.
- Aonach Eagach (pron. "Annach Eegach") - a superb ridge above Glencoe.
- The three sisters of Glencoe - shapely peaks on the other side of the glen.
A range second only in height to the Nevis range, located east of the A9. There is a railway up Cairn Gorm (which is not the highest). However you make the height, it's relatively easy to walk more peaks, with excellent views. It is the only area in the UK where wild reindeer can be seen - re-introduced from Scandinavia after becoming extinct in Scotland. Red squirrels are also to be seen in the remains of the old Caledonian Pine Forests.
- Ben Macdhui
- Lairig Ghru - not a mountain but probably the most spectacular mountain pass in the UK - making a fine and well known walk.
- Hike in the Torridon mountains.
- The Cairngorms National Park - located within the heart of the Grampian Mountains
- Try cycling the highlands.
- Take the train on the West Highland Railway.
Try hiking one of the long distance footpaths that cross the Highlands:
- The West Highland Way
- The Speyside Way
- The Great Glen Way, a 73 mile (118 kilometre) hike between Fort William and Inverness. This route can also be cycled.
- Walk up Ben Nevis.
- Scramble up Ben Nevis by the Ledge Route and the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.
The eating opportunities can be more restricted away from the towns, and some places may take last orders at 8pm or even earlier, so it may be worth planning ahead where you are going to eat.
There are a few breweries and several whisky distilleries in the Highlands.
The remoteness of most of this region will mean that accommodation could be scarce: you may want to try bed & breakfasts. Only a few of the hotels are part of a chain, and many villages have only a single hotel. As the area can be popular in summer, you should book ahead, and for the best choice plan your visit a few months in advance.