Heading to the United Kingdom and looking for inspiration in the form of the best places to visit in Scotland’s highlands? Well, you’ve come to the right place – and even better, I’ve got 25 epic reasons why you need to go to the Highlands of Scotland now.
In case you are somehow sitting on the fence — you won’t be by the time we finish here!
An incredible escape northwards to the mythic landscapes of the Highlands. An untamed land of enchanting solitude filled with rugged mountain ranges, unexpectedly beautiful coastline, and windswept islands. Castles are another hugely significant location in Scotland, and something that almost all Scotland tours will include.
Of course, there is also a shy monster, whiskey, animals, outdoor pursuits, and some amiable people – just be prepared for the most changeable weather you have ever experienced. Oh Scotland, you do spoil me so.
#1. Glen Finnan Viaduct
One of the most stunning viaducts in the world – An absolute must-see! It is now most famous thanks to its role in the Harry Potter films the Hogwarts Express was seen calling at Glenfinnan! Not the first location on this list to be famous due to its role in movies set in Scotland. All aboard!
#2. Urquhart Castle
On the atmospheric banks of Loch Ness, you’ll find the ruins of Urquhart Castle. On a peninsula out over the water sit the crumbling walls of this 1000-year-old castle, battled over by clans in the Middle Ages, abandoned and partially destroyed in the 17th century.
Now it’s merely a romantic spot at one of Scotland’s most picturesque locations.
Recently-built paths make the castle easy to navigate, and you can climb to the top of Grant Tower to get incredible views across the water. Try and come here late in the day so you can enjoy the golden afternoon light or the setting sun.
#3. Eilean Donan Castle
The most recognized and photographed castle in Scotland. An icon of Scotland found on shortbread tins and calendars the world over!
Built on its own little island, overlooking the mythical Skye, it is here that three great sea-lochs meet, creating a truly breathtaking setting!
#4. Faskally Woods
The Highlands of Scotland are (justifiably) famous for their craggy mountains and sweeping views, but they also have some gorgeous woods and glens.
Near the bustling town of Pitlochry, you’ll find these rich woodlands on the banks of Loch Dunmore. While the layout was man made in the 19th century, the species and wildlife are all Mother Nature’s. It was once known as the ‘foresters’ classroom’ for the opportunities for learning amidst the 200 species of trees.
In autumn, things here get even more magical and beautiful with The Enchanted Forest sound and light show. This transforms the woods into a veritable fairyland full of bright colors and ethereal music. We’d recommend spending a couple of days in Pitlochry, and this is a detour worth making.
#5. Loch Ness
The largest lake in Scotland, this loch needs no introduction. Made famous for its monster that lurks within, no visit to the Highlands would be complete without a visit to her murky shores. Say hi to Nessie!
For a more extreme visit, why not consider discovering Scotland’s iconic lochs at your own pace with scenic kayaking excursions along the Great Glen Canoe Trail.
A 22-mile trail made up of the four main lochs (Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Ness and Loch Dochfour) the Caledonian Canal system is a fun and adventurous day out for serious paddlers and myth busters alike. Whether you’re looking to beat the salmon upstream or searching for the UK’s most infamous local legend, this thrilling activity is for you!
#6. House of Bruar and Falls of Bruar
OK, we know it’s odd to include what is essentially a service station on our list of places to visit in the Scottish Highlands, but this is no ordinary service station. Set among the gentle slopes of Perthshire, House of Bruar showcases the finest Scottish produce and products in its vast complex off the A9.
You can enjoy lobster and chips at the fish and chip shop, tea and shortbread at the café, stock up on haggis and whiskey in the Food Hall and Drinks Shop, and even buy own-brand clothing.
If you need a better excuse to encourage doubtful travel companions, there’s the nearby trail to the Falls of Bruar. It’s a 2km walk to the cascading waters through verdant foliage and mysterious woods. It’s particularly beautiful in autumn when the leaves are turning golden.
After this 4-km round walk, you’ll definitely deserve a treat back in the Food Hall! This is the perfect road trip stop on your way from Edinburgh to the Highlands (and back again!).
Inverness, a thriving city that offers a wide variety of things to do and see from shopping and culture to eating and drinking.
The old town is beautiful and is located at a highlands crossroad meaning you’ll probably pass through at some point. Be sure to stay a while!
#8. Cairngorms National Park
This is a bit of a cheat on our part, as the Cairngorms National Park actually covers over 4000-square-kilometers, so it includes lots of different places to visit! Situated in the northeast of Scotland, it’s a dream location for lovers of the great outdoors. There are tons of activities to enjoy, from hardcore climbs, mountain biking, white-water rafting, and canoeing, to relaxing walks.
The landscape here is endlessly fascinating. There’s a huge area of plateaux with domed summits, rock tors, and granite cliffs. The Insh Marshes are also home to lots of species of birds, while two of Scotland’s Great Trails go through here. TV or movie buffs might recognize backdrops from The Crown, Mary Queen of Scots, and the 2020 James Bond film (so now you’ll have to visit here and the Skyfall location to complete the set!).
There’s even a brewery to round off your trip!
#9. Glen Roy
The Glen Roy National Nature Reserve, famed for its ‘Parallel Roads’ that slash through the landscape. These straight, precise lines baffled scientists for so long, including Charles Darwin, and are evidence of a long-gone glacial lake.
Woodland and nature still reign supreme in this tucked-away valley. A true gem that is largely undiscovered by tourists!
#10. Luskentyre Beach
Lots of Scots you meet will tell you that the Highlands has the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s easy to laugh them off, until you visit places like Luskentyre Beach on the island of Harris.
Vast swathes of white sand beaches, cobalt blue waters, soft hills in the background – it’s absolute perfection. If you visit on a sunny day, you can hardly believe you’re in Scotland.
Because it’s relatively isolated, there is very little disturbance here. You feel totally serene and unplugged from everything. Take off your shoes and socks to tiptoe across the smooth sands and dip a toe or two into the water – the freezing temperatures will remind you that you’re definitely still in Scotland!
It’s a special place in a special country.
#11. Castle Stalker
This island castle’s picturesque placement, standing tall on a bewitching island set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains, has made it something of a cliché image of the Highlands.
But not to fear, Castle Stalker is entirely authentic and is one of the best-preserved medieval tower-houses in Scotland. Marvel in its splendor!
Just another reason why you need to go to these must-see places in Scotland Highlands.
#12. Oban, the Gateway to the Islands
This resort town on the west coast of Scotland is where many ferries out to the islands depart – hence the name ‘the Gateway to the Islands’. But if you’re heading out to the islands, we’d definitely recommend not rushing through Oban.
It’s a colorful town with a rich Gaelic culture; you could easily base yourself here while taking day trips to the islands and the nearby Western Highlands.
It’s a great town to explore on foot, so you can spend time strolling the picturesque streets around the bay and visiting the independent galleries and shops. Enjoy a spectacular sunset from nearby Dunollie Castle ruins then end your day with a local whiskey.
#13. Ben Nevis
The highest mountain in the British Isles standing at 1,346 meters – so naturally, no list of best places to visit in Scotland highlands would be complete without it.
An iconic peak soaring over Fort Williams, if the weather allows be sure to try to climb her lofty heights! I mean…I’ve only ever seen it covered in clouds, but you might have better luck!
#14. Bag A Munro Or Two
We’ve already spoken about glorious Ben Nevis, but it’s just one of many ‘Munros’ in Scotland – mountains over 3000 feet. ‘Bagging’ Munros is something of a sport among the most hardened mountaineers, where you try to climb every single one of the 282 Munros.
Now, we’re not suggesting you do that, but if you have the time and the inclination (and it’s not pouring), why not try climbing one?
The Carinwell and Carn Aosda are among the easiest, with good tracks and minimal ascent. Lots of ski slopes also lie here, so while the views are excellent, the ski developments are a bit of an eyesore. Ben Chonzie is in the Southern Highlands and also has outstanding tracks to use.
Unfairly seen as the ‘most boring’ Munro, the Lochside track is very pleasant, and there can be beautiful views on a non-misty day.
#15. Highland Cows
What could be more iconic than Highland Cows (pronounced Coo’s in the local dialect!). These lumbering teddy bears dot the landscape, so be sure to pull over and appreciate them! It would be rude not too right!
Any more questions as to why you need to go to the Highlands of Scotland
Ask a staunch Scot about Culloden, and you’re sure to get an earful (in the nicest way possible!). It was one of the most dramatic battles in Scottish history when in 1742, Jacobite supporters fought to restore the Stuart monarchy. One thousand five hundred men died in an hour — and the fight came to nothing.
In the place where this once happened is a sensitive memorial and Visitor Centre, a place where people can come to learn more about Scottish history and where headstones mark the fallen. It’s a totally immersive and interactive experience that gives you a greater understanding of this proud country’s past.
#17. Glen Etive
This stunning valley is hidden just off the main highland road. You would undoubtedly pass right by this hidden paradise, but that would be a mistake.
A dead-end road, you will only find a few lost tourists down here but pack your picnic and enjoy these quiet splendor!
#18. James Bond Skyfall Location
The location that inspired my entire travel here…Bond and M head into the misty valley preparing for their final show-down at SKYFALL, Bond’s childhood manor.
While the manor does not actually exist, the iconic shots of the Aston Martin up the valley do! Check out my separate post for the exact location!
#19. Glen Coe
The deep valley and towering mountains of Glen Coe are the most iconic scenery in the Highlands and something which you could hardly miss if you tried.
Carved out centuries ago by icy glaciers and volcanic explosions driving through these giants is an other-worldly experience. Given the changeable weather, multiple trips provide a distinct experience each and every time!
#20. River Lochy Falls
A tucked-away reserve just off the main road – Perfect to stretch your feet after a long drive exploring all the best places to visit in Scotland Highlands.
A silent forest envelopes you and leads you towards these picturesque falls. A perfect picnic spot that you will likely enjoy to yourself!
A thriving port town made famous as being the road to the Isles. But not to be skipped over this fascinating place has the atmosphere of a working fishing port but is also a perfect remote location to relax and unwind!
Something is always going on here!
#22. Kilchurn Castle
A ruined castle surrounded by soaring mountains and boggy marshland. At the head of Loch Awe, with the peak of Ben Cruachan visible; this was the original power base of Clan Campbell. A must-see place in the Scotland Highlands!
#23. Isle Of Skye
The mythic island of Skye, filled with an ancient landscape and a dark history. The biggest of the Scottish Isles, I have dedicated an entire Highlights of Isle of Skye post to her secrets!
Easily one of the best places to visit in Scotland Highlands, if not the absolute best. It is hard to choose a favorite – but Skye could well be it…
#24. Buchanan Castle
Castles are magical places. Once the homes of royalty, they always offer fascinating insights into how people used to live. Walking within the cool, stone walls is a way of traveling back in time to before heating, electricity, and Netflix, when survival was paramount.
As you might imagine from a country as rich in history as Scotland is, they have some pretty amazing castles. From the Big Name castles that loom above Edinburgh and Stirling to less well-known ruins in the Highlands, there are plenty of historical fortifications to explore.
If you love a castle and like to go places off the tourist trail, then we have the perfect recommendation for you: Buchanan Castle in Stirlingshire, easily one of the best things to do in Scotland. Abandoned to nature after World War II, this grand old home is still the official seat of Clan Graham, although it is more ruins than homely now. It’s a spectacularly spooky place to visit (go in daylight), but also fascinating.
We should mention here that technically it’s not a visitors’ site, but you’ll have to read more about getting to Buchanan Castle to find out how you can visit yourself.
#25. Loch Lomond
One of the first lochs before you enter the highlands proper, this tranquil lake is an ideal destination to stop and relax. Enjoy a coffee, marvel at is vista and take a walk.
You’re on holiday so enjoy it!
So now you know why you need to go to Scotland and have a comprehensive list of the best places to visit in Scotland Highlands. Stunning right. Scotland is truly like no other country on Earth. Tokyo might be weird, Lapland might be quiet, and Cuba maybe be colorful, but Scotland is wild, untamed, raw, natural beauty…
What are you waiting for — get booking those flight tickets!
Need any help? Feel free to comment below. Also check out my other Scotland posts about Freedom Camping, Skye, Hogmanay in Edinburgh and the Isle of Muck!
Staying Connected While Travelling
In today's increasingly connected world, staying online while traveling has become essential for a seamless experience. That's where eSIMs come into play, revolutionizing the way we access mobile networks during our global adventures. Say goodbye to hunting down local SIM cards at the airport; eSIMs provide instant activation the moment you land, sparing you the fortune usually spent on international roaming and allowing you to genuinely travel like a local (without getting hopelessly lost!).
With eSIMs, tasks like restaurant recommendations and reservations, up-to-the-minute public transport instructions, checking opening hours, and accessing further information become a breeze. And, of course, sharing your journey on social media is easier than ever. To stay connected wherever you roam, consider using either Airalo or Holafly. Airalo boasts the most extensive range of destinations worldwide, offering smaller data bundles tailored to your needs, while Holafly provides unlimited data packages and fantastic EU data deals.
So why wait? Embrace the future of travel connectivity with eSIMs and make your next journey effortlessly smooth.
Further Things To Consider Before Any Adventure
Now you're all set and prepared to explore our big wide world, why not sort out everything else out all in one go? If necessary for your travel plans make sure you have brought proper travel insurance, protected your privacy by getting a secure VPN, compared all the top hotel booking sites to find just what you're after, reserved an unbeatable rental car price and - of course - booked the best flight deals!
Or maybe just forget it all and go for a last-minute cruise or effortless tour instead?
Many budget travelers (including me) indulge in worldwide airport lounge access, so we can experience luxury while still slumming it in economy. Naturally, we would never leave home without a more general travel guide since we couldn’t possibly cover everything here!
Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your own path and don't forget to share your best inspiration stories with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...I'd love to hear from you!