The Scottish Highlands have got to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world. So you might be wondering what to do in the Scottish Highlands?
With huge rolling hills, dreamy scenic lochs and some of the most charming & welcoming people on earth it’s very easy to see why. The Highlands boasts a whopping area of 25,657 km2 and a population density of only 9 km2 which is on par with countries such as Russia, Chad, and Bolivia.
The perfect spot to get away for a long weekend and get away from it all.
Why You Need to Visit The Scottish Highlands
Want a place where everyone will be entertained? Look no further than the Scottish Highlands.
If you’re into meandering through the amazing architecture of old buildings, hiking through majestic mountain ranges, diving deep in local cuisine, exploring enchanted forests or camping by one of the hundreds of mist covered lochs you are going to love it here.
The Highlands is a perfect place to head to if you’re a travel photography nut. There are amazing photography opportunities everywhere you turn, from the stunning Highland Cattle to the cloud and windswept peaks of Ben Nevis you are sure to get your next Instagram snap here.
If you are after something a bit more extreme you are after the area of Lochaber in the West of the Highlands. Lochaber holds the name of ‘outdoor capital of the United Kingdom’.
Here you will find everything from, kayaking, mountain biking, ski/snowboarding, golfing, fishing, white water rafting, gorge walking and shooting just to name a few activities.
The Weather in the Scottish highlands
The weather in Scotland has been the butt of jokes for years. In truth, it does rain.. and in some places, it can rain a lot. But that is all part of the majestic and somewhat enchanted feel of the Scottish Highlands.
In the west of the Highlands gets the most rain (in Europe) with a whopping 4,577 mm annually. All this rain creates a real lush green landscape and even the odd waterfall here and there.
The best advice you can give anyone going to the Highlands would be from an old Scottish saying – ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!’
Winter in the Scottish Highlands
December through February are generally the coldest months with an average maximum temperature of around -1 to 2°C. The sunsets in the wintertime are to die for.
Beautiful reds, purples, and oranges light up the sky before disappearing and leaving the millions and millions of stars to shine brightly against the super dark night sky. When the conditions are just right it is possible to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (Or more commonly known as the Northern Lights) which can turn any night into something really special.
The highlands can usually expect around 100 days of snowfall per year and the snow sports season runs from December through to April. However, this is snow dependent so please check the conditions before heading for a snow trip to avoid disappointment.
Summer in the Scottish Highlands
The summertime in the Scottish Highlands is absolutely stunning. June through August are the warmest months with an average temperature of 19°C. (In the far west somewhere around 15°C).
Thanks to Scotland’s latitude, in summer the Highlands get a whopping 18 hours of daylight per day! Giving you all the time in the world to squeeze in all the hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, golfing you possibly can.
The Best Things to See and do in the Scottish Highlands
Hike Ben Nevis
Standing at 1,345 meters (4,411ft) above sea level Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the British Isles. Located in the Grampian Mountains Ben Nevis attracts around 100,000 climbers a year to take on its peaks.
The most common route is the Pony Track (commonly known as the Tourist Route) The Pony Track begins at Achintee just 2km south-east of Fort William. The Pony Track is around 17km and takes around 7 – 9 hours. The Pony Track is considered a moderate hill-walk, this means steep terrain, hiking boots, and good map reading skills.
More detailed information can be found here on the Walking Highlands website.
Often referred to as one of the most beautiful & spectacular places in the UK, Glen Coe is one not to be missed.
There are beautiful views of the Three Sisters of Bidean Nam Bian, & Aonach Eagach. Glen Coe is named after the River Coe which runs through the Glen and is only a short drive from the little village of Glencoe.
The village of Glencoe itself has a dark past being the site of the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. The area is absolutely stunning and a must see for anyone who likes a good view and soaking up some history.
A trip to the Highlands would not be complete without a trip to Loch Ness to hunt for the elusive ‘Loch Ness Monster’.
Loch Ness is Scotland’s second largest Loch and a huge 230 meters deep at its deepest point. (Making it Scotlands biggest Loch by volume) One of the best places to take in views of Loch Ness is from Urquhart Castle.
These beautiful ruins are formally a royal castle that has seen some of the most dramatic periods of Scottish history. A perfect spot for an afternoon of meandering, checking out some old towers, prison cells and maybe even spotting Nessie.
Eilean Donan Castle
First built in the mid 13th century Eilean Donan Castle is situated on the small tidal island of Eilean Donan. The island is located at the meeting point of Loch Duich, Loch Alsh and Loch Long and thanks to a restoration project in the 20th century is now accessible by bridge.
The castle was first built in the 13th century and rebuilt many times and now is one of the most iconic castles in Scotland featuring in James Bond – The World is Not Enough and many fashion and music video shoots. There is a visitor centre with all a gift shop, coffee shop and ticket office. Tickets are £7.50 for adults, £4.00 for children over 5 and under 5s free.
Grab a pint at The Cluanie Inn
Boasting one of the best pub views ever (we think) the Cluanie Inn is a must for any beer and outdoors enthusiast. The Cluanie Inn is situated in the valley of Glen Shiel and surrounded by 21 easily accessible & absolutely stunning Munros.
They have a range of 13 rooms to suit most budgets. The Luxury rooms boast a Jacuzzi ensuite and one even has a private sauna to wind down after a hike on those really cold winter nights! The bar has an outstanding range of wines, beers, ciders and a very impressive whiskey bar with a range of over 200 of the Highlands best single malt whiskeys!
Drive the Glen Etive detour
The Glen Etive drive is up there with the most gorgeous in the world. This 24-mile round trip is a must do for any driving and view enthusiasts alike.
The single lane track will have you on the edge of your seat as you pass through the amazing Buachaille Etive Mor.
James Bond fans might want to pretend they are in a DB9 and re enact the famous scene from the movie ‘Skyfall’ which was filmed here. Mel Gibson fans might recognize the views from the background of Braveheart.
The 24-mile round trip is defiantly worth the detour and is a perfect spot to pull up and take in the views with a picnic.
The Jacobite Steam Train journey
The Jacobite Steam Train, or as it’s more commonly referred to as ‘The Hogwarts Express’ has been called the ‘Greatest railway Journey in the world’. This journey is truly something special.
The 84-mile journey runs from Fort William to Mallaig and although the journey is only around one hour and a half long it has some real treats in store. One of which is the very impressive Glenfinnan viaduct, the viaduct has 21 arches and was made famous from its appearance in the Harry Potter films.
The Jacobite has been running cross country twice daily since the summer of 1901. This is a very popular trip and booking in advance is a must, you can get more info and book here on the West Coast Railways website.
Visit Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
Kilt Rock is an impressive 90-meter rock face on the Trotternish Peninsula. The cliff face gets in name from its striking resemblance to a pleated kilt, which it gets from the vertical basalt columns resting on the horizontal sandstone base. Some say it even resembles a tartan color.
The nearby Mealt Loch feeds the Mealt Falls. This impressive 60-meter high fall freefalls into the Sound of Raasay below. On a clear and calm day, these falls are breathtaking and you get an amazing view over to the Scottish mainland and the Isle of Lewis.
When the weather is not so good and the clouds are in you get a real mystical and enchanted feeling.