Introducing Scottish Highlands
Experience some of the world’s finest hiking and mountain biking terrain, which stretches through a varied landscape of remarkable natural beauty that was forged by retreating glaciers around 80,000 years ago. Must-visit attractions for an outdoors adventure in the Scottish Highlands, include:
Discover some of Scotland’s finest scenery in the easily accessible 1865km² Trossachs National Park. Located just 20km from Glasgow, the park marks the Highland Boundary Fault dividing the Lowlands from the Highlands.
Follow the 153km-long West Highland Way or numerous other trails on foot or bike through a diverse landscape of rolling pastureland that rises through forest and heathland to mountain peaks scattered with more than 20 lochs and 50 rivers.
Walk or cycle the wooded eastern side of Loch Lomond, Britain’s largest freshwater lake (37km long and up to 8km wide), or cruise among the loch's 30 islands. Land on the wooded shores of Inchmurrin Island and stroll the ruins of 14th century Lennox Castle.
Hike over heather-clad slopes to the summit of Ben Lomond (972m) for panoramic views over Loch Lomond, the Highlands and Lowlands. Look out for porpoises and seals in the sheltered waters of Loch Long and Loch Goil, red squirrels around Loch Lomond and red deer grazing on the mountain slopes of Ben More (1174m).
Explore a wild and unspoilt wilderness area that stretches from the Highland Boundary Fault to Gleann Mòr (the Great Glen). This vast area includes the Cairngorms, the Lochaber Hills, Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak at 1344m) and Ben Macdui (the second highest peak at 1309m).
Hike, cycle or horseback ride through the 3800km² Cairngorms National Park, Britain’s largest national park. The park is home to a diverse landscape of heather moorlands, ancient Caledonian pinewood forests, rivers, lochs and glens that are centred on the largest area of arctic mountain landscape in the UK, which includes 52 summits over 900m in height – perfect for winter skiing adventures.
Try the old cattle drovers' route of Lairig Ghru to explore the mountain massif. Hike past grazing red and roe deer and spot golden eagles, osprey and the Scottish crossbill – unique to Britain – soaring overhead. Look out for red and black grouse, pine martens, red squirrels, badgers, wildcats and otters or cast a line for salmon and trout in the rivers of the Tay, Spey, Don, Dee and Esk.
Combine the region’s scenic pleasures with Scotland’s most famous export – malt whisky. Walk or bike trails along disused railways lines on the Malt Whisky Trail or follow the Speyside Way along the banks of the Spey River to discover some of Scotland’s finest malt whisky distilleries, including Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Macallan.
In the Grampian Highlands, explore more than 70 castles along the so-called Castle Trail: discover the evocative ruins of 12th century Huntly Castle, the fairytale-like 17th century Craigievar Castle and the 13th century Fyvie Castle, a stunning example of Scottish Baronial architecture.
To the east of the Grampians lies Dunnottar Castle, a majestic ruined medieval fortress that stands upon a rocky cliff face 50m above the North Sea. To the north-east stand the elegant ruins of 12th century Elgin Cathedral, which was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt in the religious wars that plagued Britain in the mid- to late Middle Ages.
The Great Glen
Drive, hike or cycle through a magnificent scenic landscape of rugged heather-clad mountains overlooking tranquil fjord-like sea lochs that stretch 100km from Inverness on the Moray Firth to Fort William at the head of Loch Linnhe.
From Glen Nevis, hike the Pony Track on the southern route to the summit of Ben Nevis, Scotland's tallest mountain, or rock climb the 700m-high cliffs of the north face. Look out for the mythical Loch Ness monster on a cruise across the 180m-deep lake or from the shore-side crumbling ruins of Castle Urquhart.
Stroll across the windswept moor of Culloden, where the last battle on British soil was fought on 16 April 1746, ending Bonnie Prince Charlie's claim to the English throne and dream of a Scottish nation. Or hike along the Devil’s Staircase – part of the West Highland Way – into the mountain valley of Glen Coe, where in 1692 MacDonald clan members were massacred following the orders of King William III.
In Glen Nevis, ride the gondola to the summit of Ben Nevis and return on the 609m-long mountain bike track. Hike or mountain bike along the banks of the River Affric into the scenic Glen Affric, one of Scotland’s most beautiful glens and home to numerous trails that meander through ancient Caledonian pine forests, lochs, moorland and mountains.
Fly-fish for salmon from February through September, brown trout from mid-March to September and sea trout from May to early October. Examine 600 years of family heirlooms at the still-inhabited 14th century Cawdor Castle.
Beyond the Great Glen lies some of Scotland's most spectacular scenery: an empty grandeur of wild desolate moorland that endlessly rolls through remote glens, past lochs and cascading rivers to bare mountain peaks surrounded on three sides by a coastline of cliffs, rocky headlands and sandy beaches.
On foot or mountain bike, discover abandoned cottages, ruined forts, churches and one of Scotland’s most picturesque castles, the 13th century Eilean Donan Castle, perched on a tiny island at the confluence of three lochs in the Kyle of Lochalsh. Wander across the stone-arched footbridge and explore the restored ruins of one of Scotland’s most photographed castles containing a Clan MacRae war memorial and museum.
Hike along the shores of Loch Nevis, across rugged moorland and mountains on well-maintained trails to the remote, unspoilt wilderness of the Knoydart Peninsula. At the village of Inverie, relax over a pint in the Old Forge, one of Britain's most remote pubs.
Discover more hiking and cycle trails in the mountains around Torridon and Colgach and those that lead to Britain's most northerly point at Dunnet Head. Fish for brown trout and salmon in lochs Assynt and Maree.
The West Highland Way
This popular long-distance path follows a 155km-long trail from Glasgow (Milngavie) to Fort William, passing through the Trossachs, along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, through the Highland Boundary Fault Line and crosses heather moorland to the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain.
The route follows a series of historical paths including ancient droving trails, where long ago Highlanders herded sheep and cattle to market, military roads built to control the 18th century Jacobite rebellion, old coach roads and disused railway tracks.
The West Highland Railway
Hop aboard one of Scotland's most famous railway lines for one of the world’s most scenic train journeys, linking Glasgow to the west coast fishing port of Mallaig. Enjoy scenery that gets progressively more desolate as you travel north into a landscape that can otherwise only be reached by long distance hiking trails.
Along the route admire the scenic shores of Loch Lomond, Beinn Odhar Mountain (901m), the desolate Rannoch Moor, Monessie Gorge, Locheil and the remarkable 21-arch viaduct at Glenfinnan (which featured in the Harry Potter films). Then enjoy stunning views across to the Isle of Skye from the coast at Morar.