Best Things to Do in the Scottish Highlands: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Emil Backup
This post may have affiliate links, where I receive a commission if you purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure and Privacy Policy for more info.

Are you thinking about visiting the Scottish Highlands anytime soon? Here are some of the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands. These breathtaking sights and attractions will blow your mind.

Are you planning a trip to Scotland and considering a visit to the Highlands? You’re in for an extraordinary experience! The Highlands, situated in the North West of Scotland, offer untamed wilderness, verdant landscapes, gusty winds, and an air of enigma. From embarking on hikes across expansive moors and mountains to delving into the history of castles and immersing yourself in the serene beauty of vast lakes (lochs), things to do in the Scottish Highlands promise an adventure like no other.

To streamline your trip planning process, this comprehensive guide details the top 12 activities to engage in while in the Highlands. It encompasses all the must-visit landmarks and intriguing points of interest that the region boasts. However, that’s not the extent of its offerings. The guide further furnishes insightful suggestions for exploring the nearby areas and valuable recommendations for selecting the finest accommodations that the Highlands have to offer.

So, how can you ensure that you make the most of your invaluable time spent in this captivating expanse of the Highlands? Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in the Scottish Highlands.

The best things to do in the Scottish Highlands right now.
This article on the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. 

Best Places to Visit in the Scottish Highlands

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Scottish Highlands? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this enchanting vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Scottish Highlands places to visit.

Are you looking to hike amidst rugged landscapes and explore historic castles? Or would you prefer enjoying serene lochs and engaging in outdoor adventures like kayaking and wildlife spotting? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the Scottish Highlands can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the Scottish Highlands that you should know about.

1. Isle of Skye

Ah, the Isle of Skye, a place where the mountains meet the sea in a dramatic dance of natural beauty. This island is a haven for adventurers and romantics alike, offering a range of activities from hiking rugged trails to savoring local seafood delicacies. The Quiraing, a landslip on the Trotternish Ridge, is among the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands, providing one of the most iconic vistas. It’s a photographer’s dream, with towering cliffs and plateaus set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

But what sets the Isle of Skye apart are its enchanting Fairy Pools. These natural pools of crystal-clear water, set amidst a backdrop of dark Cuillin Hills, offer a magical experience. Take a dip if you dare; the water is chilly but invigorating!

Unique places in the Scottish Highlands don’t come much better than this. Whether you’re capturing the Old Man of Storr on camera or tasting the island’s exceptional whiskey, the Isle of Skye is a destination that captures the essence of the Highlands in every sense.

Rugged cliffs, serene lochs, and enchanting landscapes define the breathtaking Isle of Skye.
Rugged cliffs, serene lochs, and enchanting landscapes define the breathtaking Isle of Skye.

2. Loch Ness

Imagine cruising on a boat, the wind in your hair, as you scan the deep, dark waters of Loch Ness for a glimpse of its legendary inhabitant, Nessie. This iconic loch is not just famous for its mythical monster; it’s also one of the most stunning natural landscapes in the Highlands. Surrounded by rolling hills and dotted with quaint villages, Loch Ness offers a perfect blend of mystery and beauty.

One of the coolest activities in the Scottish Highlands has to be a visit to Urquhart Castle, perched on the banks of Loch Ness. This ancient fortress offers panoramic views of the loch and is a fantastic spot for some Nessie-watching. Don’t forget to bring your camera; you never know what might surface!

Where to go in the Scottish Highlands for a different perspective? Consider taking a kayak tour of the loch. Paddle through the calm waters, explore hidden coves, and listen to the haunting calls of local birds. It’s an experience that combines adventure, folklore, and natural beauty in a way that’s quintessentially Highland.

Mystical waters of Loch Ness mirror the allure of the Scottish Highlands.
Mystical waters of Loch Ness mirror the allure of the Scottish Highlands.

3. Ben Nevis

Standing tall at 1,345 meters, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles and a magnet for hikers, climbers, and nature enthusiasts. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you reach the summit is one of the unique things to do in the Scottish Highlands, not to mention the breathtaking views that stretch as far as the eye can see.

The trek to the top is no walk in the park, but the rewards are well worth the effort. You’ll traverse rocky terrains, cross babbling brooks, and maybe even encounter some local wildlife. Don’t forget to pack a picnic; the summit is a perfect spot for a well-deserved lunch with a view.

Best Places to go in the Scottish Highlands? Well, the summit of Ben Nevis has to be on that list. It’s not just a hike; it’s a journey through some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes you’ll ever see. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Scottish wildcat or golden eagle.

Lace up those hiking boots and set your sights on the peak. Ben Nevis is waiting to be conquered, and trust us, the experience will be one for the books.

Towering majestically, Ben Nevis reigns as the UK's highest peak, a challenge and a marvel for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Towering majestically, Ben Nevis reigns as the UK’s highest peak, a challenge and a marvel for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.

4. Culloden Battlefield

History enthusiasts, this one’s for you. The Culloden Battlefield is a poignant place that marks the end of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. As you walk the grounds, you’ll feel the weight of history beneath your feet. Interpretive panels and an excellent visitor center provide context to the battle that changed Scotland forever.

The battlefield itself is hauntingly beautiful, with its moorland and markers indicating where clans fought and fell. It’s a somber yet fascinating experience that offers a deep dive into Scottish history. You can even take a guided tour to get the full story from experts who bring the past to life.

Must-see in the Scottish Highlands? Absolutely. Culloden Battlefield is not just a field; it’s a living testament to the courage and tragedy of those who fought for their beliefs. The site also has a café where you can reflect on your visit over a cup of traditional Scottish tea.

If you’re into history or just want to understand Scotland a bit more deeply, make sure to add Culloden Battlefield to your itinerary. It’s a visit that will stay with you long after you’ve left the Highlands.

At Culloden Battlefield, the echoes of a historic clash still resonate.
At Culloden Battlefield, the echoes of a historic clash still resonate.

5. Eilean Donan Castle

Picture this: A 13th-century castle set on a small tidal island, surrounded by three sea lochs. Welcome to Eilean Donan Castle, one of the Scottish Highlands things to do, and one of the most photographed and iconic castles in Scotland. It’s like stepping into a fairy tale, complete with a stone bridge, turrets, and even the occasional bagpiper.

Inside, you’ll find period furniture, Jacobean artifacts, and an array of swords and shields that transport you back to medieval times. The castle also offers guided tours that delve into its rich history, including its role in the Jacobite risings.

What to do in the Scottish Highlands? You can’t go wrong with a visit to Eilean Donan Castle. It’s not just a feast for the eyes; it’s also a journey through Scotland’s turbulent past. And let’s not forget the stunning views from the castle walls, overlooking the confluence of Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh.

Grab your camera and your sense of wonder, because Eilean Donan Castle is a Highland gem that you won’t want to miss. Trust me, this is one for the Instagram feed and the memory books.

Exploring Culloden Battlefield is among the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands.
Exploring Culloden Battlefield is among the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands.

6. Caledonian Canal

Curious about where to visit in the Scottish Highlands for a serene journey through one of its most remarkable engineering feats? The Caledonian Canal. Stretching from Inverness to Fort William, this 60-mile waterway is a marvel of 19th-century engineering and a paradise for boaters, kayakers, and nature lovers.

Here’s the deal: You don’t have to be an experienced sailor to enjoy this. Many companies offer guided boat tours that take you through the canal’s series of locks and lochs, including the famous Loch Ness. It’s a relaxing way to see the Highlands from a different perspective, and you might even spot some local wildlife like otters and golden eagles along the way.

Where to go in the Scottish Highlands to see the majestic castles? Sailing the Caledonian Canal ranks high on the list. Imagine gliding through calm waters, surrounded by lush green hills and ancient castles. It’s a tranquil experience that lets you soak in the natural beauty of the Highlands at a leisurely pace.

Looking for a unique way to explore the Highlands? Set sail on the Caledonian Canal. It’s an experience that combines history, nature, and a touch of adventure, making it a must-do on any Highland itinerary.

The Caledonian Canal: an engineering marvel uniting Highland lochs, inviting travelers to explore its tranquil beauty.
The Caledonian Canal: an engineering marvel uniting Highland lochs, inviting travelers to explore its tranquil beauty.

7. Glencoe Valley

Imagine yourself driving through a valley where towering mountains loom on either side, and every twist and turn of the road reveals a new, breathtaking vista. Welcome to Glencoe Valley, a place that encapsulates the wild beauty of the Scottish Highlands. It’s a landscape photographer’s dream and a hiker’s paradise.

The valley is steeped in history, too. It was the site of the infamous Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Today, a visitor center provides context to this tragic event, but one of the coolest things to do in the Scottish Highlands is immersing yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds you. From the iconic Three Sisters mountains to the hidden waterfalls, there’s no shortage of awe-inspiring sights.

Best places in the Scottish Highlands? Glencoe Valley is undoubtedly one of them. It’s a place where you can truly disconnect and immerse yourself in nature. Whether you choose to hike, cycle, or simply take in the views from the comfort of your car, Glencoe offers a slice of Highland heaven that you won’t soon forget.

Pack your hiking boots and your camera, and prepare for an unforgettable journey through one of the most stunning landscapes in Scotland. Trust me, it’s among Scottish Highlands places to visit that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Discover one of the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands: Glencoe Valley. Marvel at nature's grandeur as towering peaks.
Discover one of the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands: Glencoe Valley. Marvel at nature’s grandeur as towering peaks.

8. Speyside

Are you a fan of Scotch whisky? Then a trip to Speyside is non-negotiable. Nestled in the northeastern part of the Highlands, this region is home to over half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries. Think Glenfiddich, Macallan, and Aberlour—yes, they’re all here.

Start your journey at the Speyside Cooperage, where you can witness the age-old craft of barrel-making. Then, make your way to the distilleries. Most offer tours that take you through the entire whisky-making process, from mashing and fermenting to distilling and aging. And yes, there are plenty of tasting opportunities!

Scottish Highlands attractions that you shouldn’t miss? A whisky tour in Speyside is definitely one of them. It’s not just about the drink; it’s about understanding the craft, the history, and the people behind it. Plus, the scenic drives between distilleries offer views of rolling hills and sparkling rivers that are downright intoxicating.

To add a splash of culture to your Highland adventure, don’t miss the Speyside whisky trails. It’s an experience that’s both educational and, well, a little bit spirited.

Speyside: Epicenter of Scottish whisky, nestled in Highland beauty, offering the best of both spirits and scenery.
Speyside: Epicenter of Scottish whisky, nestled in Highland beauty, offering the best of both spirits and scenery.

9. North Coast 500

Ready for the road trip of a lifetime? Buckle up and hit the North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66. This 516-mile loop starts and ends in Inverness, taking you through some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes the Highlands have to offer. From rugged coastlines and hidden beaches to quaint fishing villages and ancient ruins, this route has it all.

The journey is as much about the drive as it is about the destinations along the way. You’ll pass through the likes of Ullapool, Durness, and John o’ Groats, each offering its own unique charm and attractions. Whether it’s a seafood feast in a local pub or a hike to a secluded waterfall, there’s no shortage of ways to make this trip your own.

Cool destinations in the Scottish Highlands? The North Coast 500 is a collection of them, all wrapped up in one epic road trip. It’s a drive that invites you to take it slow, to pull over and appreciate the views, and to discover hidden gems you won’t find in any guidebook.

Rev up that engine and set your GPS. The North Coast 500 is not just a road; it’s a journey through the heart of the Highlands that you’ll remember for years to come.

Experience the best of the Scottish Highlands on the North Coast 500: a captivating route winding past rugged coasts, castles, and villages.
Experience the best of the Scottish Highlands on the North Coast 500: a captivating route winding past rugged coasts, castles, and villages.

10. Cairngorms National Park

Envision a place where ancient forests meet crystal-clear lochs, and majestic mountains dominate the skyline. Welcome to Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in the UK and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether it’s hiking, mountain biking, or simply soaking in the natural beauty, Cairngorms offers a smorgasbord of outdoor activities.

Now, you might be wondering, “What to do in the Scottish Highlands that’s different?” Well, how about snow sports? Yes, you read that right. Cairngorms is home to some of Scotland’s best ski resorts, making it a year-round destination. In the warmer months, the park transforms into a hiker’s paradise with trails that range from leisurely walks to challenging climbs.

But it’s not all about adrenaline-pumping activities. Cairngorms also offers a quieter side. Think peaceful lochs for kayaking, secluded spots for picnics, and an abundance of wildlife including red squirrels, golden eagles, and even reindeer.

Get ready to tie up those hiking boots or secure your skis in place, as a visit to Cairngorms National Park is among the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands that caters to all interests.

With mountains, lochs, and adventure, it's a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.
With mountains, lochs, and adventure, it’s a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

11. Applecross Peninsula

When you’re seeking a less-trodden path in the Highlands, look no further than the Applecross Peninsula. Accessible only by a winding, single-track road known as the Bealach na Bà, this remote area offers a slice of Highland heaven that’s far removed from the tourist trail.

Places in the Scottish Highlands often boast of their untouched beauty, but Applecross takes it to another level. Here, you’ll find a landscape that’s both rugged and serene, with towering cliffs that plunge into the sea, and meadows that burst into color come springtime. It’s a place where time seems to stand still, and the modern world feels miles away.

Fishing and crofting are the way of life here, and you’ll find no shortage of local produce on the menus of cozy inns and pubs. Seafood is a highlight, so don’t miss the chance to indulge in some freshly caught langoustines or scallops.

For those looking to connect with nature, Applecross offers ample opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and wildlife spotting. Keep an eye out for seals, otters, and even dolphins in the surrounding waters.

The Applecross Peninsula is a hidden gem that promises an authentic Highland experience.

Remote and serene, it offers scenic drives, coastal vistas, and a true escape into nature's embrace.
Remote and serene, it offers scenic drives, coastal vistas, and a true escape into nature’s embrace.

12. Torridon

Nestled amidst towering mountains and deep lochs, Torridon is a place where Scottish folklore comes alive. It’s not just one of the best places in the Scottish Highlands; it’s a realm where each stone and stream seems to whisper ancient tales.

The area is a paradise for hikers, with trails that take you through some of the oldest rocks in the world, dating back almost 3 billion years. As you traverse the landscape, you’ll feel like you’re walking through the pages of a mythical storybook. From the legends of giants who once roamed these lands to tales of hidden treasures, Torridon is steeped in stories that ignite the imagination.

But Torridon isn’t just for the adventurous. The area is also home to the Torridon Hotel, where you can enjoy a luxurious stay complete with fine dining and spa treatments. Imagine ending your day of exploration with a gourmet meal and a glass of local whisky.

For wildlife enthusiasts, the area offers a chance to spot red deer, golden eagles, and even elusive pine martens. It’s among the coolest activities in the Scottish Highlands that combines the thrill of the outdoors with the comfort of luxury.

Torridon offers a blend of adventure, luxury, and folklore that’s hard to beat. Truly, one of the unique things to do in the Scottish Highlands.

Immerse yourself in the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands. Conquer the heights of Ben Nevis.
Immerse yourself in the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands. Conquer the heights of Ben Nevis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the Scottish Highlands

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Scottish Highlands? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Scottish Highlands:

What is the best time to visit the Scottish Highlands?

The best time to visit the Scottish Highlands is during the late spring to early autumn months, roughly from May to September. This period offers milder weather, longer daylight hours, and a chance to enjoy outdoor activities, stunning landscapes, and various events without the harshness of winter. If you travel here from Edinburgh, you will love the drive to get to the Scottish Highlands!

How many days do you need to see Scottish Highlands?

The number of days you’ll need to see the Scottish Highlands can vary depending on what you want to experience. However, a common recommendation is at least 5-7 days to get a good feel for the region’s diverse landscapes and attractions. Here’s a general breakdown:

  • 1-2 Days: In this short time, you could explore some of the closer areas to major cities like Inverness. You might be able to visit Loch Ness, Culloden Battlefield, and perhaps a whisky distillery. However, you’ll miss out on much of what the Highlands have to offer.
  • 3-4 Days: This allows you to venture further into iconic areas like Glencoe, Fort William, and perhaps the Isle of Skye. You’ll have time for some hiking, castle visits, and maybe even a boat tour.
  • 5-7 Days: With a week, you can explore a bit more comprehensively. You could add more remote areas like the Cairngorms National Park, the Orkney or Shetland Islands, or the far northwest coast. This gives you a better chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and take part in various outdoor activities.
  • More than a Week: If you have more time, you could explore even more remote areas, take part in multi-day hikes like the West Highland Way, or delve deeper into local history and culture.

Remember, the Scottish Highlands cover a large area with often winding and narrow roads, so travel can take longer than you might expect. The more time you have, the more you’ll be able to explore and appreciate.

How do I get around the Scottish Highlands?

Getting around the Scottish Highlands can be done by various means of transportation. Renting a car is a popular option, providing flexibility to explore remote areas. Public transportation, including trains and buses, connects major towns and cities. Guided tours offer convenience for sightseeing, and cycling or walking can be enjoyable for local exploration.

Is it safe to travel in the Scottish Highlands?

Yes, traveling in the Scottish Highlands is generally safe. The region is well-developed for tourism and has good infrastructure, including roads, accommodations, and emergency services. However, like any travel destination, it’s important to be prepared for changing weather conditions, follow safety guidelines for outdoor activities, and exercise caution while exploring remote areas.

What should I pack for a trip to the Scottish Highlands?

Pack layers, as the weather can be unpredictable. Waterproofs are essential, along with sturdy hiking boots if you plan on exploring the great outdoors. Don’t forget your camera for those breathtaking vistas!

Can I see the Northern Lights in the Scottish Highlands?

Yes, the Scottish Highlands offer a chance to witness the Northern Lights, especially during the winter months. The region’s remote and dark locations, coupled with the right conditions, provide opportunities for this mesmerizing natural phenomenon.

Ancient castles, peaceful lochs, and stunning landscapes are all waiting for you to explore.
Ancient castles, peaceful lochs, and stunning landscapes are all waiting for you to explore.

Are the Scottish Highlands worth visiting?

Absolutely, the Scottish Highlands are a must-visit destination for anyone who loves breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and outdoor adventures. From majestic mountains to serene lochs, the Highlands offer a unique and unforgettable experience that will leave you yearning for more. It’s a trip worth every moment. Here are some reasons why the Scottish Highlands are worth visiting:

  1. Stunning Landscapes: The Highlands boast some of the UK’s most dramatic scenery, from rugged coastlines and deep blue lochs to towering mountains and vast moorlands.
  2. Historical Significance: The region is steeped in history, with ancient castles, battlefields, and stone circles telling tales of centuries past. Sites like Culloden Battlefield and Urquhart Castle offer glimpses into the Highlands’ turbulent history.
  3. Cultural Heritage: Experience the unique Gaelic culture, listen to traditional Scottish music, and attend local festivals and events that celebrate the region’s heritage.
  4. Outdoor Activities: The Highlands are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike the famous West Highland Way, climb Ben Nevis (the UK’s highest peak), or explore the Cairngorms National Park. There are also opportunities for fishing, golfing, and wildlife watching.
  5. Whisky Distilleries: Scotland is synonymous with whisky, and the Highlands are home to numerous distilleries. Embark on the whisky trail, visit distilleries, and sample some of the world’s finest spirits.
  6. Wildlife: The remote landscapes of the Highlands provide habitats for a range of wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles, and the elusive Scottish wildcat.
  7. Island Hopping: The Highlands are a gateway to some of Scotland’s most beautiful islands, such as Skye, Mull, and the Outer Hebrides. Each island offers its own unique charm and attractions.

What are the Scottish Highlands famous for?

The Scottish Highlands are renowned for their stunning natural beauty, including dramatic mountains, deep lochs, and expansive moorlands. They’re also famous for their rich history, encompassing ancient castles and battlefields. The area is a haven for outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and whisky tasting.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the Scottish Highlands

And there you have it—a comprehensive guide to the Scottish Highlands, a land of untamed beauty, rich history, and endless adventure. Whether you’re scaling rugged peaks or savoring a dram of local whisky, the Highlands offer an unforgettable experience that speaks to the soul. So, what are you waiting for? 

Pack your bags and set off for one of the coolest destinations in the Scottish Highlands. Your next great adventure awaits!

Best Things to Do in the Scottish Highlands for all types of travelers.
Enjoyed reading about the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands? Pin it! 

You may also like

Leave a Comment