When it comes to picturesque scenery, few places in the world, let alone Europe, come close to the mountainous landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. Besides for the peaks, lochs, coastlines, glens, and islands, the region is full of tons of Scottish culture. From hiking and visiting castles during the day to catching a pint at the pub, the Scottish Highlands has it all. Here’s everything to know before your Scottish Highlands vacation.
Best Time to Visit
June through August are the ideal times to visit the Scottish Highlands. While it’s summertime, don’t expect it to be super warm as the area is pretty far north. During the warmest time of year, it rarely reaches above 70 F. If you don’t mind cold weather, visit during the fall and spring for cheaper rates. Winter isn’t the best time to visit as it’s cold and rainy.
How to Get Around
The best way to get around the Scottish Highlands is by car as many of the region’s top attractions are spread apart from each other and could take a while to get to with public transportation. Be aware that they drive on the left side of the road here, so if this is an issue for you, you can always take trains or buses.
Where to Stay
Just 40 miles northwest of Edinburgh on 850 acres of Scotland’s lush countryside, Gleneagles Hotel, a 5-star hotel, has 20 protected natural habitats, three championship golf courses, an ESPA-affiliated spa, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, 14 specialty shops two pools, an equestrian school, and 10 bars/restaurants.
The Green Park Hotel
This 4-star hotel on the outskirts of Pitlochry has gorgeous views of the Loch Faskally and it’s within walking distance to shops and the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. The Green Park Hotel is an adorable family-run country house hotel and it’s the perfect, quiet escape. The dining hall prides itself on using the freshest local produce.
Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa
Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa, a 5-star hotel, is in the heart of Highland Perthshire and it’s surrounded by the Ben Vrackie and Loch Faskally. If the unique loch-side location wasn’t enough reason to book a stay, perhaps the one-of-a-kind gin bar or the two on-site restaurants will entice you.
What to Do
Isle of Skye
Located on the west coast of the Highlands, the Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides and it has gorgeous landscapes. Don’t leave the island without seeing the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr, Neist Point, and the Fairy Pools.
Glen is another word for a narrow valley and the area is full of them with the most popular one being Glencoe. Glencoe is 23 miles south of Ben Nevis along Loch Leven in the central Highlands and the picturesque landscape is otherworldly.
Cairngorms National Park
Make sure you reserve half to a full day to explore the UK’s largest national park that has mountains, lochs, rivers, villages, and forests. The 1,748 square miles park has four of Scotland’s tallest mountains and five of the UK’s tallest peaks. Hike or explore ancient castles, breweries and distillers, and Britain’s only free-grazing reindeer herd.
What to Eat
You can’t visit the Scottish Highlands without tasting whisky and the best place to do so is at the distilleries which have been open for hundreds of years. The most popular ones are Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Glenlivet, and Dalwhinnie.
Scotland’s national dish, haggis is sausage meet made from the innards of the sheep and mixed with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices, and stock. Traditionally the ingredients are combined and then boiled inside the lining of the sheep’s stomach.
The breakfast dish is savory instead of sweet. It’s made with fresh porridge oats cooked in milk and it’s the best way to start your day.