This is a diverse landscape shaped through time by the forces of nature. Experience the solitude of the peatlands and Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland. Marvel at the grandeur of the jagged peaks of the Cuillins on Skye and the Arctic-like tundra of the mountains in the Cairngorms National Park. Explore idyllic and deserted sandy beaches along the rugged western and northern seaboards or walk the length of the Great Glen Way as it carves its way from the Moray Firth to Fort William. Why not explore the north Highlands by completing the popular North Coast 500 route?
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With such outstanding landscapes and ancient geology, it is no surprise that the Highlands is home to two of the UK’s six European Geoparks. The North West Highlands Geopark, just above Ullapool, is located in one of the most sparsely populated areas of Europe – a true wilderness of inspiring beauty. The Lochaber Geopark in the West Highlands encompasses Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis, iconic Glencoe and the intriguing ‘parallel roads’ of Glen Roy.
You’ll discover an abundance of wildlife in the Highlands. Mountain, forest, loch and glen provide unspoiled natural habitats for many plants and animals. See red deer stags in the hills, watch for golden eagles, spot ospreys at Loch Garten … while dolphins, seals, otters and sea birds abound in the pristine coastal and island waters. A little local knowledge may reward you with sightings of the more elusive pine marten and wildcat. The mild west coast climate, warmed by the Gulf Stream, ensures that an oasis of rhododendron and exotic plants thrive in the famous Inverewe Garden.
The Highlands offers unlimited space and tranquillity and you can enjoy a relaxing holiday like no other. It’s also the ultimate outdoor adventure playground. There are three excellent ski centres at Cairngorm near Aviemore, Glencoe and Nevis Range (near Fort William) and all providing accessible walking terrain during the summer months. Climbing, hill walking, mountain biking, all water based sports and a multitude of other outdoor pursuits are all available. This is especially true around Fort William and Lochaber which promotes itself ‘The Outdoor Capital of the UK’. Golfers are served by glorious links courses like Royal Dornoch.
Inverness is the capital of the Highlands and its only major urban centre. A lively city with top quality shopping and restaurants, it has the famous and scenic Loch Ness on its doorstep. Take a cruise or visit Monster exhibitions at Drumnadrochit and visit the nearby impressive remains of Urquhart Castle. Close to the city is the Culloden Battlefield Centre, site of the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army in 1746 and the last battle on British soil. There are also many Outlander connections in this area of the Highlands.
History is imprinted on the landscape of the Highlands, from Neolithic stone circles to the carved stones of the early Celts and Picts in Easter Ross, to the invasion of the Vikings and, of course, to the mighty clans. Evidence of the former power of the clans exists in the remains of their medieval strongholds. Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle in Lochalsh occupy stunning lochside positions. Now they are in demand as Hollywood movie locations.
Speaking of movies, by taking the summer Jacobite steam train from Fort William to the small fishing port of Mallaig, you’ll cross the spectacular Glenfinnan viaduct featured in the Harry Potter films.
Be immersed in the distinctive Gaelic culture of the West Highlands and Skye. A vibrant language and rich heritage, as well as traditional music and song, flourishes among the crofting communities scattered throughout the region. And you’re guaranteed lots of great fun, tartan and the skirl of bagpipes during the summer Highland Games season right across Northern Scotland.
Always it’s the landscape which inspires. The remote Ardnamurchan peninsula with its lonely lighthouse marking the most westerly point in mainland Britain. Amazing rock pinnacles and basalt cliffs at Trotternish on Skye, the sandstone peaks of Torridon in Wester Ross and the ancient Caledonian pine forests of Glen Affric and Rothiemurchus.
The Highlands offers some of the best food anywhere in Scotland. Sample the finest venison from Highland estates or freshly caught seafood from west coast waters, including lobsters, scallops and prawns. And to finish, how about a dram of Highland malt? Talisker, Glenmorangie or Old Pulteney - the taste and choice of whisky is as varied as the unforgettable landscape.
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