From its lush mountains to its majestic castles, nature lovers and history buffs will be delighted when visiting the Highlands in Scotland. With these spectacular natural landscapes as a backdrop, it’s no wonder that several notable series and films have chosen them as their setting.
We therefore transport you to the world of Harry Potter and Outlander, among others, to help you discover the wonders of the Highlands, a dreamy region to add to your bucket list if you plan to travel to Scotland or the United Kingdom soon!
Known for the beauty of its valleys, but also for the bloody massacre of the MacDonald Clan in 1692, Glencoe was our first stop in the Highlands. After a journey on the road crisscrossing its mountains, we stopped there to breathe in the fresh air and let ourselves be carried away by the immensity of this natural landscape which seems enchanted.
Several hikes are accessible there, including part of the West Highland Way, an intermediate, long-distance trail, very popular for outdoor enthusiasts. Among the easiest, we also note those of An Torr and Glencoe Lochan while Lost Valley is considered moderate and Aonach Eagach for the more experienced.
The steam train that crosses the famous viaduct is in fact the Jacobite Steam Train, a place that attracts Harry Potter and Outlander fans alike! At home, we have a tradition of rewatching HP movies every fall, so there was something truly magical about hearing the train coming through the mountains, then seeing it passing across the Highlands. In circulation from mid-April to mid-October, some excursions even allow you to board the train from Fort William, but you must book in advance.
On the other side of the viaduct is also the Glenfinnan Monument where the Jacobite Rising took place in 1745. It was here that more than 1,200 Highlanders pledged their allegiance to Prince Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, 8 months before the devastating Battle of Culloden. From here you’ll also have an extraordinary view of Loch Shiel, a place that will probably remind you of the scene where Buckbeak and Harry Potter fly over the mountains in the third film of the series.
Visiting Eilean Donan Castle had been on our bucket list for a long time and we were not disappointed by the splendor of this legendary place! Bordered by the Highlands mountains and three large lochs, this epic setting also has a fascinating history, from its founding clans, Mackenzie and Macrae, to its importance during the Jacobite Revolution.
If the castle seems familiar to you, it’s because you may have already seen it in certain films including Elizabeth: The Golden Age or James Bond – The World is Not Enough. With its stone bridge, its stunning panoramic view and its flag fluttering in the wind, it’s quintessentially Scottish. Located very close to the bridge leading to the Isle of Skye, a visit to Eilean Donan Castle is a must-see stop on a trip to the Highlands.
4. Loch Ness
We may not have seen Nessie during our visit to Loch Ness, but our stop at this legendary place was still totally worth it! Containing more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales, Loch Ness is the largest lake in United Kingdom. Named after the River Ness and stretching across the Highlands, Scotland’s most famous lake is part of Glenmore, a valley crossed by the Caledonian Canal.
On its banks, we also find the abandoned Urquhart Castle, several centuries old and one of the only ones to have resisted the British forces after the death of King Robert the Bruce in the 1300s.
An ideal starting point for venturing into the Highlands, Inverness is also a magnificent city to visit. Located at the head of Loch Ness and along the River Ness, travelers often stop at its hotels and inns to explore the Isle of Skye.
However, Inverness has many interesting museums, such as the Titanic Museum, a gorgeous castle, an art gallery and an old town center to stroll around. Less than 15 minutes’ drive away, you can also visit the Culloden battlefield, where the bloody fight between English soldiers and Highlanders took place in 1746, also the last hand-to-hand battle fought on British soil.
Amazing places to visit on the Isle of Skye
It’s likely that when dreaming of a trip to the Highlands, it’s the Isle of Skye’s landscapes that you imagine. Stretching over 80 kilometers, this heavenly place is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides. Dotted with waterfalls and mountains, it’s legendary for its dramatic panoramas as well as its wild fauna and flora.
This is the place we were most looking forward to during our trip and the one that left the biggest impression on us! So, here’s our favorite stops on this magical island where we’re already planning a longer trip next time.
This charming port town is an ideal stopping point for a bite to eat before exploring all the natural wonders of the Isle of Skye. You’ll find cute multi-colored houses and many restaurants where you can enjoy good fish and chips and a Scottish beer. There are also many waterfront hotels along the port if you want to stay longer.
7. The Old Man of Storr
In the distance, this mythical rock formation appears and disappears through the mist, depending on the Scottish showers. Located in the Trotternish area, The Old Man of Storr is just 15 minutes’ drive from the town of Portree. We recommend you to stop in this popular spot to go hiking in a moody setting and admire the breathtaking landscapes of Quiraing.
8. Lealt Falls
With its lush hills by the sea, Lealt Falls is a perfect stop to get some fresh air with majestic views. Less than a 20 minutes’ drive from Portree, it’s the kind of Highlands landscape that instantly soothes you and makes time stand still for a moment.
9. Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls
To admire one of the most breathtaking panoramas on Isle of Skye, where nature’s’power and beauty unite at the edge of the cliffs, you have to go to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls! This is definitely one of the best places we explored on our trip to Scotland.
What you don’t see in the picture is that the winds were so strong that we couldn’t fly our drone, but we’re still very happy with the result despite everything! The gusts and waves hitting the cliffs also emit a special melody which adds even more magic to this impressive place.
Kilt Rock takes its name from the pattern formed by its composition of sedimentary and igneous rocks resembling the folds of the traditional Scottish uniform. The Mealt waterfall, more than 50 meters high and taking its source in Loch Mealt, completes this idyllic and hypnotizing setting that you don’t want to leave.
10. Cuillin Hills
Comprising the dramatic Black Cuillin and the gentler Red Cuillin, these two mountain ranges are popular with hikers passing through Isle of Skye. The Black Cuillin also has several Munros on its path, those mountains being more than 3000 feet high. A real treasure on the roads of the Highlands which makes us fall even more under the spell of its wonderful landscapes.
Bordered by the Cuillin Hills, Sligachan is a perfect place to admire or climb them (for experienced athletes). The “enchanted” river that flows under its pretty stone bridge is said to have magical properties according to Scottish legends. They say that by rinsing your face in its bewitched waters, you then obtain eternal youth!
12. Fairy Pools
Also found at the foot of the Black Cuillin and near the village of Glenbrittle are the crystal clear waters of the Fairy Pools that literally look like they were coming from a fairy tale. With the mountains in the background, it’s the kind of unforgettable panorama that will take your breath away and soothe you simultaneously. Very popular spot for photographers, it’s best to arrive early to enjoy this place’s tranquility.
And so much more…
The Highlands are a vast region where one trip isn’t enough to see everything, there’s so much to discover and soak up! Among the other magical places to add to your bucket list and where we’ll also have to stop next time, you can find the Cairngorms National Park, Neist Point, Dunvegan and Dunrobin castles, the Isle of Mull, Iona and the Outer Hebrides.
We hope all of our recommendations will help you create your ideal Highlands itinerary! We wish you wonderful discoveries during your trip to Scotland, one of the most beautiful countries we’ve ever visited!
Have a good stay!
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