The Best Places to Visit in the Scottish Highlands

The Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

Address: Kincraig, Kingussie PH21 1NL

Contact details: Telephone 01397 722250

My complete guide: A Guide to The Highland Wildlife Park

The RZSS are known for their conservation work at Edinburgh zoo where they work tirelessly to promote public awareness of the plight of many of the world’s endangered animals.

But you might be surprised to know they also work with animals from closer to home and at the Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms you’ll get to see enclosures designed to replicate the habitats of arctic tundra and mountains, just like you get in the remote areas of the Highlands.

But it’s not just red deer and Scottish wildcats at this park. Head inside the main area and you’ll also see Siberian tigers, Arctic foxes, lynx, wolverines, snow monkeys, and the stars of the show – polar bears.

While the walk-around area is what most people consider as the main part of the park there’s an equally large section that you can drive through on a Highland safari, though thankfully they don’t let the polar bears roam free so the biggest threat you’ll face is getting a hard stare off one of the roaming bison.

Just like in Edinburgh zoo, the Highland Wildlife Park has an educational side to it and you’ll frequently find keeper demonstrations and interactive talks throughout the day, plus there are loads of information panels at each enclosure so you can learn about each species as you make your way around.

If you’re a photographer you might want to take part in one of the photographic days where you get to explore the park with your camera while accompanied by a keeper, or alternatively, you can join the feeding sessions and watch the keepers hand out food to the animals.

It’s an amazing thing to watch – especially the polar bears as they wrap their maws around the great chunks of meat tossed over the fence.

If you get a bit peckish yourself you’ll be pleased to know there are lots of places to eat in the park along with the standard coffee shops and vending kiosks, and there’s also a decent shop if you fancy taking home your very own (stuffed) bear.

The Jacobite Steam Train

Glenfinnan viaduct

Address: Tom-na-Faire Station Square, Fort William, Highland, PH33 6TQ

Contact details: Telephone 0844 850 4685

My complete guide: A Guide to The Jacobite steam train

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty years you’ll have at least heard of Harry Potter, and more than likely seen at least one of the movies.

If you have then you’ll have watched the scene where he’s transported across the Glenfinnan viaduct (mentioned above), but there’s much more to the journey than the sights at Glenfinnan.

The train ride starts at fort William and continues through some of Scotland’s finest landscapes where you’ll pass lochs, mountains, glens, rivers and coastline along with some of the country’s most memorable sights including Ben Nevis, Loch Morar and of course, Glenfinnan.

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The British-built steam locomotive was built in the late 1940s but it can trace its design back to the 1920s, while the carriages date from the 1960s, so a trip onboard this train really is like taking a step back in time.

You’re free to take your own drinks on board or you can purchase wine and a snack-pack from the catering carriage, and there surely can’t be a better way to see Scotland than sitting in one of those carriages with a glass of bubbly in hand.

You’re not stuck indoors for the whole journey though as there’s a stop at Glenfinnan station where you can get out and take a look around the West Highland Railway Museum before continuing your journey to Mallaig.

Once at the final destination you can disembark for around an hour before reboarding for the return trip which gives you just enough time to catch one of the coastal boat tours that sail around Mallaig harbour.

This is a brilliant location to watch seals and the occasional whale, and you’ll more than likely see Britains biggest bird of prey – the sea eagle – too.

Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich

Address: Loch Morlich, near Glenmore village, PH22 1QU

Contact details: Telephone 01479 861220

My complete guide: A Guide to Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich is a bit of a Highlands ‘hidden gem’ that’s not particularly well hidden, and yet it seems that very few international visitors manage to find their way to it.

This natural body of fresh water sits at the bottom of the Cairngorm mountain range a few miles from the outdoor hub of Aviemore and is surrounded on all sides by the exceptionally peaceful Glenmore forest.

You can see the loch quite clearly if you take the funicular up to the top station of the Cairngorm mountain range and it’s just a short detour off the B970 if you’re visiting Aviemore which makes getting there really easy, so if you’re ever in that neck of the woods (no pun intended) I recommend you take a look for yourself.

The loch is one of the highest bodies of water in the UK and has a definite alpine feel to it, especially if you stand on the shore and look up at the vast snow-capped peaks rising up from the outskirts of the pine forest.

It also has a wide sweeping arc of golden sand on its northern shore which makes it feel like you’re on a secluded Mediterranean island, and to my mind the two disparate scenes make Loch Morlich the most unique and unusual location in Scotland.

If you’re a watersports fan you’ll have a great time and you can enjoy windsurfing, kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing thanks to the watersports centre that hires out a wide range of equipment.

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But if you’re not feeling active you can sit back and enjoy lounging around on the UK’s highest beach, or simply go for a walk through the extensive National Nature Reserve in Glenmore forest.

There’s a visitor centre and cafe just down the road if all that exercise starts bellies rumbling, or you can take a 20-minute drive into the centre of Aviemore with its pubs, bars and restaurants.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Address: Fort Augustus, Highland

Contact details: email

My complete guide: A Guide to Loch Ness

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Loch Ness, the deepest loch in Scotland that contains more freshwater than all the lakes of England and Wales combined?

A visit to this attraction in the Highlands has to be on everyone’s itinerary if they’re intending to see the best bits of Scotland, not because of the monster legend, but because it’s an incredibly pretty place.

There are three popular points for exploring Loch Ness.

The first is at Fort Augustus at its southern end where you can board one of the many cruise boats that sail up and down it daily.

The second is at Castle Urquart in the middle of the loch’s western shore where you can soak up the atmosphere of the ruins of one of Scotland’s most iconic castles.

And the third location is in the Highland capital of Inverness where you can explore the loch from its northern-most corner where it joins onto the River Ness.

Either of these locations will give you a great experience and I heartily recommend all of them, though if I was pushed I’d suggest spending a little more time in Inverness as it’s such a nice city and has loads of attractions that can easily be combined with a search for the elusive monster.

However, many tourists don’t venture that far and instead prefer to base themselves in Fort Augustus as it’s an ideal stop-off point for anyone with a boat who intends to sail the 60-mile Caledonian canal.

I can’t really blame them as the waterway in this part of the country is absolutely beautiful between the Beauly Firth on the northeast coast and Loch Linnhe on the west.

And of course, who knows, if you sail across Loch Ness you might even catch a glimpse of an enormous fin dipping in and out of the pitch-black peat-stained waters.

The Nevis Range

Ben Nevis

Address: Nevis Range, Torlundy, Fort William, Inverness-shire, PH33 6SQ

Contact details: Telephone 01397 705 825

My complete guide: A Guide to the Nevis Range Gondola

Ben Nevis is widely regarded as Scotland’s top winter sports venue alongside Cairn Gorm, but there’s much more to this mountain than skiing and snowboarding.

The summertime sees almost as many visitors to Ben Nevis as winter does, thanks in part to the gondola ride that offers an easy way to get to the top for hikers, and walking trails that extend across the Nevis range in all directions.

The gondola is a bit of a tourist attraction in its own right and you’ll get some amazing views of the Great Glen along the 1 1/2 mile journey between the bottom and top stations, so don’t forget to pack your camera before you climb aboard.

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Although the top station has a decent restaurant when I visited I instead chose to take a packed lunch and enjoy a snack overlooking Aonach Mor and the Commando Memorial for what has to be the best viewpoint in Scotland.

While you’re free to take a walk on the Sgurr Finnisg-aig and Meall Beag trails once at the top, if you’re a keen mountain biker you’ll no doubt be itching to hurtle back down the mountainside on what’s frequently called one of the best downhill biking runs in the UK.

If two wheels aren’t your cup of tea then I suggest you head to the Nevis Range Experience Centre where you’ll be able to take part in high-rope and tree-climbing experiences, paragliding, organised hikes and guided photography walks.

Alternatively, you can just sit back and enjoy the view before cruising back down to the bottom station at your own leisurely pace.

The Nevis Range is an outdoor attraction in Scotland that really does cater for everyone.

Highland city infographics

Oban Infographic
Inverness Infographic

I think it’s safe to say there are more than enough places to visit in the Scottish Highlands that you could easily spend a two-week holiday there and never get bored, and it makes a great alternative to spending a summer break in the busy cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

But then again, the Highlands are easy enough to get to that there’s nothing stopping you from combining a few days in the region along with a city break.

That’s one of the great things about choosing Scotland as a holiday destination – you’ve got so many options open to you.

I could quite easily list a hundred other places to visit in the Scottish Highlands in this article but it’d soon start looking more like an ebook, so if you want to discover more great attractions check out my guide map and see where else I’ve been and recommend.

The map gets updated often so don’t forget to bookmark it and check back often for new ideas for your next visit.

Till then, I’ll just say thanks for reading and good luck with your adventures getting out about Scotland.

Craig 🙂

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