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The Scottish Highlands is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in Britain, if not Europe. Covering 10,230 square miles, the region is famous for its natural attractions that include Britain’s highest mountain (Ben Nevis) as well as its largest body of fresh water (Loch Ness).
Discover a collection of top tourist attractions in the Scottish Highlands in this article, which provides an overview of each one alongside immersive 360° virtual tours that let you look around each location from all angles.
About the Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands have long been a tourist favourite with British holidaymakers and it’s one of the biggest attractions in Europe for travellers who clamour to experience the stunning scenery that’s on offer from Loch Lomond to John O’ Groats.
This region comprises one third of Scotland’s land area and eleven percent of the total land area in Britain, and the landscape is as diverse as it is vast.
The Highlands are full to the brim with awe-inspiring mountain ranges, serene lochs and dramatic coastlines, and it’s home to more historic castles, nature reserves and forests than anywhere else in Britain.
Suffice to say, if you visit the Scottish Highlands on holiday you’re not going to struggle to find things to do.
Trying to include every attraction in the Highlands in one article is virtually impossible, so instead I’ll list a few of my favourites in the list below along with a selection of 360° photographs that will allow you to look around them in all directions.
Hopefully these photos will inspire you to visit the Highlands yourself, but if you don’t see anything that interests you please bookmark this page as I’ll be adding new attractions in the future.
Alternatively, check out the Scottish Highlands category of this website to view a collection of recommended places to visit.
Map of attractions in the Scottish Highlands
- Bidean Nam Bian
- Culloden Battlefield
- Dunstaffnage Castle
- Fort George
- Muir of Dinnet
- Kilchurn Castle (Behind #9)
- Ben Ledi
- St. Conan’s Kirk
#1. Bidean Nam Bian
The Three Sisters of Glencoe is a mountain range in the south of Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands that offers one of the highest-rated Munro climbs in Scotland. If you don’t know what a Munro is, it’s basically any mountain in Scotland that’s over 3,000 feet in height, and climbing one is known as ‘bagging’ it.
Munro bagging is one of our most popular outdoor activities and each year tens of thousands of hill walkers make their way to each of the country’s 282 Munros in order to scale them.
One of the most popular is Bidean Nam Bian – one of the peaks on the Three Sisters of Glencoe that towers above the impossibly pretty viewpoint of Loch Achtriochtan next to the A82.
Bidean Nam Bian’s popularity is in part due to its location near this road which makes it supremely easy to get to, with a car park that allows visitors to get close to the foot of the mountain without having to trek to it on a lengthy hike.
There are several routes that Munro baggers can attempt but the path that threads its way up the mountain slopes from Loch Achtriochtan is the easiest, meaning the majority of people will be able to get at least halfway to enjoy the sweeping vista of Glencoe and the surrounding mountain scenery.
Along the route you’ll pass waterfalls that thunder into crystal-clear pools of water, with several flat sections where you can stop to enjoy those views before continuing the climb.
The lower third of the mountain is really quite easy, but after that it transitions into a bit of a scramble over rocks and boulders before hitting a fairly steep scree slope two-thirds of the way up, so you’ll need to be reasonably experienced to reach the summit.
Read this article to learn more about Munro bagging: The Ultimate Guide to Munros in Scotland.
#2. Culloden Battlefield
The battle of Culloden was one of the most important events in Scotland’s history as it was the defining point that ended the Jacobite uprising of 1745.
The Jacobites were led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart who drew together many of the clans of Scotland in an attempt to reclaim the British throne in the Stuart name. They were successful in several battles against the British Army and even got as far as Derby in England before retreating back to Scotland and their eventual defeat at Culloden Moor near Inverness.
Today, the site of the battlefield is managed by the National Trust for Scotland who have restored the fields where the battle took place and installed a network of paths that take visitors between the lines where the opposing armies stood.
As it’s partly a graveyard there are memorial cairns that commemorate each clan that fell, as well as a large cairn that commemorates all the Highlanders that fought for the ‘Bonnie Prince’.
Entry to the battlefield is free, but if you’d like to know more about the history of the Jacobites there’s an excellent visitor centre nearby that has paid entry. Inside you can interact with high-tech displays and exhibitions that depict how the battle of Culloden unfolded as well as view artefacts that were recovered from the site by archaeologists.
If you’d like to support the National Trust for Scotland and get free entry to all their sites, follow this link to become a member.
Braemar is a village set deep in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park that’s visited by tourists for two main reasons.
The first is the Braemar Highland Games which are held on the first Saturday of September and are attended each year by members of the royal family.
The Braemar Gathering is one of the biggest Highland events of the year and it’s the best way to experience Scotland’s Highland culture with traditional dancing, massed pipe bands and sports events including tossing the caber.
The second reason to visit Braemar is to use it as a base to explore the Cairngorms and there are so many walking and biking trails surrounding it that the village has become the centrepiece of the entire national park.
Whether it’s hurtling down muddy tracks on the Glenlivet Estate or going for a walk along the banks of the River Dee, you’re never far from something to do at Braemar.
The hill walks in this part of Scotland are superb, as are the slopes at the Glenshee ski centre, but you’ve also got the option of fly-fishing on the Dee, climbing the mighty Ben Macdui, and exploring the royal estate at Balmoral Castle.
I find myself returning time and time again to Braemar just for the walking routes that are (in my opinion) some of the most scenic in Scotland, so if you visit Braemar yourself I thoroughly recommend you follow any of the paths that twist their way through the glens of Tilt, Dee and Feshie.
Just prepare yourself if you’re visiting in winter as Braemar is officially the coldest place in Britain, with temperatures that regularly plummet to -20°C!
#4. Dunstaffnage Castle
There are so many castles in the Scottish Highlands it’s difficult to know which ones to include in this list, but Dunstaffnage is one of my favourites and I reckon it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area.
You’ll find it just a few miles outside of Oban on the west coast, facing Ardmucknish Bay and the isle of Lismore. Thanks to its proximity to Oban it makes a great place to stop while waiting for your ferry, but I suggest heading there even if you’re not making your way to Oban.
This is one of the oldest castles in Scotland (it was built in the 1200s) and it’s almost entirely intact, no doubt helped by the fact it has an enormous hulking mass of fortified wall surrounding the inner residential tower house.
One of the best features of this historic attraction is the walkway that runs along the top of the ramparts which is – unusually for a building of this age – fully open to the public. From the top you’re presented with great views of Ardmucknish Bay and the Firth of Lorn and it’s the best place to appreciate what a superb defensive position it would have been back in the day.
Heading into the tower house you’ll find three floors that have been partially restored as well as a cellar and a courtyard. It won’t take you long to explore the castle but it’s worth taking the time to do so, and you can always extend your visit by walking through the surrounding woodland to search for the hidden Dunstaffnage Chapel.
#5. Fort George
Fort George is an unusual historic site because it’s still in use today. It was built in 1746 in response to the failed Jacobite uprising and was used as a base for the British Army to counter any further attacks by the Highland clans.
By the time it had been built the Jacobites were well and truly defeated, but as Fort George offers such a good defensive position of the Moray Firth the British Army kept the fort open, and they still operate out of it to this day.
There’s a lot to see during a visit to Fort George and the site is enormous – certainly up there with Edinburgh and Stirling castles – and you’ll get to wander around museums, the regimental chapel, the armoury, and the regimental barrack blocks, but the highlight of the lot has to be the mile-long perimeter wall that circles the entire site.
This huge wall allows visitors to look across the Moray Firth from an elevated position where you’re almost guaranteed to see Scotland’s only permanent resident dolphin pod which lives around the waters of Chanonry Point.
With that in mind make sure you take a pair of binoculars with you as it’s a wonderful experience to watch the dolphins playing in the water. Check out my guide to recommended binoculars to find a good quality pair for a very reasonable price.
#6. Muir of Dinnet
The Cairngorms National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Scottish Highlands, mainly because the landscapes within it are so diverse.
From glass-like lochs to towering mountain ranges, the Cairngorms sums up everything that’s great about the wilds of Scotland.
One hidden gem inside the Cairngorms that you might be unaware of is the Muir of Dinnet nature reserve located on the eastern edge of the park. Here, you’ll find yourself immersed in a mosaic of moorland, lochs and some of the thickest pine forest in the country, all linked by footpaths that thread their way through the reserve’s 1,163 hectares.
If you visit the main car park (signposted as you near the reserve) you’ll be able to pop into the visitor centre to discover what you can see on each path, whether it’s shy red squirrels, dancing dragonflies or hunting ospreys.
Take a look at the Nature Scot video below for an overview of the animals and plants you can expect to see in the reserve.
As a place to enjoy nature the Muir of Dinnet is up there with the best of them, but there are a couple of highlights I recommend visiting first if you’re not sure where to go.
When you arrive, take the 1-mile Burn O’Vat trail which starts at the main car park and finishes next to a huge cauldron-shaped pothole that was gouged out of the earth during the last ice age. The cavern is a magical place and it’s quite something to stand inside it and listen to the echoes of the water cascading over the rocks.
The second highlight is Loch Kinord which a favourite breeding site for wildfowl and it’s a must-visit if you enjoy bird watching. The loch is surrounded by forest and is framed by mountains so walking along the path that circles it is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, especially in summer when the birds are nesting.
#7. Kilchurn Castle
Kilchurn Castle sits at the northernmost point of Loch Awe a few miles from St. Conan’s Kirk on the A85. This castle is entirely in ruin but it’s one of the most photographed in Scotland thanks to its stunning setting.
There’s a car park just off the A85 which is a decent size and usually has a catering van so it’s a good place to stop for a burger if you’re in that part of Scotland on a road trip. From the car park, the castle is around 10-minutes on foot through grassland, after which you can enter and explore its interior – at least on those occasions when the main gate is open.
As it’s unmanned, entry isn’t always possible, but at least it’s free to get in and the loch-side views are fantastic, especially if you get there in the early morning or late in the evening when the sun is low.
I guarantee you’ll get a great photo from the castle, but for the best view head back onto the A85 and take the turning onto the A819 where you’ll find a panorama viewpoint a few miles down the road.
As far as the castle goes you’re unlikely to spend more than half an hour in it as it’s entirely roofless and it’s basically just a big courtyard surrounded by walls, but it’s definitely worth the detour and it makes a nice addition to St. Conan’s Kirk and the Hollow Mountain Experience a few miles down the road.
#8. Ben Ledi
Ben Ledi only just scrapes its way into this list as it’s located right on the border of the Highlands, four miles north of the Highland gateway village of Callander.
Ben Ledi is a 2,880-foot mountain (so a Corbett, not a Munro) overlooking Loch Lubnaig in the Trossachs National Park. At the foot of Ben Ledi is a popular cycle path that runs between Callander and Loch Earn, while pine forests border the mountain to the north and the south.
Coupled with the water sports on offer at Loch Lubnaig it’s no wonder that thousands of adventure-seeking holidaymakers choose to base themselves around Ben Ledi in addition to the countless day trippers looking to climb one of Scotland’s easiest mountain peaks.
The path that winds its way up Ben Ledi’s slopes is wide and remarkably flat and it’s easy enough for all ages to walk up. It’s not a particularly long mountain walk at around five-six hours return, but it’s very, very scenic, and there’s every chance you’ll extend those hours to seven or more with all the pit stops you’ll need to soak up the views.
Once at the summit there’s a small cairn to pop the obligatory rock on, after which you can trundle back down to enjoy a cuppa in the café on the other side of Loch Lubnaig.
There’s also a log cabin park at the base of the mountain where you can book a stay in a cabin with an outdoors hot tub which is ideal if you’re looking for a long weekend to climb nearby Ben Vorlich or walk along the footpath next to Loch Katrine.
#9. St. Conan’s Kirk
St. Conan’s Kirk isn’t the biggest historic building in Scotland, but it’s certainly one of the most atmospheric.
Although it looks ancient it’s actually ‘only’ 135 years old. It was built by Walter Campbell in 1886 for his elderly mother and was continually modified with elaborate carvings after her death so that it now rivals the famous Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh.
St. Conan’s Kirk isn’t quite as ornate as Rosslyn Chapel but it’s definitely set in a nicer location, with Loch Awe just a short walk away and the glens of Lochy, Orchy and Strae clearly visible in the distance.
There’s no fee to visit the kirk but donations are welcome and it’s worth leaving a couple of quid just to see the stained-glass windows at the far end which flood the interior with multi-coloured lights.
Unusually for a historic attraction like this you’re allowed to take as many photos as you like inside, so if you do decide to stop while driving past it on the A85, don’t forget to bring your camera.
I wouldn’t plan much more than half an hour to explore St. Conan’s Kirk but there are a few other places to visit if you’d like to include it in a day of sightseeing in this part of Scotland. The best of these attractions include Kilchurn Castle (mentioned above), Ben Cruachan mountain, the Hollow Mountain visitor centre, and Loch Awe.
Top attractions in the Scottish Highlands
|Loch Ness||Biden Nam Bian||Culloden Battlefield|
|Ben Nevis||St. Conan’s Kirk||Highland Wildlife park|
|Urquhart Castle||Ben Ledi||Highland Folk Museum|
|Dunrobin Castle||Kilchurn Castle||Buachaille Etive Mor|
|Glenfinnan||Fort George||Clava Cairns|
|Cawdor Castle||Dunstaffnage Castle||Eilean Donan Castle|
|Glen Coe||Braemar||Loch Morlich|
Frequently Asked Questions about the Scottish Highlands
Where are the Scottish Highlands?
The Scottish Highlands is a large region of Scotland that stretches from the Trossachs National Park in the south all the way to the farthest point of Britain’s mainland at Caithness.
The Highlands comprises the landmass to the north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, which is a fault line that separates the region from the Lowlands.
What are the Scottish Highlands?
The Scottish Highlands is a vast expanse of mostly uninhabited mountainous land in the north-west of Scotland. The region is famous for its mountain ranges that were formed by the movement of the Highland Boundary fault and the lochs that were carved into the earth by glaciers during the last ice age.
When is the best time to visit the Scottish Highlands?
The best time to visit the Scottish Highlands is between May and September when the days are long and the temperature is moderate.
During these months the daily average temperatures sit in the range of 15 °C (59 °F) to 17 °C (63 °F). Outside these months the weather is more likely to be wet and the temperatures plummet towards 0 °C depending on the elevation.
How can I travel around the Scottish Highlands?
Travel around the Highlands is best done by car as there are infrequent bus services and train lines only connect the larger towns. Travel to the north and west coast islands is usually by ferry but it is also possible to travel by aircraft to the larger islands.
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