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Places to visit in the Highlands in Summer
If you’re coming to Scotland in summer you probably don’t need me to tell you to visit the Scottish Highlands as you’ll no doubt already have made your mind up.
It’s not really surprising. Virtually every photo of Scotland on the internet shows an image of a windswept mountain top or a beautiful glen covered in thick green foliage, probably with a dramatic castle perched beside a peaceful loch.
Now while you might be thinking that those photos are all photoshopped I’ve got a little secret to tell you.
*Whispers* the Scottish Highlands actually look like that in real life.
The north-west of Scotland really is a spectacularly pretty place with more mountains, glens, lochs and castles than your camera is going to be able to cope with, especially once you get to areas like Glencoe and the Cairngorms.
While I’d love to list every attraction I’m going to give you a random mix of some of the best ones instead, each of which is guaranteed to give you a taste of what the Highlands has to offer.
Bidean Nam Bian
Thinking about visiting Scotland but not sure where to go? Then let me throw one suggestion at you that I think you’ll like.
If you want to experience the best sights in Scotland you have, have, to visit Glencoe, and while you’re there you won’t get a better experience than hiking up Bidean Nam Bian.
This munro rises up 1150 metres at its highest point and offers what I believe is one of the finest views in Scotland with a mountain landscape that’s nothing short of breathtaking in every single direction.
The amazing sights start at the car park nestled on the shore of Loch Achtriochtan, a small freshwater lochan that’s fed by the River Coe and flows into Loch Leven at Invercoe.
The loch is exceptionally pretty thanks to the mountains that surround it with the Three Sisters – the mountain range that includes Bidean Nam Bian – located to the south.
There’s a path running from the car park right up to the summit but it has to be said it’s a bit of a scramble in places so getting to the very top isn’t a task for the faint-hearted, but if you’re after a nice alpine-style hike you can easily get three-quarters of the way up and still enjoy the beautiful view.
One word of warning though. As pretty as the 2 1/2 mile walk up the munro is, it gets very busy in summer, especially at the weekend.
There are frequent coachloads of tourists stopping at the car park to take photos and it can be a bit of a pain trying to park up, let alone make your way through the crowds meandering around the Three Sisters.
My advice is to leave early mid-week and enjoy the landscape in peace and quiet before heading back down to explore other nearby attractions like the Glencoe visitor centre in the afternoon.
Address: Loch Morlich, near Glenmore village, PH22 1QU
My complete guide: A Guide to Loch Morlich
Another part of the Highland’s that’s worth exploring is the Cairngorm range near Aviemore. While I could have just included the Cairngorm centre in this list I thought I’d add a place that seems to be virtually unheard of amongst Scotland’s tourists yet it’s one of the nicest places I’ve ever visited.
Loch Morlich is located deep in the heart of Strathspey just a few miles from Aviemore where it’s hidden on all sides by the expansive Glenmore Forest.
The first time I visited I was completely blown away by the place because not only is it gob-smackingly beautiful, but it’s got one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever set foot on.
And that’s not what you’d expect to find in the middle of Scotland’s premier snowsports destination.
This is a real adrenaline junkie’s dream location, with the slopes of Cairngorm so close you feel like you can reach out and touch them and the forest absolutely buzzing with high-energy mountain bike trails.
But you don’t have to be a sports lover to enjoy the area because Loch Morlich is practically begging you to slip your shoes off, lay a towel down and relax on the beach. All with a vast snow-capped mountain range as a backdrop.
The beach – the highest in the UK – features exceptionally clean golden sand that rivals any other in Britain in my opinion, and it’s also the location of the Loch Morlich Watersports Centre where you can take part in several different watersports activities.
The centre runs frequent instructor-led sessions for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding and they also hire equipment out if you feel proficient, with wetsuits, rowboats, kayaks and canoes available for a reasonable price.
Address: Fort Augustus, Highland
My complete guide: A Guide to Loch Ness
I defy anyone to say they’ve never heard of Loch Ness, watery home of the mythical monster that’s been sighted in that part of Scotland for almost a thousand years (check out my Loch Ness monster article for an in-depth guide to it).
This enormous body of freshwater is the biggest in the UK, big enough, in fact, to contain all the water from all the lakes of England and Wales combined!
Even at 23 miles in length it’s not the biggest loch by surface area (that crown goes to Loch Lomond), but it is the largest by volume due to the fact that it’s so deep, reaching an impressive 230 metres at times.
Once you visit it for yourself you’ll understand why the monster legend began here as it’s exceptionally atmospheric, helped no end by the peat-stained water that’s almost completely pitch black. If there ever was a monster in Scotland I can’t think of a more apt place for it to live.
It’s a bit of a shame then that so many people fixate on Nessie and seem to forget about the loch, which to my mind is one of the best places to visit in Scotland.
There are two major settlements at either end of Ness so you’re never really that far from civilisation but walking along its banks can really make you feel like you’ve gone off-grid. Well, at least until the streams of motorbikes on the A82 bring you back to reality.
Those bikes generally ride from Fort Augustus in the south to Inverness in the north, with Fort Augustus also being used by barges as they make their way along the Caledonian canal.
Inverness meanwhile, is a lovely city that has plenty of attractions of its own, and it’s the first place people head to when they want to explore the Moray Firth.
If you get the time while you’re visiting Loch Ness you might want to catch one of the tour boats that sail out of Inverness to go dolphin watching on the Firth. It’s a fantastic experience.
Midway between Fort Augustus and Inverness is the most iconic castle in Scotland – Urquhart Castle. This castle held one of the most strategic locations in the Highlands and was the focus of military activity for hundreds of years, so it’s a shame it was partially destroyed in 1692.
Still, what remains is utterly fascinating to walk around and standing on the remains of the castle to look out over Loch Ness is a remarkable experience, and in my opinion one of the best you’ll find in Scotland.
I sincerely hope these suggestions have inspired you to come and see us in summer, whether you’re planning a holiday for this year or next.
There are so many more places to visit in Scotland that I want to tell you about but it’s simply impossible to fit them all into one article, especially when these few ideas have already taken up so much of your time.
That being said, can I make a suggestion that you bookmark Out About Scotland for future reference?
I’ll be constantly updating the site with new guides to the country’s best attractions over the coming weeks so it’s worth checking back often to see what’s new, and you’ll find articles like this one posted regularly which might help you plan a holiday here at another time of year.
Speaking of which, have you considered visiting Scotland in winter? If you have and you want to know more you should take a look at my articles about the 10 Best Places to Visit in Scotland in January, and 12 Awesome Things to Do in Scotland in Winter.
They’re full of useful information that’ll help you make the most of your time here and I reckon they’re a must-read for new visitors to our country (even if I do say so myself).
So with that, I’ll say thanks for reading and I hope you have a great time getting out about Scotland.
Planning a trip to Scotland?
- Want a memento of your visit? Discover a range of quality Scottish gifts in my Etsy shop. Sale now on!
- Find hotels in Scotland and book your rental car.
- Explore the country with Rabbies small group coach tours and get cheap advance tickets for attractions.
- Learn about Scotland with a range of Amazon books and prepare for hikes with
Ordnance Survey maps.
- Before you explore the great outdoors get your rain gear in place and don’t forget to buy Smidge anti-midge repellent!