Highlands: Clans, whisky and treeless vastness


Treeless expanses: Scottish Highlands

Treeless expanses: Scottish Highlands

Clans, whisky and treeless vastness

Northwest of the Great Glen, which divides Scotland from northeast to southwest in a straight line, the Highlands begin. Although there are some Munroes, as the mountains over 3,000 feet are called, they are not really highlands. Wide parts consist of treeless moors. The remote Highlands were less exposed to English influence than the southern Lowlands. Which is why they have preserved their own cultural character. The clan structure in the Highlands is still alive or even being revived. This and the whisky production have made the Highlands world famous. The fact that the vast Highlands are largely unwooded and uninhabited today is mainly due to the Highland Clearances, the expulsion of the local population between 1762 and 1884.

Attractions Highlands

Beauly Priory

Mystical ruins on the River Beauly

During the 13th century, French monks built an abbey on a spot along the River Beauly just before it empties into the firth. They called it the “beau lieu” due to its particularly beautiful location. The monastery was abandoned during the Reformation and became a ruin. The cloister, dormitory and the abbot's residence disappeared and the roof of the church caved in. Nevertheless, the ruin exudes a very unique charm.

Big Burn Walk

A hike to the waterfall

The waterfall at the end of this 2.5 kilometer hike is definitely worth seeing. The trail starts near Dunrobin Castle and leads upstream through a dense natural forest.
There is also a longer trail requiring hiking shoes that leads to the Falls of Shin, where you can see salmon jumping if you come during the right season. There is even a restaurant over the waterfall.

Corrieshalloch Gorge

A waterfall and bridge in a spectacular gorge

Several kilometers before the River Abhainn Droma flows into the sea near Ullapool, it passes through a ravine that is too deep to have been carved out by the river itself. Corrieshalloch Gorge was actually formed by glaciers during the last ice age. Ferns grow at the bottom of the gorge and there is a stunning vertical waterfall. The bridge in front of the waterfall is a great spot for taking spectacular pictures.

Dolphin safari on the Moray Firth

From Cromarty to the Bottlenose Dolphins

Off the Moray Firth lives a colony of Bottlenose Dolphins. Since 2004 a small company has been taking out guests by speedboat. The excursion lasts approximately two hours and starts in the picturesque town of Cromarty.

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Dunrobin Castle

Castle over the sea

The castle located on the east coast dates back to a 13th century residential tower, which can still be seen in the courtyard. The fortress has grown steadily throughout the centuries and is now the largest residential building in the northern Highlands. Today it houses both a collection of paintings and bizarre curiosities. A walk in the large park by the sea is also beautiful.

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Easter Ross

Green hills, mild climate

Easter Ross is the easternmost part of Ross-shire, which in the west reaches to the Atlantic Ocean and includes a Hebridean island. The region on the North Sea is shielded by the high mountains to the west and therefore has a milder climate than the Western Highlands. The green hills reach up to the Cromart Fjord, where sometimes dolphins can be spotted. Amongst all this are small villages and manor houses.

Eilean Donan Castle

Site in the film “The Highlander”

The ancestral seat of the Macrae clan belongs to the most famous castles in Scotland, probably also because it appeared several times in the movie “The Highlander”. The castle is romantically situated at Loch Duich on a small promontory which becomes a tiny island at high tide and can only be reached via a stone pedestrian bridge. Construction began around 1220, when the Vikings made the country unsafe. The castle was destroyed in 1719 as a punishment for the fact that the Jacobites gave Spanish mercenaries shelter. It was only restored in the 20th century and now houses a museum.

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Loch Assynt

Barren surroundings and a weeping mermaid

Nestled in the almost treeless hills of the northern Highlands lies the ten-kilometre long lake. In the background, bizarrely formed peaks rise into the sky. The barren surroundings look rather threatening in bad weather – and are kind of wildly romantic at the same time. Both the west end with a view of the Quinag as well as the Ardvreck Castle, about which gruesome legends have been spread. One of them is about the mermaid Selkie, the daughter of Lord MacLeod. When she got promised as wife to the devil, she fled to the caves at the lake, where she is said to be hiding until today. And high tide is a sign that the mermaid has cried a lot.

Lochalsh Woodland Garden

East Asian plants in the warm Gulf Stream climate

The park is situated on the banks of Kyle of Lochalsh and contains mainly East Asian plants that a British nobleman brought back from his world travels in the 19th century. There are also plants from New Zealand and Tasmania, which thrive particularly well in the warm and humid climate influenced by the Gulf Stream. From the park you have beautiful views across the sea to the Isle of Skye.

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Scottish Heritage Pass

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Fishing port on the wild westcoast

The fishing port on Scotland's west coast was founded in 1840 and connected to the British railway network via the West Highland Railway. That way the fresh fish could be transported easily and quickly. Today the local fishermen are specialized in shrimp and lobster. Mallaig is also the end of the Road to the Isles, which for most part runs parallel to the railway-line Fort William-Mallaig and is one of the most scenic roads in Scotland.

Rogie Falls

Jumping salmon in August and September

The waterfall on the main road to Ullapool is worth a walk or picnic – especially in August and September when salmon swim upstream and jump in the falls. There are many signposted trails with seating at vantage points overlooking the waterfall.

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Picturesque fishing village in a wild setting

The picturesque, west-coast fishing village with around 1,000 inhabitants is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. It is situated on the shore of Loch Broom, a beautiful lake featured in several paintings by expressionist artist Oskar Kakoschka. Wonderful day trips can be made from Ullapool through the striking countryside to such sites as Loch Assynt or to the romantic mountain landscapes south of the Kirkaig Waterfalls. Those willing to drive a little farther can even reach Cape Wrath at the northwest point of Scotland. Just 20 miles south of Ullapool is the spectacular Corrieshalloch Gorge, a deep ravine cut out by waterfalls.

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More Attractions Highlands


Remote peninsula in the far west

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Iron-age castles and towers

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Rannoch Moor

Untouched wilderness in the heart of Scotland

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Pristine beaches and cliffs on the “Cape of Wrath”

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West Lochaber

Uninhabited wilderness at the end of the world

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Wester Ross

Highlands at the end of the world

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