The Scottish Highlands are the home of mountains, glens, deep lochs, ancient woods and hidden beaches. From Sandwood Bay to Rannoch Moor, here are the most beautiful places to visit in the region.
The Caledonian Canal
The Great Glen stretches for more than 97 km (60mi) from Inverness down to Fort William. Much of this famous geological fault line is filled with the depths of Loch Ness with the Caledonian Canal linking the other parts, enabling boats to cross from the North Sea to the Atlantic. Just a six-minute drive from Inverness, stay in a canal-side cottage for a close-up experience of the Caledonian.
The land to the east of Loch Lomond, known as The Trossachs, is full of small glens, fairytale woodlands and peaceful lochs. In the spring this area is covered in wildflowers, especially the Scottish bluebell, and the sight is tremendous. It is a popular destination for visitors from Glasgow, to the south. Spend the night in a huge 6-bed Scottish country house in the National Park.
To give you an idea of the scale in this photo, the beach is a mile long and the sea stack, Am Buachaille, 65m (215ft) tall. Remote and usually empty of other people, Sandwood Bay can only be reached by a 4-mi walk. Legends of shipwrecks and buried Viking longships abound, this is a true place for reflection. The nearby charming hideaway cottage is perfect for a night overlooking the bay.
Loch Nevis, Knoydart
The southern border of Knoydart is an area often called Britain’s last wilderness. It can only be reached by boat or by a long walk as there are no roads into the peninsula. Take in the spectacular views at a modern lochside retreat on the Knoydart Peninsula.
Loch Hourn, Knoydart
This loch marks the northern border of Knoydart and it is truly wild. Where Loch Nevis is the “Lake of Heaven”, Loch Hourn means the “Lake of Hell”. When the storms sweep in, it is not hard to see how it was named, despite its astonishing beauty. The mountain is Ladhar Bheinn, standing at 1,020m (3,346ft) high. For a self-explanatory stay, head to The View Airbnb for a night overlooking the loch.
You would be forgiven for thinking the silver sands and clear waters stretching between Morar and Arisaig are tropical or perhaps the Mediterranean, rather than on the West Coast of Scotland. Ewan McGregor once said that this was his favorite place, not just in Scotland, but the whole world, and who are we to argue? Here, you can enjoy incredible views across to Skye, Rum and Eigg. Stopover in a 150-year-old rustic cottage.
Also called “The Queen of Scottish Mountains”, Ben Loyal rises from the North Coast of the Highlands, and this jagged granite peak is prominent on the skyline for many miles around. The area is sparsely populated and spectacular. Once visited, it will remain with you, Loyal by name, loyal by nature. Visit the foothills for a night in a room with mountain views and access to plenty of hiking trails.
Meall na h-Aodainn Moire
Although a summit in itself, Meall na h-Aodainn Moire is usually added to an ascent of the nearby Ben Vrackie, and both offer excellent views over the surrounding area, including the always-popular Pitlochry. When the heather is in bloom, the Scottish Highlands are clad in imperial purple. Live like royalty and book a castle with a bridge over a river for the night.
Ben A’an and Loch Katrine
A part of the National Park, this peak offers stupendous views across a jaw-dropping landscape. Looking around, it can feel like the world is made up of nothing but mountains, disappearing into the distance, one ridgeline after another. Treat yourself to a peaceful retreat surrounded by mountains and forest at Lochside Cottage.
One of several photogenic lochs on the vast Rannoch Moor, Loch Ba is close enough to the road that you can take amazing shots of your own, without having to wade through waist-deep heather, or cross rippling bogs. For a truly picture-perfect experience, head to the Wee House for a homely night around the woodburning stove.
Another of the small lochs of Rannoch, Tulla is just as photogenic as Loch Ba and is a popular spot for taking photos of the Black Mount and its four Munros. The loch also contains salmon. About 8km (5mi) north of the Bridge of Orchy is Tulla Cottage, a place to catch your breath and spend the night.
This 24-km (15-mi) sea loch is at the heart of some of the most incredible scenery to be found anywhere in the British Isles. Carved by the actions of ancient glaciers, it cuts through some of the oldest rocks in the world. The area is a favorite of photographers, climbers, walkers and those keen to see the varied wildlife that inhabits the hills, woods and waters. For views across Loch Torridon to Beinn Alligin and Liathach, stop off at a West Highlands cottage for the night.
Only accessible by a private road for which you must request access, this Highland strath (river valley) is close enough to Inverness to warrant a day trip. With the weather moving swiftly downstream to the sea, the view is ever-changing and mesmeric. Finish the day off in style by glamping in a Caledonian micro lodge.
Featuring some of the most famous of the Scottish mountains, Suilven, Quinag, Canisp, Cul Mor, Ben More Assynt and Stac Pollaidh, this area of Sutherland also houses the longest known cave in Scotland and is a world-renowned UNESCO Geopark. Stay at the Split Rock Croft Cottage to fully embrace the Highland weather at its most ferocious.
Home to beavers, colorful woodlands and excellent trout fishing, Loch Tummel was also a favorite of Queen Victoria, who loved the area. When the leaves are changing color, the trees are a riot of yellows, reds, browns, greens and oranges. Indulge in the wildlife then stay at a luxury villa, complete with a large entertainment room.
Within an easy walk of Pitlochry, these woodlands are another place to catch the splendor of autumn. During the daytime, they are reflected in the still waters of Loch Faskally and offer a chance to capture nature in all its glory. If Faskally Woods are naturally beautiful during the day, at night, for a few weeks a year, they become ethereal. The Enchanted Forest is an award-winning light and sound event like no other. Complete the forest adventure with a night in a grand Victorian house nearby.
Travel a short way south of Inverness to visit this remote glen, and you have the chance to witness nature as she is meant to be. One of the best areas to see surviving fragments of Caledonian pinewoods, this valley is home to rare species, such as capercaillie, crossbills, pine marten and wildcat. Spend the night in a fabulous Highland retreat with 2.8ha (7 acres) of private woodland to explore.
This long, freshwater loch is best appreciated from the water, with adventurous types paddling the loch in their canoes, camping wild on the shores or islands and appreciating the feeling of true wilderness. In the Harry Potter movies, this is the Black Lake. After exploring the loch, visit the Glenfinnan cabin retreats to hunker down for the night.
A huge expanse of peaty bog, Rannoch Moor is a place of pilgrimage for many photographers – the light renowned for its outstanding properties and the views exceptional in all directions. This is a place where the sky feels huge, where the world slips away into mountains and lochs, and troubles can dissipate in awe of nature. A mile away from the picturesque village of Kinloch Rannoch is the Keepers Cottage, a well-equipped, modern Airbnb.
By: Alexander Crow