The Highlands is a region known for its rugged beauty – it’s the ultimate destination to get away from it all. Home to magical mountains and lovely lochs, as well as ancient woods and hidden beaches, this is an escape that is untarnished by human settlement. From hiking and cycling adventures to sailing and water sports, the outdoors awaits with its giant natural playground. And after a long day of exploring the Scottish wilderness, amazing food and drink can help you refuel. Gastronomy is a big part of Highlands living, and seasonal menus, Michelin stars and the finest whiskey in the land are some of the things that make it such an unforgettable feast.
From unblemished nature to culinary wonders, there’s so much to experience in this corner of the world. But as Scotland’s largest region, where do you even begin your journey? Here are some of the best areas to stay during your Highland holiday.
Fort William and Lochaber
As the outdoor capital of the UK, the Fort William and Lochaber area is a stunning destination in the western Highlands famed for its peak, Ben Nevis. Standing at 4,411 ft. tall, it’s Britain’s highest mountain. Many visitors come to this area to see it in all its glory – or indeed climb it. But Nevis isn’t this area’s only draw. Fort William, the town in which it rises up from, has one of the most charming and bustling town centers in Scotland. There are also places such as Fort Augustus in the north or the Knoydart Peninsula to the west, and you won’t want to miss driving along the Glencoe Pass in the east if you’ve hired a car.
There are so many great places to stay in Fort William, from cozy B&Bs to beautiful hotels set inside spectacular historic buildings. The town itself is vibrant and can be particularly busy during the summer months. Our luxury Corrour Lodge is located in this area and features 60,000 acres for a relaxing and peaceful stay away from the main tourist track. We can provide the ultimate escape within very easy reach of all the shops, restaurants, pubs and amenities.
From the town, you can also take the ‘Road To The Isles’ where the daily ferry departs at Mallaig across to the Isle of Skye. Fort William is definitely one of the best bases for exploring the wider Highlands region, and some of Scotland’s main attractions are just a few hours’ drive from here.
The pretty village of Fort Augustus may be small but there are plenty of pubs where you can grab a bite to eat. If you’re interested in local gastronomy and want a great atmosphere at night, Fort Augustus is a lovely place to stay. Less than an hour from Fort William, it’s also perfect for a little day trip. Walk around and take in the views of the Caledonian Canal, visit the beautiful abbey, or hike to the Falls of Foyers.
Arisaig and Morar
Considered by many to be the most beautiful spot in the Highlands, the villages of Arisaig and Morar are truly unmissable during a luxury Scottish holiday. Located close to Mallaig, you will pass through them if you take the A830 ‘Road to the Isles’ from Fort William. There are a few guesthouses found along the coast, but you can also drive here in less than an hour from Corrour Estate.
The area of Knoydart is one of the last great wilderness spots in the world. There’s a great local brewery, a community shop, a farm shop selling all the essentials for a self-catering holiday, and a couple of restaurants and cafes. While there’s not much else around in terms of amenities, the unspoiled views will blow you away.
Beautiful Glencoe, located just off the A82 Glencoe Pass, is possibly one of Europe’s most jaw-dropping drives. This quaint village offers a handful of B&Bs and guesthouses and features a fantastic folk museum housed inside an 18th Century thatched cottage. The wildlife that can be seen in this area include red deer and golden eagles. For an alternative to the challenging Ben Nevis, the peaks you can climb here are Buachaille Etive Mor and Bidean nam Bian.
Isle of Skye and Lochalsh Peninsula
From our location near Fort William, you can get straight onto the A830 to Mallaig and take the ferry across to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. But if you’re looking for an overnight stay, here are some of the stops that you will want to check out.
Kyle of Lochalsh
Located on the Lochalsh Peninsula and at the entrance to Loch Alsh, this is the last call on the mainland before reaching the Isle of Skye if you take the Skye Bridge instead of the ferry. The bridge itself offers the most spectacular views of the small lighthouse island of Eilean Bàn and the sparkling waters of the Inner Sound. There are a few hotels, a lovely waterside restaurant, and some great pubs.
The picturesque village of Plockton is also nearby, and you can walk to the Five Sisters of Kintail which is Scotland’s highest waterfall.
One of the best places to stay on the Isle of Skye is its capital town, Portree. It is the largest commune on this sparse island, home to the only secondary school in the area. Local public transport is limited to buses but hiring a car can make it much easier to get around. Enjoy the views from the peaceful harbor, take photos of the pretty painted houses that make Portree so iconic, and marvel at the pier designed by Thomas Telford.
The village of Broadford is the second-largest community on the island, with a great selection of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses. These are dotted along the main road, some with great views of the Inner Sound. Broadford is in an ideal location for spotting otters, seals and Orca whales, and is also a good base for hiking in the Cuillins mountain range.
Few travelers ever make it this far north when they visit the Scottish Highlands, but for those who are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for unblemished views, every moment in the Northern Highlands will be worth it. With the spectacular Moray Coast, fresh seafood galore, faraway islands that are halfway to Europe, and the lure of the Northern Lights, this is Scotland like you’ve never seen before. Much like the south, there are castles, golf courses and charming little towns that dot the landscape. But for the most intrepid of travelers, who want to escape the tourist track, this is a great area to look into.
A bustling village with around 1,500 inhabitants, Ullapool is a must for anyone venturing north. It has an excellent selection of places to stay and there are pubs galore serving up the freshest seafood dishes. Although small compared its nearest big city of Inverness, it’s the largest settlement for miles around and is an important port and tourist destination in the Northern Highlands area.
From Fort William, Ullapool is a 2 hour and 50 minute drive. From Inverness, it will take you 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Lairg is one of the few places in the Northern Highlands with easy access to shops, restaurants and amenities away from the coast. This inland parish is utterly unique in that sense and offers a one-of-a-kind experience of the Scottish wilderness with lush green hills and snow-capped mountains everywhere you turn. Nestled on the south shores of Loch Shin, this destination is perfect for fishing or boating.
The village of Lairg Is often referred to as the ‘crossroads to the north’, this is an ideal halfway point for anyone driving from Fort William and Lochaber or the Southern Highlands.
The biggest attraction in Helmsdale is perhaps its golf club. The course overlooks the famous salmon river where His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is a regular angler. Facing south on the hillside of the Strath of Kildonan, the nine holes meander through bracken, gorse and broom, offering breath-taking views in the spring.
A number of small hotels operate in the village, and you can take a drive to Baille an Or and Suisgill, the sites of the Great Sutherland Gold Rush of 1869.
Another top destination for golfers, Golspie is a village that attracts people from all around. Celebrity golf days are held every year, and the course (designed by James Braid) has a mix of classic links, heath and parkland. The views are spellbinding. This charming seaside resort also has a pretty beach, scenic waterfall walks, a nearby castle, and a bowling club.
This is the most northerly town on the mainland, so it makes the perfect base for travelers who prefer to have easy access to shops and amenities. A bustling hub of lovely traditional shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, there’s always somewhere to go. Sights not to miss are the circular well house of Meadow Well, and the quaint Janet Street overlooking the river.
John o’ Groats
John o’ Groats is a village located 2.5 miles northeast of Canisbay in Caithness. It is the most northerly point on mainland Britain. Promising dramatic coastal scenery and wildlife, this is an area that attracts nature lovers. In the surrounding waters of the coastline, you may be lucky enough to spot seals and dolphins, as well as Minke and Killer whales. On the local cliffs, there are also many species to birds to look out for.
Follow the coastal paths from Duncansby Head Lighthouse in the east to the massive rock stacks called the Stacks of Duncansby. Or jump on a ferry and explore the beautiful Orkney Islands, where the Aurora Borealis can be hunted year-round.
Inverness, Loch Ness and Nairn
Home to the legendary Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as ‘Nessie’ to locals, and gateway to Speyside’s malt whiskey trail, this area is one of the most exciting places to visit in the Highlands. Speyside is often referred to as the Whisky Manhattan and is the most densely populated whiskey region in the world. With a good base in the city of Inverness, you can enjoy tastings and tours, as well as many outdoor activities by the country’s most famous loch.
You can get from Fort William to Inverness is less than two hours, making it ideal for a day trip.
The city of Inverness is not to be missed. Its castle offers the most spectacular views over the River Ness, and the nearby museum and art gallery are also worth a visit. Other attractions include The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre, The Steeple Museum, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the Victorian Market, and Inverness Golf Club.
There are countless restaurants and bars, many of which offer a fine selection of locally distilled whiskey.
From the town of Nairn, take the A96 and explore the fantastic distilleries on this coastal stretch. Beach Craft Spirits, Benromach Distillery, Dallas Dhu Distillery, and Glen Moray Distillery are just some of the producers to check out in this area. Nairn is also the driest and sunniest place in Scotland, making it ideal for a day at the beach. Enjoy the prime location on the Moray Firth with views of the beautiful boats in the harbor, sample the local seafood, or enjoy a round of golf on the two championship courses nearby. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious golf and spa hotel, or a quaint little B&B, there’s plenty of accommodation to choose from.
The village of Tomatin is home to the Tomatin Distillery & Visitor Centre, where award-winning whiskeys can be tasted when you visit. It also acts as the gateway to Cairngorms National Park (just follow the A9 from Inverness) and is close to charming communities such as Boat of Garten and Aviemore.
There are just a small handful of B&Bs and lodges, but you will find more accommodation as you go further into the Cairngorms.