The Scottish Highlands are magic. You will be drawn in and never want to leave, every inch of this land draws ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’. Full of myths and legends that speak of monsters living under water and magic in the nature, Scottish Highlands give you the true taste of Scottish life. Here are our top 5 places which you must visit:
Loch Ness, Scotland
Let’s start with the most famous and the most mysterious place in Scotland. Everyone knows about the Loch Ness monster. Loch means lake and the monster or Nessie as we know him apparently lurk in the depths of Loch Ness. Sightings have been claimed since hundreds of years, submarines were sent in the lake which returned without any sign of the monster, and of course there was this famous picture which later was called a hoax. You can choose to reject the existence of Nessy, but you cannot skip this beautiful lake on your next visit to Scotland.
The lake is 23 miles long and 1 mile wide and is very very deep. It contains more water than all the lakes, reservoirs and rivers of England and Wales combined. That’s a lot! The waters of Loch Ness are very dark due to the peat washed from the hills into the loch. Interestingly, Loch Ness doesn’t freeze in the winters. Is it to keep Nessy warm ehh? Oh you didn’t believe in monsters? Well, why don’t we swim in the lake and check it for ourselves.
Sitting alongside the impressively picturesque lake you’ll also find Urquhart Castle. You can explore the ruins and climb the Grant Tower. The view is spectacular from the top.
Isle of Skye
Skye means ‘Cloud’ in old Norse, and there can be no better name to describe this enchanting island. Once you’re on the island, you’ll discover a magical landscape which has captured the imagination of many visitors from around the world. It is the second-largest of Scotland’s islands and surely the most beautiful.
The place will excite all you history buffs as you learn about long ago feuds of rivalling clans, Jacobite battles, and the devastation of crofting communities during the Highland Clearances. The island also has prehistoric sites where dinosaur fossils were found. It feels like you are in a different era.
The scenery here will leave a lasting impression on you with the soaring peaks of the Cuillin Hills, the dramatic geology of the Old Man of Storr and The Quiraing , an extraordinary assembly of pinnacles, rock towers and secret places, all of this in one island.
The Cuillin Range offers excellent hiking opportunities because it has 12 peaks, all of which are more than 3,000 feet high. The hills loom over the Fairy Pools. A place where you can find fairies swimming in groups. Aah I am kidding! Or am I?
And finally try to spot a highland cow on the island. You will love them.
When in Scotland, you have to summit Ben Nevis. At 4,411ft, it is the highest mountain in the country. The mountain also known as ‘The Ben’ sits closest to the town of Fort William, which is less than a 20-minute drive from the base. The path is steep at places but still quite doable and takes approx 4 hours to climb.
Once on the top, you will be rewarded with some of the country’s most spectacular views – stretching over the Grampian Mountains towards distant Glencoe and the Atlantic coast. Ben Nevis was once a massive active volcano which exploded and collapsed inwards on itself millions of years ago. At the summit, there is evidence of an explosion in the form of light-coloured granite. The summit is often veiled by clouds, and dustings of pure white snow giving a dramatic appearance.
Are you a potterhead like me? Then you will know that a big portion of the franchise was filmed in Scotland. And Glen Coe is one of them. This is the location of Hagrid’s hut where Harry, Ron and Hermione used to come to have tea with Hagrid. The same place from where they rescued Buckbeak. Oh now you must remember Buckbeak! It was also the primary location for the outdoor shots in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
And even if you are not a fan (seriously who are you people?), Glen Coe will blow you away. Glen Coe is probably Scotland’s most famous and most scenic Highland glen or valley. With dazzling expanse of Loch Leven in front and the Three Sisters mountain range as a backdrop, the place is so picturesque that it feels unreal at times.
You can embark on one of the many hikes here or maybe kayak on Loch Leven. In winters, the place has an option skiing and snowboarding as well. Or you can just sit back and watch the magic unfold!
Cairngorms National Park
The beauty of Scottish highlands can be experienced only in the outdoors, and what better way to do it than camping? Camp in the lush forests of Cairngorms National Park and enjoy nature at its best.
The park covers nearly 2,000 square miles of land and has something for everyone. From easy walking routes to strenuous climbs, from skiing to snowboarding, from treetop walks to mountain biking, and from white water rafting to canoeing, there is no end to the opportunities available in the park.
You can visit Lochan Uaine, also known as ‘The Green Loch’. It is believed that the water here is green because pixies wash their clothes in the loch. Giving the company to the pixies are the animals in the park. Many interesting, rare and endangered species are found here. Examples of this include the shy wildcat, pine martens, capercaillies, ospreys, deer and even reindeer! Pixies and reindeers, this definitely looks like a fairytale.
And once you are tired after all these activities, you can you can head over to Cairngorm Brewery for a taste of locally brewed beers. Best of both worlds, don’t you think?
Have you read Neeraj Narayanan’s book – This Guy’s On His Own Trip yet? It’s right now #1 bestseller in the travel books category on Amazon. Click here to buy your copy!