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Fort William showing a lake or waterhole and mountains

This romantic, mysterious and wild region is home to some of Scotland’s most iconic sites and astonishing natural scenery.

The Scottish Highlands are where you’ll find the evocative landscapes, rugged peaks and secluded lochs that lure most visitors to Scotland. The region’s quickly changing weather imparts a magical ambiance to its tranquil beaches and isolated glens, with the scenery often shrouded in mists and shadows. Head to the Highlands for hiking, fishing and wildlife-viewing amid some of Britain’s most remote and beautiful landscapes.

The region’s only major city, Inverness, is an ideal base for exploring the Highlands. This pleasant city is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Scotland. Go for a walk along the attractive River Ness or visit iconic Loch Ness which stretches for 23 miles (37 kilometers) between Inverness and Fort Augustus.

Overlooking Loch Ness, you’ll find historic Urquhart Castle, a popular lookout point for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. One of Scotland’s largest castles, this strategically positioned fortification has an interesting military history. Check out the impressive collection of medieval artifacts in its visitor center.

Don’t miss the Highland Wildlife Park, a habitat for rare Scottish wildlife, including European bison and golden eagles. You can drive through this 200-acre (81-hectare) safari park in your own vehicle or take a free tour with the park’s staff. Try to time your visit to coincide with the animals’ daily feeding times, when there will be excellent opportunities to spot snow monkeys, Amur tigers and red pandas, among other indigenous wildlife.

Nicknamed the “Outdoor Capital of the U.K.,” Fort William is a wonderful starting point for exploring Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Fish on quiet lochs, take on challenging whitewater rapids and enjoy serene countryside walks. Fort William also offers some superb mountain biking trails, as well as downhill ski slopes.

The Scottish Highlands can be reached by flying into Inverness Airport, which is connected to most major cities across the United Kingdom in addition to a few in continental Europe. From there, the Highlands are easily explored by car. Summer is the best time of year to visit, with many hotels and privately owned attractions closed over the winter months.

Popular cities in Highland

Urquhart Castle which includes a lake or waterhole and a ruin
Known for Friendly People, River View and Walking
Inverness has all the attractions of a major city, including quality museums and heritage sites, as well as a perfect placement for Highland exploring.

Reasons to visit

  • Inverness Castle
  • Urquhart Castle
  • Eden Court Theatre
Isle of Skye showing tranquil scenes, a beach and a pebble beach
Isle of Skye
Known for Dining, Poolside Bars and Island
From mist-shrouded mountain peaks to plunging sea cliffs and moss-carpeted valleys, this windswept Scottish island is a place of wild, rugged beauty.

Reasons to visit

  • Talisker Distillery
  • Dunvegan Castle
  • Fairy Pools
Oban which includes a coastal town
Known for Friendly People, Ferry and Island
This waterfront town offers a range of typical Scottish delights, including a famous distillery, evocative castle ruins and dramatic, wild landscapes.

Reasons to visit

  • Ganavan Sands
  • McCaig's Tower
  • Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel
Portree Harbour featuring a bay or harbour and a coastal town
Known for Dining, Island and Scenery
The biggest and busiest town on the Isle of Skye, Portree is built around a colorful harbor where fishing boats still arrive to offload their catch of the day.

Reasons to visit

  • Portree Harbour
  • Quiraing
  • Old Man of Storr
Loch an Eilein featuring heritage elements, a river or creek and island images
Known for Friendly People, Dining and Swimming
This lively resort town is the gateway to the Cairngorm Mountains and the United Kingdom’s largest national park.

Reasons to visit

  • CairnGorm Mountain
  • Loch Morlich
  • Loch an Eilein