Dear Friends, I hope all is right in your worlds!
During the sultry days of summer, my thoughts turn to the cool breezes and sunny climes of the gorgeous Scottish Highlands. The Highlands are like a cold drink of clear water to my overheated soul.
Orkney is an archipelago off the north-eastern coast of Scotland
There are so many ‘must see’ locations in the Scottish Highlands that no short blog would be able to list them all. Here are some of my very favourite recommendations, though:
- Loch Lomond is a great place to spend a day or two. This scenic freshwater Loch is a short distance from Glasgow and a beautiful introduction to the Highlands.
- The view over Loch Fyne from the Loch Fyne Hotel in Inveraray, Argyll is incredibly romantic. Also try the fresh seafood taken daily from the loch!
A highly recommended experience!
- Oban on the west coast within the council of Argyll and Bute is a fun location for exploring the islands of the Inner Hebrides and offers an interesting and tasty tour of the Oban Whiskey Distillery.
- My most favourite location in the Highlands is the beautiful glen of Kilmartin, a short drive from Oban. This verdant valley offers a stroll through history where every fifty meters (about 150 feet) offers a site from the Stone Age through the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages. It is perfect for an easy hike that offers dramatic but rarely visited treasures.
- Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,345 meters (4,411 feet). Fort William is nestled at the base of this imposing mountain. Beware of the weather on Ben Nevis, it is known for being changeable as if the mountain is a consumer of the local single malts and can turn violent!
- Fort Augustus, at the entrance to Loch Ness, is a good place to spend a lazy lunch watching the Loch for sightings of its legendary monster. No trip to the Highlands would be complete without spending time exploring the Loch Ness region with its eerie and haunting magic.
- Inverness, at the northern mouth of the Loch is a modern city with a rich history. The picturesque castle was rebuilt in 1836 but this imposing site is supposedly the place where Macbeth murdered King Duncan.
One of the largest castles in Scotland – Stirling Castle
- John O’Groats is the most northerly point on the Scottish mainland and is a great location to contemplate the power of nature when a stout breeze blows inland from the North Sea.
- Pitlochry is a fabulous Victorian gem that offers long forest hikes and perfect wildlife viewing close to modern conveniences.
- Finally, I love visiting Stirling Castle and its nearby Wallace Monument.
Here’s a pro-tip: Visit the Wallace Monument before the town for a stunning view over Stirling Valley. William Wallace’s sword is an interesting attraction, but the panoramic view is the main reason for a visit. You will be able to see how Robert the Bruce used the land to defeat the troops of King Edward II of England ensuring Scottish independence for over three hundred years. The height of the view will confirm your very own ‘Braveheart’!
Proper Scottish Malt Whiskey, like no other!
Reaching the Scottish Highlands is easy through both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Both cities are amply served from major airports worldwide. I suggest you take a rental car for leisurely exploration of the region, but many recommend the convenient trains that were widely developed during the Victorian period. Of course, the ferry services are required for trips to the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
While you are traveling through the Highlands, please try their incredible local foods. Of course, the Highland smoked salmon is fantastic. My favourite is the hard-roasted smoky ‘bradan rost’ but there are so many tasty variants. Wild game and both fresh and saltwater fish are incredibly fresh. The seafood is fabulous and a great value so close to where it is harvested. The more adventurous traveller will enjoy sampling haggis made from sheep ‘innards’ mixed with oatmeal and traditionally cooked in the animal’s stomach. There are also many vegetarian options featuring the local produce of the region. I recommend that all of these be washed down with generous portions of the region’s many excellent single malt whiskies.
The sounds of Scotland …Bagpipes!
The Scottish Highlands offers many hotels and guest houses that are beautifully kept with pride by their local owners. My favourite place to stay in all of the Highlands, however, is Craufurdland Castle in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire. It is close to Glasgow and therefore really convenient, but it is a world away from the stress of a big city. You can rent the spacious tower castle from Simon and Adity, the current Laird and Lady of the castle. Mostly built between the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries, parts of the castle date back to the darker period of the tenth century. This beautiful and welcoming property offers 600 acres (240 hectares) of hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities and even hosts an annual mud-run. Try trout fishing on their private loch and then have your catch served up at the Laird’s Table!
Regardless of where you wander in the Scottish Highlands, I fully recommend this beautiful region as a soothing and cooling balm to ease the stresses of modern life. Relax and enjoy a ‘wee dram’.