October 13, 2023 12 min read 1 Comment
Tucked away in the far reaches of Scotland, the Highlands are like a magnet for all kinds of wanderers, whether you're a wildlife fanatic, a history buff, or just a thrill-seeker. With such a vast and stunning landscape to explore, it's no wonder you might feel a bit lost when you first arrive. But don't worry, we've put together the Meander teams favourite spots to guide you in the right direction. There are misty lochs, ancient castles, caves to explore and kayak journeys. Then when it’s time to relax, we’ve picked out the best places savour some Scottish eats and some idyllic places to stay. The Highlands are a treasure trove of adventures just waiting for you, it’s time to get adventuring…
Nestled on the northeast coast of Scotland, the charming village of Rosemarkie accommodates nature lovers and beach lovers alike, attracting a multitude of visitors with its breathtaking coastline, rich history, and abundance of wildlife. Beginning with a scenic drive along the A832, the journey to Rosemarkie beach will guide you through an array of winding roads through lush green landscapes and rolling hills. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the expansive Rosemarkie coastline, stretching for over a mile along the coastline. This sandy haven is framed by dramatic cliffs and the Moray Firth’s sparkling blue waters. The beach is famed for its rich geological history, making fossil-finding a popular choice for adventurers. You can spend hours exploring the coastline and searching for ancient treasures like ammonites and ichthyosaurs; some of the more common of the beaches’ fossiliferous rocks. Nature enthusiasts will find Rosemarkie teeming with wildlife and if you’re lucky, you may even get to catch the likes of dolphins and seals amongst the waves. After soaking up these natural wonders, Rosemarkie village itself, with quaint streets which are lined with charming cottages and independent shops. It offers a glimpse into Scottish history and heritage, and if you want to immerse yourself in it- the Rosemarkie Pictish stones offer a connection to the Celtic people who once inhabited this region. To really complete this day out, it’s imperative to taste some of the local, fresh seafood in one of the village’s restaurants and you’ll guaranteed a trip of relaxation, recharging, and reconnection with the green spaces around you.
Among Black Isle’s many treasures, one spot stands out for its unique blend of wildlife, history, and breathtaking views- Chanonry Point. The headland may be small but it’s certainly spectacular and home to one of Scotland’s natural phenomena- the dolphin-watching experience. Chanonry Point is famed for its resident population of bottlenose dolphins that often gather here to hunt for salmon within the narrow channels of the Moray Firth. The best time to spot these marvelous creatures is within the 2 hours before and after high tide, so plan your visit to coincide with these timings (and don’t forget a camera!). The chance of seeing these majestic animals in their natural habitat, playing amongst the waves, is reason enough to embark on an adventure here, but, beyond aquatic wonders, Chanonry Point is rich in centuries' worth of history. The point derives its name from an Augustinian priory established in the 13th century- the former Chanonry of Ross. While little remains of the priory, the sense of historical importance lingers in the salty air, framed by the old lighthouse which is open for exploration. Offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of contemporary life, Chanonry Point’s sandy dunes and rugged coastal scenery make for some optimum escapism.
With its unique combination of natural wonders and historical intrigue, Smoo Beach offers a truly captivating experience. The centerpiece of this destination is the dramatic Smoo Cave, an enormous sea cave formed by both freshwater and seawater streams. Visitors can venture deep into the cave's dark chambers, illuminated only by the eerie glow of the underground waterfall. The surrounding sandy shores provide a picturesque spot for picnics, sunbathing, or simply taking in the breathtaking views of the North Atlantic Ocean. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Smoo Beach promises an unforgettable journey into Scotland's untamed beauty, mystery, and history.
Black Isle Brewery
Situated on the Black Isle peninsula, this craft brewery is a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of Scotland's finest brews. As you step onto the brewery grounds, you'll be greeted by the refreshing scent of malted barley and the soothing sounds of nature. Take a guided tour through the brewery to learn about the art of traditional brewing, from the carefully selected organic ingredients to the time-honored brewing methods. The highlight of your visit will undoubtedly be the opportunity to sample a diverse range of their award-winning beers, each imbued with the flavors of the Black Isle's rich terroir. Whether you're sipping a pint in their rustic taproom or exploring the scenic surroundings, The Black Isle Brewery promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Scotland's craft beer culture.
Dunrobin Castle & Gardens
This magnificent castle, resembling a fairytale chateau, boasts over 700 years of heritage and is a must-visit for history enthusiasts and garden lovers alike. Explore its opulent interiors filled with priceless art, antique furnishings, and captivating stories of the aristocratic Sutherland family who have called it home for generations. Beyond the castle's grandeur, the meticulously manicured gardens unfold in a stunning tapestry of colors, showcasing formal terraces, meandering pathways, and a delightful collection of rare flora. Be sure to catch the daily falconry displays on the castle grounds, offering an exhilarating glimpse into Scotland's ancient hunting traditions.
Located near Inverness in Scotland, the Culloden Battlefield is a hauntingly historic site that beckons travelers to step back in time and immerse themselves in the dramatic events of April 16, 1746. This evocative location was the backdrop to the infamous Battle of Culloden, the final clash of the Jacobite Rising, where Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite forces faced off against the British government troops. Today, visitors can explore the well-preserved battlefield, marked with stone memorials and interpretive plaques that provide insights into the fateful battle. The visitor center offers a comprehensive exhibition, bringing to life the harrowing stories of the soldiers and the impact of this significant event on Scottish history. With its poignant atmosphere and scenic surroundings, Culloden Battlefield is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and those seeking to connect with Scotland's rich heritage (and those who love Outlander!).
Embodying the definition of ‘hidden gem’ is Black Isle’s Fairy Glen; a place where natural beauty and mystique are euphorically combined. As the name suggests, the Fairy Glen is steeped in myths and legends of fairies and mystical creatures. Locals believe that this is where these creatures once inhabited and frolicked, and the otherworldliness this serene landscape possesses backs up that theory perfectly. As it’s tranquil river meanders through the Glen, the soft sound of water babble and birdsong makes it an optimum location to reconnect with your surroundings. One of the Glen’s most famed attractions, known as the ‘Fairy Pools’, is a series of small freshwater waterfalls and pools that are thought to have been the fairies’ bathing spot, with glittering water that makes it impossible to resist dipping your own toes in.
This remote gem, situated on the shores of Loch Ewe, boasts a unique microclimate, thanks to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, allowing for the cultivation of an astonishing array of exotic plants from around the world. As you wander through this lush paradise, you'll be captivated by the riot of colors and scents, with rhododendrons, azaleas, and towering eucalyptus trees creating a kaleidoscope of visual delights. Don't miss the tranquil ponds and winding paths that lead you through the enchanting woodland, or the stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and sea. Whether you're a dedicated botanist or simply seeking a peaceful escape into nature, Inverewe Gardens promises a truly unforgettable experience in the heart of Scotland's untamed wilderness.
This picturesque destination is renowned for its enchanting population of puffins, those adorable and distinctive seabirds with their colorful beaks. As you approach the cove, the sight of puffins darting in and out of their burrows and soaring gracefully over the cliffs is truly a sight to behold. Visitors can explore the rocky shoreline, watching waves crash against the dramatic cliffs and capturing breathtaking photos of these charismatic birds. The serene atmosphere of Puffin Cove offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, making it an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike. Be sure to bring your binoculars and camera, as Puffin Cove promises an unforgettable and up-close encounter with these endearing creatures amidst the rugged beauty of the North Atlantic landscape.
Highlands by Kayak
The highlands are a haven for kayakers, offering a tapestry of pristine lochs, winding rivers, and dramatic coastlines to explore. Glide across mirror-like waters, framed by ancient forests and majestic peaks, as you paddle through landscapes that seem plucked from a fairytale. The Highlands' dramatic and ever-changing weather adds an element of challenge and excitement, making each kayaking journey a unique experience. Whether you're a seasoned paddler or a novice, the Highlands offer an array of routes and guided tours that cater to all levels, promising an unforgettable and deeply immersive connection with Scotland's wild and breathtaking natural world. Liquid Footprints provides excursions like this, as well as canoeing, gorge scrambling, and mountain guides, all across the Highlands. They can help plan adventure days that are tailored to your needs and include all the family, and since they’re pro-pooch, you really can bring allthe family along.
A visit to Sutor Creek is a hidden gem of a culinary experience. It has remained a firm favourite for my family and I for numerous years and reactions are only ever positive when our parents announce that’s where we’re headed for our relaxing lunch destination. Sutor Creek can be found perched right on the edge of the Firth, ensuring that your meal is partnered with breathtaking views of the waters (if you time it right for the sunset- you’re in for a glistening spectacle!) The restaurant itself has a buzz of rustic charm; cosy and authentic, it perfectly compliments the natural beauty of its surroundings. With a menu that blends traditional Scottish dining with a contemporary flare, there’s something for everyone, although Ihighlyrecommend trying one of their woodfired pizzas. The restaurant makes a commitment to local produce so that when enjoying your meal, it’s accentuated further with the knowledge that the ingredients have travelled a short distance from farm to fork. Sutor Creeks does sell signature pottery from Cromarty’s local, yet highly popular artist, yet with the village right on the doorstep, you can take a post-munch wonder down to the pottery workshop and take a look at the full selection for yourself.
Image: Hidden Scotland
The storehouse is located on the coastline, just off the A9 outside Drummond. The rustic yet modern restaurant’s dining area has large windows, giving diners visual access to their beautiful surroundings as they eat (you can even spot Chanonry Point’s lighthouse!). The seafood offerings are a highlight so you may be tempted by the Cullen skink or creamy mussels, as well as a ‘catch of the day’ which is prepared to perfection. They also offer a much-appreciated meal accompaniment through their selection of Scottish whiskies, craft beers, and an extensive wine list. Their commitment to sustainability is a characteristic that shines through and their dedication to creating seasonal menus that adhere to product availability not only guarantees fresh, delicious dishes but also makes a conscious effort towards the reduction of their carbon footprint. Beyond this, they also devote themselves to a reduced use of single-use plastic, adopt a responsible waste management strategy, and an awareness of energy conservation, making dining here a treat for yourself and taste buds, as well as backing a business that nods to responsible dining in contemporary society.
Applecross Walled Garden
Tucked away in a lush, historic garden surrounded by ancient stone walls, this charming eatery invites travelers to savor the flavors of the region while basking in a serene atmosphere. The menu at Applecross Walled Garden is a delightful fusion of traditional Scottish cuisine and modern gastronomy, with an emphasis on using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Whether you're indulging in their renowned seafood dishes, such as fresh-caught lobster or succulent scallops, or savoring their delectable vegetarian options, each bite is a culinary journey through Scotland's rich culinary heritage. Dining here feels like a hidden treasure, and the rustic elegance of the surroundings adds to the overall enchantment.
The Sheiling is a hidden gem that beckons travelers seeking a tranquil retreat and provides your ultimate cozy hideaway for an unforgettable adventure. This charming boutique inn is all about embracing the rugged beauty of Scotland with a laid-back twist. Picture this: you, a glass of local whisky in hand, cozied up by a crackling fireplace while taking in jaw-dropping views of rolling hills and pristine lochs. The Sheiling provides a quintessential Scottish experience. Whether you're sipping a dram of local whisky by the fireside or embarking on invigorating hikes through the nearby Glen Coe or Ben Nevis, The Sheiling promises an unforgettable escape into the heart of Scotland's untamed wilderness. Whether you're sipping, hiking, or simply soaking in the Scottish vibes, The Sheiling is where lasting memories are made.
Black Isle Yurts
These traditional Mongolian yurts provide a perfect blend of rustic charm and modern comfort, making them an ideal retreat for those seeking an authentic yet cozy wilderness experience. Tucked away in a secluded corner of the Black Isle peninsula, these hand-made yurts boast breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, with rolling hills and the sparkling Moray Firth in the distance. The interior of these handcrafted yurts exudes warmth, featuring plush beds, wood-burning stoves, and thoughtful touches that ensure a comfortable stay year-round. Outside, a private deck invites you to soak in the stunning landscapes, while the crackling fire pit beckons for evenings spent stargazing and sharing stories. Beyond the comforts of your yurt, the Black Isle itself offers a treasure trove of natural wonders, historic sites, and charming villages to explore.
Loch Shin Luxury Pods
Tucked away in the mesmerizing Scottish Highlands, Loch Shin Luxury Pods are all about that 'chillax' factor. These pods redefine relaxation, offering a swanky yet laid-back escape into the heart of nature. Think modern comforts blended seamlessly with jaw-dropping views of Loch Shin and the surrounding mountains. Whether you're on a romantic rendezvous or a solo soul-searching mission, these pods nail the cozy and secluded vibe. Imagine waking up to the soothing sounds of water and having hiking trails at your doorstep. Plus, those starry Highland nights are nothing short of magical. So, if you're up for some serious unplugging and getting back to nature, Loch Shin Luxury Pods are the perfect spot to kick back and soak it all in.
Traveling by car in the Highlands of Scotland is a journey like no other. The open road unveils a mesmerizing landscape of rugged mountains, pristine lochs, and ancient forests. The Highlands are a paradise for road trippers, offering the freedom to explore hidden gems and picturesque villages at your own pace. Along the way, you may encounter grazing Highland cattle and encounter the echoes of centuries-old folklore. Be prepared for changing weather, and relish the spontaneity of pulling over to capture that perfect Instagram-worthy shot. If you’re looking to spice up your average road trip, you can hire a fully equipped 4x4 expedition vehicle throughVisit Scotland for the ultimate adventure camping experience. (And they even have dog boxes so that you can bring your furry buddy!)
Pedaling along winding roads and rugged paths, you'll find yourself surrounded by sweeping vistas of rolling green hills, craggy mountains, and tranquil lochs. The slow pace of cycling allows you to fully appreciate the grandeur of the Highlands, from the mystical mists that cloak the glens to the occasional glimpse of local wildlife. While the terrain can be challenging, the sense of accomplishment and exploration makes it all worthwhile. If you’re worried about lugging your belongings around, we have some perfectbike-packing tips from Markus Stitz to get you started! Traveling by bike in the Highlands is an experience that connects you intimately with the land and its people, making it an unforgettable adventure for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
As you chug along, you'll be mesmerized by the rugged beauty of the Highlands, with its towering mountains, pristine lochs, and emerald-green glens passing by your window. The train's rhythmic clickety-clack, combined with the ever-changing panorama, creates a soothing and almost meditative experience. Whether you're on the iconic Jacobite Steam Train, famously known as the "Hogwarts Express," or one of the regular rail services, traveling by train is not just a means of transport; it's a captivating and immersive way to explore this majestic region, making every moment of your journey a cherished memory.
We hope this guide will provide you with some inspiration for when you begin to tackle the itinerary for your trip to the Highlands. Whether you're captivated by the serene lochs, the ancient castles, or the enchanting Highland villages, this rugged and untamed landscape leaves an indelible mark. The allure of the Highland railway routes, the mesmerizing tales of history, and the warm-hearted hospitality of its people all combine to create an unforgettable experience. We can’t wait to see some of your adventuring! Follow us on @meanderapparel so we can see some of your shots.
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