|When not driving the highways or
major roads in the Highlands, you may come across single-track
roads. These are one-lane-roads that have bi-directional
traffic. Periodically, you will find a turn-out, allowing for
accommodation of cars traveling in different directions.
The Black Mount near Glencoe is majestic in winter or
The Highlands - Western
The Western Highlands are an incredibly beautiful section
of Scotland. This is one of the most scenic areas of Scotland
and you will remember the area with
fond memories of its dramatic landscapes and melancholy beauty.
Highlands look compact when shown on a travel map, most destinations, even when
seemingly near other attractions, seem far apart when driving between them.
Often, this is because the
roads connecting many areas are small, curvy and difficult to drive. At other times, you
will find yourself driving slowly to appreciate
the country's beautiful mountains, scenic valleys, lively rivers, and extravagant landscapes. In
other cases, the relative lack of villages in the Highlands expands
the distance between destinations. However, there is no shortage of
spectacular places to visit, as long as you love stunning landscapes
- One of the most photographed
sites in the Western Highlands is the Eilean Donan Castle, near the town of
Dornie (on Highway A87). The Castle sits on a small islet and is now
connected to shore by a narrow stone causeway The site is majestic and has been marked by
the construction and destruction of four different castles since the 13th
century. The present castle, which sits on a small peninsula near the
joining of three sea lochs (a sea inlet), lay in ruins for over 200 years and was
reopened to the public in 1932 after years of restoration work.
- The Eilean Donan castle was destroyed by British frigates in 1719.
At the time the Castle was in the possession of Spanish soldiers who were billeted
there in support of the Jacobite Rebellion. Unfortunately, the Spanish
has stockpiled gunpowder in support of the Rebellion and
the British used the explosive to destroy the parts of the castle that had
not been damaged by naval bombardment.
castle is open for touring. We rate the interior homey and interesting, but not
spectacular. Eilean Donan is most famous for its setting and if you
wander the area a bit, you will find some spectacular views of the castle,
the lochs and the local mountains. See the official website of the
castle for more detail on
The Isle of Skye
Skye, the largest island of the Inner Hebrides chain of islands, is
the closest to the
mainland. It possesses a rugged beauty and a variety of
impressive landscapes. A bridge to the mainland has largely
replaced the ferries that used to connect to the mainland.
Regardless, Skye remains a "remote"
Skye's landscapes and
people are the main attractions and most visitors use their time hiking, shopping, or
driving to see the island's beautiful vistas.
If you plan on staying
overnight or longer in Skye, we recommend you consider taking a B & B. You will find
many scattered around the island, mostly near the shore and many in
If you stay at a B&B , the likelihood is good that
most of your fellow
guests will be Scots from other parts of the country who have come to
enjoy the beauty of Skye. Usually this is great opportunity to mix and
make new friends, as many B&Bs have a communal dessert and coffee
Portree is Skye's main
village and a good place to stay on a quick trip. Along the
harbor, you will find some several stands selling tasty fish and chips
(although you might have to fend off the seagulls who seem to have
developed a taste for chips).
always been attractive to artisans and the island has a number of shops
featuring the fine and decorative arts. Touring these shops will fill an afternoon and
provide a good opportunity to purchase unique Scottish trinkets for those back home.
If your name is McDonald, or you belong to the Clan Donald, you might
be interested in visiting the Clan Donald Visitor Centre sixteen miles
south of Broadford on the A-86 (near Armadale).
If you are a fan of
Scotch Whiskey, you might want to make a trip to Carbost on Loch Harport in
the northwest of the island to visit the small, but well-known,
Talisker Distillery .
Follow the A87 south from Portree, turn right on the A863 and left at
the B8009, which heads up the west side of the Loch to the distillery.
Skye is accessible by ferry from Malaig
or by driving across the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh on the A86.
The bridge provides the only year round access to Skye.
detailed information on the area
Fort William is
considered the "Gateway to
the Western Highlands". The town
is not particularly interesting as a tourist attraction, but it provides a choice of
places to stay and a number of restaurants, something that you will not
find in many areas of the Highlands.
There area many smaller towns with
comfortable Bed and Breakfasts in the area, but make sure
you are the B&B sort, before you make a reservation.
There are several attractions that might be of interest while you
are in the Fort William area.
If you like to hike or climb, you might be interested in visiting Ben Nevis, the
highest peak in the British Isles.
To the west, along route
A830 is the
Glenfinnan Monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles
Edward Stuart) raised his standard marking the start of the Jacobite
Rebellion (1745) and his attempt to restore the Stuarts to the
throne of Scotland. The Monument dates from the
19th century and is at the north end of Loch Shiel. There is a
modest National Trust Visitor Centre at the location.
Further to the west
at the terminus of A830 (known as the Road to the Isles) is the town
of Mallaig. Once a prosperous fishing center, it now serves as a
popular ferry route to Skye and other smaller islands. The
drive between Fort William and Mallaig is gorgeous, but the trip
will likely only be interesting to those wanting to see more
If you are interested,
the journey between Fort William and Mallaig can be made on the Jacobite Steam
Those of you who are fans of the Harry Potter films may
be interested to know that portions of this route were used to
film several scenes of Hogwart's Express chugging its way to the
Academy. For more information on this
connection see the website of
West Coast Railways.
The Great Glen, a series of valleys running from Fort
William to Inverness nearly splits Scotland in half and its waters connect the
country's two coasts. Inverness, on the Moray Firth, is near the
north end of the Great Glen. Just to the south of Inverness is Loch Ness,
which is the largest of the
lochs in the Great Glen. The other lochs "connecting the chain" in the
Great Glen are Loch Lochey and Loch Linne).
Inverness is the capital of the highlands and serves as a comfortable
jumping off point for several attractions in the area. There are few
attractions in Inverness, but it offers a choice of places to stay and provides
access to more restaurants than one will find in smaller towns in the area.
Loch Ness is the most famous attraction in the vicinity of Inverness and,
aside being reputed as the home of the mysterious and presumably
prehistoric creature known as "Nessie", the loch is a scenic
wonder. You should be warned that the
elusive "Nessie" will
have been spotted just
before your arrival, but, unfortunately, it is likely that she will be "on vacation" during your visit.
The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition Experience
(formerly "Loch Ness 2000)") in Drumnadrochit, is a fun exhibition covering "Nessie",
the Loch, the sightings of
the beast through the ages and the modern, scientific hunt
to prove whether the creature exists.
The Loch Ness Centre has been
awarded a five star rating by the Scottish Tourist Board and has been
significantly upgraded over the past few years. In addition to the
focus on the Loch, you will find a Nessie Shop for souvenirs. The Centre can arrange boat
trips on the "Deepscan", so you can join the search for Nessie.
See the Centre's official website
for more information on visiting.
Castle Urquhart, a scenic ruin on the shores of Loch Ness, is a few miles south of Drumnadrochit
and worth a quick visit. The castle was destroyed in the late 17th
century to deprive the Jacobites a position of powerful base of
operations as they attempted
to expand the scope of
- History fans will relish a trip to the Culloden Battlefield
and Visitor Centre, 5
miles east of Inverness. In 1746, Culloden, a barren moor, was the site of the last
major battle in Britain. The battle ended the Jacobite Rebellion
(in support of the return of the exiled Stuart dynasty) and crushed Bonnie Prince
Charlie's (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) attempt to regain the throne.
- The battlefield is a large, flat moor that appears not to have offered
the Scots any tactical advantage in the skirmish. The Scots fought bravely but
were outnumbered by an English army led by the Duke of Cumberland.
The battle lasted less than an hour before the British declared victory.
- For more information on visiting this historic battlefield, visit the
official website of the
National Trust for Scotland.
Just to the east and "around the corner" from
Culloden you will find the Clava Cairns (a Bronze Age burial site). Those looking for
"Jaime" from Diana Gabaldon's epic
novels of Scotland might consider a visit
to see if they, too, will be whisked into the past. We offered
ourselves up, but apparently were judged unworthy. Ah, the despair of
There are three cairns at the Clava Cairns site. To the untrained eye, they
appear to be large rock piles. However, this site is a
well-studied cemetery dating from the Bronze Age. The
cairns and standing stones that can be seen today are thought to
have been erected around 2,000 BC. More detail can be found at
website from Historic Scotland.
A little further east of Culloden, on B9090, is
Cawdor Castle , which has three lovely gardens that are well worth
seeing in spring and early summer. The Castle, which can be
toured, is the working home of the Lord and Lady Cawdor.
If you continue west on A96
thought Nairn, and head south on A941 at Elgin, you will eventually
arrive at the Glenfiddich distillery (1/2 mile south of Dufftown) and a number of other distillers of
Scotch are in the immediate area.
See the official
Glenfiddich website for information on reserving a tour
during your visit to Scotland
In addition, you will have left the
Highlands and entered another of Scotland's mountainous regions, the
Water and greenery are the hallmarks of the Highlands.
Bring rain gear or be prepared for a soaking
Eilean Donan Castle on the Road to Skye is one of the most famous scenes in
The dramatic escarpment at Storr on the Scotland's
lonely Isle of
|Crofting is a land tenure system
that exists in the Highlands. A croft is a unit of land and the
crofter is a tenant of a croft. Many of the crofters are
farmers, others seek seasonal work and some are artisans.
The ruins of Castle Urquhart at Loch Ness seem
positioned to await a visit from Nessie.
A monument marking the defeat of the Scottish
Jacobites at Culloden and the end of their rebellion
Cawdor Castle has an interesting interior, but
it is eclipsed by the beauty of its gardens