From mountains, to glens, to highland cows; from lochs, to rivers, to Nessie – The Highlands of Scotland are steeped in culture, architecture and history and boast magnificent and mystical scenery that captures the hearts of its visitors. Our guest blogger Michaila from bloomingvoyageur.com writes about her favourite locations in Scotland while on a road-trip through the beautiful Highlands…
Located only 15 miles south of Fort William and situated on Loch Leven, Glencoe is a National Trust for Scotland conservation area and is also famed for being the site of the most notorious massacre in British history. Today, Glencoe is better known for its majestic mountains and ridges, rushing rivers and waterfalls, and abundant wildlife from red deer and stags to eagles, otters, and porpoises.
Jacobite Steam Train and Mallaig
Located in the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis lies the largest town in the Highlands – Fort William. From Fort William you can board the Jacobite Steam Train at the local train station. The Jacobite’s website encourages future passengers to book their tickets early and online, however, when I went to book two months in advance, they had no tickets available. As I arrived in Fort William, distraught because I wouldn’t get to ride the Jacobite over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (made famous from the Harry Potter films), I had heard that the Jacobite Steam Train keeps a handful of tickets aside (cash only). Off I went to grab a ticket and to board the Jacobite Steam Train.
The journey, round trip, is 84 miles so you’re best not to have anything else planned for your day. The Steam Train is slower than “normal” trains and it also makes stops at various locations along the way to its destination, Mallaig. The scenery you encounter along the way is breathtaking and you’ll never see scenery like that anywhere else in Scotland.
Mallaig is the end of the line of the train journey. If you bought a same-day round trip ticket, you have an hour and a half to explore this fishing port town and to grab some lunch. I recommend grabbing fresh, local fish and chips at The Steam Inn.
Mallaig is also a ferry terminal with services to the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg, Muck, and Canna). If you have the time and are interested in visiting the Isles, you can purchase a one-way ticket on the Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig and spend a few days on the Isle of Skye or the Small Isles.
Endearingly named and quite possibly one of my favourite lochs in the Highlands, Loch Lochy is 9 miles long and is located 10 miles southwest of Loch Ness along the Great Glen. There is a place along the road that follows Loch Lochy where you can safely pull off and park your vehicle. It’s a true beauty spot in the Scottish Highlands and is a blissful area to take a rest, capture photos, enjoy the scenery, and eat some lunch if you packed some.
Eilean Donan Castle
Known as the most beautiful and romantic castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan is a 13th century castle perched on an island by Kyle of Lochalsh where three great sea lochs meet. Since the 13th century, the castle has been built and rebuilt at least four times as a result of the Scottish history that had unfolded around it. It was partially destroyed in the Jacobite Rising of 1719 and lay in ruins for almost 200 years. Eilean Donan was bought in 1911 and restored to its former self. The castle re-opened in 1932.
Today, Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish Highlands and is surrounded by majestic scenery. It is also a popular place for weddings in the area.
Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness
Situated on the banks of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle’s present-day ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on paying money to walk through some ruins so I admired the castle from afar – the wall of the parking lot – which is also a great advantage point for some photos!
Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish loch at 22.5 miles, and is the second deepest loch at 230 metres. The Loch is more famously known for the monster that lurks beneath the waters – Nessie. Sadly I didn’t encounter Nessie while I drove around Loch Ness, but apparently Urquhart Castle is the most popular place along the Loch for Nessie sightings.
Though it is not a beautiful place in the highlands, per se, because it was here that the Battle of Culloden was fought in 1746, but I think it is a place that anyone visiting Inverness should experience. Learning the history of Scotland and what happened to the Jacobites is something I feel any visitor needs to learn before leaving this beautiful country.
Culloden is, quite possibly, the most eerie place I have ever been. There is not a sound out in the field except for that of the wind and lovely Scottish rain. Stones mark the graves of the fallen clans, and you feel nothing else but sadness.
Located not too far from Culloden are the Clava Cairns. The Clava Cairns are about 4,000 years old and were built as a place to bury the dead. There are three cairns here; each have a central chamber and two have entrance passages. Each cairn is also surrounded by a ring of standing stones.
This is a great place to visit as I find it is a more “off-the-beaten-track” location and it is interesting to wander around because the stones date back thousands of years.
I hope these Scottish Highland locations have inspired you to start planning your own adventure to Scotland. It is truly a beautiful country, as long as you don’t mind rain, with an extremely intense history.
All words and photos by Michaila Chodur from the travel blog bloomingvoyageur.com. Michaila enjoys travel writing and is always planning where she would like to go next. Her list is endless. She also enjoys being with her boyfriend, and reading. Her Instagram @bloomingvoyageur contains many photos from her travels.