Visit The Highlands of Scotland and you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to a view. In fact, it's almost impossible to keep your eyes on the road such is the beauty of the region. All the more reason, then, to pitch up for a good, long caravan holidays in the Scottish Highlands and set out on foot, bicycle, mountain bike, kayak or boat to explore the region. For this is the land of outdoor activities, where nature and the landscape is king.
As regions go, The Scottish Highlands make up by far the largest geographic area of Britain, accommodating more than a third of Scotland as a whole. Hence, it can be divided into six distinct regions-within-a-region. The North Highlands, the most northerly of mainland Britain, covers some of the remotest landscape but with an outstanding coastline, sandy coves and jewel-like seas. It's arguably one of the hardest places to tow a caravan to, but also the most rewarding once you're there.
Visit the Isle of Skye and Lochalsh, just off the west coast of Scotland for spectacular walking holidays, mountaineering, coastal walks and sea-bound activities that make the most of the many sounds and sea lochs. Skye, which can be accessed via the Skye Bridge, is the second largest of Scotland's islands and one of the most dramatic.
Inverness, Nairn and Loch Ness cover the area around and along the Great Glen and out into the vast Moray Firth. The geological fault line provides some superb opportunities to go cycling, canoeing or walking along the Great Glen Way and the Caledonian Canal. Look out for Nessie, Scotland's favourite monster, from the atmospheric ruins of Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.
The Highlands also incorporates the most western sections of the Cairngorms National Park, which plays host to 25% of the UK's threatened wildlife species and is home to one of the most expansive areas of rare Caledonian pine forest in the UK. And, of course, plenty of mountain peaks. It's also home to one of the best ski resorts in Scotland.
Visit Moray Speyside to find a completely unique character within The Highlands, with pretty fishing villages hugging the coast along the Moray Firth and, inland, the spectacular rivers – including the world famous River Spey itself – and whisky distilleries that utilise the crystal clear Scottish water.
Lastly, but by no means least – in fact one could argue we've saved the best 'til last – the Fort William and Lochaber area, which considers itself the 'Outdoor Capital of the UK'. Your idea of outdoors may be quiet country walks in Lochaber or a gentle fight with a fish in one of the many inland lochs. It may, on the other hand, be kayaking in the sea lochs or, indeed, touring among the many historic monuments and castles near Fort William.
However you plan to spend your caravan holidays in The Highlands, they will be unforgettable and prove to be some of the best days and nights that you spend in a 'van. Download Practical Caravan's free Top 100 Sites Guide 2015 to find our readers' top five campsites in Scotland.
Top five things to do in The Scottish Highlands
For a family day out with a Highland flavour, head to the Highland Wildlife Park at Kingussie and the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore. At the wildlife park you’ll get up close and personal with many Scottish residents including the pine marten, red deer, red squirrels, wolves and the Scottish wildcat. At the folk museum, actors and historic buildings bring the history of the Highlands since the 18th Century to life. There's a Highland Folk Museum café and a sweet shop, too!
The Highlands has its fair share of historic buildings, ruins, castles and monuments. Whether you’re looking for tales of Scottish independence or a history of the Union, you’ll gain knowledge of clans, disputes among neighbours, and outright war when you visit Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, or explore Fort George, the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain, the architectural splendour of Dunrobin Castle or the tranquillity of the Castle and Gardens of Mey, the summer home of Her Majesty the Queen Mother (1900 to 2002).
Take a sea cruise to see Moray Firth dolphins and other marine wildlife, such as seals, porpoises and whales. With dolphin-spotting boat trips accredited by the Dolphin Space Programme, you’ll be on an eco-friendly trip where the wildlife can be seen in natural surroundings but without causing distress or disturbance to the creatures. You can, however, see much of the wildlife from the shore: some of the best locations for dolphin-watching are Chanonry Point, the Sutors and Spey Bay, the home of the Scottish Dolphin Centre.
Go salmon fishing in The Highlands of Scotland, renowned for some of the best salmon fishing places in the world. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy casting a fly. Go fishing in the River Spey, the finest of all, or fish in the River Findhorn, the salmon-rich River Shin and even the tiny River Ness, which come a close second. Or try trout fishing in Scottish lochs. If it’s all new to you, hire a Scottish fishing guide who will help you find the right place to fish, ensure you have the correct equipment and offer advice on technique.
There are plenty of opportunities for a wee dram in the Highlands and many of the most famous – and not so famous – whisky distilleries are near Speyside. To really get to grips with the various flavours and distinctions, follow the Malt Whisky Trail as you uncover the background to world famous brands from the likes of The Glenlivet Whisky Distillery or discover the hidden secrets of lesser-known whiskies from the Cardhu Distillery. Many of the whisky distilleries have their own visitor centres where you can try tutored tastings and a tour of the inner workings.
When to visit The Scottish Highlands
Snow can affect The Highlands anytime between October and April on the highest ground but you should certainly be prepared for patches of the white stuff even in the glens at anytime during the winter months. You can go skiing in The Highlands at three ski areas – at Aviemore, Glencoe and the Nevis Range.
If you prefer your sport to be snow-free however, you can return to visit Ben Nevis Range in June for the annual UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, where you can witness the world's greatest on two wheels making the most of the steep slopes. Fort William is also the base for the annual Great Glen Paddle Festival every March, when intrepid canoeists paddle the 57 miles between here and Inverness.
Of all the sporting events within the region, the Highland Games and Gatherings arguably surpass them all. Though predominantly in August, you can catch someone tossing the caber or dancing a jig at various venues across the region throughout the summer months.
Away from the sporting world, not to be missed is the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival held every May, with a winning combination of music, good food and even better whisky. Also making the most of the early summer, the Wild Lochaber Festival celebrates everything that's great about Scottish wildlife and the natural landscape in the western Highlands.
How to get to The Scottish Highlands
The Highlands is a vast area so picking your route is likely to be determined by which part of the region you are aiming for. Using the M90 from Edinburgh to Perth you can pick up the A9, which runs north through the eastern section of The Highlands, skirting the Cairngorms National Park and the east coast before cutting off the northeast tip of Scotland to reach Thurso on the north coast.
From the M9 and Stirling, use the A84, which takes you through the picturesque Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, to meet up with the A85/A82. Alternatively take the A82 direct from Glasgow. It's one of the most picturesque of all the routes from the south to The Highlands, as it skirts the very edge of Loch Lomond before running along Glen Coe and the shores of Loch Linnhe.
Take your time whichever route you choose. While there are stretches of dual-carriageway here and there, even the A-roads are twisty in places as they follow the contours of the landscape and the glens – and there is, of course, the most outstanding scenery to view as you pass.