Things To Do
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.
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.