Things to Know Before You Go to the Scottish Highlands

Set forth on a journey to the Scottish Highlands, a region renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and historical depth. This guide covers the essential things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands, ensuring your visit is rich with experiences and seamless travel.

Thistles bloom with a soft focus, iconic flora of the Scottish Highlands

Discover the Vast Wilds of the Scottish Highlands

Did you know that the Scottish Highlands cover roughly 10,000 square miles, or nearly the size of Belgium? This expansive natural beauty sets the stage for an unforgettable journey. Knowing these essential things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands is your first step toward a thrilling adventure. Our guide serves as your Highland compass, navigating through historic castles and serene lochs.

Presented to you by ThisCityKnows, this blog dives deep into all the things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands. From selecting the optimal travel season to exploring majestic castles and the tranquil waters of ancient lochs, our insights ensure your experience is as enchanting as it is smooth. 

Stick with us to discover how to transform your Highland excursion into a legendary one!

Things to Know Before You Go to the Scottish Highlands: When to Visit

Choosing the right time for your visit affects everything about your travel, from the weather to the crowds at popular sites. Timing your visit is a critical thing to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands. 

If you’re a fan of the British Royal Family, you probably know that Balmoral Castle is their summer home in the Scottish Highlands. That’s because during the summer months, you can enjoy long, warm days perfect for outdoor activities.  You can also try hiking through Glen Coe or sailing on Loch Ness. Summer weather is ideal to fully experience the Highlands’ natural beauty and even take part in some local festivals. 

In contrast, autumn offers spectacular displays of colorful foliage and fewer tourists. Nonetheless, it’s a great opportunity to do some photography or peaceful walks through the ancient forests. This quieter season is likewise perfect for those seeking to explore historic sites like Culloden Battlefield or the ruins of Urquhart Castle without the crowds.

With this guide to seasonal activities, you can easily plan a visit that aligns with your interests. And now that you know when the best times to travel are, let’s take a look at the specific castles that capture the true essence of Highland history.

Castle Exploration

More than just ancient structures, the castles scattered across the Scottish Highlands serve as gateways into Scotland’s past. Each tells its own story through centuries-old stones. These historic fortresses are some of the key things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands, as they provide a tangible connection to the region’s rich history.

Here are three castles that stand out:

Eilean Donan Castle

Positioned where three lochs converge, Eilean Donan is one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks. It has stood since the 13th century and is a prime spot for those interested in the heritage of Scottish clans.

Urquhart Castle

This picturesque ruin on the banks of Loch Ness provides panoramic views that are simply breathtaking. It’s perfect for history enthusiasts and fans of the legendary Nessie alike.

Inveraray Castle

Nestled on the edge of Loch Fyne, Inveraray Castle boasts a storybook appearance with its turrets and sprawling gardens. As the residence of the Duke of Argyll, it offers a glimpse into the life of Scottish nobility.

Each castle tells a unique story, forming an integral part of what makes the Highlands so captivating. After exploring the ancient castles, you might enjoy the tranquility and natural beauty of the Highland lochs.

Hikers explore a scenic trail by a Highland loch, embracing Scotland’s natural beauty

Loch Adventures

Of course, the Scottish Highlands are not only famed for their ancient castles alone, but also for their enchanting lochs— each brimming with legends and unique activities. 

Getting acquainted with these serene waters is one of the best things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands.

  • Loch Ness: Perhaps the most famous of all, Loch Ness is shrouded in mystery thanks to its legendary inhabitant, Nessie. This expansive, deep loch is perfect for boat tours that offer both scenic views and thrilling monster-spotting adventures.
  • Loch Lomond: As one of the largest Scottish lochs, Loch Lomond is surrounded by picturesque villages and offers a plethora of water sports. Its extensive network of trails also makes it a haven for hikers and nature lovers.
  • Loch Maree: Known for its wild beauty and scattered islands, Loch Maree is steeped in history and folklore. It’s a quieter destination, ideal for those seeking solitude and a direct connection with nature.

These lochs provide a serene complement to the robust historical explorations of the Highlands. They promise perfect spots for relaxation and a wide range of outdoor activities, enriching any visit to this storied region.

Now that you’ve planned what to sightsee, mastering how to navigate the vast landscapes of the Highlands should be your next step.

Getting Around the Highlands

Navigating the Highlands efficiently is crucial and is one of the practical things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands. 

Here’s how you can move around with ease:

  • Car Rental: Renting a car offers the freedom to explore remote areas at your own pace, ideal for reaching secluded spots.
  • Public Transport: While more limited, buses and trains can still connect you to major towns and attractions across the Highlands.

Grasping the local transportation options does help visitors make the most of their travel time and allow them to see more of what the Highlands can really offer. And with the transportation quagmire all figured out, let’s dive deeper into what specific attractions make the Highlands a must-visit destination.

Unveil the Heart of the Highlands

The natural beauty and historical sites of the Highlands are truly captivating. 

Here are additional locations that you can add to your list of things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands:

  • Inverness Castle: This castle in the heart of the Highland capital allows visitors to explore its grounds and enjoy panoramic views across the River Ness.
  • Cawdor Castle: Famous for its links to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this castle features beautifully maintained gardens and an intriguing historical narrative that draws visitors from around the world.
  • Fort George: This imposing 18th-century fortress near Inverness is open to visitors, showcasing well-preserved military architecture with stunning views over the Moray Firth, offering a slice of British military history.
  • The Old Man of Storr: Located on the Isle of Skye, this famous pinnacle of rock is accessible via a public hiking trail, providing awe-inspiring views ideal for photography and nature hikes in a rugged and picturesque landscape.

Visiting these sites surely provides a deeper understanding of Highland culture and history. With your itinerary mostly set, it’s now time to find the right place to stay during your Highland adventure.

Calm boat ride on a mirror-like Highland loch, a peaceful must-experience

Highland Hospitality

Where you stay in the Highlands is another of the important things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands. 

Whether you prefer to stay near historical sites or by the serene lochs, there are many options to suit every preference:

Dornoch Castle Hotel

Nestled close to the historic ruins of Dornoch Cathedral, this hotel blends luxury with history in a charming, family-run setting. Its unique atmosphere and proximity to ancient sites make it an ideal stay for history enthusiasts.

Glengarry Castle Hotel

Overlooking the serene waters of Loch Oich, part of the Great Glen Way, this traditional hotel is housed in an actual castle, offering guests a taste of Scottish heritage combined with modern comforts. It’s perfect for those looking to explore the natural and historical landmarks around the Highlands.

The Torridon

Set in a stunning location by the shores of Loch Torridon and surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Scotland, The Torridon offers luxury accommodations with a focus on outdoor activities. It’s definitely another excellent choice for adventure seekers looking for comfort and class.

Now let’s learn a few local phrases to help you connect more deeply with the Highland community.

Speak Like a Highlander

Communicating with locals in their dialect is one of the most enriching things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands. 

With that, knowing a few Gaelic phrases will serve you well, like the following:

  • “Madainn mhath” (Good morning): A cheerful greeting to start any day.
  • “Tapadh leat” (Thank you): Express your gratitude in a polite and appreciated manner.

Learning these basic phrases, and adding a few more will surely enhance your interactions, making your experience in the Highlands more authentic and enjoyable.

Discover the Highlands with ThisCityKnows

From the best travel seasons to the must-see sites, this guide from ThisCityKnows has you covered on the things to know before you go to the Scottish Highlands. We shared all the essential tips for navigating these enchanting landscapes and selecting the perfect places to stay, so your adventure should be as smooth as it is memorable.

Just remember that in any destination, traveling is more than just visiting places. Experiencing them is the real deal. ThisCityKnows is here to help you plan an adventure that will let you enjoy the Scottish Highlands to the fullest. Discover more with us, and let’s make your trip to the Highlands truly epic!

Author: Lei

Armed with curiosity and a knack for planning, Lei loves finding cool stuff to do and places to see that aren't packed with tourists. This City Knows becomes her platform to guide you through the world's wonders, sharing easy tips for making your trip awesome and packed with memories.

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