Highlights of Northern Scotland
When thinking of Scotland, images of snow-covered mountains and glistening lochs come to mind. This is the Highlands, which despite its remoteness, is actually easily accessible by road with a motorhome, caravan or tent, making the area a wonderful place to spend a touring holiday.
Glencoe is one of Scotland's most magical places, with its picturesque mountains, sparkling lochs and awe-inspiring history. The glen measures nearly 17 miles in length from its entrance at Buachaille Etive Mor through a series of peaks - Buachaille Etive Beag, the Three Sisters and Midean nam Bian on its south side and the Aonach Eagach ridge on its north – before finishing in the west at the pap of Glencoe, which sits high above the village where the river Coe enters Loch Leven. The easiest way of enjoying the views is by taking advantage of the many lay-bys, starting in one just south of the visitor centre where Sgurr nam Fiannaidh dominates the skyline. If you fancy a short walk, pull over at the An Torr car park and head through the woods up to Signal Rock.
Isle of Arran
One of Scotland's most southerly islands, the Isle of Arran sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre. It may only be 19 miles long and 10 miles wide but it's remarkably diverse in nature. The pretty coastal villages complement the rugged mountains of the north and the green rolling hills of the south. Although there are plenty of well-established routes through the mountains, many walkers prefer The Coastal Way which passes through most of the island's picturesque villages.
Isle of Harris
Although the isles of Harris and Lewis are joined, they're quite different in character with Harris much less mountainous. The sandy beaches of its west coast are magnificent, especially those at Scarista, Seilebost and Luskentyre, and the east coast between Tarbert and Rodel makes a wonderful drive, as it passes through several lovely villages - Licksito, Geocrab, Manish, Ardvay, Finsbay and Lingerbay. It's mainly single-track but there are passing places at regular intervals. The main settlement, Tabert, nestles on a narrow strip of land between the north and south of the island and boasts a mix of boutiques, shops and art galleries. The medieval kirk of St Clement at Rodel is one of the most elaborate surviving medieval churches in the islands.
Isle of Skye
Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides, measures 50 miles in length. Its chequered history is reflected in many of the poems and songs it has inspired. Alongside its many archaeological sites, Skye boasts a rich heritage of ancient monuments with castles at Dunvegan, Armadale and Knock. The island's extremely popular with walkers, its many peninsulas radiating from a mountainous centre dominated by the Cuillin Range. If climbing these Munros is beyond you, there are also plenty of low-level pathways you can enjoy. Portree, the largest settlement, has a picturesque harbour, a wide range of independent shops, cafes, and galleries, and since 1995, a bridge to the mainland. The wildlife is amazing with white-tailed sea eagles, seals, whales, otters, dolphins and red deer all a common sight.
Only accessible by boat or a 16-mile walk through rough country, Knoydart has been called 'Britain's last wilderness'. It's popular with adventurous walkers who enjoy tackling the Munros of Ladhar Bheinn, Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe and Sgurr na Ciche, or those who simply want to relax in picturesque surroundings - it's been designated as a National Scenic Area. Base yourself in or near Mallaig. Catch the morning boat and, after a leisurely walk around the peninsula, eat at The Old Forge, Inverie, then return in the afternoon. The perfect day.
With many famous Munros within easy reach, the area around Glenfinnan is a walker's paradise. Loch Shiel, which runs south-westerly from the village changes in character along its length - deep, dark and brooding beneath Beinn Odhar Bheag, but shallow, lush and marshy where the river drains to the sea in Loch Moidart. The countryside is thickly wooded in places and there are numerous pathways to enjoy. Much of the shoreline is designated a Special Area of Conservation. Situated in the community centre in Archaracle, The Blue Parrot is a lovely cafe with home-baked treats, Internet access and a viewing window across the loch. Pop in after your walk and recover with a piece of cake and a warming cup of tea.
A narrow peninsula on the west coast, Ardnamurchan is one of Scotland's hidden delights. Indeed, it can only be reached by a single track road and has remained, as a result, completely unspoilt. Tradition has it that it was the site of Viking battles and relics found back this theory. The walking is wonderful but if you want to learn more about the region, visit the award-winning Nadurra Visitor Centre, which boasts several outstanding displays. Those who enjoy birdwatching should also investigate the sightings board in the café. Ardnamurchan Point is an obvious draw because it's home to the UK mainland’s most westerly lighthouse but be careful because the passing places are often a hundred yards apart.
Want to explore more of bonnie Scotland?
Read about our top 10 highlights of South-West Scotland, here.
See our pick of Central Scotland's attractions, here.
Discover more about Scotland and its attractions on the Celebrate Scotland website, the online home of Scottish Memories and History Scotland magazines