The best of Scotland’s highlands and islands

Islays, bays and railways – that never cease to amaze

Given the global situation, we have all been looking closer to home for our next voyage of discovery. But less exotic doesn’t have to mean less exciting; Scotland’s highlands and islands are just as captivating and compelling as anywhere on the planet.

Here are some of our highlights of the region:

Islay’s distilleries

The Isle of Islay is famous the world over for its distinctive single malt whiskies and after a visit here to sample the peaty delights of its eight distilleries you’ll soon be planning to turn a single into a return trip.

© b-k, Unsplash

Corryvreckan

The world’s second largest whirlpool, between the islands of Jura and Scarba, is officially unnavigable but intrepid visitors can take a white-knuckle RIB ride across its crashing waters while looking out for porpoises, seals and other wildlife.

© Andrew Curtis, Wikimedia Commons

Lairig Ghru

Take on the challenge of this famous long-distance trail that runs for 25 miles from Aviemore over the spectacular Lairig Ghru Pass to the welcoming sight of Braemar, nestled in Royal Deeside.

© geograph.org.uk, Wikimedia Commons

Glen Coe

Haunting and dramatic Glen Coe is one of Scotland’s most evocative places, with a blood-soaked history that is made all the more poignant by the jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery all around

© Antoine Le, Unsplash

West Highland Railway

All aboard The Jacobite, part of the West Highland Railway! This 164-mile trip runs from Glasgow to Mallaig and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s great rail journeys.

© Simon Willmore

Bealach na Ba

The ‘pass of the cattle’ on the Applecross peninsula is one of the highest roads that can be negotiated in the UK and the views from the top are out of this world, as is the seafood on offer at the wonderful Applecross Inn.

© Thibaut Marquis, Unsplash

Sandwood Bay

The Northwest coast can boast many fine beaches but this one is very special indeed. Come here with a loved one – and a bottle of your favourite single malt – and watch the sun set in splendid isolation.

© Phillyacct, Wikimedia Commons

Calanais

Uncover the mystery of these 5000-year-old standing stones. No fences, security guards or hordes of tourists to deal with here; just you, the stones and an ethereal quiet and stillness.

© Gordon Williams, Unsplash

Barra

Wee Barra has it all: beaches, machair, peat-covered hills, tiny crofting communities and Neolithic remains. ‘Barradise’ indeed, and if you fly in, there’s the added thrill of landing on the world’s only beach runway.

© Dougsim, Wikimedia Commons

St Kilda

Voyage across perilous seas to the mysterious haunted islands of St Kilda. Spectacular and isolated, and home to the largest colony of seabirds in Europe, these islands capture the imagination in a way that few other places do.

Guillemot © K. Mitch Hodge, Unsplash

Skara Brae

Be blown away at the best-preserved Stone Age village in northern Europe. Set amongst the dazzling white sands of the Bay of Skaill and battered by ferocious and relentless Atlantic gales, it’s hard to imagine humans living here 5000 years ago.

© Wknight94, Wikimedia Commons

Hermaness National Nature Reserve

Explore the 2422 acres of dramatic coastal landscape and wild moorland of this remote Shetland outpost. Home to more than 100,000 nesting seabirds, including gannets, puffins and great skuas, this is a place that feels like the very edge of the world.

© geograph.org.uk, Wikimedia Commons

More information

To read more on Scotland and its highlands and islands, check out our guidebooks: