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10 Reasons to visit the Highlands this autumn

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Autumn is truly a magical time in the Highlands – as the nights draw in and the log fires are lit, October brings bright skies, dry weather, cosy evenings and many natural wonders.

1. Brighten your days with autumn colours

View of Glen Affric with loch and mountains in the background

Glen Affric, near Inverness

Autumn is one of the most mesmerising times of year in the Highlands, with the trees ablaze with spectacular colours and atmospheric skies of purple and orange.

Where is best to see forests in autumn in the Highlands?

  • Head to the Uath Lochans Trail near Kingussie in the Cairngorms National Park and experience the dazzling woodland, which turns golden hues throughout the autumn months
  • See the fiery colours at Loch Coulin in Wester Ross against the evergreen backdrop of the Caledonian Pine Forest
  • Marvel at the lush autumnal view at Culbin Forest in Moray Speyside

Read our guide to find more places to experience autumn in woodlands around Scotland

Where is best to stargaze in Scotland?

As the nights draw in, the skies come truly alive in autumn, with spectacular sunsets and dark nights filled with stars.

  • Discover the wonders of the night at the Tomintoul & Glenlivet Cairngorms Dark Sky Park, the most northernly in the world and the darkest in the UK
  • Watch the milky way at Abriachan Community Forest near Loch Ness

Read more about Dark Sky spots in Scotland or find out more about seeing the Northern Lights

2. Enjoy peace and quiet off the beaten track

Two people in a canoe on Loch Maree in Wester Ross with mountain in the background

Loch Maree, Wester Ross

With majestic mountains and glens, fjord-like sea lochs and gorgeous beaches, it’s easy to get away from it all in the Highlands. You could escape to the stunning golden sands, watch the wild autumn seas or go fishing on picturesque rivers.

Visit our Geoparks

Home to two of the UK’s six European Geoparks, the geology of the Highlands is simply spectacular.

  • North West Highlands Geopark – gaze across 3 billion years of wilderness and uncover stories of ancient oceans and deserts on the fascinating Rock route
  • Lochaber Geopark – explore iconic spots, Glen Coe and Glen Roy, and learn about volcanoes, towering mountains and glaciers.

Find out more about Lochaber Geopark or read more about the North West Highlands Geopark

Discover our National Nature Reserves

Reconnect with nature and visit some of the 17 National Nature Reserves. With ancient Caledonian forests, shimmering lochs and rugged mountains, Glen Affric looks truly stunning in autumn.

Read more about visiting Glen Affric

3. Make a splash in Scotland’s waters

Two people pull kayaks to the see in Lochaber with pink skies

Morar in Lochaber

Soak up the refreshing and healing powers of Scotland’s waters across the Highlands.

  • Wild swimming – take a dip at Plockton Coral Beach in Lochalsh
  • Canoeing – enjoy the autumnal scenery along the iconic Great Glen Canoe Trail
  • Paddle boarding – explore the North Coast 500 with Sutherland Adventure
  • Surfing – have a splashing time riding a wave in Scotland’s surfing capital, Thurso, with North Coast Watersports
  • Walking – refresh your senses and witness waterfalls at their best, such as Corrieshalloch Gorge near Ullapool
  • Loch cruise – don’t miss a cruise with Loch Ness by Jacobite and uncover the myths of this legendary loch

Whatever you decide to try, make sure you check out our guide to staying safe outdoors in Scotland 

4. Great autumn thrills

Close up of mountain biker in Lochaber

Mountain biking in Lochaber © Brodie Hood Photography

Experience autumn in its full glory by getting outside and active in the Highlands.

  • High wire – swing through the golden trees at the Nevis Range High Wire Adventure in Lochaber
  • Hiking – bag a mountain in Lochaber, from the highest peak, Ben Nevis, to the scenic Ben Hiant in Ardnamurchan
  • Walking – take a family stroll on the epic Speyside Way to beautiful Badenoch at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park
  • Running – don’t miss the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon in October, one of the most stunning marathons in the world
  • Mountain biking – take on the Abriachan Forest trails near Inverness or challenge yourself on the longest freeride descent in the UK, the Highland Wildcat Trails in Golspie. For a more leisurely pace, explore the beautiful Great Glen Way
  • Golfing – there are 30 golf courses to choose from in the Highlands, including the championship course of Royal Dornoch

Get inspired and find more to see and do in the Highlands

5. Go wild with autumn wildlife

Red squirrel jumping to a branch in the Cairngorms National Park

Red squirrel, Cairngorms National Park © Neil McIntyre

The season of roaring stags, hunting eagles and rare migrant birds, autumn is the perfect time to spot wildlife in the Highlands.

Some wildlife highlights to look out for in autumn include:

  • Witness the clashing antlers of the red deer rut in Glen Shiel
  • Spot red squirrels storing nuts for the winter in Glen Righ in Lochaber
  • See fluffy grey seal pups basking in the sun along the Caithness coastline
  • In the ancient Caledonian pine forests of the Cairngorms National Park, keep your eyes peeled for the elusive capercaillie, pine martens or wildcats
  • Take a wildlife boat trip with Dolphin Spirit from Inverness and witness the UK’s only resident dolphin population playfully leaping in the Moray Firth
  • In the west, you may see golden eagles soaring over the lochs of Assynt.
  • At the Falls of Shin, you will witness one of the wonders of nature with Scotland’s native Atlantic salmon leaping upstream in early autumn

Discover more about wildlife in the Highlands

6. Enjoy a romantic city break in Inverness

Exterior of Inverness Castle in the evening

Inverness Castle

Connected by direct flights, trains and the Caledonian Sleeper straight from London, Inverness is the perfect destination for an autumn city break.

What to see in Inverness

  • Take a stroll along the banks of the River Ness and visit the lovely Ness Islands
  • Take a moment’s sanctuary in St Andrew’s Cathedral and revive your spirits even further with their home-baking in the tearoom
  • Step back in time on the Inverness Historic Trail meandering through the old and new towns
  • Visit the fascinating Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
  • Don’t miss the UK’s most northerly Botanic Gardens where you can wander around the beautiful greenhouses, or stop for a coffee
  • In the evening, you can taste the finest Highland cuisine in many restaurants and pubs
  • Enjoy live theatre and authentic Scottish music and at Eden Court

Read more about visiting Inverness

7. Shop ‘til you drop

Support local Highland businesses and shop local, whether you are looking for locally crafted gifts for friends and family, independent boutiques or high street shops.

  • Explore Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop, Leakey’s, in Inverness
  • Take your time to enjoy the quaint boutiques of the picturesque town of Beauly, including Old School Beauly and the iconic Campbell of Beauly country tailor and outfitters
  • Beauty lovers will enjoy The Perfume Studio in Wester Ross and The Highland Soap Company in Fort William
  • Watch potters at work at the Highland Stoneware Pottery in Lochinver
  •  For the finest Cashmere, don’t miss Johnstons of Elgin in Elgin

Read more about shopping local in Scotland

8. Taste the best seasonal produce

Indulge your taste buds with the finest home-grown seasonal produce. Autumn is the best season to explore the Highlands’ comforting and hearty cuisine – lamb is at its most succulent, game meats are plentiful and fruits are at their best. It’s also a great time for native Scottish oysters.

  • Catch of the day – experience seafood fresh from the sea by the harbour in Mallaig
  • Try local venison – enjoy this rich dish at Mingarry Park House Restaurant in Ardnamurchan
  • Have a sweet treat – indulge in a tasty treats at the Highland Farm Eco Café in Dingwall, Cocoa Mountain Scottish chocolatiers  in Dornoch or the Bothy Bakery in Grantown on Spey
  • Relax with a wee dram – recharge in the oak-panelled lounge bar of the Cawdor Cavern in Nairn or the cosy Downright Gabbler in Beauly. Enjoy a warming dram of whisky from the Tomatin Whisky Distillery, some artisan craft ales from the Black Isle Brewery or some or Rock Rose Gin from Dunnet Bay Distillery in Caithness

Autumn is also a great time to forage across the Highlands. Brambles (blackberries) are of course a favourite! And if you know where to look, you can gather bags full of Chanterelle mushrooms.

Find out more about Scotland’s food and drink offering 

9. Get into the Highland Fling

Experience the warmest of Scottish welcomes and soak up the Highlands’ vibrant heritage at one of the many events and festivals this autumn.

  • Arisaig Hotel in Lochaber – round off a perfect day by treating yourself to a night of live traditional music in this atmospheric spot
  • Badenoch Storylands Sessions – the perfect place to discover more about heritage, songs, poetry and tales in the Cairngorms National Park.

In the autumn, don’t miss the Royal National Mòd and the Blas Festival, the Highlands’ premier Gaelic and traditional music festival.

Take a look at more upcoming events in the Highlands

10. Make the most of seasonal deals

Cabin in the woods at Loch Insh

Loch Insh in Kincraig, Badenoch

In autumn, hotel rates are often lower than in high season. You will get great value, whether you want 5-star luxury, the warm local welcome of a B&B or a night under the stars in a yurt.

From budget-friendly campsites and hostels, to exclusive self-catering, or stylish city centre hotels, you’ll be spoilt for choice with Highland accommodation!

Find out more about accommodation options in the Highlands

✅ Please be responsible as you explore #RespectProtectEnjoy

Discover more about what you can get up to in the Highland regions

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