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12 Iconic Nature Spots in the Scottish Highlands

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© National Geographic

© National Geographic

As one of the most renowned, iconic and well-known places in Scotland, it’s come as no surprise that the Highlands have been nominated in National Geographic’s Best of the World 2023 – Nature category. Once you step foot in this spectacular region, it’s easy to see why!

This award celebrates Scotland’s outstanding rewilding efforts to restore Scottish landscapes and wildlife by replanting and promoting regrowth of native species. Across the area you can visit conservation sites, stunning reserves, get involved in wildlife projects and delve into the admirable sustainability efforts of many people, organisations and charities.

Keep reading to find out more about these grand nature spots:

1. The Flow Country, Sutherland & Caithness

Journey to this untouched area of Scotland and immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere. With the aim of being the UK’s next natural World Heritage Site, the Flow Country stretches across Caithness and Sutherland in the far north and is home to the most intact and extensive blanket bog system in the world.

If you look a little closer, you can see that this area of Scotland is home to a thriving world of plants, rare birds, eye-catching flora and fauna, and is a system that plays a vital role in our fight against the effects of climate change. Another great attraction nearby is the RSPB Forsinard Flows Visitor Centre – one of Scotland’s most important natural treasures stretching over 21,000 hectares where you can see spectacles of nature, including a range of bird species in the look-out tower, and even lizards lurking by the walkways.

Learn more about The Flow Country

 

2. Ardnamurchan, West Highland Peninsulas

Home to the most westerly point on the British mainland, Corrachadh Mòr, Ardnamurchan is a scenic spot located in the beauty of the West Highlands Peninsula. It’s a great place to explore on two wheels, with cycle paths, trails and quiet roads, giving you the opportunity to explore this corner of Scotland at your own pace and in an eco-friendly way.

Gaelic for ‘headland of the great seas’, Ardnamuchan boasts its famous lighthouse, a rocky northern coast, and is designated as a National Scenic Area due to its mesmerising scenery and landscape.

Explore Ardnamurchan

 

3. Badenoch, The Storylands

Head inland to the jaw-dropping Cairngorms National Park. This park is popular amongst tourists and locals alike and once you’re here you’ll understand why. One area to add to your bucket list of places to visit is Badenoch, The Storylands. Home to Ruthven Barracks, The Highland Folk Museum, Highland Horse Fun Riding Stables, Speyside Distillery, Highland Wildlife Park and many more of the UK’s best attractions and museums, the area is a real hidden gem.

Delve into the enticing tales and stories of Badenoch, enjoy scenic walks, or explore by bike. There will be something for the whole family to get involved with and enjoy.

Explore Badenoch, The Storylands

 

4. Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, near Loch Ness

Opening in March 2023, the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will be the first of its kind in the world and open the doors to a new way of immersing yourself in the Scottish Highlands. This unique 10,000 acre estate and centre will help people uncover a restored landscape, and aim to leave visitors inspired to engage with rewilding.

The centre encourages you to ‘rewild’ yourself, embrace Gaelic culture and connect with other like-minded people. Enjoy a casual visit to the centre as you’re passing through, learn more with an immersive experience, or educate yourself and the family about the nature that surrounds you and the landscapes that have survived millions of years. Separate from the centre, there will also be an accommodation building for more immersive experiences where students, researchers and volunteers can stay onsite. The entire centre and accommodation will be powered and heated by a sustainable energy system to minimise impact to the environment.

Learn more about Dundreggan Rewilding Centre

 

5. Alladale Wilderness Reserve, Ardgay

Alladale Wilderness Reserve is located in the central North Highlands, roughly an hour’s drive north of Inverness, and boasts 23,000 acres of dramatic glens, lush green hills, running rivers, native wildlife and more. The reserve offers a range of onsite outdoor activities where you can try your hand at golf, explore the area on horseback, venture on an excursion to go dolphin watching, try out canoeing, guided hikes, mountain biking, fishing, whisky tasting and more.

The reserve is also committed to rewilding this area of the Highlands and restoring barren landscapes back to a thriving green paradise for plant species and wildlife to flourish. Between 2009-2012 alone, volunteers managed to plant 920,000 saplings, which included Alder, Aspen, Rowan, Willow, Birch, and Scots Pine.

Explore Alladale Wilderness Reserve

 

6. Knoydart, Lochaber

Knoydart, located near Mallaig on the west coast, is an unmatched landscape full of towering mountains, crags and cliffs. One of the wildest parts of Scotland, the area is famed for how remote it is, boasting unspoiled beaches and spectacular mountains, it is a truly unique opportunity to relax and disconnect from the world. If you fancy tapping into some traditional music at local ceilidhs and concerts, head along to the Knoydart village hall. Or tuck into some hearty pub grub after a day of exploring at The Old Forge.

Knoydart features various initiatives and projects set up to help the area bloom but also to preserve the natural landscapes of the area. The Knoydart Forest Trust manages the woodlands to help local communities and also the environment, whereas the West Knoydart Deer Management Group monitors and protects the deer population of the area.

Explore Knoydart Peninsula

 

7. The Rock Route, North West Highlands Geopark

Scotland’s geology is quite a sight to see! Over thousands of years the elements have changed and sculpted the Highlands. In the process, it has created some remarkable looking formations. The Rock Route driving route has 15 of these sites in the North West Highlands Geopark with stunning views and information panels to tell you the tales of each along the way.

The North West Highlands Geopark is also a recognised UNESCO Global Geopark and stretches over 2,000 square kilometres, featuring ancient formations dating back 3 billion years, hiking routes and trails, jaw-dropping views and much more to uncover too. Why not explore the Pebble Route which explores the many villages and communities around the geopark? You can purchase the route map from Ullapool iCentre.

Explore The Rock Route

 

8. Isle of Raasay

Albeit a rather small island in comparison to some of its neighbours, the Isle of Raasay features one of the most geologically diverse landscapes in the world. From stunning mountain views and ancient forests, to lush rolling hills and untouched beaches, these incredible backdrops will really make your jaw drop. Head along to the community-owned walled garden where you can enjoy lunch on the picnic tables in the orchard, or buy some fresh produce and flowers. The first legal distillery on the island, the Isle of Raasay Distillery is a must-visit. Learn all about Scotland’s ‘Water of Life’ and head on a guided tour to uncover the whisky making process and more.

If you’re staying on the island, make sure to support the Raasay Wood Fuel. This great project encourages people to use sustainable local and carbon neutral wood to heat their homes. All orders are prepared by volunteers at The Pit in Inverarish using local wood, and the money raised supports Raasay’s local development trust.

Explore the Isle of Raasay

 

9. RSPB Dunnet Head Nature Reserve

Journey to the most northerly point in mainland Britain, Dunnet Head. Marvel at the weathered stretch of sea cliffs along the Pentland Firth, keep an eye out to see how many species of seabirds you can spot, and delve into all the native species and wildlife of the area at Dunnet Head Nature Reserve.

This area is home to a wealth of bird species, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, shags and cormorants, so conservations efforts have been set up to monitor these birds, their habitats and migration patterns to ensure they can thrive in Scotland.

Explore RSPB Dunnet Head Nature Reserve

 

10. Waterfalls

One hidden gem in Scotland is our waterfalls. Dotted across the country in stunning coastal locations flowing into the sea, tucked away in our dense woodlands, or towering up above in our mountain locations, waterfalls are a great addition to your trip to Scotland. Whether it’s a sunny summer’s day, atmospheric autumn afternoon, or a snowy winter scene, Scotland’s waterfalls don’t disappoint.

In the Highlands, Rogie Falls is a great place to see salmon leaping up stream in August and September and also has good car parking facilities and trails – perfect for taking the family on a day out. Corrieshalloch Gorge will be opening their new visitor centre in 2023 and boasts a mile-long box canyon with a suspension bridge above – ideal for an afternoon stroll and a great photo opportunity.

Explore 12 Quiet Waterfall Walks in Scotland

 

11. Wester Ross Dark Sky Festival

November sees the darker nights draw in which makes the perfect setting for stargazing. In a lot of remote areas of the Highlands there is low levels of light pollution, which makes seeing stars and constellations against the dark night sky even easier.

This November the Wester Ross Dark Sky Festival is showcasing the benefits of spending time in the dark. With events such as Mindfulness for Health courses, Evening Paddleboarding at Gairloch Beach, and Moonwalk and Nocturnal Wildlife in Ullapool, to name a few, there are a great range of exciting things to get involved in that the whole family will love.

Find out more at Wester Ross Dark Sky Festival

 

12. Beaches

Beaches in the Highlands? Where to start?! There are countless beaches and coastal spots in the region that provide close competition to the likes of the Caribbean… maybe just without the hot temperatures. Here in the Highlands, you can find long stretches of golden sandy beaches coupled with crystal clear waters to paddle in.

Dornoch Beach is a winner of Scotland’s Beach Awards and features excellent access, facilities and safety for wheelchair users. Many beaches on the Easter Ross Peninsula are great locations for spotting dolphins, seals and a variety of seabirds.

Explore Scotland’s beaches

 

That was just a taster of the incredible nature spots and attractions on offer in the Highlands. Wherever you go you’ll be met by unique experiences, untouched landscapes and extraordinary native wildlife species to encounter too. Why not book a stay in the Highlands this winter? You’ll be met by a whole other world of wildlife and landscapes!

 

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