Are you looking for new or exciting things to fill up your weekends? The North Highlands are packed with fascinating history, dramatic castles, great family adventures, stunning scenery and unique wildlife.
These suggestions are not just for visitors - if you're lucky enough to call this region home, then these ideas are for you too!
Dornoch is the perfect base to enjoy the outstanding natural beauty of the region with hills, glens, lochs, heather clad moors and miles of golden sand beaches. The links of the famous Royal Dornoch Golf Club stand as one of the finest of all golf courses, ranked 13th in the world. Remoteness is part of its charm and the only reason that this magnificent links remains out of the mainstream of major championship golf.
Did you know?
- Royal Dornoch is spellbinding and many golfers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to this natural links.
- Dornoch is home to a magnificent 13th century cathedral, which is the smallest on the UK mainland.
- The town is also reputedly where the last witch in Scotland was burnt in 1722 - a fact commemorated by the Witch’s Stone.
- Dornoch is surrounded by impressive castles from Skibo Castle to the fairytale Dunrobin Castle.
North West Highlands Geopark
Discover Scotland’s first UNESCO Global Geopark in the North West Highlands. Explore the amazing landscapes along the Rock Route. Get to grips with ancient glaciers at Kyle of Durness or meet some of the oldest rocks on the planet at Loch Assynt. Discover the fascinating Bone Caves at Inchnadamph, a time capsule for 47,000 years. Take a torch to really get a feel for the place. Or unlock the mysteries of Scotland’s turbulent past as it journeyed from “pole to pole” at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve.
- At 3,000 million years old, the rocks here are some of the oldest in Europe.
- At the Bones Caves, there is evidence of cave-dwelling and the bones of long-extinct species in Scotland such as lynx, polar bear, reindeer, wolves and ancient ancestors have been found here.
North of Inverness, explore the fascinating Fyrish Monument also known as the Gates of Negapatam. From Alness, you can reach it with a short walk along natural pathways up Fyrish hill though woodland. Your efforts will be rewarded with magnificent views overlooking the Cromarty Firth and Moray Firth, all the way towards Ben Wyvis. This impressive monument stands proudly with a trio of central arches and four towers, and has a bit of an odd tale.
Another truly magical place nearby to explore on foot is the Black Rock Gorge in Evanton, a dramatic 40 m deep gorge created during the Ice Age.
Did you know?
- Fyrish Monument was commissioned in 1782 by the local Laird, Sir Hector Munro, a high ranking Scottish soldier who served in India. The monument is said to commemorate Munro’s seizure of Nagapattinam in India.
- Black Rock Gorge was featured in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But be warned, the gorge is said to be haunted by a noblewoman named Lady Balconie!
The Brochs of Caithness
Caithness is home to some of the most spectacular and nationally important archaeology in the country.
At 5,000 years old, the Grey Cairns of Camster are one of the oldest and best preserved Neolithic burial cairns in Scotland. Further north, the dramatic Nybster Broch stands proudly on the cliffs with lovely sea views and the impressive ruins of Keiss Castle nearby.
In the south, follow the Dunbeath Strath Heritage Trail with ancient chapels, hut circles and gorgeous views over the Strath river and discover Dunbeath Broch, one of the best surviving examples of a broch in the area. You can also visit the fascinating Loch Rangag Broch, also known as Greysteil Castle.
Did you know?
- Caithness has more broch sites than anywhere else in Scotland. Get an insight into how Iron Age people lived their lives with standing stones, cairns, castles and as many as 300 mysterious brochs.
- Greysteil was a medieval character in a poem, thought to have been written in the 1500s about a knight named Sir Greysteil and thought to be invincible.
Attadale Gardens are spectacular gardens situated in peaceful Wester Ross and feature an impressive collection of sculptures scattered throughout. The gardens were started by the Victorians and totally transformed after the 1980 storms by owner Nicky Macpherson. It truly is an artist’s garden with magnificent views of Skye and the surrounding hills.
Here you can wander through the kitchen garden, the sunken garden, the geodesic dome filled with ferns. Enjoy the peace and tranquillity and take a stroll in the extensive water gardens and ancient paths winding through woodland and rhododendrons, over bridges, waterfalls and exotic ponds.
Did you know?
- Look out for the well-hidden sculptures throughout the gardens as well as the restored sunken garden and herb garden.
- Attadale also includes a kitchen garden, a sunken fern garden and a Japanese garden.
- Don’t miss the rocky viewpoint at the end of the rhododendron walk with beautiful views of the Skye hills through the Strome Narrows.
- You can stay at the Attadale Estate in the beautiful holiday cottages, all designed by Nicky Macpherson.
Soak up the gorgeous views of the Assynt and Coigach mountains on a guided kayaking trip and paddle your way through crystal clear waters to colonies of seals and sea birds.
Explore the impressive caves and arches of the Summer Isles, north of Ullapool - a paradise for sea-kayakers with rare wildlife and stunning scenery. You might even spot some otters, basking sharks, whales or dolphins. You could also go on a family adventure along the peaceful waters of Loch Maree or the inland lochs of Inverpollaidh.
Did you know?
- The Summer Isles consists of up of 30 wild and rugged islands, stacks and skerries. Each has their own little gem, from the spectacular cliffs of Isle Martin to the white sands of Isle Ristol or the mighty Cathedral Cave of Tanera Beg.
- Isle Maree, has the remains of a chapel, graveyard, holy well, and holly tree on it, believed to be an eighth century hermitage.
Highland Wildcat Mountain Bike Trails
Experience mountain biking heaven in Golspie. Billed as the longest freeride descent in the UK, the Highland Wildcat Trails high up on Ben Bhraggie are sure to attract downhill aficionados from all over the UK.
Accessed from the picturesque village of Golspie, there is a selection of green, blue, red, and black trails, but the main loop consists of a combination of the red and black routes. From sea level, the trail takes you all the way to the top of the Ben Bhraggie, from where there are stunning views of the Moray Firth coastline. But the real fun begins with the descent plunging back down to Golspie.
Did you know?
- Highland Wildcat Trail boasts the longest descent in the UK (1,300 ft to sea level) and also one of the longest technical single-track climbs in Britain.
- The village of Golspie boasts a lovely long sandy beach and some great scenic walks including one at the Big Burn with its spectacular waterfalls.
- Just north of Golspie, the magical fairytale Dunrobin Castle is one of the grandest houses in the north of Scotland.
Falls of Shin
Falls of Shin is a calming oasis located smack in the middle of the North Coast 500 in Lairg. Here, you can witness one of the wonders of nature and view majestic salmon as they attempt to leap up the famous Falls of Shin. From the viewing platform, marvel at the thundering falls and see the salmon jumping from the water trying to desperately get back upstream in the summer and early autumn.
Don’t miss the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre and indulge yourself in some of the best Scottish produce at the Mac & Wild Restaurant.
Did you know?
- With beautiful forest trails on all sides, you can go mountain biking, walking and foraging through beautiful ancient woodland with some lovely views along the rocky banks of the Shin.
- You can also enjoy the luxurious 'Land Rover Camping' experience using converted Land Rovers with rooftop tents and a star-gazing belle tent.
- During the lockdown, Mac & Wild adapted to the times by delivering some of the finest Scottish meat, game and their very own venison haggis to customers’ front doors across the UK.
With so many places to visit across Scotland, will you head to one of your favourites or try somewhere new?