9 free things to do in the Highlands

It'll take you quite some time to explore the 30,000 km² of the Highlands. There are plenty of free attractions and places to visit, ideal for anyone on a budget. Maybe you'll delve into Jacobite history at a museum, explore a prehistoric burial site, or take time to capture that perfect snap of a railway engineering wonder?

  1. Inverness Botanic Gardens Inverness

    Inverness Botanic Gardens

    Inverness Botanic Gardens is an oasis of calm and beauty within walking distance of the bustling city centre. Set within the former walled garden of Bught House on the west bank of the River Ness, the Gardens’ highlights include the Tropical Greenhouse. This building mimics a humid climate to create ideal growing conditions for tropical plants such as coffee as well as a home for birds of paradise. In addition to outdoor gardens with seasonal floral displays and fishponds are a café and visitor centre. 

    Key facilities
    • Parking
    • On Public Transport Route
    • Accessible Parking Or Drop-off Point
    • Level Access
    • Accessible toilets
    • WiFi
    • Cafe or Restaurant
  2. River Ness & Ness Islands  Inverness

    The view down the River Ness running through the city centre of Inverness, from the grounds of Inverness Castle, Highlands of Scotland.

    © Paul Tomkins, VisitScotland. All rights reserved.

    Just a short stroll away from Inverness city centre the River Ness is a place of natural beauty to take a breath, get some exercise or just watch the world go by. Don’t miss out on the stunning walk along the River Ness and to the Ness Islands. The walk takes in historic buildings, wildlife and perhaps a ghost or two.  

  3. Clava Cairns Near Inverness

    Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava or Clava Cairns

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    Visit the sacred burial site of Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age cemetery set on a terrace above the River Nairn near Inverness. Tucked away in a beautiful woodland setting near Culloden, the mystical stone circles and burial chambers at Clava Cairns are a hugely significant and exceptionally well-preserved prehistoric site.

    The captivating complex has become a bucket list tourist site for fans of the TV series Outlander as it was the inspiration for Craigh Na Dun in the novel and the series. 

  4. Lochaber Geopark Fort William

    Get more information from the Geopark Interpretation Boards

    Lochaber Geopark’s wild and varied landscape stretches from Rannoch Moor in the south to Glen Garry in the north, and from Loch Laggan in the east to the Small Isles in the west. Home to some of the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring scenery in the world, the Geopark is recognised for its outstanding and unique geological heritage. Explore iconic spots, Glen Coe and Glen Roy, and learn about volcanoes, towering mountains and glaciers. 

  5. John O’Groats and Duncansby Stacks Caithness

    The sign with various mileages to other points of the globe at John O Groats (The accepted opposite to Land's End in England), a village in the north

    © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

    Take a walk from the northernmost mainland village of John O’Groats to Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly point on the British mainland, and continue along the coast to see the two dramatic pointed sea stacks. Admire the incredible surrounding scenery and wildflower-covered links, or relax on the nearby beach and make the best sand castles or sculptures you can. 

    This region is a great surf spot (for those who love the prospect of jumping in the North Sea), and you’ll find more brochs here than anywhere else in Scotland. 

  6. West Highland Museum Fort William

    West Highland Museum building

    Visit the West Highland Museum and discover enthralling stories from the past. The museum is world famous for its Jacobite exhibits but also for housing an excellent local history collection from ancient archaeology to the present day artefacts. See the Bonnie Prince's death mask, sword, and some of his clothing, including his fine silk waistcoat, as well as other Jacobite items. 

    Key facilities
    • On Public Transport Route
    • Pets Welcome
    • Level Access
    • WiFi
  7. Cairngorms National Park Cairngorms

    Loch an Eilein at Rothiemurchus

    The Cairngorms National Park is the largest National Park in Britain and a vast playground for adventurers. Larger than the Lake District and twice the size of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, the park contains some of the best wildlife habitats in the UK. From castles, distilleries and gentle strolls to fun parks, quad bikes and extreme sports, everyone will find something for themselves.

  8. Snow Roads Scenic Route Cairngorms

    Winter in Glenmore Forest Park near Aviemore

    Explore the 90 miles of the SnowRoads to discover wild landscapes and uncover the tales and hidden treasures of this untouched area. Stretching an incredible 90 miles, this route covers some of the most scenic points in the Highlands, as well as Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and Moray Speyside. Taking in snow-capped mountains, rugged glens, towering Munros, outdoor adventures, cycling, delicious food and drink and more, the Snow Roads Scenic Route encompasses some of the Cairngorms National Park’s finest areas.  

  9. Corbett bagging Highlands


    © VisitScotland / Airborne Lens

    There are many amazing Corbetts (hills that reach between 2,500 and 3,000 ft high) in Scotland that offer great adventures with stunning views. Although these hills are slightly smaller than Munros, Corbetts still provide challenging days out in the mountains. 

    Try the steep-sided Fraochaidh located in the mountainous landscapes of Lochaber, between Glen Coe and Oban. If you’re heading towards Loch Ness you’ll find the secluded round-top An Sidhean, nestled in the wilderness of the Highlands. Even further up in the north west Highlands, and lesser known than the neighbouring peak of Foinaven, a rewarding walk up Arkle boasts a glorious route to uncover. 

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