The highest mountain, the deepest loch - this is the area for superlatives as well as great contrasts. Nairn's golf courses or Dornoch Cathedral are as much a part of the area as the soaring rock walls of Ben Nevis or the trackless grandeur of Knoydart.
This is big country - even at Inverness, there is still some way to go to the top of Scotland! With Inverness a natural route centre, the roads go off like wheel-spokes. The Laidhay Croft Centre by Dunbeath, or Timespan at Helmsdale portray Caithness and Sutherland life. Along the seaboard of the north-west, curiously-shaped and oddly-named mountains - Arkle, Foinaven, Canisp, Stac Polly - stream white quartz down their slopes like snow. The north-west has special atmosphere all of its own.
Inverness, with all the trappings of a Highland capital, by way of shopping, dining, theatre and evening entertainments, is also the gateway to the Great Glen. Three lochs, including Loch Ness, are linked by the Caledonian Canal (Excellent cruising and waterspouts opportunities, as well as cycleways, walks and trails hereabouts - including the recently opened Great Glen Way, an official long-distance footpath linking east and west coasts).
At the south end of the Great Glen lies Fort William, like Inverness a natural route centre offering everything for visitors, including its nearness to Ben Nevis and also the Nevis Range ski centre, with its year-round gondolas sweeping up for views of 'The Ben' and around Lochaber. (Nevis Range also has Britain's longest downhill mountain bike track.)
Great Glen touring can also be extended by looping through Glen Spean into Speyside with its many attractions, from watching ospreys at Loch Garten to enjoying a trip on the Strathspey Steam Railway, with magnificent Cairngorm views.
Peerless sea views out to the Small Isles, a softness in the air and some of the remotest tracts of land in all of the UK, are typical of the West Highlands. Ardnamurchan Point is the most westerly point in mainland Scotland and getting there is a scenic delight. Its lighthouse visitor centre is a good place to go whale-watching. Moidart to the north is Bonnie Prince Charlie country, adding further romance with the tale of the Jacobite adventurer who came 'Over the Sea to Skye’.
No matter how you get there - by bridge or ferry - Skye, 'the Misty Isle' is a superb scenic experience. The view of the Black Cuillins from Eigol is one of the most spectacular images of Scotland. See the Cuillins again from Glen Brittle, with The Quiraing up in the Trotternish peninsula, and The Storr beyond Portree for more scenic spectacle. However, there are lots of other places of interest, from Dunvegan Castle to the Skye Museum of Island Life.
Upcoming Events & Places to visit
A Monster Tribute to the Best Rock & Indie Bands Ever featuring Hells Bells, The Complete Stone Roses, Definitely Oasis and Pity The Foo. Tickets from £30
BELLADRUM TARTAN HEART FESTIVAL | 2nd - 4th AUGUST
Award Winning Belladrum Tartan Heart is quite simply, the friendliest, wackiest, most inclusive festival in Scotland! Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival takes place in the beautiful Highland surroundings of Belladrum Estate, near Beauly in Inverness-shire. Line up includes Paloma Faith and Primal Scream!
An amazing opportunity to see 18th century paintings of the Grant Clan come home to Grantown in the first ever retrospective exhibition of Scottish Artist Richard Waitt. Waitt’s portraits of Clan Grant now hang in Scotland’s prestigious galleries and properties. Together for the first time, this unique exhibition reveals the intriguing world of a Highland clan in the time of the Jacobites. For more information on this exhibition and the museum click on their website:-
Wild natural beauty and 1,000 years of history - Urquhart Castle offers a taste of the Highlands at their most dramatic.Discover 1,000 years of drama, experience a glimpse of medieval life and enjoy stunning views over Loch Ness from the ruins of the greatest castle in the Highlands.
* Blackisle Wildlife Park, Inverness – feed the animals, visit the hatchery and stay for a spot of lunch after.
Open 7 days 10-6pm, adults £5, children £2
* Jacobite Steam Engine
Described as the greatest railway journey in the world and made famous in the Harry Potter films, this 84 mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes and crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct.
Morning Service: Mon to Fri 24th April to 27th Oct and weekends from 17th June to 1st October 2017.
Afternoon Service: Mon to Fri 15th May to 15th Sept and weekends from 1st July to 3rd Sept 2017.
* Smoo Cave, Durness – a large cave set in the limestone cliffs east of Durness
*Cairngorm Mountain Guided Walks
* River Ness and Caledonian Canal circuit - Inverness
* Inchree Falls - Onich
* Traligill Caves - Inchnadamph