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Things to Do in The Scottish Highlands - page 3

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Duncansby Head
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3 Tours and Activities

Duncansby Head, located in northern Scotland, is the northernmost point on the British mainland. It is a set of dramatic sandstone cliffs that overlook the sea. Some of the cliffs reach up to 200 feet high. Exploring the area along the coastal pathway will give you a great opportunity to see some of the region's unique seabirds and other wildlife. Some of the birds you might see include guillemot, kittiwakes, and puffins, depending on the time of year.

From Duncansby Head, visitors will have a view of the Duncansby Stacks, a group of large jagged sea rocks, and Thirle Door, a rocky arch. Sometimes it is also possible to catch a glimpse of some of the sea life here, including seals, dolphins, minke and killer whales. The nearby village of John O'Groats is the northernmost settlement on the mainland of Britain, and the Duncansby Head Lighthouse marks the northernmost point.

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Inverewe (Inverewe Garden & Estate)

Inverewe Garden & Estate is one of Scotland's most popular botanical gardens. It sits on a peninsula on the edge of Loch Ewe among the rugged landscape of the Wester Ross area of the Scottish Highlands. Inverewe garden was set up as a sub-tropical style oasis with exotic plants from all over the world. Some of the species found here include the most northerly planting of rare Wollemi pines, Himalayan blue poppies, olearia from New Zealand, Tasmanian eucalyptus, and rhododendrons from China, Nepal and the Indian subcontinent.

Despite being so far north, plants thrive at Inverewe due to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream and the foresight of Osgood Mackenzie who created the garden in 1862. At the time, he planted over 100 acres of woodland to shelter the garden. The garden is also part of a larger estate managed for conservation. The estate covers an area of 2,000 acres and is home to many species of mammals and birds. Trails give visitors the opportunity to be closer to nature and the wildlife.

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Thurso

Thurso is the northernmost town in mainland Scotland and located on the north coast of Caithness. From the coast, you can see the cliffs of Dunnet Head and Hoy, one of the Orkney Islands. The town is also surrounded by the typical landscapes of the Scottish countryside. The center of town has plenty of traditional shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Some of the highlights of the town center include the circular well house of Meadow Well and Janet Street, which overlooks the River Thurso near the Thurso Bridge. There are also remains of a castle and a church in Thurso. Several museums display local art and glass works.

Thurso has also become a major destination for surfers in recent years. It is a premier cold surf area and has hosted surfing championships and two world championships for kayak surfing. There are plenty of reefs, points, river mouths, and beaches, and the area offers year-round surfing opportunities for enthusiasts.

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Strathmashie Forest

With over 1,400 hectares of native pine and sitka woodlands, some more than a century old, Strathmashie Forest offers a scenic entry point to the Scottish Highlands, with ample opportunities for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Marking the western border of the Cairngorms National Park, the forest sprawls through the foothills of the Monadhliath hills to the banks of Loch Laggan, where the lakeside beach makes a popular picnic spot.

The main highlight of the forest is the Pattack Falls and a marked walking trail leads the way, following tree-lined tracks along the picturesque river gorge. For mountain bikers, the main attraction is the Laggan Wolftrax Centre – a huge bike park located in the adjoining Laggan Forest.

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Inveraray Jail
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Paying admission to get locked in a barren cell? At Inveraray Jail, it is worth it. The former prison turned museum manages to bridge the gap between tourist attraction and meaningful infotainment and delves into the darker parts of Scottish history. Small as it was, Inveraray was the seat of the Duke of Argyll and thus, the town came to be of central importance. The prison and the courthouse were opened in 1820 and prisoners from all over the area were brought here, not only men, but also women and children. Due to overcrowding, an additional building had to be constructed but the whole jail eventually shut down in 1889, when larger prisons in the bigger cities took over.

A visit to Inveraray Jail includes a tour through the different wings of the prison and even a trial lock-up in the cells and courtyard cage. Visitors can read stories about the inmates who were locked up in those cells, sit in the restored courtroom and listen to trials and meet the warden and prison guards, all dressed up in authentic period costumes. Coincidentally, Inveraray Jail is believed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Scotland and has many ghost sightings to report.

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Nessieland

Nessie, the creature supposedly inhabiting Scotland’s mysterious Loch Ness, is undoubtedly one of the most well-known monsters in the world. Sightings started popping up in the late 19th century and ever since, Nessie has held the world’s attention and the myth has refused to die. Visitors wishing to learn more about the legends surrounding Loch Ness can do so at Nessieland castle monster centre in Drumnadrochit. While this miniature theme park is aimed at children, it offers plenty of educational displays. There are lots of newspaper clippings reporting sightings, grainy photographs and display panels explaining the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster.

A multilingual documentary takes visitors on the hunt for Nessie and not only shows eyewitness accounts, but also underwater searches that have been taking place since the 1970s. Whether you end up being a believer or not, Nessieland offers a lot of fun. Kids especially enjoy the supposedly life-sized Nessie model that can be ridden, the large adventure playground and the caves. Of course, there is also a gift shop where the corresponding Nessie memorabilia can be purchased.

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Glencoe (Glen Coe)
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12 Tours and Activities

Bordered by steep, waterfall-threaded mountains, dramatic Glencoe (Glen Coe) is the stuff of Scottish postcards. Though it has historical significance—it was the site of the 1692 Glencoe Massacre of the MacDonald Clan—and its very own ski resort, Glencoe Mountain Resort, the valley’s main draw is its spectacular scenery.

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Inveraray Castle
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Complete with turrets and battlements, this Gothic Revival-style castle is revered for its storybook good looks. Inveraray Castle has been the seat of the Clan Campbell since the 15th century and has more recently served as a filming location for Downton Abbey. The castle houses collections of weapons and art, and is surrounded by manicured gardens.

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Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park

A vast landscape of hills and mountains, lush valleys, mist-shrouded lochs, and shady woodland trails, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park makes an easy rural retreat from Scotland’s biggest city. Located just north of Glasgow, the park also serves as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands.

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Jacobite Steam Train

Chugging through the misty lochs and sweeping glens of the Scottish Highlands, the Jacobite Steam Train (or Jacobite Express) is one of Britain's greatest train journeys, taking passengers on a nostalgic train ride between Fort William in the West Highlands and Mallaig on Scotland's west coast. The 84-mile (135-km) round-trip route passes Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain, and the Glenfinnan viaduct, seen in theHarry Potter films when the Jacobite Steam Train was featured as the fictional Hogwarts Express.

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More Things to Do in The Scottish Highlands

Isle of Islay

Isle of Islay

Scotland’s Isle of Islay is a land of dramatic coastal scenery, vibrant bid life, and fine seafood, but it’s Islay’s distinctive smoky whiskies that really draws the visitors. Home to nearly a dozen working distilleries, including Lagavulin and Bowmore, Islay’s distinctive single malt makes it a bucket list destination for whisky lovers from across the world.

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Orkney Islands

Orkney Islands

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Separated from the northern tip of mainland Scotland by the choppy waters of the Pentland Firth strait, the Orkney Islands are an archaeological wonderland. Comprised of about 20 inhabited islands and many more uninhabited ones, Orkney is littered with prehistoric ruins and Viking remnants. The islands’ interiors, a patchwork of heather-clad moors and fertile grasslands, are encircled by superb sandy beaches and sheer coastal cliffs.

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Tomnahurich (Fairy Hill)

Tomnahurich (Fairy Hill)

Fairy Hill, or Tomnahurich in Scottish Gaelic, is an esker (glacier-formed ridge or mound) in Inverness that overlooks the Caledonian Canal. While visitors and locals are drawn to its 18th-century cemetery, the hill is most known for its Scottish folklore legends.

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