Spectacular scenery and rich culture, the Scottish Highlands make up a vast adventure playground.
Think of Scotland and it’s likely the Highlands that first comes to mind. This is the land of snow-capped mountains, ancient castles, deep lochs, forests, and wild coastline. It’s a four-season destination for those who love to get outdoors, from wildlife watchers to skiers, ice-climbers, and tough hikers testing their mettle on long-distance routes like the West Highland Way or well-off-the-beaten-track Cape Wrath Trail. From beachside caravan sites to pitching a tent in a thick forest, camping options abound, too. Wild camping is legal throughout Scotland when practised responsibly by following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
The Argyll coastline is dotted white sandy beaches, long sea lochs, and peninsulas that look out to the country’s islands. The area is filled with opportunities for adventure, from windsurfing and kayaking to mountain biking and long-distance hiking. Take a ferry over to Islay to sample malt whiskies, spot whales on Mull, and explore the hexagon basalt columns of Fingal’s Cave on Staffa. It’s also one of the best areas in Scotland to see golden eagles, puffins, and red deer. Camping on the Cowal peninsula is hard to beat for sea views, while inland mountains, glens, and lochs form a canvas for fun in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
The very heart of the Highlands, the Great Glen is surrounded by some of Britain's highest mountains and is a magnet for outdoor adventurers. Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, is here, close to the famous Loch Ness, and makes a good base for visitors. Hillwalkers and wildlife watchers will find plenty to appeal in Cairngorms National Park, while winter sports enthusiasts should head for Aviemore. At the western end of the glen, Fort William is your base for exploring Glencoe, climbing Ben Nevis, and travelling along the Road to the Isles to Mallaig, from where ferries depart for the islands. Sample a few drams at the Speyside whisky distilleries, then turn in for the night at a grass or hardstanding pitch.
The low-lying eastern side of Ross and Cromarty is home to the Black Isle peninsula, a popular stop along the North Coast 500 and a good place to see dolphins in the Moray Firth. The western side has more of the dramatic scenery that you'd expect of the Highlands—the Applecross peninsula is a spectacular location for hiking and kayaking. The Ross and Cromarty village of Ullapool is the port for ferries to Lewis and Harris, and nearby campsites, hardstanding pitches, and glamping pods make for good bases for exploring the northwest Highlands.
The Scottish mainland’s thinly populated northeastern corner has a noticeably Norse heritage—which becomes all the more evident as you travel to Orkney and Shetland. The north coast is home to some dramatic high cliffs and sea stacks, most famously at Duncansby Head. It’s a popular spot for hardy cyclists who battle the wind along the Thurso to Dunnet Head cycling route. While at Dunnet Head (mainland Britain’s most northerly point), you can watch puffins and razorbills in the cliffs and even take a surfing lesson in Dunnet Bay. Just behind the beach, campers can find touring and tent pitches.