From stunning scenery to a traditional culture that has remained true to its roots throughout the centuries, the Highlands of Scotland offer so much. There are haunting ruins to explore here, along with picture-postcard villages, fascinating wildlife and constant surprises to be had. Not convinced? Maybe these wanderlust-inducing photos of the Scottish Highlands will change your mind.
Dawn in the Scottish Highlands
The light in the Highlands is magical, no matter the season or the time of day, but it is perhaps most stunning as the sun sets and rises – with low light creating bright flashes across the river, loch and burn.
Morning sunlight at the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye, Scotland | © Adam Burton / Alamy Stock Photo
Roaming Wild in the Scottish Highlands
The right to roam across the Highlands is bound into the culture. Following small tracks – perhaps on foot, perhaps by bike – will often lead to the perfect place for a picnic, or maybe make you ask, “Who lived here, and when?”
Clovullin Ardgour in the Scottish Highlands, Scotland | © Mike Kipling Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Hidden Secrets in the Scottish Highlands
It’s not just crofts and cottages that lie abandoned. Infrastructure from times now long gone can be found across the region – whether drover’s roads, coffin trails, or bridges constructed for packhorses many, many years ago. Secrets are still waiting to be discovered here.
Carrbridge, the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands of Scotland | © blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo
Ancient Strongholds in the Scottish Highlands
Scotland has many castles and the Highlands contain some of the most stunning examples. You can even stay the night in some Scottish castles. This one is Eilean Donan, set on the shores of Kyle of Lochalsh.
An aerial view of Eilean Donan castle at sunrise in Scotland | © Richard Johnson / Alamy Stock Photo
Crumbling Castles in the Scottish Highlands
Other castles are ruined, looking as though they were carved from the very rock upon which they are built, like the old castle at Keiss here.
Castle ruins of Keiss castle at the coastline, Scotland | © blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo
Magical Rivers in the Scottish Highlands
You’re never far from open water in Scotland, whether it’s tiny rivulets running down hills, deep lochs dividing islands, or beautiful rivers running the width of the country. This water brings life and beauty here, sometimes moving like this wee river in Torridon.
A red-roofed cottage in Scotland | © Ondrej Fendrych Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Still, Deep Waters in the Scottish Highlands
There are waters so still here, you could use them as a mirror. Just beware of any mythical beasts who may be lurking – whether Nessie or the Kelpies.
Loch Lubnaig Callander in Stirlingshire, Scotland | © CW Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Frozen Lochs in the Scottish Highlands
In winter, the days are short but the cold has a beauty of its own. Winter sports options are available across the region, but sometimes it is enough just to sit and stare at the late dawn across a frozen and snow-clad loch, hiding her secrets until spring.
An approaching snowstorm over snowy and frozen Loch Awe, Scotland | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Dark Skies and Bright Stars in the Scottish Highlands
During winter, the sun leaves long hours of night — which is the perfect time for stargazing. With some of the darkest skies in the UK, the Highlands regularly offer stunning spectacles of stars and unforgettable natural phenomena.
The Highlands at night in Scotland | © Jacek Nowak / Alamy Stock Photo
Merry Dancers in the Scottish Highlands
Our galaxy – the Milky Way – is often bright across the skies here, looking for all the world like a splash of paint. Here it is accompanied by a small aurora on the horizon. There are times when the Northern Lights are high overhead, dancing and flickering.
Northern Lights at Ganavan Sands on the West Coast of Scotland | © Nick Edgington / Alamy Stock Photo
Friendly Faces in the Scottish Highlands
The iconic Highland Cow, built to withstand the Scottish weather and thrive here. They are friendly and often inquisitive, almost as though they demand their photo be taken.
A highland cow on Arran in Scotland | © Paul Lovichi Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Art in Strange Places in the Scottish Highlands
Sculpture and public art are to be found in the strangest of places – such as here at Loch Earn, with the iconic silver Mirror Man.
The Mirror Man of the Loch Earn, Scotland | © Paul Stewart / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo
Wild, Free-Range Sculptures in the Scottish Highlands
And also here in the shadow of the bulky Ben Hope, near Durness in Sutherland — one of the wildest corners of Europe, yet art still roams free. This is the sculptor Lotte Glob’s work and well worth a visit if you drive the North Coast 500.
The Unknown, a sculpture by Kenny Hunter in Sutherland, Scotland | © Vincent Lowe / Alamy Stock Photo
The Queen of Mountains in the Scottish Highlands
Known as the Queen of Scotland’s mountain, Ben Loyal rises 764m (2507ft) – not quite a Munro, but seeming taller for its proximity to sea level. The mountain also stands near the northern coast.
Ben Loyal and the Kyle of Tongue, near Sutherland, Scotland | © David Robertson / Alamy Stock Photo
Beautiful Towns in the Scottish Highlands
Oban is a beautiful and photogenic wee coastal town, a gateway to places such as Barra, Coll, or Lismore – reached by ferry, but also worth exploring in its own right.
Views of the town of Oban, Scotland | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Country Roads in the Scottish Highlands
Visit the Highlands and it can be guaranteed you will see a tiny road winding somewhere unknown, disappearing into the mountains and moors, tempting you to follow.
Climbing Glen Docherty in the Highlands of Scotland | © Joe Dunckley / Alamy Stock Photo
High Places in the Scottish Highlands
If you climb to the tops of the peaks, you often find you have the view and pinnacle to yourself – the busy Ben Nevis is perhaps the obvious exception – and at times like these, you’ll likely feel a solitude and peace, unlike anything to be found elsewhere.
View from Stac Pollaidh looking towards Loch Lurgainn, Scotland | © Gary Cook / Alamy Stock Photo
Sheltered, Secret Bays in the Scottish Highlands
Did we mention the beaches? High though the Highlands may be, they also descend to some of the richest and most beautiful waters in the world, with miles of sand all to yourself – apart from the odd seal or otter maybe – or secluded and sheltered bays like this one. The waters are often warmer than you may think.
Big Sands beach on Loch Gairloch, Scotland | © Realimage / Alamy Stock Photo
Iconic Architecture in the Scottish Highlands
There are few railways across the Highlands, simply because it is too mountainous and there are too few people to warrant building more, but the routes that do exist – like the West Highland Line here offer stupendously beautiful journeys. This is the Jacobite steam train crossing the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct: AKA The Harry Potter Bridge.
The red heritage Jacobite coal-fired steam train used in the Harry Potter films at Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland | © Gaertner / Alamy Stock Photo
Sunset Islands in the Scottish Highlands
Even when you reach the coast of the Highlands the land does not stop, instead, it frays into thousands of islands – from the large like Skye to the small like this tiny islet here. If you kayak or sea canoe, these places are magical to camp upon.
Peach Sunset and Scots Pines, Lochaber, Scotland | © Courtesy of the Author