Today Lonely Planet announces the Scottish Highlands and Islands* as one of the top regions in the world to go in 2019, leaving no reason to delay a visit. With impressive scenery, world class dining experiences and an outstanding accommodation offering it’s no wonder this exceptional corner of the globe has scooped up such an impressive accolade.
In light of Lonely Planet’s declaration of the region as a “must-see destination” for the coming year, VisitScotland offers just some of the top reasons for travel-lovers to bump the Highlands and Islands up to the top of their bucket list in 2019.
Scotland’s variety and quality of distilleries to explore is unmatched and the Highlands and Islands have plenty to offer, from the chance to stay in the first legal whisky distillery on the Isle of Raasay to a visit to Harris Distillery to pick up a bottle of Isle of Harris Gin, which is only available for purchase from the island. Try out the region’s foodie experiences, including the new Mac & Wild at Falls of Shin, which offers a range of Scottish dishes and is positioned scenically close to the falls where guests can view salmon leaping in the summer months, before enjoying a taste of it in the restaurant. Alternatively, head to Alladale Wilderness Reserve for the chance to fish and forage for food, including herbs, mushrooms and plants with a ranger before having a professional chef to prepare and cook them.
Boat trips are great way to explore the coastline and discover Scotland’s marine wildlife, Hebridean Whale Cruises operate from Gairloch, giving visitors the chance to get a close up look at Orcas, dolphins and sharks. A stop at John O’Groats while travelling along the North Coast 500 offers wildlife spotting opportunities including seals, orcas, oystercatchers, guillemots and, at certain times of year, puffins. Visitors seeking out the latest wildlife adventure may want to explore the Hebridean Whale Trail, set to launch in 2019. For those who prefer to explore on dry land Beinn Eighe nature reserve in Wester Ross, famous for its ancient pinewoods, is an ideal location for spotting wildlife; come here to see soaring golden eagles or red deer.
For stunning views over open sea walk the Waternish peninsula loop, a beautiful and less frequently explored part of Skye. The Highlands also offer autumn and winter visitors the opportunity to see the incredible northern lights; places with the best conditions of low light pollution include the far North West of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides. Visitors taking in the Northern Lights will be in an ideal location to enjoy a landscape so outstanding that it has been designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve.
Discover the site of one of the most famous and dramatic battles in Scottish history at the interactive Culloden Visitor Centre, catch one of the regular ‘living history’ re-enactments of the fray which marked the end of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Visitors looking to combine hiking in outstanding scenery with fascinating history can head to Glencoe to learn about the tragic and infamous massacre which took place there. Glencoe’s award-winning, eco-friendly visitor centre is a brilliant place to learn about the landscape and soak up the sights.
There is something for everyone ranging from camping at idyllic and well-equipped spots such as Talla Na Mara in Harris to luxury in a stunning setting at Inverlochy Castle, which boasts views of the surrounding mountains and furnishings gifted to the castle by the King of Norway. Discover unique places to sleep such as Blacksheep House, a contemporary renovation of a traditional Hebridean Blackhouse or The Broch at Borve Lodge Estate, believed to be the first broch** built in the UK since the Roman era. For art-lovers The Lime Tree in Fort William is unmissable, offering guests a chance to stay in a hotel which is also a working studio for artist David Wilson with an attached art gallery on site, housing a permanent collection of this Highland artist’s works.
Scotland on the Silver Screen:
The Highlands provide a naturally stunning setting for film-makers and visitors can see iconic locations from their favourite films, including the peak of Suilven, the 731m tall mountain in Sutherland climbed by Edie on her life-affirming journey, or the sweeping cinematic scenery of Harry Potter on board the Jacobite Steam Train, widely regarded as the real life Hogwarts Express. For Bond fans a drive through the atmospheric highland scenery and past the striking Buachallie Etive Mor on the way to Glencoe will set them on the same road as 007 (Daniel Craig) and M (Judy Dench) making their way to Bond’s childhood home in Skyfall.
Off the beaten track:
For those looking to Skye for their next adventure consider a trip to Raasay; a peaceful paradise for walkers and nature lovers, the island also offers a chance to visit one of the stops on the new Hebridean Whisky Trail. Or head to Sutherland and Caithness which boast unspoilt, dramatic scenery in some of the most remote parts of Scotland; these areas are the perfect place to explore while enjoying true peace and quiet on the extreme edge of Europe.
To discover more about the Highlands and Islands visit: www.visitscotland.com.
*Lonely Planet defines the Highlands in the book as the area above the Highland Boundary Fault - the topographical feature that divides the Lowlands and the Highlands and which goes diagonally from Helensburgh in the west to just above Stonehaven in the east coast. The ‘Islands’ in this case refers to the Outer Hebrides.
**A broch is a prehistoric circular stone tower found in north Scotland and adjacent islands.