After almost a year of Covid closures and travel uncertainty, the Scottish Highlands can’t wait to welcome back Scotland’s tourists and explorers. Whilst we wait patiently for the re-opening green light, our team have pulled together a list of their favourite Scottish Highlands bucket list locations. Take a break from Netflix and get planning for adventures to look forward to!
Magical places in Scotland
A popular stop on the North Coast 500 (Scotland’s answer to Rout 66), Smoo Cave is an enormous sea cave with a whimsical wooden walkway into its waterfall chamber. The cavern is the largest coastline cave in the British Isles and has stood the test of time for thousands of years.
Standing stones of Kilmarten Glen
Kilmarten Glen’s stones and monuments date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. There are over 800 features across the 6-mile area, including 5 large standing stones, decorated with carvings and positioned to form an X shape.
It doesn’t get much more magical than a fairy-tale castle! Dunrobin’s East coast stronghold looks like it popped right out of a story book packed with dragons and queens. The original structure has been inhabited since the 1300s, however, it was redesigned in the French Chateau Style in 1845 by the architect, Charles Berry.
Over 1300 years old, this single-track road comes with a safety warning (with many guides encouraging less experienced drivers to re-route). The magnificent road (known by its Gaelic name, The Bealach na Ba) winds down the mountainside and rewards cautious drivers with incredible views across the Highlands.
Clach Na Criche
This lesser-known Scottish landmark was formed by lava around 60 million years ago and is now known as The Wishing Stone. Its distinctive shape brought about tales of the rock’s “magical properties” and those passing through its hole 3 times were promised a wish.
Downton Abbey fans should be sure not to miss Inveraray Castle whilst heading up the West coast of Scotland. The filming for a 2-hour Christmas special took place here. Fans of the popular TV show can get up close and personal with the fictional “Duneagle Castle” and its wealthy grounds. Not a fan of the series? Not to worry, the loch-side estate and magical 18th-century turrets are reason enough to visit alone!
Stargazing in Argyll
Did you know that the low population numbers in the Scottish Highlands make it one of the most magnificent spots in Europe to watch the stars? Grab a blanket and head out on a clear night to identify the constellations and planets. Just a couple of minutes walk from the comfort of your room, Loch Melfort Hotel’s pebbled beach-front location is the ideal spot to hunker down with a hot chocolate to suss out the skies.
Offbeat places in Scotland
Remarkable Fingals’ Cave cuts into enormous cliffs on the uninhabited Scottish island of Staffa. At 227 foot tall, the cavern has been carved by nature for centuries, leaving perfect volcanic basalt columns that provide a walkway into its depths.
The Corryvreckan whirlpool is the third largest in the world. Its constant swells, currents and undertows make swimming extremely hazardous and the roar from the waters can be heard from over 10 miles away! Local Oban tour group SwimTrek have teamed up with Loch Melfort Hotel to offer guests a guided Corryvreckan Swimming Package – not for the faint-hearted, but what a bucket list tick!
Ralston Cairn Glencoe
Glencoe was always going to be on our Highland bucket list somewhere. The area is famous for its waterfalls, mountains and trails, but Ralston Cairn is a beautiful little secret just waiting to be found. The cairn (coming from a Gaelic term meaning “heap of stones”) is a memorial laid by a man named Trevor for his brother Ralston Claud Muir. The stone arrangement and its background views have become a popular spot for photographers.
Aviation enthusiasts and Scottish visitors looking for something a little unusual will love the sights at Barra Airport. This tiny airport is one of the only places in the world where flights take off from the sandy beach. During high tide, flights are permitted to take off.
Eriskay Football Pitch
One for sports lovers! This remote island football pitch was deemed one of the most unique places to play the sport by FIFA (due to its panoramic coastal views). Scotland’s Highland islands benefit from daylight into the late hours of the night during summer months; perfect conditions for an evening game.
Strange places in Scotland
A murderous clan story provided Massacre Cave its chilling name in the late 16th century. A feud between the Clan MacDonald and Clan MacLeod on the Isle of Eigg and saw around 400 islanders from Clan MacDonald die from suffocation after their rivals built a fire outside the entrance.
The legend goes that if you dip a small piece of natural fabric (a cloot) into the waters here and tie it to a nearby tree, your sickness or ailment will fade as the rag disintegrates. After centuries of this Celtic tale doing the rounds (and tourists picking up on the story) the grove makes for a rather haunting image.
The World’s Shortest Street
Did you know that Scotland is home to the World’s Shortest Street? The title, according to The Guinness Book of Records, is held by Ebenzer Place, in Wick, Caithness. The street is so short that it is only made up of one address – “No.1 Bistro” – part of Mackay’s Hotel.
Popular places to see in the Highlands of Scotland
The Wailing Widow Falls
This incredible Highland waterfall offers up not one, but two exhilarating up-close experiences: an aerial viewpoint taking in the loch from which it cascades, and a second canyon perspective at the base of the falls.
There’s so much to see on the island of Skye that it’s deserving of its own bucket list! We recommend you spend at least a full day there; the Fairie Pools, Old Mann of Storr, Kilt Rock, and Neist Point should be on every island-hoppers ‘must-see’ list.
The challenging Whaligoe Steps lead visitors down a treacherous cliff face to a natural harbour once used as a landing point for fishing boats. Be sure to bring midge repellent, as the little biters transform the 360+ steps into somewhat of a demanding gauntlet. Those feeling extra confident should also make the scramble across to the coastline viewpoint to take in the views of the tumbling Whaligoe waterfall.
Known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ AND the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’, Oban and its perfect horseshoe bay welcomes guests with a plethora of viewpoints, historical settings and culinary delights. The town acts a base for those travelling to the Hebridean Islands, but also enchants visitors with its multiple tourist attractions. Check out our Weekend in Oban post for more information.
Ben Nevis is the UK’s highest mountain and draws in an estimated 150,000 climbers a year! There are two main walking routes to the summit and, although manageable for amateurs, the excursion should not be taken lightly – allow for 7-8 hours (up and down).
Travel to the end of the world (or the most Northernly point of mainland UK at least). On a clear day, visitors to Dunnet Head can enjoy views across to the Orkney Islands and beyond. The drive to the point is an enjoyable one, weaving past beaches and hillside lochs and allowing for plenty of picnic stop opportunities.
Eilean Donan Castle
The most famous castles in Scotland (outside of Edinburgh), Eilean Donan Castle sits proudly on a small island where three of Scotland’s sea lochs meet. The original site dates back to 1400’s, but the well-loved treasure that stands today was rebuilt during the early 1900s.
516 miles of Scotland’s coastal roads, starting and ending at Inverness Castle. The route takes drivers from East to West, linking many of the bucket list stop mentioned in this post! The scenic trail showcases tropic-like beaches, crumbling castles and plenty of historic tales. Allow for (at least) 4 days to get round with time for a decent number of sightseeing stops.
Situated on the glittering coastline of Argyll, Loch Melfort Hotel is ideally situated for those exploring the West of the Scottish Highlands. Our country house hotel is located only a short drive South of Oban and acts as a brilliant base for travellers heading to Kilmarten Glen.
Why not make our Sea-View Bedrooms and hearty Scottish breakfasts part of your bucket list journey?