15 reasons to go to Northern Scotland


1st Jan 2015 Travel

15 reasons to go to Northern Scotland

Be it for stone-skimming, waterfalls or whisky-tasting, Britain’s far reaches are well worth a visit.

1. Beaches

Scotland's amazing beaches -  Luskentyre Sands, Isle of Harris
Luskentyre Sands, Isle of Harris

Some of the world’s prettiest shores fringe western Scotland. There’s remote Sandwood Bay, accompanied by a sea stack, supposedly haunted. Scarista, on the Isle of Harris, is an immense swathe of sand. But the fairest of them all might be Harris’s two-mile-long Luskentyre Sands, where your only company is likely to be Highland ponies or passing dolphins.


2. A supporting actor

Reasons to visit north scotland - Eilean Donan Castle

If Eilean Donan Castle looks familiar, it’s for good reason. Built at the confluence of three lochs, this ancient fortress is a seasoned Hollywood performer, with its film credits including Highlander and – serving as MI6’s headquarters – The World Is Not Enough.


3. Munro-bagging

Munro-Bagging - Skye's Inaccessible Pinnacle
Innaccessible Pinnacle in Skye - via geograph

This term denotes the ticking off by hikers of Scotland’s biggest mountains. Half of them are in the country’s north, including the second highest peak, 4,295ft-high Ben Macdui, and Skye’s ominous-sounding Inaccessible Pinnacle.


4. Boost your wardrobe

Reasons to visit Northern Scotland - Fair Isle sweater
A set of famous knits - via FairIsle

Located between the Orkney and Shetland Island chains is dinky Fair Isle, famed for its colourful knitted sweaters. Across in the Western Isles, Harris is equally renowned for tweed, with its modern-day weavers using their looms for clients as diverse as Nike and Karl Lagerfeld.


5. Folk music

Reasons to visit northern Scotland - Folk music

The Orkney Islands are known for their quality folk scene, particularly in capital Kirkwall. May’s annual Folk Festival is a proper, ale-sponsored knees-up.


6. Prehistoric remains

Reasons to visit northern Scotland - Prehistoric Remains!
Bronze Age remains on the Shetland Isles

Another specialty. There are the Grey Cairns of Caithness, or similarly impressive burial chambers on Orkney. The Shetland Isles are a riot of Bronze Age remains. Most renowned are the giant Callanish Standing Stones, a cross-shaped ritual site on Lewis.


7. Skimming stones

Every September, an abandoned slate quarry on Easdale Island hosts the World Stone Skimming Championships. Anyone can enter and there are various disciplines, including team competitions and the cheekily-titled Old Tosser competition.


8. Beautiful gardens

Inverewe Garden reasons to visit Northern Scotland

Benefitting from warm Atlantic winds, Inverewe Garden and Estate is an exotic, extravagant show of ambition. The Japanese ferns, Himalayan lilies and giant South Pacific forget-me-nots were first planted in 1862 by 20-year-old Osgood Mackenzie, as he proved that any plant could survive on Torridon sandstone.


9. Driving

 Pass of the Sheep (Bealach na Bà)
via wiki

Empty roads, and dramatic scenery: Northern Scotland is a recipe for any driving advert. Among its bonniest routes is the east-west odyssey from Aberdeen to coastal Applecross via the 2,000ft-high Pass of the Sheep (or Bealach na Bà as it is known in Gailic).


10. A vogue cathedral

Dornoch Cathedral -Reasons to visit northern Scotland

Over on the east coast, Dornoch’s 13th century cathedral is so handsome that Madonna chose it for her wedding.


11. Otters

Loch Maree Otter

Loch Maree is attractive enough in its own right, with its hiking trails and Highlands mountain views. But this west coast lake is also a great place to spy rare otters: try the eastern end on summer mornings.


12. Fishing

Loch Assynt - fly fishing

Forty miles north, Loch Assynt is renowned for its salmon and trout fly-fishing. While awaiting a take, anglers can gaze admiringly at the isolated ruins of Ardvreck Castle. 


13. Britain’s highest waterfalls

Close to Loch Assynt are the Eas a Chual Aluinn Falls which rank, at 658 ft, as Britain's highest cascades.


14. Midnight golf

At Scotland’s northern extremity are the straggly Shetland Islands, home to a burgeoning golf scene. As well as more traditional challenges, would-be Colin Montgomeries can unleash a few strokes during June’s midsummer twilight – or 'Simmer Dim' as the locals call it – at Unst’s unofficial ‘course’.


15. Whisky

Whiskey Distillery Tours in Northern Scotland

Half of Scotland’s whiskies are produced in the eastern region of Strathspey. Follow the whisky trail around Dufftown, touring distilleries and sampling all the finest Speyside single malts.