JANUARY 24TH, 2018 BY ROBIN MCKELVIE
8 Things You Should Do in the Highlands in 2018
Some people flock to the Highlands in search of family ancestral ties or just to appreciate the epic scenery of massive mountains, tumbling glens and shimmering ocean. There are myriad reasons to come to a region that – as a travel writer who has visited over 100 countries – I rate as one of the most rewarding to visit not only in Scotland, but anywhere in the world.
I recommend visiting Scotland at any time, but I don’t recommend putting it off as everyone I’ve met who has been here is just desperate to get back. So don’t delay any longer, check out this list of 8 things to do in the Highlands in 2018 to entice you. You’ll find a treasure trove of great self-catering escapes on this website too across the Highlands, so what are you waiting for? Get booking!
- Hunt for Nessie – Is 2018 going to be the big year when Scotland’s most famous monster (she has a less renowned sister, Morag, in Loch Morar too) is finally caught on camera? Yes there have been various sightings and some dubious photos over the years claiming to capture this elusive lady, but no one has definitively snapped the Nessie shot. According to Nessie Hunters in the know 2017 was a record year for sightings so 2018 could indeed be a bumper year. Hop aboard Jacobite Cruises on the fringes of Inverness and you will soon be cruising across her very deep home. Loch Ness remarkably is so deep that it’s said that the water in all the rivers and lakes in England would not even fill her dark depths. Good luck Nessie spotting and remember to send us a pic if you snap her!
- Delve Back in Time – The Highlands are awash with castles of all hues and sizes, each with its own distinct and evocative history. As a travel writer and blogger over the years for both Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, I’ve visited hundreds of castles and many lie right here in the Highlands. One of my favourites is Brodie Castle. This glorious fortification was built by the once mighty Brodie clan to the east of Inverness, just south of the Moray Firth. A remarkable four centuries of history can be delved through here. I love that history really comes alive at Brodie – my kids could not believe that they could read a letter actually penned by Robert the Bruce! In 2018 they are opening the brand new Playful Garden family-friendly attraction, so we are already planning to head back to this ace site. I suggest you visit too, whether you are seven or seventy.
- Savour Whisky Galore – If you love whisky then you will love the Highlands, which is Scotland’s whisky distilling heartland. The River Spey is the fastest flowing river in Scotland and its clear, sweet waters are ideal for conjuring up the hallowed water of life. Speyside in fact boasts the highest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland, many of them open to visitors. The distilleries are always opening enhanced attractions to pull in whisky fans and the yet to be converted. For example Macallan are opening an ultra modern new visitor centre in 2018. If you want to know more then check out the blog I wrote late last year on whisky touring in Speyside for Gael Holiday Homes.
- Savour Foodie Inverness – Gone are the days when Inverness was often written off as a foodie wasteland. Finally all that glorious seafood, beef and venison that the fresh land and clean seas of the Highlands boast in such abundance is being put to good use. I spent a long weekend last year revisiting some of my favourite foodie haunts in Inverness for Gael Holiday Homes, and also discovered some new treats too that I shared in another blog. I hope you get to at least one or two of these oases in 2018.
- Stroll on the Big Sand – The wild and wildly beautiful region of Wester Ross is one of my favourites in the Highlands. A great base or day trip option is Gairloch. This coastal village has a laidback vibe, some decent wee shops, good places to eat and – for me the number one attraction – the epic sandy beach at Big Sand nearby. Of course the Highlands offer a necklace of sandy beaches, but this is a McKelvie family favourite. I love eking through the mighty sand dunes and then being rewarded by a clean beach that comes complete with a view of epic mainland mountains and a great vista across to the Isle of Skye.
- Discover Dornoch – This trim Highland town is most renowned for its golf, as well as being one of the sunniest spots in the country and also where Madonna married film director Guy Ritchie back in 2000. I love Dornoch and revisited last year for Gael Holiday Homes to investigate just how much more there is to do aside play its famous, Royal Warrant winning, golf course. You can read all about my 7 reasons to visit Dornoch and hopefully that will inspire you to head there in 2018. You won’t regret it!
- Go Dolphin Spotting – It always amazes me that people fly to the likes of Iceland or New Zealand to spot dolphins, when one of the best places in the world to come face to face with our marine mammal cousins is right here in the Highlands. The most northerly pod of bottlenose dolphins in the world calls the waters around the Moray and Cromarty firths home. You can just rock up to Chanonry Point on the Black Isle (check the tides as sightings tend to peak one to two hours after low tide) and see them frolicking in the shallow waters right in front of you. It’s a sublime experience that has kids and big kids alike whooping with delight. Another option is getting close to them out at sea with Ecoventures (www.ecoventures.co.uk), a superb local outfit who run RIB rides from the Black Isle town of Cromarty.
- Walk with the Real Outlander Ghosts – The baleful Battle of Culloden plays a central role in the first three series of cult historic TV series Outlander. This pivotal showdown between Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobites and the British Army has had an effect on British history and the Highlands that is still very palpable today. I thoroughly recommend visiting the site and its excellent museum, which really cuts through the myths and gets to the heart of what Culloden was all about beyond the melodrama of Outlander. My clan fought at Culloden and you can read my blog for Gael Holiday homes on walking with ghosts at Culloden.