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Things to Do in The Scottish Highlands

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Dun Carloway (Dùn Chàrlabhaigh)
5 Tours and Activities

No bricks, no mortar, no buttress -- just stone placed on top of stone on an exposed Lewis hilltop nearly 2,000 years ago, Carloway Broch roundhouse has stood tall against the Isle of Lewis’s raging Atlantic storms since the Iron Age. Looking out to Loch Roag, this is one of the best preserved brochs in Scotland, and parts of the Dun Carloway still come close to its original height at nine meters tall. It’s not clear why these brochs (Scottish drystone roundhouses) were ever built, but it’s thought that they could have been the homes of the high-status local leaders. Even though the building of brochs fell out of fashion in 150 AD, this multi-story roundhouse has continued to be used through the ages. Dun Carloway was even the scene of one particularly dramatic fight back in the 1500s, when a party of Morrisons stole cattle from the Macaulay clan and hid out in the broch. What did the Macaulays do? Smoke their enemies out with burning heather, of course.

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Jacobite Steam Train
3 Tours and Activities
Scotland’s legendary West Highland Line is dubbed the Hogwarts Express Train line, photogenically featured in the Harry Potter films when Harry and crew are transported by train to Hogwarts School from King’s Cross Station’s Platform 9 3/4. Away from the cameras, the historic steam train is called The Jacobite and runs from Fort William to Mallaig, essential destinations if you’re touring Scotland’s West Coast. The route winds through Highlands valleys and beside lochs and glens. It begins in the Highlands capital, Fort William, under the shadow of Ben Nevis at the southern end of the Great Glen. One of the main highlights of the journey is crossing the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan viaduct, memorably captured in the Harry Potter films and overlooking Loch Shiel. You can alight at Glenfinnan station to stretch your legs and visit the West Highland Railway Museum.
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Orkney Islands
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5 Tours and Activities
The Orkney Islands are an archipelago in northern Scotland, located just 10 mi (16 km) off the coast. While this cluster of islands is made up of approximately 70 islands, only 20 are inhabited, and they have been for over 8,000 years. The largest island is known as the Mainland with the rest of the islands separated into the North and South Isles. Orkney, with its long, rich history, is best known for being home to many of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe.
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Butt of Lewis Lighthouse
6 Tours and Activities

Standing proud against the fearsome storms that ravage the north coast of Lewis is the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. Designed by Scottish lighthouse engineer David Stevenson in the 1860s, the watchtower wasn’t automated until 1998, making it one of the last in the British Isles to lose its lighthouse keeper. While you can no longer go inside, there are information plaques outside, and it’s interesting just to see the lighthouse in all its exposed red-brick glory instead of the usual white. A birdwatcher’s paradise, look out for buzzards, gulls and the occasional puffin soaring around the cliffs. Also, take a close look at the crags being buffeted by the North Sea, some of the oldest exposed rock in Europe, created up to 300 million years ago back in the Cambrian period. While you’re here, follow the coast southwest past the lighthouse. You’ll soon see a natural sea cave, known as the Eye of the Butt

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More Things to Do in The Scottish Highlands

Dalwhinnie Distillery

Dalwhinnie Distillery

28 Tours and Activities
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Trotternish Ridge

Trotternish Ridge

4 Tours and Activities
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Fairy Glen (Faerie Glen)

Fairy Glen (Faerie Glen)

18 Tours and Activities
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Kilchurn Castle

Kilchurn Castle

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15 Tours and Activities

On a tiny peninsula at the northern tip of Loch Awe surrounded by glens, Kilchurn Castle is one of the most photographed spots in Scotland. The castle of 1,000 calendar covers, Kilchurn has had many lives: it served as the powerhouse of the Campbell clan from the year 1440 and was even later used as barracks able to house up to 200 troops during the Jacobite Risings. In the 1750s, however, a huge fire caused by lightning ran right through the castle, and its ruins have been abandoned ever since.

Kilchurn is for anyone who has ever dreamed of having a ruined Scottish castle all to themselves, with no tourist trinket shops around. There isn’t even an attendant at the door of this picturesque ruin, but despite being unmanned, there are plenty of information boards throughout the castle. Climb to the top of its four-story tower for views of the loch and surrounding hills, and remember to say hi to the sheep on your way out!

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Rannoch Moor

Rannoch Moor

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3 Tours and Activities
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Chanonry Point

Chanonry Point

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3 Tours and Activities
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Bannockburn

Bannockburn

21 Tours and Activities

As every Scot knows, Bannockburn was where King Robert the Bruce led Scottish forces to victory over a much larger English force led by Edward II in 1314. Moviegoers may remember the decisive battle from the end of the film Braveheart. This event, so critical to the development of Scottish national identity, is now marked by an imposing equestrian statue of Robert, from where you can survey the surrounding countryside. There is also a more modern monument at the spot where soldiers camped on the eve of the battle. The Bannockburn Heritage Centre explains the historical importance of this conflict amidst the long, fraught relations between Scotland and the “Sassenachs” to the south.

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Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser

2 Tours and Activities
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Glenfinnan Monument

Glenfinnan Monument

12 Tours and Activities
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Maeshowe Chambered Cairn

Maeshowe Chambered Cairn

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8 Tours and Activities
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Rogie Falls

Rogie Falls

7 Tours and Activities
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Corrieshalloch Gorge

Corrieshalloch Gorge

6 Tours and Activities

Considering Corrieshalloch Gorge is such a beautiful spot, full of Caledonian pines and rare Atlantic lichen, it might come as a surprise that its name is actually Gaelic for “Ugly Hollow.” Created at the end of the last Ice Age, the gorge is one of Britain’s most impressive box canyons. Carved by glacial meltwaters that burst through the Scottish Highlands over 12,000 years ago, today you can walk the trails along the top of the mossy gorge and get great views down the 60-meter deep crevice, where the Droma river flows in a chain of waterfalls until it makes its most impressive roar of all, in a 46-meter plunge from the Falls of Measach.

If you just want to check out the waterfall and head back, follow the trail to the small suspension bridge 300 meters from the car park. From here, you’ll get great views of the rushing waters and surrounding woods.

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