What it's like
For world class walking in a wilderness to rival anything in Europe, it has to be the North Highlands. Nowhere else matches the scale, isolation and sheer stop-in-your-tracks vistas of Scotland’s far flung reaches. Perhaps it’s partly thanks to the clean northern light, gleaming on island-studded lochs or casting rainbows over mist-bound moors. Or maybe it’s the liberating lack of crowds. The landscape diversity here is equally startling, ranging from the historic villages and rolling farmland of the Black Isle to the complex mesh of sea and mountain that makes up the western coastline – a cartographer’s nightmare, but a walker’s dream. Vast expanses of watery peat bog; a lifetime’s supply of lochs (both fresh and salt); hardy relics of Scotland’s once-proud native forest; blond sand beaches dipping into a glass-clear sea; it’s impossible to fit it all into one visit.
And then, of course, there are the mountains; hundreds of them. The gnarled sandstone monsters of the western seaboard are real star material, each with its own distinctive brooding presence. Beinn Bhan, Slioch, Liathach, Beinn Eighe, A’Mhaighdean, An Teallach, Stac Pollaidh, Suilven… if you had to pick the top 10 British hills, no others would get a look in. Inland are higher, wilder places, where you can wander for days without seeing a soul. The on-foot options range from sand dune strolls to wilderness bothy bagging and thrilling ridge scrambles. If you haven’t yet been, you’re missing out. Big time.
- Circuit of Loch Affric The Caledonian pinewoods of this major east-west glen are some of the finest left in Scotland. The popular route around the loch shows them at their best, and gives a taste of the vast mountain emptiness of the interior.
- Slioch from Kinlochewe A strenuous hike to the Munro summit of The Spear gives iconic views over Scotland’s most beautiful loch to the serrated battlements of Torridon. If you’ve got a spare few days, continue north into the well-named Great Wilderness.
- Traverse of Foinaven It’s not quite a Munro, but this remote mountain outpost has all the stirring ruggedness of the wild far north.
Must see and do
- Moor up at Ullapool’s Ferry Boat Inn Perfect pints and great craic on the seafront of the Highland’s prettiest ‘town’; CAMRA like it too.
- Stroll around Cromarty This sleepy east coast town has boat loads of 18th Century character.
- Say aye tae a pie If it’s hearty pastry parcels you’re after, look no further than the award winning Lochinver Larder. Poached salmon, or venison and cranberry? Decisions, decisions… www.piesbypost.co.uk
Destination County : Northern Highlands