We (two adults in good physical condition) have about two weeks to tour the Highlands in August. What are your favorite places? Other suggestions? We have visited Edinburgh, but nothing further north. Thanks.
Oh, wow, Chauncy, there are so very many options. Do you like to hike? Are you interested in stone circles? Do you like Vikings? So many options! So here are just some of my favorite places.
- The Orkney Islands. It's has marvelous history with the Ring of Brogdar, the Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe, Skara Brae and so much more. The Orkneyjar website is wonderful learning the history. It's also famous for birding, the beautiful jewelry designers, and its whisky--Highland Park is my fave.
- Inverness. I think that Inverness makes a great base for exploring areas to the west, north, east and south in the highlands. There are great restaurants and live music. If you want a smaller town, there are lots of nearby choices. I like Fortrose and Strathpeffer.
- Glen Affric. This is a beautiful glen with some good walks.
- Mull. I stayed in Tobermory and explored the island and did a tour of Iona and Staffa. I could have stayed longer and done some wildlife tours. There are great castles.
- Stirling Castle. It is right at the gateway to the Highlands and is wonderfully restored.
- Harris and Lewis. We had a great time exploring these "two" islands". The Butte of Lewis all the way to the Luskentyre beaches, the Calinish Stones and the Carloway Broch.
- Perthshire. I just love this place. It's got wonderful lochs, castles, my favorite pub, The Taybank, and lots of lovely walks in the countryside. You can even walk in Birnam Wood.
There are so many other places that its hard to know when to stop.
Pam's an authority on Scotland, and she's listed a wealth of places on Mainland Scotland and outlying islands. There's also the isle of Skye, which is popular because it offers lots of things to see and do. If you like hiking, it's a paradise (but with rain every other day). We were there for 3 too-short days in 2014. Rick Steves' guidebook has plenty of information about Skye.
Leaving Skye and heading for Edinburgh, we drove thru Glen Coe, which looked like a fantastic place to spend some days exploring, but it was absolutely pouring rain, and we stayed in the car and followed the line of traffic that day. When the rain eventually cleared, we'd made it to Doune (site of a great castle featured in a Monty Python film), and that was one of the highlights of our trip.
We did a walking holiday through the Highland in May and enjoyed comfortably cool weather and didn't encounter any Scottish Midges. The good news, so I'm told, is only half (the female half) of the Midges bite.
Lonely Planet's "when to go" with respect to weather advice:
High Season (Jul & Aug): Accommodation prices 10%–20% higher (book in advance if possible). Warmest time of year, but often wet. Midges
at their worst in Highlands and islands.
Shoulder Season (May, Jun & Sep): Wildflowers and rhododendrons bloom
in May and June. Statistically, best chance of dry weather, minus
midges. June evenings have daylight till 11pm.
Forget Nessie; the Highlands have a real monster. A voracious
bloodsucking female fully 3mm long named culicoides impunctatus, or
the Highland midge. The bane of campers and as much a symbol of
Scotland as the kilt or dram, they drive sane folk to distraction,
descending in biting clouds.
Though normally vegetarian, the female midge needs a dose of blood in
order to lay her eggs. And, like it or not, if you're in the Highlands
between June and August, you just volunteered as a donor. Midges
especially congregate near water, and are most active in the early
morning, though squadrons also patrol in the late evening.
Now that said, the Scottish Tourist agency says that midges are not a serious problem:
Midges in Scotland
When it comes to midges in Scotland, let’s not beat about the bush.
Especially as, if you beat about bushes in the Highlands in the
summer, you’re liable to disturb clouds of midges. But are these
little beasties that much of a problem? Will they spoil your trip?
I’ve travelled in Scotland for, oh, years and years, and my answer is:
possibly a little – but it all depends where you go. If you travel in
the Lowlands, and a breeze blows, then midges in Scotland won’t be any
problem at all.
Hey Cyn, I knew someone else would list Skye. :) I've visited there three times. There was a heck a lot rain two out of three of the times, but it is wonderful. Just always remember that it is a big island!
Also, in regards to Midges, I've done a lot of walking in Scotland, I've only really had 3-4 bad Midge encounters. And since I had a midgie hat I was in good shape. If you're going to walk in the highlands I recommend getting one along with long-sleeved shirts and pants.