Visit Aberdeen and the North Highlands on Your Next UK Holiday
Towering mountains, sandy beaches, and sparkling lochs await in the North Highlands of Scotland. In the heart of the area lies Cairngorms National Park, the largest National Park in the UK and a chance to indulge in an abundance of sport, including sailing and snowboarding. Lying further north, who can resist a chance of catching a glimpse of the mythical Loch Ness Monster? Visit Aberdeeen and the North Highlands, and be sure to bring your camera with you!
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Things to do in Aberdeen and the North Highlands
With so many options, it can be tough knowing what to tackle first when visiting the North of Scotland. We don't want you to miss anything, which is why we've made our list of the best days out, attractions, and activities that Aberdeen and the North Highlands has to offer.
Places to Visit
One of Scotland's largest cities, Aberdeen is your first port of call for a great day out in the Highlands. In the north of the city is Old Aberdeen, where cobble streets and historic buildings transport you to an earlier time. After admiring its historic university, head south for a spot of shopping in the city centre then push on to the harbour in the east. The fishing quarter of Footdee is filled with delightful cottages and gardens to enjoy. There's no better way to round off your day than by taking in a show at His Majesty's Theatre, which hosts West End and Broadway shows and has even welcomed such legendary actors as Sir Ian McKellan, Charlton Heston, and Sean Connery.
Further north, on the banks of the River Ness, Inverness is filled with magnificent buildings and the chance to grab a bargain at either the Victorian Market or the award-winning Eastgate shopping centre. Take in an afternoon stroll from Inverness Castle down along the riverside and St Andrew's Cathedral to the Ness Islands, where anglers can cast their lines in search of Atlantic salmon. The Inverness Highland Games are an annual highlight, while the Inverness Jazz Festival fills the streets with the music of local bands. Visit in the winter and you may even be lucky enough to see the beauty of the Northern Lights.
The Isle of Skye
The Hebrides offer a wonderful collection of islands worth exploring, chief among them being the Isle of Skye. The scenery alone is reason enough to visit the island, as the Cuillin mountain range offers challenging climbs and spectacular views of the whole island. For a more relaxing stroll, the Fairy Pools near Glenbrittle are beautiful sights and nature trails take you down to Coral Beach. Fans of whisky shouldn't miss out on a visit to Talisker Distillery on the shores of Loch Harport. Founded in 1830 and the source of one of the finest whiskies in the UK, a guided tour round the distillery shows the meticulous care that goes into every bottle, and yes, you'll also get to enjoy a taste, too!
Where to Stay
The Highlands hold some of Scotland's most spectacular sights, so you'll need somewhere to put your feet up and relax if you're going to explore all of it. Our luxury lodges and cottages across Aberdeen and the North Highlands can be found using the links below.
Without a doubt, Cairngorms National Park in one of the highlights of the North Highlands and is not to be missed. Over 4,500 square kilometres of hills to climb, gardens to explore, and wildlife to find means there's something new around every corner. Try your hand at a range of sports, including skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, or learn about the history of the area at the Highland Folklore Museum in Newtonmore. There are beautiful castles for you to seek out across the Cairngorms, including Balmoral (the Scottish home of the Royal Family) and Loch an Eilein, which was voted 'UK's best picnic spot'. Be sure to bring the taste of the Highlands home with you by capping off your trip with a visit to one of the many farmer's markets.
Just outside of Inverness, Loch Ness has become famous due to the tales of the mythical creature, Nessie. Grab your camera and be ready if you spot anything moving beneath the water. Even if you don't see Nessie, Loch Ness is a beautiful 23-mile stretch of water, making it the largest loch in Scotland. Overlooking the water are the ruins of Urquhart Castle, once a royal castle and now a relic from the times of the Wars of Independence and the Jacobite uprising. Enjoy the view of Loch Ness from land or take a boat out onto the water and watch the setting sun glisten in the historic waters. Fishing enthusiasts can also camp out to catch salmon, trout, pikem and a host of other fish that call Loch Ness home.
The finish line for people making the end-to-end trip across the UK from Land's End, John O'Groats sits at the very top of mainland Britain and is a charming village that welcomes all who come to it. Enjoy a restful stroll down to Duncansby Head or take to the Caithness coastline with a spot of surfing. There's also a range of wildlife to be seen, including sea birds such as Atlantic Puffins and Oystercatchers. Grey Seals are found all year round and killer whales can be spotted regularly off coast. After taking in the sights of the coast, visit the local shops and cafés, serving fantastic local crafts and produce.
Highland Wildlife Park - Kingussie
Learn about animals as small as squirrels and as ferocious as tigers, deep in the heart of the Scottish Highlands at the Highland Wildlife Park. Enjoy an idyllic day out for the whole family with special talks hosted every day so you can learn all about deer, snow leopards, polar bears, and wildcats. Photography courses are also available, so any aspiring shutterbugs can learn how to best capture the beauty of the animals on show. And if you ever need to put your feet up with a quick break, the Antlers Coffee shop serves tea, coffee, and a range of sweet cakes and snacks for you to tuck into.
Explore the Outdoor Capital of the UK
If you're looking for a sporty edge to your holiday, look no further than Lochaber and Fort William. Try your hand at sailing, skiing, snowboarding, golf, angling, shooting, and much more across the area in what has become known as the outdoor capital of the UK. Experienced climbers can take on the lofty heights of Ben Nevis, though if you're looking for a more relaxed trip, take to one of the many nature walks or driving circuits to experience the true beauty of the Highlands. Kids needn't miss out on the fun, either, as high wire adventures, climbing walls, and family fishing trips welcome visitors of all ages.
Hit the Beaches
North past Inverness sit some of the best beaches in Northern Scotland. Tranquil and secluded, Dornoch Beach is the perfect sport for a family picnic, while Brora Beach is home to Jurassic rocks and, occasionally, colonies of seals. Towards the east is Nairn Beach, which has a promenade and leisure centre close by - perfect for grabbing an ice cream or a quick bite to eat. However, the ultimate destination for sandy shores is Thurso Beach, where fish beds teem with life and surfers ride the waves in winter and spring. The Northern Highlands has some of the finest unspoilt scenery in the UK, so grab your sandals and prepare to kick up some sand.
Go Whale Watching
The north of Scotland is no stranger to aquatic life, as Gairloch's whale watching cruises can attest. Found on the north-west coast, these tantalising trips whisk you away to whale and dolphin feeding grounds in the open waters of the North Minch, as well as the inshore area of Loch Gairloch. Don't forget to bring your camera as all manner of sea life can also be seen around the area - seal colonies, families of otters, and even sharks! You'll have to keep your eye on the sky, too, as puffins and white-tailed eagles have been known to take flight around the shore. With cruisers suitable for all manner of passengers, just make sure you dry off afterwards!
My Perfect Stay
Aberdeen is a fascinating port city located in North East Scotland. Stretching from the Cairngorn Mountains National Park all the way to the coast; this magical place is known locally as 'the city of the sea' as ships dock on the city streets and surfers can be seen enjoying the waves alongside wild dolphins.
While there, I love to take a trip down the cobbled streets of Old Aberdeen, or Footdee - known locally as Fittie - which is a quaint fishing village by the water. Walk down the mile-long Union street and enjoy the classic granite buildings and distinguishing architecture that make this city so renowned.
Of course the Cairngorn National Park is a must, it's simply breath-taking. And another of my top tips for a day out is Banchory, enjoy boutique shops and charming cafes and for the history buffs there are plenty of castles and towers to keep you busy.
While there you may even hear the local dialect of Doric, an original Scots language.