For Lowland Scots, visitors from the rest of the UK and those travelling from further afield, the Scottish Highlands as a holiday destination wields an almost mystical pull.
It is a region steeped in myth and legend, bloody history and dramatic romance, which surely couldn’t hope to live up to its hype in real life – except for many visitors, it does.
The spectacular mountain and loch scenery can be enjoyed by all comers, whether the view is from the comfort of a luxury coach tour, or from the summit of a Munro after an exhilarating climb. Travelling to and around the area is all part of the experience.
Far-flung visitors can arrive by plane to the conveniently situated Inverness Airport, while those taking the train can travel the famous West Highland Line.
The Jacobite steam train, operated by West Coast Railways, runs from Fort William to Mallaig and crosses the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct, featured in the Harry Potter film series.
It is a journey of impressive extremes. Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits the UK’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig, passes close by the deepest British freshwater loch, Loch Morar, and the shortest river in the union, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. Little wonder it has been dubbed the greatest train journey in the world.
Driving the 45-mile Road to the Isles, from Fort William to Mallaig, will reveal spectacular scenery too, from sandy beaches to dramatic hills, green woodlands, heather moors, unforgettable sea views and magnificent sunsets to be seen over the isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna and Skye.
Visitors can get closer with a wildlife cruise or ferry trip to these Small Isles, as the archipelago of islands in the Inner Hebrides are known. There’s a passenger ferry from Mallaig all year round, while day trips from Arisaig run from April to September.
And the Highlands has everything walkers and climbers could desire. The Cairngorms National Park is the UK’s largest and its sheer size, scale and remoteness make the it one of the most dramatic mountain environments and a challenge to even the most seasoned hillwalkers.
However, many of the 43 Munros, including five of the six highest mountains in Britain, can be tackled in a day and old drove roads which run throughout the park can be enjoyed without the need to trek over summits.