You can’t visit Scotland without also paying a visit to the famous Highlands. The scenery is so different from what you get in Edinburgh and it’s definitely well worth a visit.
I visited the Highlands on a crisp autumn day which was (quite miraculously) full of sun and barely any rain. I would definitely recommend planning your trip for the fall, the colours are absolutely amazing. After searching the internet, I decided to book my trip through a tour company. I used Discover Scotland Tours, but I’m sure there are many others that offer similar trips. I had initially looked into if it was possible to explore the Highlands without the need of a touring company, but it just seems much easier this way. My guide was also very amazing at pointing out things and telling us facts which I’d never known by going on my own. I took a one-day trip, but they also offer longer trips, if that’s something you’re interested in.
The coach left at 7.45 am, and I had to be there 15 minutes prior. Luckily the point of departure was only a 15-minute walk from my accommodation, so it wasn’t too bad. We returned almost exactly 12 hours later. So, it’s a long day, but you get to see a lot, and we went as far as Fort Augustus (which, according to one of my Scottish flatmates is quite far).
The day is split up into 4 stops (though our guide squeezed in a few more opportunities for photos because we were ahead of schedule). The first stop is the city of Callander which sits right on the border between the Highlands and Lowlands. This is about an hour, an hour and a half into the trip, so the perfect time to eat breakfast. Our guide gave us several recommendations for cafes and pointed out the public restrooms. Nearly every tour stop also had a restroom available (either free or with a fee of 50p), so that’s one less thing to worry about. I found the toilets to be in a nice and semi-clean condition (some people just never learn to flush, apparently).
Our second scheduled stop of the day was Glencoe for a photo opportunity of the mountains known as the Three Sisters. But as I said, our guide also managed to add a few other locations on the way to Glencoe where we could take pictures.
The third stop was also the longest one – 2 hours at Loch Ness and Fort Augustus. If you want, you can take a boat trip out on to the water for an additional fee. I didn’t do this, mostly because I get seasick on bigger boats, so I thought it best not to. Instead, I walked around Fort Augustus, which I enjoyed but I will say that without the boat trip 2 hours can be a bit long. However, there were many different pubs and other dining spots, if you want to lunch there. I had pre-packed some sandwiches and various other snacks as I didn’t know if our stops would coincide or even offer enough time for breakfast and lunch. So, while making sandwiches was cheaper and easy to do, if I’d known the schedule before I might have bought my lunch instead. I also went on this trip alone which influenced my decision to pre-pack food. I’ve never been the best at dining out alone. However, I will say that going on this trip to the Highlands alone didn’t lessen my enjoyment of it in any way. So, if you want to go, don’t let the fear of going solo stop you. The Scottish Highlands are enough to amaze anyone
Our last stop of the day was in another small town called Pitlochry. I’ll be honest and say that personally, I could have done without this last stop, as the town was too small to really offer much and that the sun had set by this time, so it was completely dark. But it did offer me a nice opportunity to stretch my legs before heading back to Edinburgh.
All in all, I had an absolutely amazing trip, and I really enjoyed seeing the Highlands. They were completely different from the Scotland I had experienced thus far. Booking a trip like mine is an easy way to do it and not that pricy. I paid 44 pounds for a 12-hour guided trip excluding food which I didn’t think was too bad. So, if you want to experience something other than urban Edinburgh, I highly recommend exploring the Highlands.