Isle of Skye#1 in Best Things To Do in Scottish Highlands
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If you only had time to visit one part of the Scottish Highlands, let it be the Isle of Skye. Located on the west coast of the Highlands, Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides. The island is filled to the brim with otherworldly landscapes. There's a lot to see on this island, but travel experts and visitors say you can't leave without peeping these gems: the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr, Neist Point and the Fairy Pools.
The Quiraing is the perfect introduction to Skye's spellbinding geography. As you descend down the Quiraing, you'll be greeted with sweeping views of stunning geography: Cracked plateaus with craggy cliffsides lead the way to an expansive valley of verdant rolling hills, stately rock formations and alpine lakes. Situated 13 miles south is the Old Man of Storr, a single, pinnacle-shaped rock which stands out for its looks; it's so tall and distinct, it can easily be spotted from sea level miles away.
If you aren't looking to do intense hiking in Skye, venture west to Neist Point. What makes Neist Point so eye-catching is the headland's dramatic cliffs, which change elevation the farther you walk along its mile-and-a-half trail. The Fairy Pools, found inland near Glenbrittle in the south, are pools created by a series of small waterfalls located along the foot of the Black Cuillins Mountains. What makes this attraction so distinctive is its setting: the blue waters and evergreen surroundings really do resemble the kind of watering hole you'd imagine fairies congregating around.
Portree is the main town in Skye. The town is located right off of the A87 highway, which connects Skye to mainland Scotland. You can also reach Skye via ferry. The ScotRail train doesn't go into Skye, but it drops off at Mallaig, where you'll find the ferry that goes to Armadale (this ferry is covered by the Highland Rover Pass). If you didn't get this pass, you'll still want to go to Mallaig and take the CalMac ferry into Armadale, which costs 5.60 pounds ($7.20) round-trip. Getting around Skye can be challenging without a car, especially reaching more remote areas. Stagecoach operates various routes around towns and near points of interest, including Old Man of Storr. To learn more about Skye and its individual attractions, visit the Isle of Skye tourism board's website.
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You may hear the word "glen" a lot during your trip to the Scottish Highlands. A glen is another word for a narrow valley and the Highlands is filled with them. The most popular glen for visitors – not to mention one of the most popular attractions in the Scottish Highlands – is Glencoe. Glencoe is situated 23 miles south of Ben Nevis along Loch Leven in the central Highlands. The valley is consistently lauded by both travelers and locals for its awe-inspiring landscape, with many recent visitors describing its terrain as "out of this world." The A82 highway conveniently cuts right through the verdant Glencoe valley. Many visitors report only driving through Glencoe due to time constraints, but many express regret at not being able to explore this stunning area more. Luckily, if you are short on time, travelers do say the scenic drive certainly impressed and there are multiple viewing spots along the highway.
If you do have time to explore Glencoe, you'll find the area offers spectacular hikes and great water activities on Loch Leven. The Coire Gabhail, or Lost Valley hike, is a popular 2 ½-mile trail that weaves through a wooded gorge between some of Glencoe's munros and ends in a wide, open valley tucked away from the view of the highway. If you want to hike to the top of a munro, try the 5-mile-long Buachaille Etive Beag or the 7-mile-long Bidean nam Bian for sweeping views of the Glencoe valley.
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