10 Unusual Things To Do In The Highlands and Islands of Scotland

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“The Highlands really is the Scotland of your imagination. It’s an amazing concoction of culture, history, architecture and unparalleled scenery. Think big skies, mind-blowing landscapes, superb food and hospitable people – it really   doesn’t get any better if you want to escape and unwind. Unpredictable. Untameable. Unbelievable. Top that!”  Visit Scotland

Of course there are the usual ‘touristy’ things to do, and we have done all those thing and loved them.  This list comprises the slightly off beat things we have done in Scotland and loved even more.

1.  Experience Driving On The Left

I don’t know if renting a car qualifies as something to do, but if you don’t have a car in the Highlands you will not be able to get around properly.  I will confess, I have never driven on the left. Mike does all the driving.  But, if you take the leap–I have a very detailed blog post here on “Renting A Car and Driving In Scotland”.

2.  Visit The Mystery Castle In The Middle of the Loch

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Castle Stalker (photo by Sarjeants On Fire)

We drove by this castle at least 5 times before we finally figured it out.  It wasn’t in our guidebooks and we did not see any signs or names.  After some intense searching we found the name–it is called Castle Stalker .

It is privately owned and still used as a part time residence by the owners today.  Access to this little gem is by private tour only.  You book by email or phone.  It’s a very small group and there are only limited times of the year they conduct the tours.

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You are ferried over by boat and given a tour by Alasdair, son of the original owner.

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The castle has a fascinating history of mayhem, murder and a card game.  It also had a role in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, probably what it is most famous for. Alasdair, was an extra in the movie and has some good stories to tell.  The castle also has a fascinating history.  You will not be disappointed.

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2.  Touch The Stones At The Ring Of Brodgar

Orkney lies a few miles off the north coast of Scotland.   “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” is a group of Neolithic monuments including the Ring of Brodgar, that are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We spent a day there with a tour company called, “Wild About Orkney”.  Rosemary was our guide and was fabulous.  They organize everything including the ferry.

The ferry leaves from a little town called Scrabster.  We stayed at a quaint little inn the night before appropiately called, “The Ferry Inn”.  Free breakfast is also included at the Upper Deck next door.  It’s a short walk to the ferry from the Inn.

If you want a detailed look at things to do in Orkney read my blog post “5 Magical Places To Visit In Orkney”  

An upgrade to the Magnus Lounge on the ferry is included with the tour.  In the lounge you get drinks, snacks, wifi, and comfy chairs.

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3.  Walk Along The Cliffs To Fingal’s Cave

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I was a little torn about putting this on the list because of what it takes to get there.

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Basically, it’s 2 ferries, a boat and a bus and 1 very long day, for 1 hour on a remote island to view a cave and take a picture.  The only company I know of is Staffa Tours. But, walking to the cave and seeing it is a once in a lifetime experience.

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4.  Take A Walking Tour Down The Royal Mile

You could just stroll down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh but you would miss many interesting things, including why you should rub this guy’s toe.  There are plenty of free walking tours, or we took a self guided tour by Rick Steves.  Just download it to your phone, pop in your earphones and off you go.

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5.  Enjoy a Latte and Chocolates At Cocoa Mountain In Dornoch

Part of the goal of this list, is to help you explore areas you might not go.  Going to Dornoch in the Highlands will take you through some cute little towns, beautiful lochs and some gorgeous country roads.

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We found this great coffee shop, with the best latte I have ever had in the entire Highlands!  They are known for their hot chocolate and gourmet sweets.  Dornach sits on the east coast of the north Highlands that runs from the Moray Firth up to Sutherland. The whole Sutherland area is lovely, and when we go back, it’s definitely where our home base will be.

6.  Go To Falkirk And Speak With The Kelpies

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These magical looking guys are in Falkirk and definitely worth a stop.  They are the largest equine sculptures in the world.  There are guided tours, a small visitor center and a nice little park are called The Helix.  We made a quick stop–but there looks to be some little boats you can cruise on and a small little food truck cafe.

7.  Walk To The Top Of The Scott Monument In Edinburgh

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287 steps to be exact and I felt every last step in my legs for days.  But you won’t be disappointed- you will be rewarded at the top with a view of Edinburgh to die for.  And at 3 pounds, it’s a bargain.  There are 4 levels (very small levels) where you can rest if needed.

8.  Watch The 5 Locks At Fort Augustus

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I know it doesn’t sound very interesting but actually it is.  It is fascinating to watch 5 locks open, close and fill up as boats have to maneuver through each one.  It’s like an hour long boat ballet.  The bonus is Fort Augustus- which lies right on Loch Lomond there you can catch tours of the Loch and Urquhart Castle.  Have lunch at some of their cute little restaurants.

9.  Ascend Queen Margaret’s Bower

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Queen Margaret’s Bower is located in Linlithgow Palace, better know as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scot’s.  The beautiful ruins house an ornate fountain and elegant architecture.  But climbing to the top of the palace, although a bit tricky, should not be missed.  The view of the castle, loch and area is great.  As far as castles and palaces go, this has to be on my Top 5, and we have see lots of castles.

10.  Take A Picture Of A Highland ‘Coo’

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There has to be some unwritten Highland law that says you must find a Coo and take a picture.  They are awesome ‘wee beasties’ to see close up.  Although the Coos are everywhere, pulling over in the middle of a two lane highway isn’t always the best move. Lucky for us, when we were on Orkney, our tour driver spotted these guys and pulled over.

But then that  hunt is half the fun, right?

Until next time.  Keep exploring…..

Donna

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2 comments on “10 Unusual Things To Do In The Highlands and Islands of Scotland”

  1. Stayed a week in Dormoch last spring for golf. Charming town. I hope Mike did not miss the Dormoch Castle Hotel, Scotch bar? Self proclaimed worlds finest Scotch selection.., I think they may be right. Something like 350 choices … some very very old. And on the way out of town is Glenmorangie… one of my all time favorites. Cheers Laddie!

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    1. We were actually there to see a cathedral, we parked in front of the Scotch bar and I even took a pic. But we had a 2 hour drive ahead and it was late and I couldn’t convince him to stop. We go back in April for NC 500 and will stop.
      But have no fear– I think he has already sampled 299 of those wee drama on his own anyway!!! Thanks for stopping by!!

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