You could be forgiven for doing nothing in Scotland but drive. The scenery is amongst the most dramatic I have ever seen and changes with each hairpin bend. Snow capped mountains stand proud above reflective lochs and glens of contrasting shades of green. Heather clad hills turn golden as the sun peeks out from behind a cloud. However for those who want a little more than scenery, here are 13 other top things to do for free in the Scottish Highlands.
13 Things to do for free in the Scottish Highlands
1. Dores Beach
Dores Beach, Dores, Inverness IV2 6TR
The attention seeking monster attracts more than 2 million visitors per year to Loch Ness. Dores beach is located towards the southern end of Loch Ness. It is popular for nature spotters and walkers with routes passing via Aldourie and Torr Point. As the weather and light changes, so do the views. From eery misty mornings to blue sky afternoons, ending in glorious sunsets.
2. Meet the Monster Hunter
Dores Beach, Dores Beach, Dores, Inverness IV2 6TR
Close to the car park of Dores beach is a permanently parked camper van. Resident, Steve Feltham, is the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the longest serving monster hunter. In 1991, intensely intrigued by tales of apparent sightings, he gave up his previous life and girlfriend to begin his search for ‘Nessie’. His website nessiehunter.com has a range of artisan souvenirs available to purchase. But if he is around, browse his selection and have a chat to him.
3. Loch Ruthven
RSPB Loch Ruthven, Croachy, Inverness IV2 6UA
Loch Ruthven nature reserve is a peaceful area of outstanding beauty with seasonal birdlife. At certain times of the year black throated divers can be seen as well as half of the UK’s Slavonian Grebe.
4. Ness Islands
Inverness IV3 5SS
Ness Islands is a natural park in the middle of the River Ness. The dark flowing water surrounds small islands connected by small Victorian suspension bridges. It is a pleasant area to take a leisurely stroll, read a book or bring a picnic.
5. Dolphin Spotting
Chanonry Point, Fortrose, IV10 8SD
Chanonry Point overlooks the Moray Firth on the Black Isle. It is an all year round home to a pod of bottle nose dolphins. They are more likely to be spotted about an hour after low tide so make sure you check timings before visiting. Beside the car park is a 13m high lighthouse overlooking the long, sweeping beach built by Alan Stevenson in 1846.
6. Munlochy Clootie Well
Inverness IV8 8PE
An old Celtic tradition involves sick people dipping a ‘cloot’ or cloth into a well and tying it to a tree. As the cloth disintegrates, the person’s illness is said to disappear. This may be quite a spooky experience for some, wandering around a wooded area with hundreds of rags tied to trees. To the right of the free car park is a short forest walk through towering Douglas fir trees.
7. The Court House
Sheriff Court House, The castle, Inverness IV2 3EG
Set on a hilltop overlooking River Ness, Ness Islands and Inverness castle is this impressive Grade II Listed Court. James I held parliament here in 1427. He killed 3 clan chiefs and sent a few others to the castle jail. The views from here are spectacular.
8. Inverness Art Gallery & Museum
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Inverness Art Gallery & Museum is free to enter. A mixture of exhibits, some permanent, others temporary, offer an insight into the life and culture of Inverness and the Scottish Highlands.
9. Clava Cairns
Clava Cairns, Inverness IV2 5EU
Clava Cairns is a Scottish historical landmark. The bronze age burial site is believed to be over 4000 years old. Take your time wandering around the ancient cemetery where Outlander was filmed and enter inside a passage grave to its inner chamber.
10. Browse the shops of Inverness
Leakey’s, Church Street, Inverness
Inverness has an interesting mix of shops to browse. Favourites such as Next and H&M can be found in Eastgate Shopping Centre. Other more unusual shops like Ben Wyvis kilt shops and a Victorian market can be found in its Old Town. Inverness is also home to Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop. This is well worth a visit. Thousands of books line the shelves and the sweet smell of old paper is intoxicating.
11. Falls of Foyer
Inverness IV2 6XX
The sounds from the falls are thunderous as water cascades into Loch Ness at a tremendous speed. There are two viewing points, an upper and a lower one. The surrounding scenery is stunning.
Parking is available opposite the entrance to the Falls of Foyer.
12. Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis – Fort William PH33 6ST
Ben Nevis is UK’s highest mountain range. The total climb takes around seven hours though this is approximate depending on an individual’s ability, experience and the unpredictable weather conditions. The climb is potentially dangerous and inexperienced climbers should follow the ‘pony path’. Check out the safety page before attempting to climb.
13. Nature Spotting
One of the free things to do in the Scottish Highlands and a highlight really is to spot animals in the wild. This can be done while walking or driving. The Highlands are filled with lochs, glens, forests and mountains that have plenty of wildlife. Look out for red squirrels, highland cows and mountain goats. Slow down and look around and be surprised at what you can see.
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