Things to do in the Scottish Highlands

Following a recent solo trip to Scotland, I discovered a number of activities and places to visit that are suitable if you are on your own. These are my top 13 things to do in the Scottish Highlands…

1. Dores Beach

Dores Beach, Dores, Inverness IV2 6TR
Cost – free

Dores Beach at Loch Ness - one of many free things to do in the Scottish Highlands

Dores beach is small and crescent shaped, located on the south side of Loch Ness. From the beach, a walking route takes you via Aldourie and Torr Point and is ideal for nature spotting. Once you have worked up an appetite from walking, stop for a meal at Dores Inn. This popular village pub is situated next to the entrance to the beach. Food here is of an excellent standard.

The Nessie Hunter

Close to the beach car park is a van which is home to Steve Feltham. Since 1991 he has dedicated his life to looking for the Loch Ness monster and now sells souvenirs of Nessie herself. The money he makes from these goes towards his search for her. For more information have a look at his website nessiehunter.com.

2. Loch Ness Exhibition Centre

The Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6TU
Cost – current £8.45 per adult

Nessie

Learn about the timeline of Loch Ness through a series of short videos. The presentations begin by talking about the loch in pre-historic times when plesiosaurs swam in the water. Further videos discuss various sightings and hoaxes through to the present day. They provide visitors with interesting facts to form their own opinion about Nessie’s existence.

3. Munlochy Clootie Well

Munlochy Clootie Well, Inverness IV8 8PE
Cost – free

Munlochy Clootie Well is one of the free things to do in the Scottish Highlands
Munlochy Clootie Well

This is quite an eerie experience! An old Celtic tradition involved sick people dipping a ‘cloot’ or cloth into a well and tying it to a tree. As the cloth disintegrated, the person’s illness disappeared. Wander around the wooded area to see hundreds of rags tied to trees.

Douglas fir trees
Douglas fir trees

On the other side of the free car park is a short forest walk. The trail takes walkers through an abundance of imposing Douglas fir trees.

4. Loch Ruthven

RSPB Loch Ruthven, Croachy, Inverness IV2 6UA
Cost – free

Loch Ruthvern is one of the free things to do in the Scottish Highlands
Loch Ruthven

Loch Ruthven is a peaceful and scenic area of outstanding beauty with birdlife that changes according to the season. Half of the UK’s Slavonian Grebe can be found here during some months.

5. Cruise Loch Ness


Cruise Loch Ness, Canal Side, Fort Augustus PH32 4BS
Cost – £13.50 (day cruise) – current price if booked online

Cruise Loch Ness

Cruise Loch Ness run several boat trips, from 50 minute cruises to half day experiences. As you sail along Loch Ness look out for wild deer and mountain goats. Also, see if you can spot the heiress to Walmart’s pink castle! Take a break from the cold breeze on the upper deck and head downstairs for a drink or snack from the bar to warm up.

6. Explore the city of Inverness

Cost – free

Inverness - one of the free things to do in the Scottish Highlands

Inverness Sheriff & Justice of the Peace Court is currently located in this impressive building where James I held parliament in 1427. He killed 3 clan chiefs and sent a few others to the castle jail. Walk around the building for views of the river, Ness Islands and Inverness Castle. Nearby, is the entrance to an art gallery and museum. Note this is currently closed on Sundays and Mondays.

While shopping in Inverness, be sure to pay a visit to its Old Town, with a Victorian market and fantastic second hand bookshop.

Leakey's second hand bookshop
Leakey’s second hand bookshop

7. Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit IV63 6XJ
Cost – £12 per adult

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle served as a medieval fortress for 500 years but was abandoned in the 1600s after a volatile history.

After a short eight minute film, explore the castle at your own pace. Look inside an old prison cell and climb its tower for unrivalled views of Loch Ness at its deepest point.

8. Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns, Inverness IV2 5EU
Cost – free

Clava Cairns - one of the free things to do in the Scottish Highlands
One of the cairns

Walk around the burial chambers in this bronze age burial site. This Scottish historical landmark is believed to be over 4000 years old.

9. Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield, Culloden, Inverness IV2 5EU
Cost – £11 + £2 parking for non-National Trust members

Culloden Battlefield - one of the free things to do in the Scottish Highlands
Tombstone of where the English were buried at Culloden Battlefield

In 1746, 2000 Scots were killed here in less than an hour when the Jacobites were defeated by the English. Culloden Battlefield is a huge burial site and part of the National Trust. Allow a couple of hours to walk around the museum and the battlefield.

10. Chanonry Point

Chanonry Point, Fortrose, IV10 8SD
Cost – free

Chanonry Point Lighthouse - one of the free things to do in the Scottish Highlands

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 seen around an hour after low tide. The 13m high old lighthouse overlooking the long, sweeping beach was built by Alan Stevenson in 1846.

11. Falls of Foyer

Inverness IV2 6XX
Cost – free

Falls of Foyer

The Falls of Foyer are a beautiful attraction and in my opinion, one of the best things to do in the Scottish Highlands. Park opposite the entrance to the falls and after a very short walk you will begin to hear the thunderous sounds from the water cascading into Loch Ness. There are two viewing points and depending on the time of year, plenty can be seen from the upper one. The surrounding scenery is spectacular with snow capped mountains and varying shades of green from the valleys below. Afterwards, I recommend paying a visit to nearby ‘Cameron’s Tearooms and Farm Shop‘ for tea and cake.

12. Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis – Fort William PH33 6ST
Cost – free to climb but £4 to park a car for a day

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain on the British Isles. From the visitor centre it takes around 7-8 hours to walk to the top. However, you may prefer to park up and take a leisurely stroll around the area and admire the spectacular views.

13. Nature Spotting

Cost – free

One of the most natural things to do in the Scottish Highlands is to look for nature. This can be done while walking or driving. The Highlands are filled with lochs, glens, forests and mountains that have plenty of wildlife. Slow down and look around and be surprised at what you can see.

Travel Tips:

  • Allow extra time when travelling to places of interest. The scenery is so beautiful, you will want to stop to take photographs
  • Drive at a sensible speed despite many roads being quiet. It is quite common to see animals in the road
  • Petrol stations can be quite far apart so make sure you keep your tank topped up with fuel

Suggested Further Reading:

Where to Stay

Other destinations suitable for solo travel

Where to eat

Loch Ness solo