When we think of Scotland – our minds tend to rush straight to classic images of those red -beards of loud men, assorted tartans, somewhat hormonal weather, bag-pipes and even the adorable ‘Hairy Coos’… BUT There’s more- there always is, more than even spectacular buildings!
As recently inspired by Scotland’s win in The Rough Guide’s competition for the Most Beautiful Country in the world – I decided it was time to UNCOVER Scotland’s Most Beautiful Villages in the Highlands. And all of Scotland for that matter and maybe even England – but let’s not tell the English that!
Firstup – #1: Killin.
Killin tops the list as the most beautiful – diverse in landscape, the villages here are surrounded by trees, mountains and has a prime location – situated at the western end of Loch Tay, plus you will be close to Ben Lauers National Nature Reserve & Finlaig Castle. Definite must-sees!
The Village itself – a mix of traditional cottage style homes and quaint pubs. If you’re trying to see a classic Highland’s village this is number one and matches your imagination to a ‘T’.
My TOP-TIP is to get out in nature, heck I say it enough – there’s wild-life to see and outdoor activities to be done- the best place for all the hiking equipment for sale or hire is The Killin Outdoor Centre, the guys there: full of useful information and best places to walk those feet!
Torridon, well hey #2: Steve Carter captured this spot perfectly through the lens of his camera – all the nature feels, the rapid cascading falls and the seemingly endless greenery.
The Village is sitting at the very feet of Liathach and Upper Loch Torridon- and there, there are the mountains and peaks of Torridon. Acclaimed by even the locals as the most beautiful mountain region in all of Scotland.
This location features gorges, rolling-slopes, cliffs – all just waiting to be explored.
My TOP-TIP is to do one of the great walks in the area and see it all – choose an intensive hike – either The Ridge Walk of Liathach Massif or Beinn Eighe OR an easier 7mile Lower Diabaig to Redpoint.
Like Torridon it’s at the west of Liathach and on Loch Torridon. It’s often in competition by tourists with Torridon over which is more beautiful for that reason– it also makes it harder to choose between the two for 2nd and 3rd place!
Here, there’s a lot of history regarding the Fishing Trade! The village it’s self – is a mix of seaweed, scrub and the scenic Shieldaig Island. Beautiful in the days of snow too, like below.
MY TOP-TIP is to grab a rod and go for a fish.
Continuing on the coast of Scotland from Torridon you’ll meet up with the village of Applecross – no apples here, oh wait – maybe – I’m sure there’s some Scottish lad picking some as we speak – definitely not what we are travelling to Applecross for, however. Applecross is a village in the Highlands, which is known by locals as a ‘street’ more than a village, the actual name Applecross is roughly 1,300 years old though…
It resides in the remote area of Wester Ross also- but it’s fame really has nothing to do with apples but everything to do with the gorgeous scenic drives along Bealach na Ba Road and way into the hills as high up as 2,053ft! Among the highest in Britain and it’s views spread to Rassay and Skye via the Bay below.
My TOP-TIP is do the whole road-trip with some friends! Give the Applecross Guide a view too – it is a must-read – Click here.
The next road we ‘can go down’, is just how high-up we can get into the Scottish Highlands – and there is the village of Braemar. Surrounded by the Grampian Mountains and close to the Cairngorms National Park – it’s easy to encounter snow here – just because of just high up the village is. The village’s cottages are also mostly made of stone to keep people up there warm! Brrrrrr.
In the area – there’s 65 miles of high level walks and cycling routes to help you see it at it’s best – delightful and dramatic.
MY TOP-TIP is to do some of the walks – most of which will take you to the Braemar Castle – unique in it’s appearance and ‘colourful’ in it’s history. Depending on the time of year there are the Braemar Highland Games held within walking distance.
#5: Boat of Garten.
A popular destination for hiking and fishing by tourists & locals! And of course – so stunning.
Commonly referred to as the “The Osprey Village’, it’s found not far from the Cairngorms National Park – who tend to reap all the glory in the area… Boat of Garten, however, is perfect for getting away and unwinding in the peaceful surrounds. Not to mention boasting an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife! The famous and secretive Osprey bird is very commonly found here from April to August and clearly a big part of the town’s nickname!
Stunning in scenery my TOP-TIP is to get out of the car and catch the local steam-train to see it from new heights and perspectives, INFO & TIMETABLE HERE.
#7: Nethy Bridge.
Lucky 7! This village is a part of Speyside and south east of the River Spey and through from the forests of Abernethy.
The area is famous for being a big role in the Industrialisation of Scotland with production of Saw-mills from 1728. But we love it for the beauty mostly! Close proximity to the Abernethy Forest, it is also surrounded by Caledonian Pines and has 4 major bridges all photo worthy! The bridges – contributed to the name again. Like, Osprey- so clever Scotland! To mix it up – from rivers and scrub – this village hosts rocky landscapes, stone buildings and wide open spaces.
My TOP-TIP get up those mountains and test the limits of your feet with surmounting the rocks.
Overlooked by most this village is just north of Inverness (of course close to Loch Territories), best known for it’s part in the historic county of ‘Cromartyshire’ until 1890 BUT to us – absolutely worth a look for the stunning views.
My TOP-TIP is to carefully amble the narrow streets and go up to the Cromarty Lighthouse to check out the view such as the one below.
A delightful and picturesque village set amongst the hills and on a secluded bay of Loch Carron – to one side there’s all this wonderful-lush-greenery and to the other you find an indescribable coast line. It’s a fishing village and has it’s own harbour. Like other stunning villages it is set amongst the pines with views for days and we love that, but there’s also lots of Hairy Coos – and that just makes everything better!
My TOP-TIP is to sit right on the water’s edge (low-tide of course) with some locally caught Fish & Chips and a good read!
And finally, Ballater – commonly known as THE area for the best hiking in the Highlands, but more so, for it’s eloquent history. Way up in the Scottish Highlands, in the Royal Deeside within the Cairngorm’s National Park, you can find this village. The keyword in that sentence is: Royal. The village is close to the Balmoral Castle which hosts the Royal Family from time to time and has for an even longer time. The Royal Lochnager Distillery is also close by with exclusive Scottish whiskies. An exclusive abundance of wildlife is in the hills of Ballater – Red Deer, Golden Eagles and Grouse. Together these things add a very special touch to the Ballater village.
My TOP-TIP is to give one of the hikes a go, it’s truly the best way to see the village from the heights of a Golden Eagle.
3 Fun Scottish Phrases to use in your Village Highland Experience..
Hiked out? “I’m fair puckled.” – I am short of breath!
Confused? “Ah dinnae ken.” – I don’t know.
Inspired? “Whits fur ye’ll no go by ye!” – What’s meant to be – will happen.
Click here for more fun Scottish Slang and Phrases.
I recommend planning a 2-3 day road trip incorporating all of the 10 along the way.
Overall – these places are exceptionally spectacular to been see over the winter months and capped with snow.
A great website to check out for more information on what to see and do, where to eat and extra activities is VisitScotland.
I’ve always said: “you don’t often find the gems of a country in the big cities.” And it’s totally the case again.
Stretch your imagination and walk those feet to the Scottish Highlands.
Please Note: All opinions stated in this Blog are entirely those of the Author. Images photographed by Court Jeremiah are not to be taken or used without permission