Top Ten Things To Do in the Southern Highlands

May 28, 2013 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Top 10 Things to Do

Dramatic mountains, stunning coastlines and historic sites down the ages, there’s so much to see and do in the Southern Highlands. Here’s my guide to the Top Ten Things To Do in the Southern Highlands.

1. Climb a Munro

The Munros are the mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet high. Many of the nearly 300 peaks are in remote locations and should only be tackled by experienced hill-walkers. However Schiehallion is of Scotland’s best known hills and one of the easiest Munros to climb on a fine summer’s day. The mystical mountain (translated as the Fairy Hill of the Caledonians) overlooks Loch Rannoch, from where its famous conical appearance is apparent.

2. Go inside the sea-cave that inspired famous artists

Fingal’s Cave is a most fascinating place. This unique sea-cave, formed from giant basalt columns, is situated on the tiny island of Staffa off the Isle of Mull. It is here where the motion of the waves crashing into the cave inspired Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, that Sir Walter Scott visited and wrote that it was one of the most extraordinary places he had ever seen. The vast size of the cave and the rock formation has led to many compare it to a natural cathedral, and its acoustic qualities only add to this comparison.

3. Cycle through the Trossachs

The 60-mile Lowland Highland Trail runs through some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland. Stretching from close to Loch Lomond to the shores of Loch Tay, the route crosses the Highland Boundary Fault offering a great variety of landscapes. It uses forest tracks, traffic-free trails and minor roads and is regarded as one of the highlights of the National Cycle Network.

4. Sail ‘Doon The Watter’

For generations of Scots sailing ‘doon the watter’ was a tradition. In the days before affordable travel generations of Glasgow families would escape from city life by sailing down the Clyde to the genteel seaside towns on the river’s banks onboard one of dozens of paddle steamers. You may be lucky enough to enjoy a trip on the Waverley, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. If not, there are still ample opportunities to take to the waters, crossing perhaps to the Isle of Bute, Dunoon, or Tighnabruaich.

5. Learn about the history of Scotland

Within a few miles of Stirling you can learn a great deal about the history of a nation. Stirling lies at the crossroads of Scotland between east and west and Lowland and Highland. Its position has made it one of the most important places in Scottish history. Rising high on a rocky crag above the town, the mighty castle dominates the landscape and held sway over Scottish history for centuries it was once a favoured residence of Scottish kings and queens. In 1297 William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace defeated the English at Stirling Bridge – a 220ft monument to him stands nearby. The English were also defeated at the momentous Battle of Bannockburn just outside Stirling in 1314. One of the most important historic sites in Scotland, here King Robert the Bruce routed the forces of King Edward II to win freedom for the Scots from English domination.

6. Take a boat ride on a mechanical marvel

The Falkirk Wheel is a magnificent, mechanical marvel which has been constructed to 21st century, state-of-the-art engineering standards. Opened in 2002, it is already being recognised as an iconic landmark worthy of Scotland’s traditional engineering expertise. It is the world’s only rotating boatlift, which is used to connect the Forth & Clyde and Union canals, probably the largest piece of functional sculpture you will ever see. Boat trips are available, taking in an ascent and descent through the wheel.

7. Join in the cultural celebrations at a Highland gathering

Taking place around Scotland during the summer months, Highland games provide a unique combination of culture, sport and social entertainment. Highland games attract competitors from around the world, as well as locals taking part in everything from traditional heavy athletics events like tug-o-war and caber tossing to Highland dance competitions, piping, and field and track events. From May to September a full programme of Highland games takes place in small towns and villages across the country as well as those within the grounds of famed castles, so there are plenty to choose from.

8. Feel the spiritual atmosphere of a sacred island

The very small island of Iona just off the Isle of Mull, is home to one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites. For many centuries, Iona has been an island of special significance for all Christians. Iona Abbey was founded by St Columba in the 6th century when he arrived here from Ireland to spread the gospel in Scotland and the north of England. The abbey graveyard contains the bones of many early Scottish kings, as well as kings from Ireland, Norway and France. As a celebrated focus for pilgrimage, Iona retains its spiritual atmosphere and remains an enduring symbol of worship.

9. Have a round at the home of golf

St Andrews is the spiritual home of golf and over the years the famed Old Course has played host to the world’s best players at many different championships. It is easier to obtain a tee time on the Old Course than many might think, as long as you have a suitable handicap. The town boasts more than ten courses, to suit all abilities, with other internationally renowned golfing destinations like Gleneagles and Carnoustie within easy reach.

10. See where many of the kings of Scotland were crowned

Scone Palace is one of the most historic sites in Scotland, and the crowning palace of 42 Scottish kings. It was the original home of Scotland’s Stone of Destiny. The Stone was returned to Scotland in 1996 after many centuries in Westminster Abbey, and can now be seen in Edinburgh Castle. Today the palace is a popular visitor attraction thanks to its magnificent contents and priceless collections as well as the gardens and wooded grounds.

There’s a great selection of cottages in the Highlands. Cottages4You have 450 self catering cottages across the Highlands. Scottish Cottages have over 150 to choose from. Hoseasons have over 50 Highlands cottages.

My pick of cottages in the Highlands

cottages in highlands choice

Situated a mere 30 yards from the banks of Loch Lochy and with spectacular uninterrupted views of Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and the Grey Corries, the setting for Arkaig Lodge is truly stunning. Nine miles from Fort William, this detached modern, spacious and immaculately presented four bedroom holiday property offers the perfect blend of tranquil seclusion and proximity to some of the best outdoor activities in the country. Click here for more detail.