The Voyage: 48 Hours in the Scottish Highlands

November 12, 2017

If you’ve never been to the Scottish Highlands, allow us to paint you a picture: Jaw-dropping cliffs and mysterious lochs. Majestic islands and moss-covered crags. Herds of red deer grazing under an endless expanse of sky.

If it all sounds a bit dramatic, well, that’s because it is—and that’s exactly why we traveled to the area to shoot our November journal. (We’re not alone—the “Harry Potter” crew also couldn’t resist such magical backdrops. Many of the grounds surrounding Hogwarts are, in fact, the Highlands.)

But the Highlands offer more than epic landscapes. The area boasts a rich Gaelic history, over 100 whisky distilleries, serious stargazing opportunities, and, if you believe the local lore, a very famous monster.

What we’re saying is this: We highly recommend a visit. We’ve even put together a list of our favorite ways to spend a weekend, from sailing along the gusty shores of Torridon to enjoying a pint in Inverness.

Day One

8 am: Hillwalking
Start your morning off on the right foot and go “hillwalking”—a UK term that means, well, exactly what it sounds like. The Woodland Trail on the Beinn Eighe mountain in Torridon is an easygoing path that leads you through the Coille na Glas Leitre (translation: “The Wood of the Grey Slope”), an 8,000-year-old Birchwood forest. Be sure to make a quick detour for a bird’s-eye view of Loch Maree and the 1,600-million-year-old Gniess rocks that surround it.

11 am: Lunch at The Steading Bistro
All that walking calls for a proper lunch. Swing by The Steading Bistro, where you can fuel up on hearty fare (steak and ale pie, anyone?) while resting by the harbor at Gairloch. It’s a favorite of those traveling on the North Coast 500—a 516-mile route that meanders through small towns and along picturesque stretches of farmland.

2 pm: Sailing
The beauty of the harbor will leave you longing for the open water, so hop on a boat for a guided tour of Loch Torridon. Once sailing, take in views of the rugged mountains that line the Atlantic shore. If you’re lucky, you’ll be welcomed out to sea by white-tailed eagles and the loch’s colony of seals.

6 pm: Whisky Tasting
No trip to Scotland is complete without sampling one of its largest exports—whisky. Schedule a tasting at the iconic Torridon Hotel, where you can choose between 350 single-malts in the award-winning bar.

10 pm: Stargazing
Come nightfall, the Highlands put on quite the light show. Grab a warm blanket and head out to nearby Loch Torridon or Loch Maree for some serious stargazing. Nearly 7,000 stars are visible to the naked eye, including those in our neighboring Andromeda galaxy. Binoculars will get you a glimpse of the Whirlpool galaxy—a cool 25 million lightyears away—and, on some nights, you can even see the Northern Lights.

Day Two

8 am: Breakfast at the Rendezvous Café
Take a short drive to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, and grab breakfast at the Rendezvous Café. Situated in a former dance hall and record store, this kitschy spot serves up traditional Scottish breakfast dishes like smoked salmon, haggis, and baked beans. The movie-themed décor speaks to the region’s Hollywood ties—the Highlands have served as a filming location for the “Harry Potter,” “James Bond,” and “Monty Python” films.

10 am: Search for Nessie
Allegedly, the Loch Ness Monster lurks in the freshwater lake nearby. Nessie has lured adventurous visitors for nearly a century, and paying a visit remains on the Highlands must-do list.

2 pm: Afternoons Arts
Built in 1826, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is the city’s first museum, featuring exhibitions on Scottish geology, history, and art. Or, if you’re bringing the little ones, consider a visit to Ship Space, Inverness’s maritime museum, which features a small-scale model of the Titanic popular with pint-sized passengers.

6pm: Dinner with a View
Sit down for some Scottish fare and ale at the Castle Tavern’s beer garden, where you can take in the beauty of the Inverness Castle. Though not the original 11th-century structure that appears in “Macbeth,” this beautiful building has a special place in the hearts—and wallets—of the locals, as its likeness is rendered on the back of the Scottish 50£ note.

10 pm: Pub Time
The Scots have been brewing beer for nearly 5,000 years, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their pubs. Along the River Ness are local favorites including Scotch & Rye, Black Isle Bar, and Number 27. Choose your favorite (or try them all) while rubbing elbows with fellow travelers and local Highlanders alike.

Shop the November story here