Most visitors to Scotland stop in Edinburgh and then head to the north-west Highlands and Skye – which are undoubtedly spectacular. The opposite coast is much less visited but still has plenty to offer. Take a car from Inverness (which is well worth a visit), have a look at Loch Ness and then travel north to take in these recommendations:
- John O’Groats. It is the north-east corner of the mainland but it is not the most northerly point which is nearby Dunnet Head. John O’Groats does not have much to offer (except the ferry to Orkney) but just adjacent are the Duncansby Stacks – spectacular rock formations visible after a pleasant cliffside walk.
- Orkney. We took the day trip which visited Scapa Flow, Kirkwall Cathedral, Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Italian Chapel. Orkney has the best neolithic sites in Northern Europe and Skara Brae is a remarkably preserved stone village dating back 5000 years.
- Dunrobin Castle. The stunning residence of the Dukes of Sutherland. The gardens are exquisite, the house is full of interest and the falconry display well worth watching.
- Dornoch. A pretty little town with good restaurants and wonderful walks along the beach offering views across the Moray Firth.
Also worth catching are:
5. Thurso. A stone built city on the north coast with a fine beach and Cathedral
6. Castle Mey. The charming former residence of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
7. Cairn O’Get. An impressive neolithic burial cairn which you get to after a muddy walk. Close nearby are the Whaligoe Steps – over 300 stone steps down the cliff face to a wild harbour. Also close is the Hill O’ Many Stanes – a field of heather with a fan of 190 neolithic stones.
8. Falls of Shin. A dramatic waterfall on the river Shin near Lairg where salmon leap on their journey upstream.
And some general advice for tourists to Scotland.
- There are plenty of good places to stay and to eat but book in advance.
- Fill up with petrol (gas) because it can be a long way between filling stations.
- Take strong shoes for walking on the beaches, hills and heaths.
- Take warm clothing and waterproofs. The weather is very changeable – sunny one minute and wet the next.
- Try the local foods – haggis, black pudding, porridge etc. and of course the whisky!