Black Mount Mountains in the Highlands - Image by J McSporran
Winter is the season when we crave snow, log fires and fir trees, and many of us travel to Scandinavia for that perfect winter retreat. However, there’s no need to leave the UK – the Highlands ticks all the boxes for wintry charm.
As the most northerly area of mainland UK, parts of the Scottish Highlands are roughly as near to Norway as they are to the UK’s southern coast. Here, we explain why the Highlands is the perfect destination for a winter break – in terms of climate, landscape and culture.
Buachaille Etive Mhor (The Great Shepherd of the Glens) stands at the entrance to Glencoe and Glen Etive in the West Highlands - Image by J McSporran
If you want snowy scenery, the Highlands is probably your best bet for finding snow in the UK. The average number of days of snowfall in Scotland as a whole varies from 15 to 20 days. However, if you look at the peaks and mountains in the Highlands, there are around 100 days per year where snow is falling. So, imagine the abundance of white-capped mountains to gaze upon this winter.
River Coupall, near Glencoe in the Highlands - Image by J McSporran
With glacial glens, mountain wilderness and icy lochs, the Highlands offers impressive scenery – showcasing UK landscape at its wildest.
These views are even more stunning in the winter, with clear, ice blue skies and clouds that glow pink in the winter light. Plus, there’s the snow and frost, which covers the Highlands in a blanket of white. Here are some of the most beautiful spots in the Highlands to enjoy in the winter:
This magical site is located by the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’, Fort William. With snow-topped peaks, isolated crofts and lochs, Glencoe is truly magnificent. It’s also the site of the Glencoe Massacre, a hugely significant moment in the history of the Highlands.
The Isle of Mull
Although the weather can be unpredictable, the bleak and beautiful Isle of Mull is a wonderful place to visit in winter. Mountain Hares and Ptarmigan are in their winter coats and the island is at its most rugged.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
With lochs and mountains stretching across 720 sq. miles of National Park, this is a stunning spot in the Highlands. The region is steeped in history and numerous Highland clans have called this park their home over the centuries.
Cairngorms National Park
From castles to ancient pine forests, Cairngorms National Park is a vast wilderness. It’s larger than the Lake District and twice as big as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. In winter, Cairngorms is covered in snow, but the stunning views compensate for the icy climate.
Oban, the Highlands - Image by brownrobert73
When chill of the winter scenery gets too much, you can wrap up warm in many of the cosy pubs, restaurants and cafes. The Highlands has a distinctive culture – it’s rural, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on. In many of the region’s towns, you’ll find traditional food, music and festivities, harking back to days gone by.
In the winter months, there are several traditional Scottish festivals that visitors can enjoy – from St Andrews Day (30th November) to Hogmanay (the Scottish New Year) and Burns Night (25th January). There are also many other smaller events in the towns and villages of the Highlands.
Here are just a few must-visit towns and cities in the Highlands:
Fort William has been a popular tourist destination since its train station arrived in 1890, bringing Victorian travellers to this charming town and the stunning countryside that surrounds it. For a relaxing evening in the town, there are plenty of traditional country pubs, perfect for a cold winter night. If you want to find out more about the history of the Highlands, visit the town’s West Highland Museum.
Situated on the Highland Boundary Fault, Crieff is on the edge of the rugged Highland landscape. It’s a bustling country town, well-known for The Famous Grouse Experience at Scotland’s oldest distillery. Discovering the secrets to the UK's No.1 whisky, The Famous Grouse, is the perfect wintery day out, with a warming tasting experience at the end of the tour.
On the eastern edge of the Highlands, Oban is known as the "Gateway to the Isles". Just a short hop across the North Atlantic Ocean is the Isle of Mull and beyond that, you can travel to many of the other Scottish islands. Every year there’s the Oban Winter Festival, a 10-day celebration of the season, with live music, art and food and craft markets.
Known as the “city in the Highlands”, Inverness is home to Scottish culinary delights and plenty of historic sites, which are all remnants from an era when Scottish clans ruled the Highlands. As a result, the area is home to many forts and castles, including Inverness Castle, which overlooks the River Ness. For a cultural evening out, there’s Eden Court Theatre, the biggest arts centre in Scotland.
Experience the Highlands in Winter
Want to experience the landscape and culture of the Highlands? With snowy scenery, warming whisky and many traditional Scottish festivals, winter is the perfect time to visit the Scottish Highlands.
Browse our tours to find your perfect Scottish Highland escape this winter, with most of our trips featuring Fort William, Crieff, Glencoe, the Isle of Mull and more.