How to travel to the Scottish Highlands

The books to read, the films to watch and trips to research - how to prepare to travel to the Highlands

The wild landscapes of Scotland's Highlands offer the ultimate escape. Since the 19th century, when the first tourists began to arrive, inspired by the Romantic movement's search for the sublime, the Scottish Highlands have been famed for their wild nature and majestic scenery. Today the region's biggest draw remains its magnificent landscape. At almost every turn is a vista that will stop you in your tracks while on a guided walking holiday. As well as classic challenges such as the West Highland Way and the ascent of Ben Nevis, there are walks through the wilderness to suit all levels of ability, which is why we love to return to our country house, Alltshellach, close to Glen Coe. And to prepare to travel, we immerse ourselves in books and films about the Highlands - see some of our favourites below.

Explore Ben Nevis in our 3D Flyover route video

Our 3D flyover video gives you a birds-eye view of some of the wonderful scenery you can enjoy during an ascent of Ben Nevis. Take an aerial tour from the base of the mountain and follow the route to the summit - it's almost as good as being there in person. Almost!

What novels to read

From crime novels to historical epics, the Scottish Highlands have a rich history of producing literary classics. First among these is Waverley by Walter Scott. Legendary and ground-breaking, Waverley is widely regarded as the first example of historical fiction in Western literature. Published anonymously in 1814, the epic novel follows English gentleman Edward Waverley as he wrestles with loyalties during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Another must for all historical fiction lovers is Corrag by Susan Fletcher, which is centred around the Glencoe Massacre. It cleverly tells the story of the fate of the MacDonald clan through the eyes of a social outcast who has been condemned as a witch and is awaiting her sentence. Robert Louis Stevenson's rollicking adventure novel Kidnapped, written in 1886, is regarded as one of the great adventure tales. Set in Scotland just after the Jacobite rebellions it is narrated by the teenager David Balfour and recounts his struggle to claim his inheritance and find his place in the world. Look out too for The 39 Steps by John Buchan, an espionage thriller that takes readers across Scotland as charming protagonist Richard Hannay attempts to foil a conspiracy. As brilliant and out there as Ian Fleming's James Bond, its sparse, contemporary prose is hard to put down. Finally, find time for the genre-defying Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, which kicks off with the heroine time-travelling from the Scotland of 1945 to 1743. The time-hopping romance follows the story of Claire Randall, a married English combat nurse as she becomes embroiled with a Highland warrior; later novels trace the Battle of Culloden, repression of Highland culture, and emigration to the Americas.

What films to watch

Glen Coe and the Scottish Highlands have been the location shots for a number of classic films. It’s clear to see why J K Rowling selected Scotland as the home of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series as the wild, mysterious, mountainous terrain makes it the perfect setting for a school dedicated to magic. Fans of the books and films will recognise Glencoe from several instalments in the series, primarily as the location of Hagrid’s hut and the Hogwarts covered bridge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. An hour along the road from Glencoe, visitors to Glenfinnan will instantly identify two more iconic locations from the Harry Potter films. The Glenfinnan Viaduct features in no fewer than three of the films, most notably when Harry and Ron fly a Ford Anglia onto the tracks In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A stone’s throw from there, the Glenfinnan Monument can be found on the banks of Loch Shiel. Standing atop the monument gives you breathtaking views across the loch and mountains that were used numerous times throughout the series as the backdrop for Hogwarts. This area also features as the location of the Black Lake in three of the films. James Bond also has strong ties with Scotland, and the dramatic landscape of Glencoe makes an appearance in the franchise’s 23rd instalment, Skyfall. The pivotal scene sees 007 and M escape up the A82 to his ancestral home in the Highlands. Here, there’s an iconic shot of Bond looking across the Glencoe valley next to his classic Aston Martin DB5. Glencoe was also the backdrop for scenes in Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary. Some important scenes were filmed at General Wade Road and the Three Sisters. You can catch other Scottish historical figures on films set here too. In Rob Roy, Liam Neeson struggles against feudal landlords in 18th-century Scotland, while Mel Gibson stars in Braveheart, the Academy award-winning adventure story of the Scots overthrowing English rule in the 13th Century. Hollywood A-lister Chris Pine was in action at Glencoe too for the filming of Outlaw King, a historical action drama about Robert the Bruce. There’s more (fictional) sword swirling in Highlander, where an immortal warrior remembers his life in 16th Century Scotland while preparing for a key battle in the present day.

What TV to catch up on

Catch up on the 80s TV series The Munro Show on YouTube, fronted by Muriel Gray, where she investigates the skills and etiquette of climbing Munros and explores related issues including the Mountain Rescue service and the physical training required to tackle the hills. In Wild, cameraman and presenter Gordon Buchanan goes on a tour of breathtaking scenery and picturesque places in search of Scottish wildlife while Ewan McGregor narrates a dramatic portrait of his homeland's wildlife in Highlands - Scotland's Wild Heart, available on iPlayer. With spectacular photography and incredible behaviour, the series showcases the Highlands as never before. The spectacular footage captured for the series spans right across the Highlands. In Coastal Railways with Julie Walters - the award-winning actor who plays Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter films, takes a journey on the West Highland Line over the Glenfinnan Viaduct to the Isle of Skye. The viaduct famously made its own appearance in the Harry Potter films as part of the railway that carries wizarding pupils to the magical school of Hogwarts. You can catch the historical drama series Outlander, based on the novel series of the same name on Netflix and there's a classic adaptation of The 39 Steps by Alfred Hitchcock to look out for too.

What to research

Once your appetite has been whetted, turn to our website for inspiration. You might want to head out on one of our guided walking holidays in the Scottish Highlands, dream about tackling one of the challenge or adventure walks around Glen Coe, or transport yourself on a self-guided walking holiday where you can set the agenda. Solo travellers can explore on their own but not alone, history fans can dream about Highland railway tours while photographers can salivate over the Highland’s glorious landscapes and locations to shoot.

Alltshellach, Scottish Highalnds

Alltshellach awaits

Situated in a stunning location on the shores of Loch Leven, Alltshellach is a stately Scottish house set amid a rugged landscape. This one-time home of the Bishop of Argyll has been recast as a hiker’s hotel, ideally situated for accessing the Mamores, the mountains of Glen Coe and tackling Ben Nevis.
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