From its famous “Road to the Isles” surrounded by the beautiful and rugged vistas of Glen Coe and the Cairngorms, to the ubiquity of the great water of life (whisky), the Scottish Highlands features many must see natural landscapes and historic sites, but it also is home to a range of cultural events throughout the year. From the Highland games to Hogmanay, we list the must-see moments for 2018.
North Coast 500
Although not technically an event, Scotland’s answer to Route 66 is a perfect way to orient the great Scottish landscape. Starting and finishing in Inverness, the 500 miles is a long favourite now fully endorsed by the Scottish tourist industry. As a result, the route constantly features new B&B deals and attraction passes along the route. With ancient castle ruins, fell passes and winding coastal views, the North Coast 500 is a must do for 2018. If travelling between July and August, it offers many chances to witness small and local galas.
Held between spring and summer throughout Scotland, these games celebrate Scottish culture with a series of performances and feats of strength, such as the sheaf toss stone put and the hammer throw. With bagpipes, kilts, dancing and the famous caber toss, the largest games take place in Dunoon every August. However, smaller galas are held throughout the area and are well worth a visit. For more, see the association website’s listed events.
The most famous Hogmanay street party is held on Princes Street in Edinburgh, but Inverness also offers one of the largest free celebrations in the Red Hot Highland Fling. Complete with live music, fireworks, comedy and good whisky, this is a lively way to ring in the New Year. Other smaller festivities are dotted around the Highlands and are also worth a pull, particularly local fire festivals.
Like Hogmanay, the pagan originating Comrie Flambeaux takes place on New Year and features fire displays, music, processions and fancy dress in the Southern Highlands town of Comrie. If you want to get down to the raw pagan roots of Scottish Celtic culture, then this is an event to behold. In it, a series of eight large wooden torches are set ablaze and marched through town at midnight.
Although the auroras borealis cannot be guaranteed, the autumn and winter periods are ideal for spotting the Northern Lights. The secluded North West Highland landscape offers many ideal opportunities for clear nights beneath the stars and, if you are lucky, the glittery glow of an aurora.
Ullapool Book Festival
If you enjoy literature and literary heritage, the annual Ullapool book festival is held on the shores of the beautiful Loch Broom between 11-13 May. We can’t think of a better book spot than this quaint little town nestled between the mountains of Bheinn Ghobblach, An Teallach and Ben Mhòr na Còigich.
Fort William Mountain Festival
In October, Fort William hosts a unique experience celebrating mountaineering. With exhibitions, films and lectures, the event is topped with guided walks, hikes, climbs and skiing lesson.
That’s right, whisky has a month as well as a day (May 19th, 2018). Distilleries, bars and pubs are all hosting the event with deals and tastings. Why not make the most of it and visit some of the best purveyors of Highland whisky? From Glengoyne and Glen Dronach to Glenmorangie, Highland whiskies are some of the best in Scotland. What is more, if you arrive a little early, Inverness is hosting a whisky and gin festival in April, complete with rare drams and fresh Scottish gins.
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