Winter camping in Scotland is unique: the winter months can be breathtakingly beautiful. You’ll experience clear skies, quiet roads, and perhaps even the Northern Lights if you’re especially lucky. After all, due to low levels of light pollution, elevated parts of Northern Scotland offer your best chance of spotting Aurora Borealis in the United Kingdom.
Taking a winter break in the Highlands is truly enchanting, particularly for the adventurous spirit. Whether you’re preparing for your next visit or dreaming of an off-peak getaway, this article explores three incredible spots and activities to try in the Highlands. Let’s get started.
Park the Land Rover, set up camp, and clear your mind on a refreshing Highland walk.
The Woodland Trust views Glen Finglas as the best winter walk in Scotland: a vast estate home to mountains, rivers, hills, and glens, as well as woodland and moorland.
Traditionally comprising a fifteen-mile hill walk that takes around seven hours to complete, Glen Finglas is not for the faint of heart, nor an amateur rambler. But if you’re an experienced adventurer, there are few better ways to experience the iconic Highlands.
The start of your journey will include a lingering stint in the ancient woodland (and is suitable for everyone). Here you will come across swathes of delicate bluebells enclosed by treetops (birch, oak, and hazel) dusted in winter snow. If you have an affinity for wildlife, be on special lookout for red squirrels, pine martens, and singing redstarts.
Winter wildlife in the Highlands is a spectacle to behold.
Located along the coastline, Udale Bay is an RSPB nature reserve comprising coastal, estuary, mudflat, and wetland habitats. The winter is a busy time for Udale Bay as myriad bird species migrate over during the cold months.
The twitchers amongst you can expect to see:
You can also expect to spot traditional redshanks and lapwings as they make the most of the rich feeding grounds. At sea, you will even find wild osprey fishing in the water from late summer to April.
Udale Bay isn’t the only winter wildlife hotspot in the Highlands. The Cairngorms National Park is home to lots of animals including the emblematic Highland cow, which is an iconic fury beast that can be seen at the national park as well as roaming free in the North West.
Despite the characteristically clear skies in the Highlands, however, getting a good view of local wildlife can be tricky. To that end, bringing a pair of binoculars is an astute idea.
If you don’t already own a pair of binoculars, consider purchasing from a wildlife charity like the aforementioned RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). This is because your contributions are reinvested in the local conservation efforts.
Specifically, at Udale Bay, these efforts are directed at managing invasive plant species such as common cordgrass. This hybrid plant aggressively grows across the mudflats and reduces roosting areas for winter birds.
The Highlands has a rich hand in human history, epitomised by the many castles and monuments left behind by various ancient clans. And while many of these attractions are closed during the winter, many more remain open and ripe for exploration.
Castle Tioram, for example, is an atmospheric fortress built in the mid-thirteenth century.
Found on the tidal island of Eilean Tioram (a strategically-useful location), Castle Tioram was once viewed as an impenetrable stronghold. Today, it’s a monument to the Clanranalds.
Clave Cairns — an ancient burial site — is also a fascinating visit during the winter.
Positioned near Inverness, Clave Cairns is thousands of years old and has helped unveil some of the mysteries of the bronze age. Historic Environment Scotland suggests that what remains today was once a small part of a much larger complex: it comprises prehistoric burial monuments and the remains of a medieval chapel.
Whichever historical sites you come across during your exploration of the Highlands, the winter snow is sure to provide an extra layer of mystery.
Yes — but the winter months are a uniquely beautiful time to visit the Scottish Highlands. From refreshing walks and charming wildlife to the many atmospheric historical monuments, these are three incredible spots to explore this winter.
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