Let's take a quick tour of the west Scottish Highlands. At 0-60mph in 2.88 seconds this isn't going to last long. Photo by Steve Carter.
Scotland Weather Map of Scotland
What is the Scottish Highlands?
The Highlands is a sparsely populated area - less than 250,000 people in 2015 - in northwest Scotland dominated by hills and mountains, including Britain's highest peak, Ben Nevis. It's bleak, beautiful and especially popular with hill walkers and climbers though sufficient snow for good skiing is not commonplace as the mountains don't reach the heights of, for example, the French Alps.
The many large and tranquil lochs
make for fine kayaking.
The Highlands also includes the Western Isles/Hebrides such as Skye and Mull and the northern islands of Orkney and Shetland.
Shieldaig, a saltwater loch off the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Steve Carter.
Shieldaig Island is populated with Scotts Pines that were used to make masts for sailing ships to fight Napoleon two centuries ago. It is now a bird sanctuary and has nesting Sea Eagles.
Shieldaig Loch joins Loch Torridon and has a fleet of 6 fishing trawlers which mostly fish for Langoustine (which are transported to London, Madrid and even China the next day). The village itself was built to raise and train sailors to fight Napoleon.
Winter in the Torridon Highlands. Photo by Steve Carter.
The Torridon Hills are the oldest in Europe. Rock in the Torridon area is between 2600 and 3000 million years old. Very nearly the highest in Britain, they rise in places almost vertically to 3500 feet from the deep sea lochs.
The hills are not only famous for the magnificent and dramatic views but also generally have steep terraced sides that provide excellent scrambling and climbing activities and are consequently popular with hikers, climbers and mountaineers.
Mt. Ben Nevis seen from the Allt a'Mhuilinn path. Photo by Blisco.
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the United Kingdom at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level, and is known to Highland folk as 'The Ben'. It's located near the town of Fort William and makes a terrific hiking or climbing destination though too many hikers and mountaineers go ill-prepared.
Weather conditions can deteriorate very rapidly leading to fast temperature drops and heavy fog or snow that conceals trails and escape routes. In some places snow is visible all year round. People die on the mountain regularly and the local Mountain Rescue team is kept busy.
The easiest and most popular walking route to the summit of the Ben is the Pony Track, sometimes known as the Mountain Path or Ben Path, starting on the east side of Glen Nevis at Achintee on the south side of the mountain, about 2 km (1.5 miles) from Fort William town centre. The Pony Track is trod by about 75,000 walkers a year!
Plockton promenade. Photo by NessyPic.
Often referred to as the prettiest village in Scotland, Plockton - population 378 - is on the shore of Loch Carron, off the Atlantic. The TV series Hamish Macbeth was filmed there.
Gairloch beach and loch, Atlantic Ocean. Gairloch is small fishing town with banks, shops and a museum. Photo by Steve Carter.
Achmelvich beach and loch, Atlantic Ocean. It's just north of Lochinver and a popular camping destination. Photo by Steve Carter.
A Pine Marten in a Caledonian pine, found all over the Highlands. Photo by Steve Carter.
One of Britain's rarest mammals, Pine Martens hunt in trees and on the ground. They like to roam in broad-leaved or conifer woodlands, and the destruction of these is a threat to the species. They find most of their food on the ground, and they hunt for small mammals, birds, insects, fungi, berries, birds' eggs and carrion.
Red Deer are more visible than humans in many parts of the Highlands. Photo by Massimo Catarinella.
Another inhabitant of wild British landscapes is the adder, otherwise known as Vipera Berus. Photo by Jozef Sokolowski.
The Common European adder/viper
The adder is the UK's most venemous creature (which is mild compared to Australian snakes!) but still it's best not to fool around with anything that has that pattern on it. Adders are not aggressive and are not considered to be dangerous as their bite - when disturbed - is painful but not usually life-threatening.
Ignore testosterone demands that you should wrestle with the creature. Leave it alone and it will quietly disappear.
Highland Midge Information
More photos from Steve Carter
The sports car
For gear heads who are wondering what the white car at the top of the page is, it's a Superlight R500 Duratec Cosworth, 520 bhp per ton, built in Caterham, Surrey. It went round the Top Gear track faster than a Bugatti Veyron and was their Car of the Year in 2010. It's "the work of the devil" they say.
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