A simple map of the Scottish Highlands with main tourist places. Below is a larger Google map of Scotland with destinations flagged
The most spectacular drive in Scotland and probably the UK is thought to be the 143 mile stretch of the A9 from Stirling to Inverness. Stirling is near Edinburgh and the A9 runs directly north from there.
However, the A9 is also notoriously dangerous as it often experiences heavy traffic but frequently changes from dual carriageway to regular two lanes. Furthermore tourists unfamiliar with the route crawl along looking at the countryside views while locals and heavy goods vehicles become impatient and overtake unwisely.
Then there’s the weather which changes as abruptly as dual carriageways end, throwing clouds of rain or mist over frustrated drivers. In winter snow ploughs join the traffic as they battle to keep the road open.
And finally deer come leaping into the picture, big, solid deer, not the bambi kind, deer that can easily write off a car traveling at 60mph, or cause a car to swerve into another, causing a chain reaction. 200 deer strikes a year is normal.
Scotland Map of main tourist destinations and cities on the mainland.
The Orkney Islands are visible off the north coast but the Shetland Islands are further north still.
Some of Scotland’s prime attractions:
Edinburgh city: a beautiful place of Georgian elegance with an historic Old Town, outstanding castle and plenty of green spaces.
Glasgow: Once a shipping power of the British Empire, Glasgow has has reinvented itself as a center for varied and innovative architecture, music, creative arts, theatre and design.
Ben Nevis: Ben Nevis is Scotland’s highest point at 1,344metres, but also the highest mountain in the UK. Hiking up it is a popular challenge and rewarded by spectacular views, assuming low cloud hasn’t dropped over your head like a wooly blanket.
Cairngorms National Park: probably the best of Scotland’s two national parks, this is mountain wilderness is lined with five of Scotlands highest peaks and offers some of the best skiing in the UK in winter. A walk around Loch Muick is highly recommended, as is cycling along the Speyside Way.
Fort William: The second city of the Scottish Highlands and a popular tourist base for exploring the Scottish Highlands and climbing nearby Ben Nevis. There is also an ancient Jacobite Steam Train that runs a picturesque route from Fort William to Mallaig including crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct, seen in a Harry Potter film.
Glencoe: this bleak but beautiful place of open meadows, streams and towering rocks was at the heart of the Scottish Highlands’ murderous clan warfare and dark deeds. Glencoe is within easy driving distance of Fort William.
The Isle of Skye: The island is famous for bird-watching (puffins!), panoramic views (the Black Cuillin mountains), fine walks (Quiraing, between Staffin and Uig), and even beaches (Elgol is a favourite). Skye is one of the Inner Hebrides islands on the West Coast of Scotland).
The Inner Hebrides: 35 of these islands are inhabited and apart from panoramic views, beaches, peace and quiet offer some worthwhile sights. Iona for its Abbey containing the remains of 60 Scottish, Irish and Norwegian kings; Islay, for whisky distilleries; Jura is a remote and wild island roamed by wild things such as stags, otters and golden eagles; Mull, encompasses mountain scenery as well as the multi-coloured waterfront town of Tobermory and a beach of golden sand (and freezing water!).
Shetland and Orkney islands, north of Scottish mainland: Orkney is the closer island, scattered with ancient archaeological sites, such as Skara Brae, a 5,000-year-old semi-subterranean village. Shetland is a bird-watcher’s dream, home to puffins, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, and thousands of seals. In midwinter the fire festival and processions of Up Helly Aa make a grand sight, but not much else at that time would be visible due to the very short days !