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Northern delights

Isle of Skye

Swap city for scenery and embark on a Highland adventure – the perfect tonic to the buzz of Edinburgh life.

Edinburgh is a city of varied delights: winding cobbled streets steeped in history, elegant Georgian walkways with chic boutiques, dramatic castle searing into the skyline, the country’s finest museums, galleries and nightlife. Few places hum with energy like Scotland’s capital.

Yet as every student knows, study can be as tiring as it is enriching, and every now and again it’s important to retreat and recharge. Thankfully, Scotland’s stunning Highlands are within easy reach of the capital, and offer the perfect opportunity to get back to nature. Whether you like your break action-packed and adrenalin-charged or a tranquil haven, you’ll be spoilt for choice as you sample Scotland’s northern delights.

Here’s our at-a-glance guide.

Wilder-Ness

The Loch Ness Monster is the Highlands’ most famous inhabitant, but don’t be fooled: there’s so much more to this region than the legend of ‘Nessie’. Loch Ness itself is a stunning natural gem – at 23 miles long and 700ft deep it’s Scotland’s largest loch by volume. Our Summer School social programme includes a day trip to Loch Ness, taking in the dramatic Stirling Castle, the famous Trossachs and stunning mountain ranges along the way.

Nearby Inverness is also a worthwhile visit. Known as the City in the Highlands, it’s a picturesque, friendly little city beautifully situated on the banks of the River Ness. Not to be outdone by Edinburgh, Inverness also has its own gothic castle, which looms over the atmospheric Old Town.

The great outdoors

Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in the UK and home to five of the six highest mountains, including 43 Munros. Just a two hour drive north of Edinburgh, it’s an unspoilt paradise for nature lovers and a must-do for thrill seekers. Activities on offer range from gentle pony treks and picturesque hill walking to skiing, quad biking and windsurfing, all against a backdrop of snowy peaks and lush green valleys. There’s so much to see and do, so check out Visit Scotland’s handy itinerary for guidance.

Go west

The west Highlands is a land of magic and mystery, full of dramatic glens, tranquil lochs, rushing rivers, expansive moors and golden beaches. Lochaber Geopark features many important geological features and interesting rock formations, and the Ardnamurchan Point (the most westerly point in mainland Britain) offers the chance to spot incredible wildlife, discover varied flora and fauna and visit striking castle ruins. At the heart of the region is Fort William, dubbed the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ offering activities including fishing, mountain biking, canyoning and white water rafting.

True north

Visit the most northerly point of the UK for sweeping sky and shimmering sea, punctuated by lonely crofts and tranquil lochs. The northern Highlands are a remote wilderness made famous by its most northerly outpost of John O’Groats, a favourite for intrepid adventurers making the pilgrimage from Land’s End. Visitors can try their hand at loch or sea fishing, horse riding and clay pigeon shooting, or take advantage of a local boat tour and spot puffins, seals, dolphins and even killer whales. Also in the county of Caithness is the Queen Mother’s former residence the Castle of Mey, the former Viking settlement of Wick, and surfers’ favourite Thurso, home to some of the best waves in the world.

Over the sea to Skye

As part of a three-day Highland tour on our Summer School social programme, you can discover the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides, the beautiful and romantic Isle of Skye. Skye is famous for its sweeping mountain ranges, unspoilt coastline and diverse wildlife, including red deer, Scottish wildcats, pine martins and mountain hares. Its capital, Portree, is picture-perfect, with pastel painted cottages lining a lovely little harbour. Like many of Scotland’s islands, it has its own distinct cultural identity, with strong maritime traditions and a turbulent history evident in ruined castles and defensive duns.

Tempted? VisitScotland’s website is a vast array of information for planning a Highland escape, while our Social Programme offers tailor-made tours to help you discover this incredible landscape.