Top twenty free of charge visitor attractions in the Scottish Highlands

01 January 2020
imports_CESC_caledonian-canal-geograph-org-uk-999996_28079.jpg Top twent free of charge visitor attractions in the Scottish Highlands
 Make the most of your trip to the Scottish Highlands with our guide to the best free of charge attractions, ranging from a medieval cathedral to an island brewery.

Make the most of your trip to the Scottish Highlands with our guide to the best free of charge attractions, ranging from a medieval cathedral to an island brewery.

1. Aberfeldy Watermill

A combination of bookshop, gallery, café and exhibition, housed over three floors of a converted oat mill (pictured). The art gallery hosts regularly changing exhibitions and writers and artists visit the mill for special events.

Aberfeldy Watermill, Mill Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BG; tel: 01887 822896; website.

2. Caithness Horizons

A museum and exhibition gallery which celebrates the history and culture of Caithness, beginning 400 million years ago! Topics include the Picts, Vikings and the history of the Dounreay Nuclear Research Establishment.

Caithness Horizons, High Street, Thurso KW14 8AJ; tel: 01847 896508; website.

3. Caledonian Canal Visitor Centre

A soon-to-open visitor hub which will include tourist information, refreshments and visitor interpretation for the Caledonian Canal, Great Glen and Loch Ness.


4. Colonsay Brewery

Colonsay is the smallest island in the world to have its own brewery, and visitors are welcome to pop in and watch the production process. Beer and lager are made here using traditional methods and natural ingredients.

The Brewery, Isle of Colonsay PA61 7YT; tel: 01951 200190; website.

5. Davaar Island

An island linked to the mainland at low tide which is home to a group of sea caves, one of which contains a painting of the crucifixion. Information on tide times can be found at nearby Campbeltown Pier.

Near Campbeltown (grid ref NR745194) Argyll.

6. Dornoch Cathedral

A Highlands cathedral which dates to the thirteenth century and boasts a collection of modern-day stained glass. There are several monuments and sarcophaguses to see, including the vault of the First Duke of Sutherland, a controversial figure involved in the Highland Clearances, whose wife restored Dornoch Cathedral.

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch IV25 3HN; tel: 01862 810296; website.

7. Dunkeld Cathedral

A square-stone style cathedral begun in 1260 and completed in 1501. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the peace of this ancient building, either independently or via an optional guided tour on weekdays. The cathedral is also home to a local history museum, an archive and picturesque grounds.

Dunkeld Cathedral, Dunkeld PH8 0AW; tel: 01350 727249; website.

8. Grey Cairns of Camster

Two ancient cairns which are among Scotland’s oldest stone monuments, built over 5,000 years ago. The cairns, now cared for by Historic Scotland, were burial tombs and were restored early last century. Visitors can explore both cairns and gain access to the burial chambers by crawling along darkened passages, for an atmospheric experience of the Neolithic Age.

Grey Cairns of Camster, five miles north of Lybster, Caithness (grid reference ND 260 441); tel: 01667 460232; website.

9. Highland Folk Museum

Discover first-hand what Highland life was like from the eighteenth century through to the 1960s, by exploring more than thirty historic buildings furnished appropriate to their time period. The mile-long site includes a 1700s township and a 1930s working croft.

Aultlarie Croft, Kingussie Road, Newtonmore PH20 1HY; tel: 01540 673551; website.

10. Inverness Botanic Gardens

An oasis of calm in the busy city streets, Inverness Botanic Gardens is open throughout the year and offers a variety of experiences, from the glorious heat of the Tropical House to the variety of plants found in the Cactus House. Locally raised plants, many grown in the Gardens, are also available for sale.

Inverness Botanic Gardens, Bucht Lane, Inverness IV3 5SS; tel: 01463 713553; website.

11. Kilchurn Castle

A fifteenth-century castle, home to the Campbells of Glenorchy, which was home to this clan until it was abandoned in the 1700s. Enjoy views over Loch Awe from the battlements and admire the castle’s barracks, which are the oldest surviving such buildings on the British mainland.

Loch Awe, off the A85, Argyll & Bute PA33 1AF; tel: 0131 668 8600; website.

12. Land, Sea & Islands Visitor Centre

A community project which houses an exhibition on the social and natural history of Arisaig, for centuries a shelter for Vikings, saints, Jacobites and, most recently, Second World War SEOs. Explore the local life exhibition and hands-on exhibits and enjoy views over Arisaig Bay in ‘room with a view’.

Land, Sea & Islands Centre, Arisaig PH39 4NJ; tel: 01687 450771; website.

13. Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre

An eco-friendly building built on the Isle of Lismore in 2007, the Gaelic Heritage Centre offers visitors the chance to find out more about the island in years gone by. The site also houses a reconstructed cottar’s cottage built using traditional skills. There is also an exhibition, library, café and gift shops.

Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre, Isle of Lismore, by Oban PA34 5UL; tel: 01631 760030; website.

14. Mallaig Heritage Centre

Located alongside Mallaig’s railway station (pictured), this Heritage Centre uses stories, films, collections, images and displays to tell the story of the people and places of West Lochaber over the centuries. Until the start of the twentieth century, this area was accessible only by sea or a long moorland trek, an isolation which gave the region a unique character which can still be discerned today.

Mallaig Heritage Centre, Station Road, Mallaig PH41 4PY; tel: 01687 462085; website.

15. Marine Visitor Centre Mull

Run by the Whale & Dolphin Trust, Mull’s Marine Visitor Centre offers interpretative displays and information on wildlife on Scotland’s west coast, with a programme of beach workshops, community shows and wildlife talks.

Marine Visitor Centre, 28 Main Street, Tobermory, Isle of Mull PA75 6NU; tel: 01688 302620; website.

16. McCaig’s Tower

A well loved Oban landmark, McCaig’s Tower (pictured) is a folly built (but never completed) by John Stuart McCaig, in an attempt to provide work for local men. The tower offers views over Oban Bay and the islands beyond and has seating areas, a viewing platform and gardens.

McCaig’s Tower, Oban PA34

17. Mull Museum

Based on Tobermory’s colourful waterfront, Mull Museum has exhibits relating to bygone Mull on topics including farming, fishing, crofting and shipping. From the earliest broch dwellers to the twentieth century, find out what life was like on this island in days gone by.

Mull Museum, Columba Buildings, Main Street, Tobermory, Isle of Mull PA75 6NY; tel: 01688 301100; website.

18. Old Wick Castle

Built in the twelfth century, most probably for an earl of Caithness, Old Wick Castle is one of Scotland’s best preserved Norse buildings. At the time the castle (pictured) was built, Norway still held sway over Caithness and today’s visitors can enjoy the castle’s dramatic North Sea location – on a spot which made it attractive to overseas raiders and conquerors.

Wick Castle, Shore Road, south of Wick; tel: 01667 460232; website.

19. Ruthven Barracks

The best preserved of four barracks built in the Highlands in 1719, after the Jacobite Rising of 1715. See the stables where George Wade’s soldiers cared for their horses, and enjoy the remote, mountainous location of this isolated military outpost (pictured).

Ruthven, Kingussie PH21 1NR; tel: 01667 460232; website.

20. Scottish Slate Islands Heritage Trust

Based in an area of what was once the centre of the Scottish Slate Industry, this heritage museum houses photos, artefacts and genealogical records relating to the industry and the people employed in this trade.

Ellenabeich, by Oban PA34 4TB; tel: 01852 300449; website.

(Image © John Allan)

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