Getting Oriented

Moving north and west from Inverness toward land's end at John o'Groats, this rugged landscape includes the old counties of Ross and Cromarty (sometimes called Easter and Wester Ross), Sutherland, and Caithness; together they constitute the northernmost portion of mainland Scotland. To the west, to get to Skye, you can travel from Kyle of Lochalsh across the Skye Bridge or take a short summer ferry ride from Mallaig to Armadale. From Skye you can hop from island to island, taking the ferry from Uig to Tarbert, then south from Leverburgh to Lochmaddy and the Uists.

The Northern Landscapes. North of Inverness, northwest Scotland is known for its dramatic coastlines and desolate landscapes. It's no wonder that this part of the country has been designated as Scotland's first UNESCO Geopark. You'll want to explore Stoer Point Lighthouse, the beaches north of Lochinver, and islandlike hills such as Suilven.

Torridon. A few hours' drive west of Inverness, Torridon has cool glens, mirrorlike lochs, impressive mountains, and tantalizing glimpses across to the Isle of Skye. Single-track roads lead to lighthouses on promontories battered by the sea. Glen Torridon is worth a visit.

Isle of Skye. Scotland's most famous island is home to the 11 peaks of the Cuillin Mountains, the quiet gardens of Sleat, and the dramatic peninsulas of Waternish and Trotternish. You can take a day trip to Skye, but it's worth spending a few days exploring its shores.

The Outer Hebrides. Extending about 130 miles from north to south, this archipelago is reached by ferry from the mainland and from the Isle of Skye. Lewis has wonderful historic attractions, such as the Calanais Standing Stones, sandy beaches, and traditional "black houses." Harris is flat and wild, but its beaches are glorious. The Uists are dotted with old cairns and ruined forts and chapels. Barra is so small you can easily walk from one end to the other.

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