Getting Oriented

Moving north and west from Inverness toward 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. Farther to the west, you can get to Skye by traveling across the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh, or by taking a short summer ferry ride from Mallaig to Armadale. From Skye you can connect to Lewis and Harris with a ferry from Uig to Tarbert, and from Leverburgh on Lewis and Harris you can catch a ferry south to Lochmaddy on North Uist.

The Northern Landscapes. North of Inverness, northwest Scotland is known for its dramatic coastlines and craggy hills. To explore these landscapes, you should travel by car, and preferably 4x4 (though you can manage without). You'll want to explore Stoer Point Lighthouse, the beaches north of Lochinver, and spectacular islandlike hills such as Suilven. The single-track road from Lairg up to Tongue, near Durness, is particularly scenic.

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 Glen Torridon and to lighthouses on sea-lashed headlands.

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 if you can.

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 and Harris has wonderful historic attractions, such as the Calanais Standing Stones, traditional "black houses," and glorious, untouched beaches. 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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