Top 10 Beautiful Scottish Highlands Towns To Visit In Autumn
The Scottish Highlands make for a beautiful holiday destination all year round, but there are several upsides to travelling here in the fall. There’ll be no midges to annoy you and you’ll likely encounter fewer crowds on your Highlands adventure after the end of the school summer holidays. Not to mention the views: the Highlands are quite breathtaking once the rich autumn hues of yellow, orange, red and brown take over the trees. If you love all things autumn, you’ll love seeing the dramatic Highlands landscape draped in fall foliage.
To help you plan your autumn getaway in the Scottish Highlands, we’ve put together a guide below to six lovely towns and villages in the region, all within easy reach of Inverness by car for a perfect autumnal day trip from the unofficial capital of the Highlands.
Your Top 10 Scottish Highland Towns
Drumnadrochit is a peaceful little village on the shore of Loch Ness, located a 30-minute drive from Inverness. It’s a favourite among people hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive Nessie, with shops and an exhibition centre dedicated to the cryptid creature.
But there’s much more to Drumnadrochit than its most famous and hotly contested inhabitant. The village green, lined with whitewashed cottages, pubs and cafes, is exceedingly pretty, and a little further afield, Urquhart Castle is filled with a millennium’s worth of history, with fabulous views over the loch.
2. Fort Augustus
Fort Augustus is an hour’s drive from Inverness, located on the south-west shore of Loch Ness. This scenic hamlet offers fabulous views over Loch Ness and a plethora of lovely walks in the surrounding areas perfect for avid outdoorsmen and women. Additionally, the village is home to a good number of charming pubs as well as the Caledonian Canal Centre where you can learn more about local heritage, enjoy home-made drinks and snacks and buy locally-sourced goods in the gift shop.
The village takes its name from the fort that was built here after the defeat of the Jacobite Uprising and the village and its surrounding areas are full of interesting stories of warring clans and Highland life hundreds of years ago. Or, for something a little different, head to Iceberg Glass, a glass blowing studio where you can buy a range of handmade glass jewellery, homeware and Christmas decorations.
3. Beauly, Muir of Ord & Strathpeffer
These three small villages, all located within easy reach of each other along the A862, make for a perfect one-day road trip from Inverness. Beauly is located on the shore of the River Beauly, a great spot for salmon fishing or just a gentle stroll on the riverbank. Legend has it the name of the village comes from “beau lieu”, French for a beautiful place, described as such by Mary Queen of Scots herself.
Muir of Ord is just two miles up the road, with a host of pretty red sandstone buildings and the Glen Ord Distillery, offering tours and tipples for whisky lovers. Finally, visit the village of Strathpeffer, a leafy Victorian town that has been known as a spa resort for over a century. The Iron Age fort of Knockfarrel offers fantastic views over the surrounding autumnal landscape comprising of mountains and the Cromarty Firth.
4. Fort William
Located about 65 miles south-west of Inverness, down the great glen, this charming little town on the west coast makes for an exceedingly popular day trip in the Highlands. Fort William is the town farthest away from Inverness on our list, but the large selection of things to see and do in this vibrant Highlands town make it well worth the drive.
The outdoor living options alone offer several weeks’ worth of unforgettable experiences: from climbing Ben Nevis to taking on the West Highland Way, the Fort William area is perfect for an epic hike to see some stunning autumnal colours. Alternatively, you can skip the hike and enjoy the views on the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola all year round. Meanwhile, the West Highland Museum is great for those who want to learn more about the history of the area.
Fortrose is the largest town in Black Isle, with some 1500 inhabitants. This charming small town is located about 15 miles outside Inverness and its Victorian architecture is stunning against a colourful backdrop of fall foliage. The medieval Fortrose Cathedral ruins and Town Hall with its collection of paintings are both worth a visit.
Just a few minutes up the road from Fortrose, you’ll find Rosemarkie, a charming small village with a pretty beachfront. The Fairy Glen Falls is located in the village, offering a chance for an easy hike through this beautiful nature reserve.
Halfway Mark of the Top 10 Highland Towns
This seaside town was a firm favourite among the Victorians who believed the seawater here had healing powers. Whether or not the water in Nairn can cure what ails you, there’s no denying the beauty of the town’s award-winning beaches. Known as one of the driest and sunniest places in Scotland, Nairn is the perfect spot for a stroll by the seaside on clear days.
Located 15 miles east of Inverness, the town offers many lovely restaurants and little shops for a relaxing day out. Brodie Castle and Cawdor Castle are both roughly five miles from the town meaning that you could easily combine your day trip to Nairn with a visit to one or both of the historic estates – just check for seasonal opening times.
This small town is one of the oldest and prettiest in Scotland, located east of Nairn and 26 miles outside Inverness. Forres was once the area’s primary market town, with a wide, picturesque high street that would have once accommodated market stalls, a tolbooth and a mercat cross. The town is also home to some gorgeous gardens and parks as well as a number of small galleries and craft shops.
Tain is Britain’s oldest royal burgh, and the town has a fittingly fascinating history spanning over a millennium, perfect for exploring on a day trip from Inverness. Located a 50-minute drive north of Inverness, this little town is located on the southern shore of the Dornoch Firth and offers something to do for everyone.
History and architecture buffs will enjoy taking in the beautiful sandstone buildings and the Tain Museum. The town’s golf course is perfect for practising your putting right on the edge of the water while the Glenmorangie whisky distillery offers delectable drams and interesting tours of the facilities for those who enjoy a tipple. Up the road from Tain is the small, historic town of Dornoch with its impressive cathedral, also well worth visiting before you drive back to Inverness.
This picture-perfect fishing town is located 57 miles north-west of Inverness, offering amazing chances for outdoor living and beautiful sea views. After exploring the charming boutiques and bookshops in town and admiring the centuries-old fisherman’s cottages, take some time to explore Ullapool’s surrounding areas.
In the nearby Inverpolly National Nature Reserve, you can catch a glimpse of rare critters like wildcats and pine martens, while Ardmair Beach and the Rhue Lighthouse make for a lovely afternoon walk before enjoying a drink or some fresh seafood by the beach back in Ullapool.
The town of Aviemore is the hub of the Cairngorms National Park, offering a plethora of fun outdoor activities for the surrounding areas. Located a 45-minute drive from Inverness, Aviemore is a popular resort surrounded by breathtaking scenery comprised of towering mountains and shimmering lochs.
The Cairngorms are perhaps at their most beautiful in the autumn months when the crisp air seems to set the forests and heathered munros ablaze with gorgeous autumn colours. You can enjoy the scenery on a hike or by taking a ride on the Strathspey Steam Railway (check seasonal opening times). You can also, among many other things, pay a visit to the UK’s only free-roaming reindeer herd and finish the day off with a hearty dinner at one of the local pubs – perfect for warming yourself back up after a day of exploring the area.
Palace Hotel – Your base for discovering the Highlands
Inverness is the perfect base for an autumn break in the Highlands. After travelling to the Highlands by flying directly to Inverness or taking the train, you can rent a car and start your adventure, taking in everything this magical and majestic part of Scotland has to offer. And don’t forget to reserve some time on your trip for discovering Inverness itself, too!
The Palace Hotel is in Inverness city centre, right on the shore of River Ness offers comfortable and stylish accommodation for your trip, with fabulous seasonal offers for fall to sweeten the deal. Make sure you #bookdirect call us for the very best seasonal offers call 01463223243. Alternatively, email us to check out our availability.