STANDING at the water’s edge, it feels like I’m in one of the most peaceful places on the planet.
The calm waters of the lake reflect the rugged peaks of the surrounding mountains, topped off by dramatic dark skies.
I haven’t had to endure a long-haul flight to Chile or Patagonia to witness these pinch-me views. I’m spending the weekend exploring the Scottish Highlands and Moray Speyside, one of the UK’s most remote and least-populated places.
This mountainous region is known for its outstanding natural splendour and wildlife, making it perfect for fans of the outdoors.
Those who prefer roaring fires and a glass of something local indoors won’t be disappointed either.
It can be hard to know where to start, especially when time is limited. So I’m glad to be greeted by expert Emily, from tour company The Rabbie’s Experience (rabbies.com).
We start by meandering along the shores of Loch Ness before dinner at the Loch Inn. We spend the night at the gorgeous luxury self-catering apartments at The Highland Club, set in a gothic former Benedictine Abbey on the loch shore.
Next morning, Emily is ready to whisk me off on a 4×4 Scottish Safari in the Cairngorms National Park. The whole experience is epic. There are forests, lochs, open moorland, deer, birds of prey, gorges and waterfalls and the largest inland beach in the UK.
I love it all.
After that fresh air, what could be better than a trip to Daffy’s Gin School in Strathmashie? I have a go at distilling before the arduous task of sampling my “home-made” G&Ts. The experience, including two bottles of gin, is from £95pp (daffysgin.com).
For the rest of my stay, I check in to the impressive Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside, positioned in the heart of the Highlands’ malt whisky trail, so it would be rude not to spend a day discovering more about the local nip.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Fly from Luton to Inverness from £36pp (easyjet.com). St Benedict’s Abbey apartments from £225 a night (thehighlandclub.co.uk). Craigellachie Hotel from £155 a night (craigellachiehotel.co.uk).
OUT & ABOUT: 4×4 tours with highlandscenicsafari.co.uk.
MORE INFO: visitscotland.com
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Emily takes me to the nearby Macallan Distillery (themacallan.com) — complete with more tasting — before a selfie pit-stop on the Moray Coast and a delicious lunch at Inverness hotspot The Mustard Seed (mustardseedrestaurant.co.uk).
It’s a shock to be back in the city after the rugged isolation of the past few days.
There’s scenic — then there’s the Scottish Highlands.