With magnificent mountains and glens, enchanting lochs, and stunning islands, the Highlands of Scotland are a dog lover’s paradise.
The area encompasses six smaller regions: Skye and Lochalsh, the Cairngorms National Park, Inverness, Loch Ness and Nairn, the North Highlands, Moray Speyside, and Fort William and Lochaber.
The Highlands are home to Ben Nevis — the highest mountain in the British Isles — the Loch Ness Monster, and are frequently used as a backdrop for major films including ‘Braveheart’ and the Harry Potter movies.
The great Glens
No trip to the Highlands is complete without exploring Scotland’s famous glens. But dog walkers should ensure they keep their pets under close control and act responsibly when out and about in the countryside, as set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. For further information visit www.outdooraccess-scotland.com
Here are two glens worth checking out:
- Situated on the main route north through the Highlands, magical Glencoe is one of the most famous and scenic of the Scottish glens. There are various circular walks for you and your dog to enjoy, several of which follow the West Highland Way. They vary in length and accessibility, but you will be rewarded with some spectacular sights such as Loch Leven and Grey Mare’s waterfall.
- Glenmore is a national nature reserve run by Forestry Commission Scotland, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. It encompasses Glenmore Forest Park which is home to ancient woodland and lochs with sandy beaches. Ensure you pay a visit to Loch Morlich beach — famous as the highest beach in Britain. This sandy paradise is the only freshwater beach in Scotland to have earned a Rural Seaside Award. Dogs are allowed on all areas of the beach as long as they are under control. There are a number of waymarked trails in Glenmore Forest Park including two around Loch Morlich.
Dog-friendly days out and attractions in The Highlands
Fancy doing something a bit different? Here are a few ideas:
- Jump aboard a boat and go hunting for Nessie! Jacobite Cruises, based in Inverness, operates trips on Loch Ness and through the Caledonian Canal. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on board the Inspiration and Reflection cruises free of charge. For further information call 01463 233999 or visit www.jacobite.co.uk
- Enjoy a vintage steam train journey through the Highlands on the Strathspey Railway, which runs through the Cairngorms National Park from Aviemore to Broomhill, via Boat of Garten. You might recognise Broomhill as being featured in BBC drama ‘Monarch of the Glen’. Dogs are welcome on board trains but are not allowed in first class or the dining areas. There is no charge for four-legged travellers. Services operate throughout the year on selected days; please check before arriving. For further information call 01479 810725 or visit www.strathspeyrailway.co.uk
- Nevis Range Mountain Experience has Britain’s only mountain gondola from which you can enjoy panoramic views of the Highlands. Dogs are allowed to accompany their owners on the gondola, which transports you up to 2,150ft on the north face of Aonach Mor, the eighth highest mountain in Britain. There is no charge for dogs. Once you reach the top, dogs are welcome inside the gift shop but not in the restaurant or bar, although there is an outside balcony where owners can have a meal with their pet. There are also mountain trails to explore; dogs need to be on leads at the top of the mountain, as deer and sheep may be present at certain times of year. The gondola is open all year round, weather permitting. For further information call 01397 705825 or visit www.nevisrange.co.uk
- Spend a day on the enchanting Isle of Skye off the west coast of mainland Scotland. The Isle of Skye is renowned for its natural beauty, wildlife, and history. Although an island, there is a road bridge spanning the sea from the mainland village of Kyle to Skye. Various attractions on Skye welcome dogs including Dunvegan Castle, the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years. Dogs on leads are welcome in the gardens and grounds. The castle and gardens are open daily from April to October. For further information visit www.dunvegancastle.com
Dog-friendly places to stay in The Highlands
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to pet-friendly accommodation in the Highlands, whether you fancy staying in a cosy wooden lodge, resting your head in a friendly B&B, or soaking up some luxury in a hotel. Here are a couple of more unusual accommodation options:
- Instead of a bed and breakfast, why not try a hut and breakfast? Skye Shepherd Huts is more than just your average B&B. Guests can stay in one of two unique and intimate shepherd huts, located off the beaten track on the Isle of Skye. Four-legged guests are more than welcome in the accommodation at a cost of £10 per dog per stay. A hut sleeps two people, and there is lots of space for dogs to run around outside. The owners of Skye Shepherd Huts are dog owners. A water bowl, bed blanket, poo bags, plus other goodies are provided for dogs in their own doggy bag. Dog shampoo and towels are available to borrow if dogs get muddy. A stay at Skye Shepherd Huts starts from £80 per night, including breakfast; a minimum of two nights is required. For further information visit www.skyeshepherdhuts.co.uk
- Ever fancied staying in a Scottish Highland Castle? Tulloch Castle Hotel is located on the hillside above the ancient market town of Dingwall, Ross-shire. The castle retains many of its period features including the panelled great hall. Dogs can stay in any of the bedrooms (there are 20 en suite) and are welcome in the public areas of the hotel with the exception of the restaurant/bar. Doggy guests receive a bowl of treats, a welcome letter, and a map of walks in the area. There is a charge of £5 per dog per stay. A double room costs from £70 per person per night. For further information call 01349 861325 or visit www.bespokehotels.com/tullochcastlehotel
Dog-friendly places to eat in The Highlands
The Highlands have an abundance of pubs, many of which are dog friendly. Here are a few pubs where your dog will be welcomed with open arms:
- The Dores Inn is a family run restaurant and pub located on the shores of Loch Ness. Dogs are welcome in the bar area. The pub is situated on the edge of Dores beach, which is dog friendly, and there are woods nearby, ideal for walking off a pub lunch. For further information call The Dores Inn on 01463 751203 or visit www.thedoresinn.co.uk
- Head to the Argyll Hotel in Ullapool, on the scenic west coast. Its seafood bar and restaurant specialises in fish, seafood, and steaks, and is known for its range of vegetarian options. Although dogs cannot go in the restaurant, they are welcome in the bar where owners can have a meal with their pet. The hotel also invites well-behaved pets to stay in its accommodation by arrangement, from which you can enjoy stunning views over Loch Broom. For further information call 01854 612422 or visit www.theargyllullapool.com
Down on the beach
The Highlands are home to some of the most spectacular beaches in the British Isles. There are less restrictions on beaches in Scotland, but it’s still worth checking before you visit. Here are two particularly stunning Highland beaches; there are no restrictions on dogs, as long as there are no sheep nearby. Owners must pick up their pet’s poo and ensure their dogs are under close control.
- The wild and wonderful Sandwood Bay, in Kinlochbervie, Sutherland, has been described as the most beautiful beach in Britain. It has no road access; the bay can be reached via a four-mile walk from the car park at the hamlet of Blairmore.
- Sanna Bay is situated on the most westerly point in mainland Britain on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular. It gives great views of the Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna, and you might even spot dolphins or whales in the water.
With its inviting pinewoods, glistening lochs, and tumbling burns, Glen Affric has been described as the finest of all Scotland’s glens. It is a popular destination for walkers. The glen stretches from the steep mountains of Kintail in the west to within a couple of miles of Cannich in Strathglass. Glen Affric is where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The rich environment is a haven for wildlife, and the glen is protected as a national nature reserve. The woodland is part of the Caledonian Forest that once covered much of Scotland.
Walking to Dog Falls
If you’re looking for a walk that encompasses unique and colourful scenery, wildlife, and lots of history, then head to Glen Affric. There are a number of Forestry Commission Scotland waymarked trails which vary in length. We recommend trying one of the three circular trails around Dog Falls. Each trail is clearly waymarked for visitors.
- The white viewpoint trail is a two-mile steady climb from the bridge up to the viewpoint, which takes around 50 minutes; climb up the path above Dog Falls car park and take in the view. In the distance are the great Munros of Tom a Choinich and Toll Creagach, which you can reach from the car park at Chisholm Bridge.
- The red Dog Falls trail, also two miles, takes about an hour. The path surface can by muddy at certain times of year. Along this meandering trail you will feel the power of the whisky-coloured river pouring over the falls. You might even spot otters dipping into the pool searching for eels.
- The yellow Coire Loch trail is longer in length at just over three miles and takes one and a half hours to complete. It is steep in places. Climb past ancient Scots pine and birch, and along the steep trail lined with mossy boulders. The trail sweeps through the heather and look for butterworts and insect-eating sundews.