Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness / iStock.com / Jule_Berlin
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Highlands Dancers in Kilts
Highlands Dancers in Kilts / iStock.com / Gannet77
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Scotch Whisky
Scotch Whisky / iStock.com / bhofack2
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Sheep in Scotland
Sheep in Scotland / iStock.com / Lichtmeister Photography Productions e.U.
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Old Leanach Cottage on Culloden Battlefield
Old Leanach Cottage on Culloden Battlefield / iStock.com / JaimePharr
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Invergordon, Scotland
Port
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

This little Scottish town, which isn’t much more than a main street, is the cruising gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Since there’s little to see in town except for a few shops and 11 murals depicting local life, you’re better off heading out from the dock (there’s no cruise terminal) and into the countryside. There you’ll find plenty of heather, a famous battlefield, whisky distilleries, and maybe even a monster.

What We Love

Castles: Tour the luxe interior of Cawdor Castle (portions date to the 15th century), wander the garden at Dunrobin Castle (and don’t miss the birds-of-prey show) or explore the romantic ruins of Urquhart Castle and climb its five-story tower that offers great views over the Highlands. 

Scotch Whisky: Pop into a local shop to buy brands that you rarely see in the United States. Or go to the source and tour the Glenmorangie or Dalmore distilleries.

Best Known For

Nessie: Even if you don’t catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster, the loch makes a lovely visit. Diehard Nessie fans might want to visit the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, in nearby Drumnadrochit.

Culloden Battlefield: Site of a brief but bloody civil war battle in 1746, this is sacred ground to Scots, and a visitor center helps interpret it. 

Who It's Best For

History Buffs: Whether you visit a castle or a battlefield, you’re surrounded by history here.

Outdoor Types: Fields of heather and rolling hills are great for hiking.

Tipplers: There’s a different scotch in every port, so this is as good a place as any to sip a wee dram of the local whisky (spelled without the “e” here).

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Have a Plan: You’ll either need to book a shore excursion, land tour, or rental car to explore the Highlands.

They Really Do Speak English: The thick Scottish brogue takes some getting used to, but your ears will soon adjust.