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For many people around the world, the Highlands 'are' Scotland, living up to their picture-postcard images with majestic scenery, awesome wild places, towering mountains, ancient pine forests and broad expanses of dark and shimmering loch.

The HighlandsThey are all this, of course, and much more besides. Capital of the Highlands and the only major urban centre in the region, Inverness is an obvious springboard for exploring more remote areas - north to wind-lashed Cape Wrath, at the very northwest tip of the mainland, with it sheer cliffs and sand-filled bays bearing the brunt of frequently fierce Atlantic storms; south to the beautiful expanses of Glen Coe via the Great Glen; or west to the remote and tranquil Ardnamurchan peninsula with the beautiful 'Road to the Isles' running to Mallaig and Skye beyond. Skye is one of the most popular holiday spots in Scotland and is famed for the harsh peaks of the Cuillins and the bizarre rock formations of the Trotternish peninsula.

One of Europe's last great wild places

Golden eagleWherever you roam, you'll find outstanding natural beauty: Glen Coe, the Cairngorms National Park, Ben Nevis, Ardnamurchan, Glen Affric - the list is as long as the Great Glen itself. And though it's natural to picture the Highlands as a mountainous region, there are also miles of coastline and intriguing islands to explore as well. Here you can have your own private sandy beach with shimmering turquoise waters and nobody else to be seen for miles around. Then there are the amazing flat lands of the Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland, one of Europe's last great wild places. Not surprisingly, wildlife flourishes in such great wildernesses and you can see dolphins, whales, eagles, deer, otters and much more besides.

The outdoor capital of the UK

Golfing in the HighlandsThe inspiring landscape and the tranquillity and space which it offers are without doubt the main attractions of the region but if you like the active life, the Highlands also offer unsurpassed opportunities for top-class mountaineering, climbing and off-road biking, along with a host of other outdoor pursuits. This is particularly true around Fort William and Lochaber which proclaims itself 'the Outdoor Capital of the UK'.

If you prefer your holiday at a slower pace, the region's many historical sites, remote castles, distinctive culture and language and welcoming towns also prove a major draw in their own right.