When people think of the Scottish Highlands, they often conjure up images of misty glens, rolling hills, snowy mountains and hairy Scotsmen. While these are all accurate, there is much more to the area than what you might see on a shortbread tin. From romantic breaks to luxury holidays and self-catering getaways (https://www.selfcatering-scotland.net/), the Highlands cater to almost every possible desire you can ever need from a holiday (except the sunshine – that’s often in short supply).

Aviemore, situated within the beautiful Cairngorms National Park, is the ideal location to experience the very best the Highlands have to offer. Just over two hours drive north of Glasgow and Edinburgh, the town is an ideal base for any Highland adventure. With all the amenities of a tourist location and an idyllic setting it mixes the best of both worlds and is one of Scotland’s premier destinations for visitors; both domestic and foreign.

With an almost 25% increase (http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/staycation-uk-holidays-brexit-travel-eu-a7668991.html) in the number of UK holidaymakers looking to enjoy a ‘staycation’, even some of the most remote parts of the country are not too far away from some wonderful days out, no matter who is in your group.

The Highlands’ natural playground begs to be explored, and the region is a magnet for adrenaline-seekers. It’s no wonder – Fort William has been dubbed the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’! Host of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, here you can enjoy world-class mountains or pick from sports across the Highlands such as fishing, golf, sea kayaking, white-water rafting, gorge walking, Munro bagging, snow sports and much more – the choice is yours.

You can enjoy exhilarating walking and touring with stunning views at almost every turn when you take caravan holidays in the Northern Highlands. Soaring mountains are reflected in the sparkling loch waters of the great glens in Ross-shire and Inverness-shire and in Sutherland, you’ll have some of the wildest and most remote landscapes in the country on your doorstep – a wonderful haven for wildlife. You’ll find glorious, unspoilt beaches on both West Coast and East, and Nairnshire’s Moray Firth coastline is one of the most important places in the UK for observing dolphins and whales – take a boat trip and enjoy this magical experience for yourself.

Families can head along to Highland Wildlife Park (https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/highland-wildlife-park-p253541) to see a wide variety of animals including wolves, tigers, red pandas and even a polar bear. Alternatively head to Landmark Forest Adventure Park, where wildlife gives way to mechanical thrills in the form of rollercoasters, water rides and a host of nature trails.

For those after a more sedate break, the Cairngorms Mountain Railway (the UK’s highest funicular railway) takes passengers 1100m above sea-level to enjoy spectacular views of the National Park and beyond. There are also guided walks to the summit of Britain’s 6th highest peak which are suitable for most abilities. Once at the summit, Ptarmigan Restaurant offers a wide range of food to enjoy at the highest restaurant in the UK before making your way back down the mountain once more.

Being in the Highlands also offers a unique environment for the more adventurous holidaymaker with skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking and white-water rafting just some of the outdoor pursuits available around Aviemore. Equipment is available to hire privately or local companies can organise everything you need for you. Cairn Gorm alone offers over 20 different pistes of varying levels allowing all levels of skiers to make the most of their trip to Scotland’s main wintersports destination. With plans in place to create a dry ski slope and a 360-degree viewing platform in the near future, there will be more opportunities than ever before to take to the slopes.

If a romantic break is what you are after, there are few places anywhere on Earth that offer such unspoilt natural beauty as the Highlands; the town of Aviemore itself is the epitome of picture postcard beauty and the stunning countryside seems to go on forever. Even in the worst weather, there’s a distinct charm to this part of the world that is seldom found elsewhere.

Photo: Highlands by shellac licensed under Creative commons 2