Greatest Britain. Starting at the top: Scotland

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Why go?

Some of the most spectacular, and wildest scenery, in Europe. Tradition, festivals, buzzing cultural cities, monster hunting…

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Pros

Works for culture vultures, nature lovers, festival goers, adrenalin junkies and, these days, foodies. Amazing road and rail trips

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Cons

The weather can play havoc in winter with ferry sailings and road conditions. Some Highland hotels and attractions shut low season

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Practical info

Numerous flight connections to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Or catch the sleeper train from London to Inverness, Fort William and more

The islands

The islands

Mull

A nature-lovers’ paradise, with stunning beaches, great seafood and a colourful tiny capital. Exceptional roadtrips along some interesting, often one-track, routes: here, driving southwest towards Iona early in January. As well as the famous car rally in October, the island also hosts an April music festival, with acts performing in bars across the island. CalMac ferries run to Mull from Oban, Lochaline or Kilchoan: calmac.co.uk/destinations/mull

The north coast

The north coast

John O’ Groats

A decade ago, you might want to have had your picture taken at Britain’s most northerly point but not hang around. Now, thanks to the stylish resoration of the Inn at John O’ Groats (by Natural Retreats) you can make a proper break of it and scour the shores for some of the fabulous wildlife.

Scotland wildlife

Scotland wildlife

Isle of Mull

Billed as the wildlife capital of Scotland, birdwatchers flock to Mull for the chance to spot golden and white-tailed sea eagles. We had more luck tracking otters, like this one, out fishing in the rain. Come at the right time of year and you’ve a good chance of admiring dolphins and whales. Sea Life Surveys company has a great reputation for its ethical wildlife trips

Scotland wildlife

Scotland wildlife

John O’ Groats

A walk along the shore, or a boat trip along the coast, can lead to sightings of puffins, dolphins, orcas and seals, depending on the time of year. This seal was teaching her pup a few tricks close to the beach in early December.

Where to stay

Where to stay

Isle of Mull

Glengorm Castle is a 19th-century family home overlooking the sea, about 6km from Tobermory. You can stay in one of the five castle bedrooms or book one of the self-catering properties dotted throughout the estate. We spent a New Year in the cosy Steadings flat, complete with open fire. Families have child-friendly options.

Where to stay

Where to stay

John O’ Groats

Natural Retreats spent millions converting the old dilapidated inn into stylish self-catering apartments and independent lodges, the latter with wood-burning stoves. There’s a small café and provision store on site and the reception staff can organise a host of activities. Pets are welcome in the lodges. Note, in winter this remote area is very quiet.