Ballindalloch Castle in the Cairngorms

The one stretch of the east coast that’s always been relatively rich, however, is the Black Isle just over the Kessock Bridge heading north out of Inverness, whose main village, Cromarty, is the region’s undisputed highlight. The fishing heritage is a recurring theme along this coast, though there are only a handful of working boats scattered around the harbours today; the area remains one of the country’s poorest, reliant on relatively thin pickings from sheep farming, fishing and tourism. While many visitors speed up the main A9 road through this region in a headlong rush to the Orkney’s prehistoric sites, those who choose to dally will find a wealth of brochs, cairns and standing stones, many in remarkable condition. The east coast of the Highlands, between Inverness and Wick, is nowhere near as spectacular as the west, with gently undulating moors, grassland and low cliffs where you might otherwise expect to find sea lochs and mountains.