The Highlands - Mark Iandolo

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

The Highlands may not rise to the towering height of the Himalayas. They may not dazzle with the same extraterrestrial beauty of Iceland. Or come ripe with the picture-perfect aspens of the Rockies.

But the Highlands separate themselves from their geological counterparts around the globe in two ways – through the sheer drama of their glens and through their storied, mythological lore.

Glen, a Gaelic word, means “steep-sided valley”; most glens were carved into existence by glaciers during the last ice age. Indeed, glaciers may be the earth’s greatest artists. The steep valleys within the great glens of Scotland create drama that is hard to find elsewhere. The valley floors are often close to sea level, and the mountain ranges enclosing the glens come so close together that Finn MacCool or Dahl’s BFG could probably jump from one to the other.

So a drive or hike through a glen becomes a surreal experience – one feels tiny between the munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet).

The Highlands are also a place of myth and story. Of magical beings living under the hills, waters filled with fantastical beasts, and legendary warriors from Highland clans waging war in their kilts.

“There is not a stream or a rock that does not have its story,” said famed Scottish historian Stuart McHardy.

And so the Highlands exist at the intersection of dramatic landscape and mythological stories, making them well worthy of a spot among the great travel destinations of our time.

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