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The Highlands is the part of Scotland which reflects perfectly most people's romantic image of Scotland. The main towns are Inverness and Fort William, which lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain.

North from here stretches a dramatic shoreline of deep sea lochs and sheltered coves of pure white sand backed by towering mountains and looking across to numerous Hebridean islands (see Outer Hebrides Guide). West of Fort William, via the lyrical 'Road to the Isles', is Mallaig, now the main departure point for ferries to Skye. Further north is Ullapool, one of the main ferry ports for the Outer Hebrides and the ideal base from which to explore the wild and near-deserted far northwest.

North of Ullapool you enter a different world. The landscape becomes ever more dramatic and unreal - a huge emptiness of bleak moorland punctuated by isolated peaks and shimmering lochs. A narrow and tortuously twisting road winds its way up the coast, past deserted beaches of sparkling white sand washed by turquoise sea. There's not much tourist traffic this far north and once you get off the main road and on to the backroads, you can enjoy the wonderful sensation of having all this astonishingly beautiful scenery to yourself.

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