Monday, 25 June 2012 9:41 AM
The Scottish Highlands is one of the most picturesque locations in the UK, with a wide range of fascinating things to see and do, making it an ideal place for anyone hoping for a few days away or a longer holiday.
One of the best ways to sightsee in the Highlands is through Scottish boating breaks, so hiring a barge and travelling down the Caledonian Canal is definitely an advisable experience that will ensure you see as much of the region's scenic beauty as possible.
This popular route stretches from Benavie in the south upwards to the Highlands capital Inverness in the north, with some of the country's most famous attractions and stunning panoramic views passed along the way.
The first stop on any Caledonian Canal trip should be Ben Nevis at Benavie, with the UK's biggest mountain being a great place to start your Scotland break.
The highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis is a haven for climbers, ramblers and walkers - so, if you feel up to the challenge, there are various routes available around this natural wonder, with both amateurs and professionals catered for.
If you're not keen on scaling its cliffy edges, you can instead enjoy a local tipple at the Ben Nevis Distillery and Visitors Centre, where the finest in whiskies are available to sample.
Things to do
Mountains aren't the only thing on show in Scotland; you can choose from a number of other activities if you're not a big fan of the great outdoors.
If you love the movies, you will want to take an afternoon off to travel on The Jacobite steam train, which was made famous by the Harry Potter films, where it appeared as the Hogwarts Express.
It offers an 82-mile round trip through some of the region's most beautiful areas - some of which will be recognisable from the Hollywood blockbuster movies.
The Treasures of the Earth exhibition in the village of Corpach is also particularly popular, showcasing an amazing collection of valuable gems and crystals all displayed in a series of natural settings.
See Nessie - maybe
Scotland is well known for having many captivating lochs, and the Highlands is no exception - providing you with plenty of opportunities to see these fantastic lakes as you enjoy your boating holiday.
What's more, by travelling along the Caledonian Canal you will come across possibly the most famous loch in the world - Loch Ness, home in folklore to the large lake monster Nessie.
Two visitor centres nearby are dedicated to providing information on this mythical creature, allowing you to make your own mind up as to whether you are a believer.
You might want to keep your eyes peeled if you have faith in the tales, although even sceptics will be hard pressed to deny the story adds an air of mystery and wonder to the loch.
Either way, what you can guarantee is that you will get to see some wonderful panoramic views of the lake and its surrounding countryside, making it an experience not to be missed.
On the shores of Loch Ness, you will find Fort Augustus - a village where you can indulge in some retail therapy or last-minute souvenir shopping.
If you are hoping to pick up some award-winning produce here, visit the local butchers, whose salmon, haggis and lamb shank are a favourite with both villagers and tourists, ensuring it is the perfect place to stock up for the long journey ahead.
Your last stop along the Caledonian Canal is likely to be Inverness, but don't think your holiday is winding to a close, as the Highlands capital is a highlight of any boating trip.
Popular pastimes include an evening at Hootananny, where there is food, fun and folk music to be enjoyed, particularly on Saturdays when it holds ceilidhs - a traditional Gaelic social event.
For those keen on learning the local history, a trip to the Old High Church is recommended.
The building was used as a prison for Jacobites who survived the Culloden massacre, only for them to be executed in the adjacent cemetery.
Visitors can still view the bullet holes left in gravestones from the firing squad and experienced guides will tell you all you need to know about the church's grisly past.