Places of Visitor Interest

Wind, water and wonders the natural elements of the World’s most inspiring tourism brand

Tourism and renewable energy technologies have been working side by side in the highlands for over 130 years. Our wind, our water and our wonders first captured the imaginations of engineers and tourists in the 19th century. That vision expanded throughout the 20th century to create a dynamic tourism industry and a hugely productive renewables industry.  This now puts us in a position to tackle the problems of centuries to come. By bringing together our wealth of renewable energy, with the richness of our natural attractions, we can offer visitors some of the most sustainable and inspiring experiences on the planet.


The Highlands has a long and interesting history of renewable energy, and some of the architecture created in the development of renewable energy are sought-after sites for visitors. Projects for hydroelectric power include the dam situated four miles west of Loch Laggan and completed in 1934 by the British Aluminium Company to provide hydroelectricity for their aluminium smelter near Fort William. Another was the damming in 1951 of the River Cannich as part of the Affric-Beauly hydroelectric power scheme.


Today, wind power developments across the Highlands strike an impressive pose against breathtaking landscapes. Many renewable energy sites in the Highlands are near to stunning walking, hiking and cycling routes such as Shin, Affric, Stronelairg the Great Glen.


The abundance of windy spaces across the Highlands makes them the ideal place to capture the wind. And the world’s first turbine to harness wind energy to make electricity, was right beside the Highlands, in Marykirk, where it powered a holiday home. So, tourism and renewables have been hand in hand right from the start.  There are now windfarms right across the highlands and at offshore locations around our coasts, helping to power tourism infrastructure right across the Highlands and sustain our economy with new jobs and opportunities.  

“This is my country the land that begat me and these windy spaces are surely my own.”

Sir Alexander Gray


Nan Shepherd’s consciousness of Highland landscapes and nature has inspired a generation of writers and the water she describes here, has had a similar effect on our engineers. Scotland’s first hydro Scheme was right here in the Highlands. Installed in 1890, for the Benedictine Monks of Fort Augustus, the scheme also provided power for the local community. Queen Victoria was not far behind when a hydroelectric scheme was installed at Balmoral in 1898. Another example of tourism working in tandem with renewable technology. The highlands are now home to many of Scotland’s most ambitious hydro-electric plants and make a major contribution to the Highlands’ self-sufficiency in renewable energy. Building and maintaining them, has created work and long-term jobs for over a century making hydro a bulwark of the highland economy.

“Out of these mountains Out of the defiant torment of Plutonic rock Out of fire, terror, blackness, and upheaval Leap the clear burns, Living water.”

Nan Shepard


Queen Victoria’s love of our epic Highland landscapes inspired her to buy Balmoral in 1852 as the family’s holiday home. Her patronage heralded the birth of a world-famous tourist destination with people coming from all over the world to discover what had inspired the most powerful woman on the planet. Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world, also chose the Highlands to make his holiday home, adding to the region’s reputation and exclusivity. The Highlands have never lost that cachet as a tourist destination but now we must adapt how we present our wonders to cater to 21st century aspirations. People are looking for more genuine and active experiences of places – where they can truly engage with nature and communities. Where environmental concerns are being taken care of. And where they can relax into a deeper, purer state of consciousness.