A car is crucial for exploring the Highlands. Focus (+44 (0)1463 236684; www.focusvehiclerental.co.uk) rents out everything from Ford Kas (from £23 a day) to Porsche Boxsters (from £60 a day) via an assortment of 4x4s (advisable for fishing/shooting types who are heading off the beaten track). Do be careful on those single-track roads, and resolve to enjoy the scenery at a slow, savourable pace.
Fly to Inverness (www.invernessairport.com). For domestic flights, we like the BMI Baby service (www.bmibaby.com) from Heathrow. But there are lots of other options, including easyJet (www.easyjet.com), BA (www.ba.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com).
There are frequent trains to Inverness - both direct and via Perth - from Edinburgh and Glasgow; journeys take three to four hours. From London Euston, you can also take the 20-hour Caledonian Sleeper (www.firstscotrail.com).
Country code for the UK: +44.
Charles MacLean distils his lifelong passion and knowledge of Scotch into his Whisky Tales. The title of Richard Gilbert's book, Exploring the Far North West of Scotland: A Walker's Guide to the Hills, Glens and Coastline of Wester Ross and Sutherland, is a read in itself.
Do go / Don't Go
Chances are you'll want your own wheels, but if you do plan on some serial whisky tasting before you take the high road, let your hotel arrange a ride for you.
10 to 15 per cent is standard in restaurants; round up taxi fares to the nearest pound or two.
Pound sterling. Don't panic if you're given a Scottish bank note: they are legal tender in the rest of the UK as well.
Here in the Highlands, the weather can change at the drop of a sou'wester; definitely take a waterproof, windcheater and fleece, even in summer. And sturdy boots for all that walking. But, when the sun is out, it can be mighty strong - and the air is very clear - so remember the hat and sun cream. In summer, the dreaded midge arrives en masse: bring insect repellant.
If you've ever felt the need to swot up on crofting and the Clearances, the diminutive but intriguing Ullapool Museum (www.ullapoolmuseum.co.uk) holds the key to local history. Housed in a group of attractive old farm buildings, Gairloch Heritage Museum (www.gairlochheritagemuseum.org.uk) gives another lucid snapshot of the West Highlands, right the way through from prehistory to the present day.
You must buy an AromaSciences scent from the Perfume Studio in Mellon Charles (+44 (0)1445 731065; www.aromasciences.com); perfumer George Dodd is nicknamed 'Le Nez' by locals for his amazing pre-blended and bespoke fragrances. It's also a great place to buy gifts for people you never know what to get, with scented candles, woollen toys, glassware, pottery and condiments galore. Inverewe Gardens' excellent shop (+44 (0)844 493 2225) harbours the more sophisticated souvenirs; find a veritable cornucopia of Scottish treasures, from stylish handmade jewellery to an upmarket assortment of books, crockery and children's toys.
Set on the northwest coast touching the Atlantic Ocean, Wester Ross reveals no shortage of viewpoints, many of which will, on a clear day, treat you to a 100-mile vista. A few miles south of Poolewe, Gairloch boasts gasp-worthy views of the Isle of Skye and the Torridon Mountains; take in the sights while you swing your way around the nine-hole beachside golf course here (www.gairlochgolfclub.com).
Birdwatching - keep your neck craned to the skies to spy sea birds (particularly waders), wildfowl, raptors, black-throated divers and herons.
July Gairloch sheepdog trials - watch the hounds herding (+44 (0)1445 712412). August Assynt Highland Games at Culag Park in Lochinver: Highland dancing, piping, salmon and trout fly-casting… and a duck race, in which hundreds of rubber ducks are floated down the river in a fit of biannual watery madness (+44 (0)1571 844647; www.albagames.co.uk). Across the region, the Highland Games can be anything from a small village gathering to an enormous event like the Cowal Games in Dunoon, which attracts 3,500 competitors and 10,000 spectators (www.cowalgathering.com). September The Loopallu music festival in the fishing village of Ullapool features a sprinkling of top acts, a sideline of fringe shows and street entertainment, and liberal amounts of surprisingly sophisticated local food (www.loopallu.co.uk).