How the Chinese fell in love with the Highlands

Visits to the wilds of Scotland by the burgeoning Chinese middle class are up six-fold in the past decade – and there’s no sign the numbers are letting up

The vast, wild landscapes of the Scottish Highlands have long lured tourists, but now a visit is becoming something of a status symbol among China’s growing number of middle-class or wealthy families. In 2017, of the 337,000 visitors from China who travelled to the UK, 62,000 went to Scotland, an almost sixfold increase since 2009, according to VisitScotland. Edinburgh is now the second most-visited city in the UK by Chinese tourists, after London, and last summer direct flights began between the Scottish capital and Beijing.

Tour operators offering Chinese travellers packages to the Highlands advertise the area simply as “Utopia”. “Taking the road north, time stops here,” says one for the Isle of Skye. Others promote the chance to visit locations seen in the Harry Potter films: “Relive the magic of your childhood.”

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