A traditionally Scottish social gathering involving folk music and dancing
SCOTLAND: Known as the capital of the Scottish Highlands, the historic town of Inverness is an excellent base for exploring the north of Scotland. Its name comes from the Gaelic ‘Inbhir Nis’ meaning ‘Mouth of the Ness’ – Inverness is where the River Ness flows into the sea from Loch Ness. A 20-minute drive to the south of the city, this famous loch is the legendary home of the Loch Ness Monster, otherwise known as Nessie.
Many attractions are accessible from Inverness by coach or public bus. Energetic visitors may prefer to hire a bicycle and enjoy scenic cycling routes including the South Loch Ness Trail and the Great Glen Way. The region has other excellent sports facilities, including golf, canoeing and kayaking. The Highlands are a great place to taste Scottish fare such as whisky and haggis.
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CHECK IN. A Highland hideaway, Eagle Brae is home to seven luxurious, eco-friendly log cabins set amidst breathtaking scenery. Each cabin was hand-built in 2013 by master craftsmen using Western Red Cedar. The rustic-chic interiors feature Scottish motifs, hand-carved mezzanine balconies and wood-burners.
Standing opposite Inverness Castle on the banks of the River Ness, the 3-star Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel dates back to the 1890s. Its 89 rooms are smart and contemporary, and facilities include a leisure club with spa and indoor swimming pool.
Located in the village of Drumnadrochit, close to Loch Ness and Urquart Castle, The Loch Ness Inn is a traditional Scottish inn built in 1838. As well as a bar and restaurant, there are 12 bedrooms with homely details like tweed throws and local artwork.
A famous Scottish monster. The second largest and second deepest Scottish loch, Loch Ness, contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined – but this vast stretch of water is best known for other reasons. Said to lurk beneath its dark surface is the world famous Loch Ness Monster, fondly known as Nessie.
For an opportunity to make history by spotting the creature, take a boat out onto the loch. Departing from Dochgarroch Lock to the south of Inverness, Jacobite operates four boats, including their flagship Jacobite Queen, a regal vessel built in 1949.
More about Nessie. Many combine a Loch Ness cruise with a visit to Urquhart Castle the impressive ruins of a 13th century fortress on the loch’s shores. For those who’d rather discover more about Nessie, the nearby village of Drumnadrochit has two Nessie-related visitor attractions. Opened by explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition probes the many myths and legends associated with the Loch Ness Monster. This award-winning attraction includes multi-media displays, historic research equipment, authentic underwater films, and details of hoaxes as well as the reliable eyewitness accounts of over 1,000 sightings. There’s also the family-oriented Nessieland
Enjoy Highland. Drumnadrochit is also home to the Loch Ness Inn, a hospitable Victorian inn with guestrooms. Focusing of food with local provenance, menu highlights include fish landed at Mallaig on Scotland’s west coast, prawns delivered fresh from Applecross Bay, and beef and lamb from the Black Isle. There are also real ales from the local Loch Ness Brewery as well as a fine selection of Scottish whiskies and gins. Overlooking the village green, Fiddler’s is another recommended Highland restaurant with rooms.
Whisky distillery tour. No trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to a working whisky distillery to learn how each unique malt whisky is crafted. To the west of Inverness and Loch Ness is Glen Ord Distillery. One of the oldest in Scotland, it was founded in 1838.
New castle attraction. Standing high above Inverness and the River Ness is Inverness Castle. The striking red brick castle dates from 1836, although a castle has occupied this high strategic site since the 11th century. A new viewing platform is opening in 2017, transforming the North Tower, a former prison block, into a place where visitors can discover the castle’s history and enjoy far-reaching views.
Don’t forget some haggis. A traditionally Scottish social gathering involving folk music and dancing. Award-winning pub and live music venue Hootananny’s lays claim to the longest running ceilidh in Scotland. Located in the heart of Inverness, it also welcomes Scottish and international bands playing rock, soul, blues and funk. Its popular restaurant serves classic Scottish fare, with hearty plates such as Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak, North Sea haddock and chips, and haggis, neeps and tatties. Also worth visiting is Gellions, a traditional Scottish pub with a popular Saturday ceilidh.
Britain’s last battlefield. To the east of Inverness is Culloden Moor, location of the last hand-to-hand battle ever fought on British soil. Son of the deposed King James II, Bonnie Prince Charlie is known as ‘the young pretender’ to the British throne. Being a Roman Catholic, he was disqualified from inheriting the throne under the 1701 Act of Settlement. In 1745 his supporters attempted and failed to overthrow protestant King George II, cumulating with the bloody Battle of Culloden.
Visit a mighty fortress. Following the defeat at Culloden of Bonnie Prince Charlie, King George II created the ultimate deterrent against future unrest: the mighty artillery fortifications of Fort George. One of Europe’s most outstanding fortifications, it has served Britain’s army for almost 250 years since, and still houses a British Army Infantry Battalion. Its ramparts, historic barrack rooms, garrison chapel, and dog cemetery where regimental mascots were buried, are maintained by Historic Scotland and offer a fascinating insight into 18th century military life. The fort is also home to the Highlanders Museum
Or… a less militaristic attraction is Cawdor Castle, a late 14th century castle with literary connections to William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. Steeped in history, the castle and its spectacular landscaped grounds are open to the public throughout the summer.
Highland lunch. Back in Inverness, enjoy a gourmet lunch at Rocpool Restaurant. Located within a swish boutique hotel, its menu focuses on fine local flavours such as hand-dived west coast king scallops, fresh Isle of Skye crab, butternut squash risotto with melting Highland brie, and Speyside venison roasted with parma ham and haggis.
Dolphins. Moray Firth is considered one of the best places in Britain to observe dolphins. Sailing from Inverness Marina up to four times per day, Dolphin Spirit offer 90-minute wildlife cruises.
Ale and organic pizza. Taking its name from the Black Isle, a peninsula that stretches beyond the Moray Firth north of Inverness, Black Isle Brewery is Britain’s premier organic brewery. Sample their organic craft ales, as well as over 100 other beers, at the Black Isle Bar a rustic-cool bar with rooms in central Inverness. There’s also a menu of wood-fired pizzas with organic ingredients grown on the Brewery farm.
HOW TO GET HERE. Inverness is in the Scottish Highlands, 3 hours and 30 minutes north of Edinburgh and Glasgow by train. Inverness Airport has flights from British cities including London, Birmingham, Belfast and Manchester, as well as European cities including Amsterdam and Geneva.