Visiting the Scottish Highlands
Inverness is the jewel of the Highlands. Sitting on the banks of the River Ness and Moray Firth, this elegant city is the gateway to Loch Ness and the Cairngorms National Park, making Inverness a desirable destination for those visiting the Scottish Highlands.
- 1 Things to see in Inverness when visiting the Scottish Highlands
- 2 Things to do near Inverness
- 3 Things to do near Loch Ness
- 4 Things to do near Aviemore
- 5 Where to Stay in Inverness
- 6 Where to Stay in Loch Ness
- 7 Where to Stay in Aviemore
- 8 Last Thoughts…
Things to see in Inverness when visiting the Scottish Highlands
Walk around Inverness and you will find the splendour of the Victorian age all around you, gorgeous buildings that give the city a touch of glamour. This city was made for walking and the city centre is compact and easy to navigate. Here are some of the places we visited.
Inverness Castle overlooks the dark peaty waters of the River Ness. The castle was built in the 1836 on the site of an 11th century structure. The castle itself is a Court of Law and not open to the public but there is access to the ramparts for spectacular views overlooking Inverness.
One of the best outlooks of Inverness Castle is from the scenic pathway on the other side of the River Ness. The Pathway runs the length of Ness Walk, a peaceful walk shaded by trees and framed by attractive Victorian architecture.
The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre
The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre is located on Huntly Street at the Highland House of Fraser. The visitor centre has a small exhibition that displays the different Clan tartans and explains the history and complexities of kiltmaking.
Downstairs there is a huge selection of gifts, souvenirs, toys, quality tartan kilts and clothing for sale, so you can take a little bit of Scotland home with you.
Hootananny a fun night out
We went to Hootananny to listen to traditional Ceilidh music and all I can say is, I love Hootananny! The atmosphere was fun and we later discovered that there is a choice of classic rock and club music on different floors above. The place to be seen in Inverness.
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
Surrounded by Victorian buildings, ultra-modern Inverness Museum and Art Gallery stands out as a salute to the 21st century.
The museum explores the history of Inverness and Highlands and has fascinating exhibits on Gaelic language, geology and the natural world.
Things to do near Inverness
There are lots of things to do in and around Inverness especially if you have a car. The following attractions are a short car journey from Inverness city centre.
One of the places to visit near Inverness is the Black Isle . The Black Isle is just north of Inverness, across the Kessock Bridge.
Black Isle attractions include the stunning scenery and wildlife of the Moray, Cromarty and Beauly Firths. Driving along you will find picturesque farmland pastures, historical coastal villages and thriving cottage industries. If you have the chance to visit you won’t be disappointed.
If you are interested in Scottish history you will find plenty of things to see around Inverness. For us, no trip to Scotland would be complete without seeing the Culloden Battlefield and Fort George. These attractions marked a turning point in Scottish history and are well worth seeing.
You will find signs to Culloden Battlefield along the road to Fort George.
The 16th of April 1746 is the date that changed Scotland forever and goes down in history as being the last battle fought on British soil.
The battle of Culloden was the Jacobite’s (supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie) last attempt to restore the Stuart dynasty to the British throne. The battle ended in the defeat of the Jacobite army at the hands of the Duke of Cumberland the son of King George the II.
Though the battle lasted less than an hour, the consequences changed the face of Scotland. Military power was taken away from the Clans and anyone caught wearing a kilt, playing the bagpipes, speaking Gaelic or carrying weapons (including the Dirk) were imprisoned. The Highlanders were stripped of their cultural identity.
The Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre have exhibits detailing the history of the battle from both Scottish and English points of view. For anyone interested in Scottish history this is an attraction that shouldn’t be missed.
Connage Highland Dairy – The Cheese Pantry
If you love cheese as much as I do, a visit to The Cheese Pantry at Connage Highland Dairy is a must.
This was our second visit, we discovered The Cheese Pantry last year and had to return to try more of their mouth-watering cheese.
As well as a huge selection of imported cheeses, The Connage Highland Dairy produce organic and vegetarian cheeses from their own milk. With flavours unique to the area, our favourites are Connage Clava Brie and the award winning Connage Mature Gouda, its delicious sharpness melts in your mouth.
The Connage Highland Dairy is the perfect place to take a break after visiting Fort George. We enjoyed sampling a cheeseboard and tangy Lemon & Lime Sponge while watching cheesemakers hard at work through the windows of The Cheese Pantry’s café.
Construction of Fort George began in 1728 following the Battle of Culloden. Fort George was built as a deterrent against future Highland uprisings and was finally completed in 1769.
Fort George’s striking star like design sits on a spit of land that juts out into the Moray Firth, on the opposite bank is Chanonry Point, both create a narrow channel of water, a perfect natural defence.
Fort George is a working army barracks and is home to the Black Watch regiment. Walking around you will be impressed by the deep moat ditches and sturdy construction.
There are several interesting exhibits and movies that detail life in the fort. Also on site is The Highlanders’ Museum which gives a history of Highland regiments from 1778 until present day. We had an enjoyable day at Fort George.
Things to do near Loch Ness
Jacobite Cruise Loch Ness
This was our second trip to Loch Ness, last trip we drove from Fort Augustus to Inverness. While Fort Augustus and Urquart Castle have spectacular views of Loch Ness, the drive along the highway is shrouded by trees with only glimpses of Loch.
This time we decided to take a Jacobite cruise to explore Loch Ness from the water, we are so glad we did. It’s not until you get on Loch Ness that you appreciate just how big it is and at a depth of 230 metres it has an eerie mystique that invites legends, if there is a monster, Loch Ness is the perfect setting.
We joined our cruise at Dochgarroch Lock, a pretty canal side village just outside Inverness. The Jacobite Rebel whisked us down the Caledonian Canal and out on to Loch Ness. We quickly set about Nessie hunting, unfortunately Nessie did not pop her head out of the water that day.
We had a memorable cruise, our tour guide was entertaining with an informative commentary that was full of laughs. We took hundreds of photos, looked out for local wildlife and were charmed by the legendary Urquhart Castle.
I recommend Jacobite cruises to anyone wanting to get a closer look at Loch Ness. We heard so many tales about Loch Ness that day, of the brave Highlanders of the past and of the modern Highlands of the 21st Century.
The ruins of Urquhart Castle look out over Loch Ness adding to the mythical aura of the loch. Strategically positioned with views the length of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle has had a violent and turbulent past. A trip to Loch Ness wouldn’t be complete without a visit Urquhart Castle one of the top Loch Ness attractions.
Things to do near Aviemore
Another Scottish Highland attraction close to Inverness is the Cairngorms National Park. Cairngorms National Park is the largest park in the United Kingdom and spans 4528 square kilometres. There is so much to do in the Cairngorms National Park, here are just a few of the attractions we visited.
Aviemore is a pretty resort town within the Cairngorm National Park. During the winter Aviemore is a popular ski resort in the warmer months popular with hikers and wildlife enthusiasts. Aviemore is around forty minutes’ drive from Inverness on the A9 highway.
A visit to the Strathspey Railway is a train enthusiast’s dream.
Walking onto Aviemore Station was like taking a step back in time. Alongside this charming station was a steam train and carriages reminiscent of Harry Potters Hogwarts Express. Today we were taking a train journey.
Thrilled to be part of a bygone era, we boarded the train and after a whistle and whoosh of steam we slowly chugged out of the station. Looking out the window we saw a puff of smoke drifting back behind the engine, a friendly conductor checked our tickets and we took off into the countryside.
We clickety clacked our way past woodland and the hiking tracks that wound their way through the trees. Golfers looked for stray balls on the green of Boat of Garten’s Golf and Tennis Club.
Our first stop was Boat of Garten, named the “Osprey Village” for the Osprey’s that nest in the area. We stopped for a short break before climbing on board for our next destination, the River Spey snaked its way through the valley that stretched out before us.
We chugged into Broomhill, lambs played in a nearby pasture while everyone watched the train engine hook up to the carriages. The whistle blew, it was time for us to make the return journey Aviemore.
We had a wonderful day on the Strathspey Railway and can recommend it to people of all ages. The children on board loved the trip, their faces lit up every time the whistle blew.
Loch Garten Osprey Centre
Boat of Garten became known as “Osprey Village” after a pair of Osprey’s returned to Loch Garten after almost half a centuries absence in the 1950’s.
Five kilometres outside of Boat of Garden, the Loch Garten Osprey Centre is a popular destination for those wanting to observe the Osprey’s in their natural habitat. The best time to visit the Osprey Centre is between April and August.
Loch Garten is five kilometres from Boat of Garten. Or you can follow the RSPB Osprey’s road signs from Aviemore.
Where to Stay in Inverness
There are many top-quality hotels in Inverness city centre, here is our choice.
Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa
The Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa is in my favourite part of Inverness. Ness Walk has spectacular views overlooking Inverness Castle and the River Ness, perfect for those early morning walks. The hotel is a short walk to shopping, attractions, restaurants and bars.
The gothic inspired architecture of the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa is complimented by stylish décor and little luxuries such as gym and pool. The rooms are spacious and comfortable.
For perfect location and comfort, we recommend the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa.
Where to Stay in Loch Ness
Loch Ness Lodge
The Loch Ness Lodge is simply gorgeous. A luxurious hotel with elegant décor, stunning gardens and views overlooking Loch Ness. The Loch Ness Lodges first rate food and service add a touch of class to your Loch Ness holiday.
For luxury and style, we recommend the Loch Ness Lodge.
Where to Stay in Aviemore
The Cairngorm Hotel
The Cairngorm Hotel is in Aviemore’s main street, close to all amenities and attractions. This gothic Victorian hotel has an old world Scottish style that is homey and welcoming. Rooms are modern and comfortable. The perfect place to stay for that ski or hiking holiday.
For warm Scottish hospitality, we recommend the Cairngorm Hotel.
This is our third visit to Inverness and the Scottish Highlands. The first time we stayed overnight and loved it so much we promised to come back and explore more in the future.
After visiting the Scottish Highlands, I feel sad that its almost time to leave, once visited the Highlands will stay in your heart forever.
Have you been to Inverness? What do you love about the Scottish Highlands?