Explore the diverse offerings of Inverness and the surrounding area.
Almost as far north as you can go (almost), the difficult to pronounce Inverness-shire is a British county crammed full of contrasts. Inverness itself is a vibrant city overlooked by an imposing castle, where you can eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant just as easily as you can catch a bus to go dolphin watching.
The list of things to do is, naturally, virtually endless and no matter whether you love trudging through the raw countryside or demurely sipping a cup of tea in a pretty café, this incredible land has something to appeal to all sensibilities. Here are just a few examples:
Enjoy some Highland Games
Long ago, rival clans would compete against each other in a series of events, designed to determine which clan was the strongest and bravest. These games still take place regularly across Scotland and are no less prestigious today; the larger events command audiences in their thousands.
If you time your trip right, you could experience the thrilling atmosphere of the Games yourself; witnessing iconic disciplines such as Highland dancing, piping, the tug-o-war and tossing the caber.
The Victorian Market
Whether you are on the lookout for some unique souvenirs or fancy a little shopping yourself, the Victorian market is the place to head. Situated in Queensgate, entering the charming covered market is like stepping back in time – well, it was built in 1890.
Described on Trip Advisor as a ‘hidden gem of wonders’, it offers more than 40 shops and eateries and provides a delightful alternative to the usual high street hustle and bustle of what’s outside. You could easily while away several hours if you stop for brunch or lunch. The kids will love the joke shop.
Look out for the wonderful Victorian wrought iron structural details, such as the three arches at the Academy Street Entrance, the period shop fronts and the ornate market clock.
The wide pathways are perfectly negotiable for those in wheelchairs or that have a pushchair.
Treat the kids to some ‘fun’ history with a trip to Culloden, the site of the infamous 1746 battle where the British fought the Jacobites. The site has been carefully preserved to give the impression that it is the day of the battle – or as close as possible. There is a new visitor centre which features exhibitions that explain the events leading up to the event and where you can follow the real experiences of those who were actually involved. A guided tour of the battlefield can really evoke a sense of foreboding, and the centre’s Living History presentations really capture the imagination.
Once you’ve got through the battle, you can replace those nutrients at the obligatory restaurant or pick up a keepsake at the gift shop. The visitor centre’s summer opening times are 9:00am – 5:30/6:00pm (later between June and August).
The fact that the name of this historic Highland town derives from the French for ‘beautiful place’ (beau lieu) should indicate that Beauly is a place not to miss. Just 12 miles from the city, its mountainous landscape provides a great place for those seeking active pursuits, be that a gentle walk or an energetic hike – Glen Affric , an officially-designated ‘Area of outstanding natural beauty’, is one such spot as is a stroll along the riverside to the remains of Beauly Priory.
If you are so inclined, there’s also the option for salmon fishing (more information can be obtained at Morison’s the Ironmongers in the high street), a chance to pet the animals at Robertson’s Children’s Farm and, if you’re in the market for some tartan, spend some money at Campbells of Beauly. If your trip coincides with a Thursday, you could even listen to the town’s Pipe Band, which performs in the town square during the summer.
Apologies for further ingraining this unimaginative cliché and pretending to second-guess every visitor’s desires, but you can’t go to Inverness without doing the one thing that we all secretly want to do in Scotland: go to Loch Ness. If nothing else, it is absolutely beautiful and serene.
Of course, going to Loch Ness isn’t simply about trying to spot the eponymous monster; you can visit the craggy ruins of Urquhart Castle, take a sightseeing boat cruise, walk to the Falls of Foyers, enjoy the ‘garden for all gardeners’, Abriachan Nurseries, view the art at the Loch Ness Gallery, learn about the legends of Fort Augustus or consume a huge slice of cake or a pint in one of the establishments on Drumnadrochit village green.
Pack your walking boots, your wallet and your caber – Inverness-shire is the perfect, all-round holiday destination.