No visit to the UK is complete without visiting the Highlands and Inverness. Inverness is the capital of the Highlands.
Most people start their trip to the Highlands from Edinburgh and work their way up towards Inverness, but we did it the other way around. We caught a flight from London to Inverness and worked our way down towards Edinburgh. Yesterday I wrote about Edinburgh, today I am going to write about two nights we spent in Inverness.
We caught 9:45 flight from London to Inverness and got there around 10:45. We had booked a car which turned out to be the best decision since most of the must see places are at considerable distances.
As soon as we drove out of Inverness airport, we were greeted by the beauty of the Highlands. We drove past the tree-lined road for half a mile which opened up to perfectly carpeted valleys and hills in the freshest of green. Taking out a camera to capture the view in the picture would be insulting to the scenery so beautiful, so I just watched and took it all in.
Thanks to Google maps, we found our way to our Bed and Breakfast place without any problem. We deposited our luggage with the friendly landlady, who also guided us on where to eat and what to see on an exceptionally sunny day.
Tourism seems to be the main source of income for the town as almost every second house in Inverness was a Bed and Breakfast. No wonder we had to pay premium rates for our room as every place had a No Vacancy sign-on.
It was a perfect day; sunny, mild, and without any wind, so we had a quick bite to eat and went on to see Loch Ness.
Loch Ness and its monster
Loch Ness is a large, deep freshwater lake on the southwest of Inverness. It is the second-largest Scottish loch, but due to its great depth, it is the largest by volume. It is said to be able to drown the whole population of the world three times over. Its deepest point is 230 m which is little more than the tallest building in London (The Shard).
The Loch Ness Exhibition Centre has a dramatic exhibition to tell the monster’s story, which has been around for hundreds of years and was first brought to the world’s attention in 1933.
The Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie as it is called, is said to be a large creature with a long neck and one or more humps. Although evidence of its existence is anecdotal, millions of dollars have been spent to find proof for its existence but the finding are still inconclusive.
Whether the monster exists or not, the legend is good for local business. Thousands of tourists flock to the Exhibition Centre (built in 1980 and now a winner as a 5-star visitor attraction by the Scottish Tourist Board), including wide-eyed children and their equally amazed parents and grandparents who probably want to keep the legend alive.
The town of Drumnadrochit
Drumnadrochit is a small but lovely village on the western shore of Loch Ness. We stopped there to have a little walk to stretch our legs and then have a coffee from Fiddlers Highland Restaurant, a must for the visitors to the town.
We took a small detour to see Divach falls which were just 2 miles up a single track, and then a short walk through the densely populated forest. The falls were small, but the walk through the tress was beautiful.
On the way back to Inverness, we stopped by Urquhart Castle. It sits beside Loch Ness, just 2 kilometers east of the village of Drumnadrochit. It is just a ruin now and is said to date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though built on an early medieval fortification site.
It was almost half-past five when we arrived there. Entry to the castle was closed. We took some pictures and left for Inverness. Before dinner, we took a short stroll beside River Ness while it was still light.
If yesterday was the perfect day to see the Loch Ness and Divach Falls, today was the perfect day to see the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery as it had been raining all morning. The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery have an impressive collection divided into geological, cultural, historical, and art sections. We spent a good two hours there reading about the formation of Highlands 135 million years ago. We learned about the proud traditions of Highlanders, how they lived, the instruments they played, and the clothes they wore.
I always prefer visiting small museums and art galleries as I tend to spend more time absorbing a limited number of exhibits. I come out feeling less overwhelmed and more informed than after visiting large museums and galleries with endless displays.
Next to the Inverness museum is Inverness Castle which sits on a cliff overlooking River Ness. It is a red sandstone structure, built in 1836 by architect William Burn as an 11th-century defensive structure. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside it as it houses the Inverness Sheriff Court.
Twenty miles to the north of Inverness, towards the direction of the airport, is the Culloden battlefields where the final battle of Jacobite Rising was fought (16 April 1746) to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones. It was the last battle, and in less than an hour, around 1,500 men were slain — more than 1,000 of them Jacobites.
An interactive visitor center is built on the site to tell the story of these brave men. It was a real eerie experience to walk in the vast ground listening to the wind and imagining what would have happened there more than three hundred years ago.
There is a small memorial tower in the middle of the battlefield and a hut on the side that has been there since the battle.
A visit to a distillery
It was still raining when we left the Culloden Battlefields. So rather than going back to the B&B, we decided to visit the nearby Tomatin distillery detour of twenty miles.
Those twenty miles became forty miles as we missed the turn, and Google Maps took us to through windy country roads. Rather than regretting it, we thoroughly enjoyed the drive as it was the most beautiful drive so far. We spotted a Viaduct bridge which was perhaps bigger than the Glenfinnan bridge made famous by the Harry Potter movies.
It started pouring when we reached the Tomatin distillery. We made our way to the reception desk only to find that the distillery tours were fully booked. We needed to book many days in advance due to the busy season.
The friendly but extremely busy staff offered us a free whisky tasting and turned on the movie for just the two of us.
We had dinner at the Caledonia pub and called it a night. The next day we were to drive to Glencoe, indisputably most beautiful place in the Highlands, as the friendly landlady told me.
Do you have any stories to share about the Highlands? I would love to hear them. Share them with me through the comments section, please.
This is part 6 of the 13 part series. If you want to read the previous article of this series, here are the links: