Capital of the Highlands, Inverness is a likeable, well-sized city with plenty of outlets for a day’s shopping, a handsome riverside esplanade and a clutch of decent restaurants. But it’s the city’s proximity to the glens and mountains that gives the city its real tourist appeal and most visitors opt to use the city as a starting point to head inland to gorgeous Glen Affric or beautiful Loch Ness.
For an Inverness city break with a difference make a base at our Inverness hotel and then head east for day trips along the Moray Firth coastline and you’ll be rewarded with world class tourist attractions, pretty coastal villages and local restaurants.
Scotland’s most enigmatic and poignant battle site, Culloden saw the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising and the defeat of ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie. Today’s visitor centre is fabulous with immersive cinema projections, an animated battle table, and wonderfully atmospheric audio tour. There’s also a first rate café serving highland produce, and a great shop. A must for history buffs and those who want to really get under the skin of this country’s turbulent history.
2. Cawdor Castle
With its Macbeth connections (in Shakespearean terms, if not strictly accurate historical ones) and its imposing, turreted profile, Cawdor is every inch the textbook Scottish Clan castle. Today the restored 17th century pile – still the private residence of the Countess of Cawdor – makes for a fascinating afternoon’s stroll back in time. Inside there’s a decent selection of tapestries and portraits amid the imposing four posters and Adams fireplaces, but it’s the trim gardens that most delight. The orchards of the Walled Garden date from around 1600, while the vibrant blooms of the Flower Garden are a riot of colour from late spring through to autumn.
3. Fort George
Built shortly after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat – just up the road at Culloden – George II oversaw the construction of this mighty fortified garrison jutting out into the steely Moray Firth. Looking as impregnable today as it did 250 years ago, Fort George consists of over a mile of boundary walls enclosing barracks for a 1600-strong infantry garrison. Fort George is the only ancient monument in Scotland still functioning as a working army barracks. The difference is that, these days, it positively welcomes visitors. A gift shop and café (seasonal) make for welcome respite after a walk along the ramparts. This is the place to keep lookout for Moray’s pod of dolphins too!
Something of a golfing Mecca, Nairn’s two championship golf courses and its golfing paraphernalia shops have put this rugged little town firmly on the tourist trail. Should your swing be somewhat rusty, Nairn’s still a delightful spot – with its marvellous sandy beach and promenades enjoying a micro-climate with more hours of sunshine and less rainfall than Inverness.
The Findhorn Foundation does things a little differently – within its eco village centre you’ll find a welcoming community living in ecological houses fashioned from local stone, straw and clay. With electricity-generating wind turbines and beautiful gardens providing much of the village’s food, Findhorn is a model for sustainable living. Workshops throughout the year offer the chance for us all to take a little of the Findhorn magic home with us. A fascinatingly alternative day out in a beautiful spot at the mouth of the Moray Firth.