Inverness: A Great Base For Exploring The Highlands of Scotland

Nestled on the banks of the River Ness at the head of the Great Glen, this tiny, charming city is considered the gateway to the Highlands. The four-hour train journey from Glasgow takes you deep into the heart of Scotland, beginning at Inverness. As the train cuts through the stunning, atmospheric countryside, where grassy verges dip into cragged rock formations below, the air becomes colder and thinner; it is one of the most beautiful train journeys you can take in the UK.

Inverness provides the door to the wind-swept, dramatic Highlands but also, in its own right, is an enchanting and historic city to visit. There is so much to do in and around inverness and so we have compiled the ultimate tick list while you’re holidaying in the Scotland.

Before you set off make sure to plan your trip by booking up your accommodation and any activities you wish to do that are likely to book out. You might also want to consider some holiday cover while traversing the more rugged areas of the UK. Don’t let any stumbles or mishaps ruin your holiday.

In Inverness

The Inverness Castle is a relatively new build, as it was constructed in 1847 to replace the castle blown up by the Jacobites. Its smooth caramel brickwork is far more modern and softer than older Scottish architecture.

The Old High Church is the oldest church in the city and is open for services most days and every Friday you can take a free tour of its interior.

The main Museum and Art Gallery has a collection of medieval stones, wildlife exhibitions and an array of historic weapons.

A stroll through the Ness Islands gets you out of the city limits and is particularly peaceful and captivating. On rainy, overcast days the islands are glistening green and refreshing but during the summer months the bright sun reflects the grassy hues casting a dappled light across the paths.

Check out the tourist office for different activities going on; from golfing to watersports, you will something fun at any time of year.

Rent a bike from any of the outlets (there are quite a few hire shops) jump on and cycle through the Ness Islands, waterfront or along the river with a guide.

If you planning on doing a lot on holiday it may be wise to invest in some travel insurance for these activities and adventures.

Outside Inverness

History enthusiasts will be in their element at the Culloden Battlefield, which lies on the outskirts of Inverness and was the scene of Bonny Prince Charles final defeat in 1746.

There are two mountain resorts in close proximity to the city, which are Cairngorm, 30 miles away, and the Nevis range. Each caters to a wide range of snow sports and perched on the mountains are many welcoming restaurants. The Nevis range is easy to reach by car in Fort William and you will ascend by a stretching cable car gondola over the jagged mountains.

Loch Ness is just 6 miles from Inverness and should be part of everyone’s to do list. The folklore about the Ness monster has imbued the loch with an austere and haunting quality. The scenery is verdant and achingly beautiful. The place to start would be Drumnadrochit, a small village sitting on the shores of Loch Ness. For a dark spooky walk head down to the loch where the old ruined castle lays and the howling wind and ominous loch are eerily silent.

By Natalie Laurence

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Inverness Whisky Festival 2013

Established in 2011, and having built a reputation as a successful event, the third Inverness Whisky Festival is due to be held on Friday 5th & Saturday 6th April 2013.

The festival is based at Bogbain Farm, a rustic 19th century farm building just 3 miles south of Inverness, which was awarded Best Unusual Venue at the 2012 Scottish Event Awards, and Venue of the Year 2012 at the Scots Trad Music Awards.

In keeping with the venue’s flair for doing things a bit differently, the Inverness Whisky Festival aims to give its guests the opportunity to not only experience some of Scotland’s finest malt whiskies, but to also absorb the culture that goes hand in hand with Scotland’s national drink: the music, the food, the history, the craic.

Whisky Tour

The evening of Friday 5th April will see guests led on a whisky-fuelled journey through the streets of Inverness, visiting some of the city’s oldest pubs, and being entertained on their journey by some of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians. The Whisky Tour begins at 7pm and tickets cost £30, which includes 7 different drams, nibbles and entrance to the Inverness Whisky Festival ceilidh.

Whisky Exhibition

Giving you time to shake off the effects of the night before, the Inverness Whisky Festival exhibition at Bogbain begins at noon on Saturday 6th April. It’s a chance to sample an abundance of malt whiskies, and to learn from the masters how to drink, savour, and most importantly, enjoy your whisky.

With live music, talks, master classes, and good Scottish food, it’s a feast for all the senses.

The Whisky Exhibition runs from noon until 6pm and tickets cost £25, which includes complimentary drams. Tickets for the master classes will be sold separately.

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A Halt To The Culture Of Eating Out? Not In Inverness!

Eating Out In InvernessWith the recent news reports of the number of unemployed people throughout the UK dropping, it may have acted as a kick in the teeth for the Scottish, who are still in the slump of employment opportunities.

As Christmas draws ever closer, the purse strings seem to be doing likewise as we all watch the pennies carefully during weekly food shops, Christmas present buying and general expenditure. Local businesses in retail, luxury items, the leisure industry and even restaurants and eateries have predicted a fall in sales.

Partially this can be put down to research which indicates that our spending, specifically in regards to eating out, is directly proportional to how we perceive the economy as a whole, as well as our own financial well being. Which is perhaps an obvious statement. However, in the last couple of years we have been in the throws of full-blown recession, whereas 2012 has seen, generally, a slight improvement in the economy and production throughout the UK, so why is it that statistically we have reduced our ‘eat out’ rate from 2011?

Possibly a worrying prospect for the Restaurant industry here in the highlands. But having said this, I know that personally I would rather cut down on the luxury food items I have at home and save to go out once a month, to give myself the treat of well-managed finances and that sense of luxury on a semi-regular basis. And here-in lies the hope of the restaurant business.

Throughout Inverness and the surrounding areas a surge of incredibly good deals, special meal offers and freebies have cropped up within the last few months to tickle our taste buds and lore us into the Restaurants, bars and pubs.

Meals out that are affordable, value for money and accessible to the general public.

Just a short snippet of what’s currently on offer:-

  • Steak and Wine Nights for just £9.99 per person at No. 27, Inverness on Mondays and The Room in Inverness on Thursdays!
  • 2 for 1 Tapas at Bar One, Inverness on Mondays.
  • 2 for 1 Meal Offer at The Mallard, Dingwall Mondays-Thursdays.
  • 3 courses for £9.95 on Sunday Carvary at The National Hotel, ???
  • Kids Eat Free at the Clachnahrry Inn, Inverness.

And it’s not just for evening meals, all these deals are with lunch menu’s:-

  • Free tea or coffee with any cake at Glenmoriston Arms Hotel, Glenmoriston.
  • Free cake with any meal at Taste of Joy, Inverness.
  • 2 Course Business Lunch for £7.95 at Rajah Indian Restaurant, Inverness.

Eating out is surprisingly inexpensive at present, and the deals just keep coming! Have a browse through an extensive list of eating offers in Inverness.

Not only does eating out encourage and support the local Restaurant businesses across the highlands but it also celebrates the diversity of cuisine available. And what better time to do so than on the back of National Eating Out Week – celebrated 18th – 24th November!

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Meet The Makers returns to Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield are delighted to welcome back Exclusively Highlands following a very successful arts, crafts and food event in May.

Visitors and locals alike so enjoyed seeing many of the crafters at work as well as crafts and foods that connected on an historical level with Culloden Battlefield, that every endeavour has been made to repeat the event.  As a result the makers will be back on 31st August, for a one day fair from 10am until 5pm.  Entrance to the Meet the Makers Exhibition is free.

There is a further opportunity to see a silversmith at work.  Other jewellers will also be working with traditional tools in copper and other materials, in one case with beautiful Pictish design jewellery. Handbags and hats made with local materials, driftwood art and furniture made with locally sourced wood.  All exhibitors live and work in the Highlands and where they are not actually demonstrating their art can they can talk knowledgably about their subject. A Scottish wildlife photographer for example who is an expert on the animals he captures on film.   However, perhaps no claims about personal knowledge of local wildlife from the children’s author who has recently published a story about Nessie (in six different languages).

Isabel Stewart, founder of Exclusively Highlands says “Visitors to our first event here really enjoyed meeting the makers.  It was inspiring to have such a positive response from the public to our own knowledge and enthusiasm.  We are delighted to return to Culloden Battlefield. ”

Exclusively Highlands has over 80 members.  All members are artists, crafters or food producers living and working in the Highlands of Scotland.  They attend events personally and so can assure visitors of the provenance of every single item.  All the goods are carefully chosen for their unique and excellent quality. Group members make a diverse range of goods including handbags, bodices, millinery, jewellery, knitwear, upcycled vintage clothing, soaps, paper and silk crafts, glass art, wood and ceramic sculpture, photography, pottery and furniture. There are also a whole range of food items such as preserves and sauces, baking, chocolates and hand-reared meats.  Members travel from all corners of the Highlands to bring their arts, crafts and foods to these events.   Prices range from a few pounds upwards so visitors can find something special whatever their budget.

Melanie McKay
Member of Exclusively Highlands
01463 250127

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Inverness’ Cacophony of Concerts

Piper In InvernessHaving walked through the centre of town on a Saturday afternoon in Inverness, you can’t help but notice during tourist season the pipers on the corner – and as cliché as they are when thinking of anything stereotypically Scottish – you can’t help but be proud of the rich diversity of the musical culture expressed here in the Capital of the Highlands!

Admittedly the bagpipes have been a set-piece of Scottish history and musically expected in the Highlands from as early as the 1700s, with everyone being aware of the traditional Great Highland bagpipes. So much so that they are embraced in a variety of ceremonial and traditional occasions throughout, not only Scotland, but also within the British army and in pockets of Europe.

But Scottish music is so much more than the bagpipes, and never before has this been showcased or expressed as openly as it is today. The home-grown musical talent of the Scots is no secret with the likes of Mark Knopfler, born in Glasgow, Annie Lenox from Aberdeenshire, Lulu brought up in Glasgow, and more recently KT Tunstall of St. Andrews, all having been embraced by the national public throughout the UK from the 1960s right through to today!

And not only through the popular music of the day, but within Classical circles too, most notable today the inclusion of the percussionist Evelyn Glennie in the Olympic opening ceremony, shows that the UK are recognising Scottish musicians as having significant influence over the country’s music scene. And many extraordinary musicians are excitingly within easy reach of Inverness this summer with the Highland Chamber Orchestra playing at Strathpeffer Pavilion on Sunday 2nd September.

And likewise Scotland has always been embracing of musicians and the popular music of the day, engaging as much as any of the major English cities with touring concert dates of popular artists. But notably Inverness, being in the Highlands has until recently been missed from these tours, I guess deemed too remote to pull a crowd. As of Rod Stewarts concert date here in 2010 though, this has finally been dispelled, and this year Inverness embraces more well known bands than ever before with an exciting final weekend in August.

Concerts from Status Quo, Jools Holland, and the extremely popular youth sensation JLS are all being held in Inverness this month (tickets for the JLS concert are currently available to win as detailed by Mi Inverness, Entertainment and are expected to be, if are not already, sell out events, showing undoubtedly that the appetite of the people of Inverness and the Highlands for a wider, more accessible array of music up until recently has been massively underestimated to say the least.

So let’s embrace a new found musical freedom of expression. Regardless of age, style or musical taste, Inverness has something for everyone this Summer, there’s a cacophony of concerts on the horizon! Why not join us?

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