British Road Trips! - Inverness
They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom! I scream in a terrible Scottish accent, as I drive along the historic Highlands in my rental car, which I named Anabelle.
Continuing the tour of the UK, I found my way right up to Inverness and boy was it special! I have never been to Scotland before, I’d always favoured international travel, but I am so happy that I went. It really is a beautiful part of the world. My travel buddy this time was no other than my mother, Kym aka Doris.
Starting in Inverness, I landed at the airport and was picked up by a big orange minibus hosted by Sixt, the car hire company. I didn’t choose this company, I booked the car hire through Easyjet when I booked my flights. The staff was so nice and welcoming and we even got a nice little double upgrade on the hire car because ours wasn’t ready! In fact, it was so fancy, I couldn’t figure out how to move the seat forward, the lady had to come out and show me. The fancy car I am talking about is a Renault Kadjar which was a lot bigger than any car I have driven before, but I loved it and I miss my dear Annabelle a lot. I am giving a lot of attention to her because she really was a big part of our road trip (obviously) and I think if you spend a lot of time in a car as we did, then it is only right to ensure that you enjoy the drive in a comfortable vehicle! I decided to use this company again on a trip to Belfast, except I wasn't as impressed this time around. In fact, the experience has put me off hiring a car again, but that is a whole other story!
First up on our tour of the highlands was Drumnadrochit, a village that lies at the head of Urquhart Bay on Loch Ness. Drumnadrochit is a bit of a mouthful and it took me the whole trip to remember how to say it (drum na droc it), you’re welcome. It is surrounded by the glens, Glen Urquhart and GlenMoriston, and about a ten-minute drive is Glen Urquhart Forest. From here you can drive up into the mountains which overlook the landscape and provide breathtaking views. Be aware, this drive is not for the fainthearted. Me, I am the fainthearted, I was terrified. But like all scary things, it was totally worth it.
We had a night here in Drumnadrochit and stayed at 1 Lochness Hostel which is situated on the green, in the centre of the village. It was a great location with parking and a cafe and souvenir shop across the road. If you want an epic brekkie though, I highly recommend taking a short drive, or walk if you’re not lazy, along the main road towards Urquhart Castle and you will come to Cafe 82. The food is outstanding and so are the views and service.
Speaking of Urquhart Castle, this is the main attraction in Drumnadrochit and overlooks Loch Ness the home of a local celebrity, Nessie the Loch Ness monster. Founded in the 13th century, this poor castle has been raided more times than my fridge during the lockdown, and eventually, in 1692 it was partially destroyed in order to prevent its use by Jacobite forces. You can see the castle by land or by sea, or both, it’s up to you. We did the Jacobite Cruise, which you pick up at Clansman Harbour, about ten minutes drive back towards Inverness. It is a fantastic way to explore Loch Ness, see the castle and maybe it’s a mysterious ancient monster! I have to give the local council a massive shout out as well on the quality of their roads, they are so nice to drive on and obviously the incredible scenery helps too!
Sat on the far south-western edge of the Loch Ness, this village is small but busy and very pretty! The Caledonian Canal cuts through the centre of Fort Augustus, where many boats travel through in both directions, so if you have some time here, then you could, fit a nice spot outside of a bar or restaurant with a drink or meal and watch the boats pass by, which makes for a lovely afternoon on a sunny day!
Fort Augustus village takes its name from a fort built after the defeat of the 1715 Jacobite uprising. Those Jacobites make up a really big part of Scottish history and culture and most places you visit in this region will have many references to them!
On route to Fort Augustus, I recommend a stop off at Invermoriston, more specifically, the Invermoriston falls. If you park up in the car park along the main road and follow the signs to the falls, as you walk along the river, you will reach ‘The Summer House’, from here you will have stunning views of the River Moriston falls. The bridge was built in the 18th century and was part of the main road between Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus until it was replaced in the 1930s with a new bridge.
Aviemore is a town in the Cairngorms National Park and a popular holiday destination. This area had a completely different feel to it, I can’t quite explain it but if you do this trip, you will know what I mean. This area is an all-year-round place to visit, beautiful walks, meet the sleigh dogs, see the reindeer and kayaking on the lochs in the summer, and various snow sports in the winter. If you are like my mum and on the hunt to find a Hairy Coo, then stop by the highland estate, Rothiemurchus in Aviemore as this is a great place to try and find them! In fact, there is a lot to do in and around Rothiemurchus:
Hairy Coo Safari
Feed the Deer
Rothiemurchus Fishery & Wild Fishing on the River Spey and lochs
River Tubing, Family Rafting, Rafting, River Paddleboarding
Outdoor Survival Skills
Treezone (balance beams, Tarzan swings, and a monster zip-wire ride).
There is so much to see and do in this region, that you may even want to set aside a few extra days to fit it all in!
Loch Eilein is a small loch in the Rothiemurchus Forest. With its still waters and 13th-century island castle, I am confident that you will be impressed with this place. As you pull into the car park (we paid £1.50 per person to park), you will see signs to the loch and the Loch an Eilein gallery, which is an interesting showcase of the artistic talent in the local area.
The path around the loch is sheltered by pine trees and has stunning views of the mountains as you stroll around. It is an easy walk, so anyone can enjoy its beauty.
Wow. So, this was my favourite spot on the trip. We arrived at 8.30 am and the devil's dew was still hovering above the still water like a mist. When you arrive in the car park, you walk through a small forest which immediately opens up to a sandy beach and, what I can only describe as breath-taking views of the loch and the highland mountains. In fact, the water was so perfectly still that you could see the reflection of the hilltops and trees on the water's surface.
Inverness City is so brilliantly situated, that I think it might be one of my favourites (alongside Panama City and Prague), there is so much happening within the city (as you’d expect) but then there are so many stunning places and historical wonders, within easy and fast reach! Located on the Moray Firth, you can easily find a local shore to watch dolphins from, access the highlands, and of course Loch Ness. Rich in history and vibrantly modern, Inverness City is a lovely place to visit. I recommend Ness Islands on the River Ness, the castle and cathedral, the Caledonian Canal, and of course, a good old-fashioned walkabout. We didn’t do a free walking tour this time, but I love them! Inverness hosts various ones so definitely try one out, they are always fab!
Fort George is a huge 18th-century fortress which is still used by the British Armed Forces. It was built in the wake of the Battle of Culloden (1746) as a secure base for King George II’s army. Now if you have seen my Story Time video then you will know all about that battle and why King George felt it necessary to build such a big old fortress!
I heard a rumor that this was also a good spot to see dolphins, but we went on two separate days and saw nothing. Although on the second day, we got talking to a military guy, I think he called himself the sentry? Which I think is just a fancy word for look-out boy, I don’t know. Anyway, he told us that they were there doing target practice across the Moray Firth, and sometimes the bullets went stray and into the water, which I’m thinking, probably scared the dolphins away.
Which brings me to Chanonry Point, another top spot to watch dolphins. We stood on the beach in gale force winds for an hour and we saw no dolphins (ok so maybe gale force is a bit dramatic, but it was very windy), and again, this is likely because of target practice. We met two lovely women who saw them there the day before us though, so don’t be put off, as I think we were just unlucky. We also stopped off at a lovely cafe in Rosemarkie, the village next to Chanonry Point, and had a nice breakfast overlooking the bay.
One evening, we decided to take a drive up to Nairn and have a walk along the beach. Nairn is a relaxing and friendly seaside resort and only a 25-minute drive from the city!
On route to Nairn, you will drive past Culloden, where the Battle of Culloden took place in 1746. British troops defeated the Scottish Jacobite army for the final time near Inverness and this eerie battlefield will throw you back into the 17th century! We actually stopped here on the morning we left, because it is on route to the airport, but be sure to allow yourself time to really explore the grounds. Also, you might see some Hairy Coos here too!
This was an incredible trip and I am now really excited to explore more of Scotland!