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Inverness, Scotland ~ the Highlands
Jon and I joined a few friends and discovered Inverness and the countryside of Scotland this past weekend, in particular the Highlands. The landscape and natural beauty took my breath away and left me yearning for more. Today’s blog I include some must-see’s including information on the lovely town of Inverness, the Whisky Trail, the ferry through LochNess, and more ~ We were there for three days but I would’ve loved to have a month to explore.
Not just a Highlander fan, I really LOVE SCOTLAND ~
I’m a reader and love history and love well-done t.v., so when my daughter recommended I read the historical fiction book by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander and watch the Netflix series I became addicted to learning more about Scotland. Here are a few of the highlights of our adventure ~ hope you enjoy! If you need help putting an itinerary together, let me know~ I help with that too.
If you’ve read my other blog, GREAT SCOT! than you already know how much I love this country. I have ancestral ties here as many Americans do (so its history,) its people, the landscape and oh ~ so much more. To me, Scotland will always be an all-time favorite. I longed to find out more when I was visiting this past weekend. The Jacobite War and Revolution, their ties to our own American Revolution are unbelievable and it was appropriate we were there over the 4th. Scotland never disappoints. Just check out these pictures.
We decided to make Inverness our home base while we were in the Highlands. This capital city is everything you imagine and more. With the River Ness flowing through the middle of town, you will find yourself shooting pictures with both your Canon and your cell phone.
We booked our stay at Furan House in Inverness because there were six of us and we all wanted to be together. Our hostess, Janice was delightful. She for sure made our whole trip! Her organized day trips and individualized breakfasts made us feel right at home and excited us about our next day’s adventure.
She personally made our breakfast every morning and we delighted in trying homemade haggis and blood pudding. They were delicious. We all agreed, people who don’t like it, have just had bad haggis. Kinda like getting bad sausage in the south.
Her location was perfect, a little walk to the downtown center, she knew exactly where we wanted to go and recommended a wonderful local favorite for dinner our first night in town.
I totally recommend walking through the town of Inverness there are lots of shops, the castle, a gorgeous promenade along the River and it just goes on and on.
We also stopped in at the Highland Archive Center – here you could research your Highland Scottish Heritage. Unfortunately, the Historian was off the day we visited although we got a few websites to help us on our way. My friend Doug is a MacLeod, apparently his whole ancestors ruled the Isle of Skye and most of the Highlands… I was amongst Scottish royalty. I also found out my heritage came from the St. Andrews area, which is known as Fife country. So I guess another…longer…trip to Scotland is in my future.
Only 5 miles from Inverness is the Culloden battlefield and with our military men in tow we headed out to see and pay respects to those who fought so valiantly so, so long ago. We didn’t get there in time for the tour as it closes at 6:00 p.m. however, I would recommend doing it if you have time. The Visitor Center was very friendly and I was able to get a £5 guide to help me walk around the memorial (which is open for FREE) and understand exactly what happened on that fateful day in April 1746.
Craig na dun – Clava Cairns
Clava Cairns are ancient burial stones and are very close to Inverness as well. We enjoyed learning about these 3 to 4,000 BC burial grounds that were a part of the Outlander books.
They are also a huge part of history for the United Kingdom as these can be found all over this country including the Isle of Skye. Which is where they actually filmed the scenes for Clair to disappear (and time travel) in the
Loch Ness, you just couldn’t be in the Highlands without visiting Loch Ness at least once, right? So I have to tell you, yes, this a tourist destination (trap/whatever) BUT the lake is GORGEOUS! Reminding me of the lakes of my youth in upstate New York (especially Tupper Lake) I couldn’t get over the similarities.
Of course, we searched for “Nessie!” This dragon/monster who mystically lives under the largest body of fresh water in Scotland and is also the deepest in all the U.K. The ferry was fun ~ here are some things to think about when you go
What to expect on the Ferry
Lots of busses with lots of people
Get your tickets AT LEAST 15 min. before your ferry ride
We had lots to do the day we visited so we just got the round-trip (RT) ticket to Urquhart Castle and didn’t de-bark (there are lots of different ticket combinations)
It’s an hour-long ferry ride but the views are spectacular
Wear a rain coat! Our visit was in early July ~ it rained, and yes, the wind was ridiculously windy) but once the clouds cleared ~ amazing photos!
Bummer! No Nessie! Oh, well ~ we had loads of fun and laughs
The drive of South Ness pass back along the river and is not for the weak at heart. However, there are pull-offs (to take photographs or give-way to oncoming traffic) we were safe and set up perfectly to start shooting photos ~
The Whisky Trail – Speyside
I think I would truly need a month to visit all the distilleries in the Highlands. Oh, and possibly a new liver and kidneys. HA! We had fun though driving by and seeing all the different distilleries that are now legendary names used everyday in America.
My husband’s favorite is Macallan, so of course, we stopped.
However, I think the highlight of our whisky trail day tripping was the Speyside Cooperage. I had not ever heard of it until Janice shared that it was one of her favorite places to stop and learn about how whisky is made.
The tour begins with a short video of the beginnings of Speyside Cooperage in the early 40’s. A fact I found especially interesting and noteworthy, was they discovered the best wood was North American Oak. The hand-process of making these barrels is astounding to watch.
Speyside Cooperage is a MUST!
Still created in piece work these extremely hard laborers are paid for each completed or restored barrel every week. WOW! I would definitely suggest making the Speyside Cooperage a stop on your Whisky Trail tour.
You may need to pace yourself as most of the popular distilleries are close by to one another. We found signs for Glenfiddich and Glen Livetall on the same road. Definitely recommend having a designated driver. However, if you’d like to scrap that altogether there are several whisky toursthat leave from Inverness that have a bus driver. Hop on one of those ~
While you are traipsing through the Whisky Trail, you are gonna get hungry. My suggestion would be stop in Dufftown. The home of Malt Whisky in Scotland and an excellent great new pub and restaurant called “Seven Stills.” Owners Rosamund and Patrick greeted us warmly and welcomed us in for some especially tasty food. Some of the best we ate in all Scotland. Here are a few shots I got of their precious Inn and our delicacies.
You can also enjoy what is called a Whisky and Chocolate Marriage – this combination of whisky and chocolate sounds like both man and wife would be happy. All of their dishes are prepared with local ingredients and several have a wonderful taste of whisky blended or topped off making the dishes just fantastic. YUM!
Driving in Scotland
One of the concerns I hear most often about visiting the United Kingdom is driving. I can tell you after driving (wrong side) several times now and this time in a 7 passenger van, it’s not so bad.
Be cautious and remember these things
Drive slowly (the speed limit in most parts of Scotland don’t exceed 55 mph)
Rent the smallest car you can (even if they try to upgrade you, don’t do it!)
RENT an AUTOMATIC transmission, messing with the gears is too much brain power at one time
The last few times I have rented through USAA and Enterprise. I get the extra insurance ~ however, they also put a £200 hold on my credit card in addition to the extra insurance we purchased. It was peace of mind ~ for any reason, we are covered.
Roads are narrow in some parts and there are also pull-offs for you to allow oncoming cars to pass. If the pull-off is on your side of the road ~ you pull off (to the left) and WAIT, if it’s on their side – they pull-off and wait. This sounds easy but for some reason, Scots tell me the tourists don’t get it. If you live in Germany, you know that if the cars are parked on your side of the road, you wait ~ same concept.
So we were in Scotland in July expecting sunny, but cooler weather. I did check the forecast before we left, leaving Germany in the ’90s however, our forecast said highs would be in the low 60’s. Hmmm, out came the layers and fall clothes. After all…
It’s not bad weather, only bad clothing!
It is smart to bundle up when you go to Scotland, it will be windy, maybe overcast at least one day, but when the sun does come through, it’s like Janice says “Just rays of sun saying hello.”
I hope you enjoy your visit to the Highlands ~ I know this won’t be the last for me. If you’ve been here before what was your favorite to see, eat or do? What would you recommend?
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