Inverness, gateway to the Scottish Highlands

Many visitors breeze through town to hunt mythical beasts at nearby Loch Ness, but Inverness is worth a visit in its own right.

The city is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Scotland and boasts a long history — the remains of a fort dating back to the 4th century BC have been uncovered nearby. The modern city of Inverness is believed to have been founded by King David in the 12th century.

Unfortunately, few buildings of significant age or historical consequence remain due to centuries of violence. There is, however, plenty to keep history buffs happy, from castles to whisky distilleries.

Explore the past

Discover the rich history of Inverness and the Highlands at the myriad museums in town. The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery covers everything from historic weapons to contemporary Highland art. The headquarters of An Comunn Gaidhealach, an association formed to preserve Highland culture and Gaelic language, are located at 16th century Abertarff House.

Local resident Stanley Fraser turned a 1840’s toll house into the maritime museum Ship Space. The centrepiece of the museum is a 1:10 scale model of the Titanic. The model is large enough to enter and contains three rooms: a Parisian cafe, the bridge and the Marconi radio room.

Highland romance

Experience the mystery and romance of the Scottish Highlands at nearby Loch Ness, infamous for Nessie, the elusive local monster. Loch Ness is also Scotland’s largest loch by volume of water. You can drive along the western border of the lake and visit picturesque villages like Foyers and Dores. Don’t miss the ruins of Urquhart Castle, the site of some of the most dramatic events in Scottish history.

Embrace the local culture with two symbols of the Scottish highlands: kilts and whisky. At family-run Highland House of Fraser, you can order a bespoke kilt or even rent one for your stay. Learn more about the history of tartan and Highland Dress at the Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre, located inside the House of Fraser. There’s even a tartan worn by Mel Gibson in Braveheart on display.

Once you’re kitted out in a kilt, it’s time to sample a fine Scotch tipple at Glen Ord Distillery. Founded in 1838, it’s one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland. You can tour the distillery, watching master distillers at work, taste some of the finest malt whisky and then pick up a bottle or two at their shop.

Castles galore

No tour of the Highlands would be complete without visiting some of the stunning castles dotting the countryside. Right in the heart of the city is Inverness Castle, its pink sandstone turrets rising above the city centre. The current iteration is rather new, dating from 1847, but a castle has graced the hill for centuries. The inside is not open to the public, but there are lovely views from the gardens.

Head out of town and visit Cawdor Castle, the 14th century home of Clan Cawdor. The castle is famous for its connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, although the events upon which the play is based happened long before the castle was built.

For Highlands drama and wild beauty, it’s hard to beat Urquhart Castle, nestled on the shore of Loch Ness. Once the greatest castle in the Highlands, you can experience 1000 years of history and breathtaking views of Loch Ness. After exploring, retire to the comfort of the cafe for refreshments.

Take in the spectacular views and experience the romance of rail travel on a nine-day Edinburgh, The Highlands & Islands Great Rail Journey. Book by January 31, 2017 and save $1000 per couple; tour from $3220pp twin share. Visit RACQ Travel or contact one of our friendly travel consultants on 1300 096 166.