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Top things to do in Inverness

Top things to do in Inverness

My brother and I recently popped up to Scotland for a couple of days away from London and discovered some excellent things to do in Inverness, capital of the Scottish Highlands.

While I am absolutely a seeker of Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster) and all good things that are the Highlands, like exquisite landscapes and interesting history, it hadn’t even occurred to me we could get to Inverness so easily.

Yet, just one hour’s flight from London (we made our way from Luton on EasyJet) you can find yourself amongst the fresh air and friendly people of Inverness. 

There's plenty of things to do in Inverness - just wander and explore the city

Things to do in Inverness

Exploring Inverness

The city of Inverness is quite small and easy to get around on foot.

There’s plenty of things to do and see in Inverness, and we started with a walk through town to get our bearings. Inverness is well signed, so you can easily find your way around from its older areas and Victorian market, down to the shopping pedestrian high street area and the helpful visitor information centre.

From Inverness’ shopping strip, you can wander up to Inverness Castle, and then down the hill toward the Ness River; explore beautiful churches, Inverness castle and take photos from the pretty bridges that link both sides of the city.

Things to do in Inverness: visit historical Inverness Castle

 

Exploring the area

Inverness is a tour hub, of sorts, with numerous tours on offer that you can pre-book or sort when you’re there – head as far out as Skye or back down to Edinburgh or Glasgow.

While in the city we stayed on foot which was fine.

Our two day itinerary was carefully considered so that we could take in a taste of Inverness without exerting ourselves.

Things to do in Inverness - go exploring on foot either side of the River Ness

 

Urquhart Castle ruins and Loch Ness

A visit to a castle is a must, and the ruins of Urquhart Castle area easily accessible by car or coach.

For about £10 you can take a coach from Inverness’ bus station (the transport centre is near/behind the train station, but is signed), half an hour along the shores of Loch Ness, to Urquhart Castle.

This medieval castle’s ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, and set on the shores of the loch, it’s a fabulous experience.

You can also reach and view the castle by taking a cruise on Loch Ness, which again, you can arrange when you’re in Inverness.

Things to do in Inverness - Urquhart Castle ruins are a highlight on the banks of Loch Ness

En-route to Urquhart you pass the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition which will fulfil all your Nessie needs – find out more about the story behind the folklore and buy souvenirs here.

You can also wander underneath the store and the road to the banks of the loch for more beautiful photo opportunities.

We did this trip in an afternoon and I’d highly recommend the experience as part of your ‘things to do in Inverness’ list. Just be organised with when the coach is due to return because they only run every hour or so. 

Things to do in Inverness - you can't miss famous Loch Ness

 

Culloden and Clava Cairns

For a true slice of Scottish history as well as some unbeatable landscape view, get out of the town about half an hour to the Culloden Battlefield and visitor centre.

Culloden Battlefield is the site of the 1746 Jacobite Rising that came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in the history of this region.

There is an immersive cinema experience as well as café and rest spot, and of course you can respectfully visit the site yourself.

Things to do in Inverness – the ancient ruins of Clava Cairns

When we were heading out this way we got to chatting to a local on the bus, and she told us about an incredible ancient site called Clava Cairns.

As a fan of the series Outlander, I was actually aware of the site and to discover it was so accessible (with a little adventure along the way), we decided to go and explore.

Read about our adventure to Clava Cairns

Bus no. 5 gets you to Culloden Battlefield’s visitor centre, from where you can walk to Clava Cairns. The return trip was about £5.

Be mindful not to get other buses that say they are going to Culloden, as they are going to the residential area, not the destination intended if you’re seeking the experience outlined above.

This experience is well worth it. The weather can change though so be prepared. It’s the best part of a day trip from Inverness, but still close to town which is very handy.

Things to do in Inverness – the ancient ruins of Clava Cairns, inspiration for the books and tv series Outlander

 

Eat and drink in Inverness

I’d recommend trying a Scottish whiskey at a pub around town – there’s plenty to choose from.

Our favourite pub is The Castle Tavern, which is positioned just above Inverness Castle, and has a delicious menu, nice drinks including local options, and a cool view across the city.

Things to do in Inverness - wander along Ness River

 

Getting around

We found transport in Inverness easy and reliable. While you do need to be prepared ahead of time and know when your bus to the airport is due, for example, we found it all ran efficiently to time.

Buses to and from the airport run every half an hour or an hour at quieter times, at just over £4 each way (2018).

There’s plenty of other ferry and bus or coach options that will help you discover things to do in Inverness and on the town’s outskirts. You can find out more by dropping into the train station, bus station or the visitor information centre in the middle of the mall in town.

You’ll also find many tours that will take you around the region and up to Skye, ranging from periods of one day to three or four – these can be booked in advance online, or ask for more information in the tourist information centre.

And if you’re an Outlander fan like me, there are indeed a number of tours that will show you around famous filming sites.

 



 

Filming locations for Outlander – Clava Cairns, Inverness

Filming locations for Outlander – Clava Cairns, Inverness

Wild wind howled through the auburn autumnal leaves and across the rolling green hills on either side of the secluded, narrow road that we carefully tread along, excitedly pursuing filming locations for Outlander

My brother Josh, happened to be my travel companion this past October, and we both remained quietly stunned by the scenery at each turn: thick woodlands spilling into pretty streams, centuries-old wooden bridges and an odd few sheep tenderly grazing under patchy grey skies.

Filming locations for Outlander

It felt like an adventure, and that’s because it was!

An unplanned trip through time somewhere outside of Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands.

Rewind an hour, and we were sitting on a local bus which for just a few dollars was ferrying us around the area from Inverness to famous Loch Ness, its castles and ruins.

We were on our way to Culloden Battlefield, a vast windswept moor that preserves stories of the Jacobite rising that came to an entirely tragic end here on 16 April 1746.

History buffs, fans of Scotland and indeed those of a seductively popular television series called Outlander will be familiar with the locations.

Josh and I were discussing our day’s plan when a sweet woman turned around in her seat to chat to us. She asked where we were from, because she recognised our accents and said she had family dotted around Australia.

As it happens, in her 70 years young she’s done a lot of travelling and had some great tips to share, one being for us to get off the beaten track about 30-minutes’ walk from Culloden, to seek an ancient burial ground called Clava Cairns.

There's plenty of things to do in Inverness - just wander and explore the city

 

Clava Cairns and Outlander film locations

I’m one of those Outlander fans eagerly awaiting the return to telly this month of time-travellers Jamie and Claire Fraser.

Scotland now offers plenty of ‘Outlander travel experiences’ that attract thousands of enthusiasts seeking the filming locations for Outlander, and Clava Cairns happens to be an integral part of this.

 



 

While ‘Craigh na Dun’, the mysterious stone circle where Claire falls through time in Scotland to the 1700s in the books and television series does not actually exist, Clava Cairns is understood to be author Diana Gabaldon’s inspiration for the spot.

So, willing to walk – because Josh and I have always been into the mystical, mythological and downright creepy (our parents are very proud) – we went in search of this millennia-old site.

Scotland offers visitors unparalleled landscapes, legends and folklore, and even our first glimpse of Clava Cairns’ ruins didn’t disappoint.

These exceptional 4000-year-old remains of an ancient cemetery are set on a terrace above the River Nairn, and an appropriately atmospheric breeze washed dust and leaves through the ghostly site as we pushed open a rickety fence and made our way inside.

 

Historical sites of Scotland

There are four cairns (the word ‘cairn’ hailing from the Scottish Gaelic, càrn, meaning a human-made stack of stones) and three standing stone circles here. The three prominent cairns form lines aligned with the sun solstices and show hints of forgotten beliefs carved into the stones.

Our friendly local guide on the bus had shared stories of how she and her friend experienced extreme emotions and rushes of energy on touching some of the larger stones in the circles.

Josh and I can attest to feeling what can only be described as a very heavy sensation within one of the open-air stone tombs, and admittedly I felt like it wouldn’t be right to take photos inside.

A strange tale I’ve read since, is that of a Belgian tourist who claimed to have been cursed after taking a stone away from Clava Cairns. He and his family swiftly encountered such terrible luck including job losses, accidents and ill health, that the disturbed visitor anonymously posted the ‘souvenir’ back to the Inverness tourist centre and requested it be returned to the site.

Superstitious or not, this excellent adventure provides an off-road glimpse into the true heart of the Highlands, a rugged, romantic destination where you may very well be standing in 2018; or is it 1743? Just be careful what you touch or wish for.

First published in Get it Magazine, November 2018, getit-magazine.com.au
7 awesome reasons to travel on the train from London to Edinburgh

7 awesome reasons to travel on the train from London to Edinburgh

You wouldn’t expect the topic ‘taking the train from London to Edinburgh’ to come up as a dinner party topic, but for us recently it did! I was enjoying a nice chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc over dinner with friends (don’t you love the bottles with twist tops?!).

I mentioned excitedly as I emptied the last of the contents (a bottle doesn’t go far between four people), that I was travelling on the train from London to Edinburgh the following week. Anyone who has been to Scotland will enthusiastically agree it’s a beautiful, friendly country with a long history. Scotland offers amazing scenery, history and filming locations, castles, lochs and even a monster!

Suddenly I was asked what I thought to be a bizarre question, “why are you taking the train?”

7 awesome reasons to travel on the train from London to Edinburgh

…”Isn’t the plane much faster?”

This is when the conversation previously focusing on sport, politics, work and the usual banter steered towards the new topic of train travel. Each guest explained – with enthusiasm – their experiences travelling around the UK on the world’s oldest railway system.

After emptying the contents of a second bottle of Australia’s finest, I felt inspired, excited and a little curious by the prospect of travel on the train from London to Edinburgh (between four and five hours).

visiting Scotland - why you should take the train from London

7 awesome reasons to travel on the train from London to Edinburgh

Door-to-door

Unlike airports which are located anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes from a city, most major train stations are located in the centre of the city.

Avoid rush-hour traffic and an expensive taxi ride. I didn’t feel stressed travelling to the train station but I always have a small sense of anxiety when I travel to an airport.

Our travel from London to Edinburgh by train commenced at the centrally-located and well appointed King’s Cross station in London.

Hassle-free

What I really like about train travel is that you don’t have to arrive several hours before departure and then wait in a long security line.

When I arrived at King’s Cross 30 minutes before departure, everyone was relaxed, no one was rushing and I didn’t encounter any impatient passengers pushing and shoving waiting for the gates to open. No exorbitant prices for food and drinks either. I grabbed a latte, checked from which platform my train was departing, visited a few shops and even had a chance to explore the Harry Potter exhibit (as one does).

Scottish cow

Baggage and expenses

We’ve all experienced that anxiety about having to pay excess baggage fees, and that sheepish feeling of guilt when you know your bags are flirting with being slightly overweight.

Thankfully, conductors who I found friendly and helpful, didn’t even check how many bags I had or more importantly how much they weighed. No angry and surprised passengers standing helplessly when staff remove bags and demand a fee.

On the price side, if you’re familiar with the UK, you’ll know there are of course discount airfare options, but, did you know you can score a train ticket travelling from London to Edinburgh for as little as £25 if you book in advance? Try looking up fares on Trainline.

Comfort and relaxation

My core complaint when flying is the lack of leg room and being boxed-in amongst strangers. On trains there are seats in pairs, or sets of four (two either side), and some with the option of a table in the middle.

Plug a laptop in, catch up on blogging (or the latest episode of Arrow…; read, write, daydream).

Did I mention you don’t have to wear a seat belt and there’s no line for the toilet!? Winning!

Trains can be a little bumpy in a soothing way (like being rocked to sleep); nothing like when you hit turbulence and fear grips your body.

Scottish town - views across Edinburgh

The real bonus – scenery


Trains offer the chance to be engaged by spectacular scenery, unlike planes where, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of a landmark during take-off or landing. I love watching in wonder the rolling green fields, lazy grazing farm animals, charming villages and historical castles standing proud. A kaleidoscope of images, and the landscape of the United Kingdom is really so special, particularly when you travel from London to Edinburgh by train.

The time really does fly by, because the adventure is a travel experience in itself, rather than feeling like a ‘drag’.

Meeting travellers and making friends

A cafeteria and bar offering all the essentials was positioned up the back of my train. Making my way to this oasis felt a bit like imitating a trapeze artist on rope, but, my reward for a delicate balancing act, was that I found this spot to be a great place to meet fellow travellers. We shared tips and a few jokes over a cold beverage.

That said, if you prefer to enjoy a little quiet time, staying in your seat is a perfectly convenient option too, because a trolley of hot and cold delights makes its way through the carriages at intervals through the journey.

Scottish lake

Environment

An important fact, trains are less damaging to the environment and more energy efficient. Trains require half the energy per passenger per mile than air travel. Anything that is great for the environment is a winner in my books.

Sure, we all live active, busy lives and travelling by plane is less time consuming, but there comes a time when we must all stop, relax and smell the roses, so to speak.

I’m discovering train travel in the UK is the chance to experience real travel adventure; you can score tickets at low prices, and view the world while travelling comfortably. The time really does fly by (no pun intended). Definitely worth considering when you’re in our neck of the woods.

−Cooper

Visit UK filming locations of 2015’s big releases

Visit UK filming locations of 2015’s big releases

From Far from the Madding Crowd in Dorset to Frankenstein in Manchester, England staged one big, beautiful movie set in 2015, and crowds flocked to see where their favourites were shot.

VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, James Berresford said: “Our research shows that 40 per cent of tourists want to visit locations they’ve seen on the big and small screen [like Downton Abbey], so we know there is a huge appetite for ‘set-jetting’.”

VisitEngland teamed up with Creative England to select some of the biggest films to grace our screens in 2015, revealing to film buffs exactly where the action was shot…

CINDERELLA   film 2   film 3

INTO THE WOODS

The film adaptation of the eponymous Broadway musical Into the Woods features an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick and Johnny Depp. Showing off a number of quintessentially English locations, the soon-to-be Disney hit was shot at Dover Castle in Kent, Waverley Abbey and Virginia Water in Surrey, the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire, Hambleden Village and Hambleden Barn in Buckinghamshire. The film follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel-all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.

CINDERELLA

This live-action feature is inspired by the classic fairytale Cinderella and brings to life the timeless images from Disney’s 1950 animated masterpiece. English locations including the grand bridge at Blenheim Palace, Black Park in Iver Heath and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich all help to set the scene for this childhood favourite. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film stars Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden and Helena Bonham-Carter.

A LITTLE CHAOS

Starring Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci and Alan Rickman. The story centres on a female landscape-gardener who is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles, a gilt-edged position which thrusts her to the very centre of the court of King Louis XIV. But the 18th century French palace and grand houses were actually shot in England at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire and Cliveden House in Berkshire. Some of the cast stayed at the Grade I listed, luxury hotel and grand stately home, Cliveden House, during filming. With a garden central to the story, the production also needed some versatile outdoor space and found most of what they were looking for in Black Park, a country park next door to Pinewood Studios, which covers over 500 acres of woodland, heathland and grassland.

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

A new adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, the film stars Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, with screen play by David Nicholls. Filmed predominantly in and around Hardy Country in Dorset; Mapperton House, Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Sherborne, Eype, Purse Caundle, West Bay, Beaminster and National Trust property Cogden Beach all play a part. Few authors have such strong associations with their local area as Thomas Hardy, and today you can explore two of the writer’s houses – his childhood home and Max Gate, the property Hardy designed himself and moved into with Emma after his marriage.National Trust property, Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, also features in the film, doubling up as Boldwood.

 

FRANKENSTEIN

Based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel of the same name, the latest adaptation features an all-star cast. Daniel Radcliffe will star as hunchback Igor, whilst James McAvoy will portray Victor von Frankenstein. Filming locations included Manchester Town Hall, Chatham Historic Dockyard, the Old Royal Naval College, including King Charles Court, and the bank of the river Thames in Greenwich.

 

Have you ever set-jetted? Drop us a line in the comments to let us know where you’ve visited and what was filmed there. We’re keen to find this one being filmed in Scotland!… 

 

More things to do in England

We’ve had a helpful piece shared with us via your-rv-lifestyle.com on 100 things to do in England – worth a browse if you’re heading over this way!

 

Images copyright to individual film distribution companies. 

Edinburgh tours and other essentials

Edinburgh tours and other essentials

August is my favourite time of year to visit Edinburgh, and I’d love to share with you my favourite Edinburgh tours and other essential information for your trip.

Edinburgh tours and activities in summer

Not only is it summertime and the perfect time for a tour to and around Edinburgh, but the city has a serious case of ‘festival fever’ with the Fringe Festival, International Festival, Book and Art Festival, Mela Festival and Military Tattoo all running over the month.

However, it doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit – the Scottish capital always boasts a vibrant atmosphere, rich culture, bloody history and never-ending list of attractions, events and sights.

Street Performers - Pipers

Edinburgh essentials

Edinburgh is a small city and easy to walk around and explore on foot. There is a City Sightseeing tour that you can take to get an overview though.

Also, Edinburgh is a base for tours all over the region, for a day or a few including to Inverness and Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye and even film and television set locations.

Here are my top things to experience in Edinburgh:

Military Tattoo

With the Edinburgh Castle as its backdrop the Military Tattoo is an amazing and patriotic experience. Each year 220,000 people attend this spectacular event, which features over 1,000 performers from across the globe.

This includes Massed Pipers and Drummers, the Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and cultural troupes. What is great about the Military Tattoo is its crowd – they really get into it – all clapping and cheering along to the marching performers. The most moving performance is always the Lone Piper, a real heart-tugger.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo runs from 1-23 August 2014.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Fringe Festival

Welcome to the largest arts and entertainment festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Over three weeks (1-25 August 2014), the city is host to more than 42,000 performances and 2,600 shows ranging from stand-up comedy, cabaret, dance, music and theatre.

The Fringe will leave you dizzy with amount of entertainment available – its no wonder the guidebook is over 200 pages. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the city’s venues and performance spaces. Even if you don’t catch a show – the street vibe is electric with demonstrations and busking happening all over.

Tip: Head to the Virgin Money Half Price Hut located at the Mound Precinct on Princess Street for some great deals.

Street view of Edinburgh

The Real Mary Kings Close

Without a doubt one of the best all-year-round attractions in Edinburgh! At the Real Mary Kings Close you are taken beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, where you’ll see a maze of hidden streets and buildings that have remained frozen and preserved since the 17th century.

See how people lived back then and hear eerie tales of murder, plague-caused deaths and hauntings.

To this day – visitors have been known to hear scratching coming from inside a chimney where a child perished, sounds of a crowded tavern and a mysterious man has been seen roaming.

My favourite tale is of ‘little Annie’, an upset ghost searching for her missing doll. She now has a constant shrine full of toys left by visitors from all over the world. It’s truly an entertaining and fascinating attraction, giving you a unique glimpse into Edinburgh’s past.

Street Performer

Ghost Walking Tour

No visit is complete without jumping on a ghost-walking tour. Renowned for its dark and bloody history, Edinburgh has endless tales of murder, grave robbing, torture, plague, treason and witch executions.

Explore every nook and cranny of the city and see where harrowing events occurred such as where serial killers, Burke and Hare trawled for their next victims. If you dare join a tour – then be prepared to visit such sights as Greyfries Graveyard at night, be cursed by the South Bridge Vaults and go searching for the terrifying Mackenzie Poltergeist (all available via the ‘City of the Dead’ tours).

Various operators offer ghost walking tours all-year-round.

Ghost walking tour - South Bridge Vaults

Have you visited Edinburgh? Let us know your essential things to do – drop us a line in the comments below. 

 

About the writer
Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at stuffitgotravelling.com.