I always love driving North. Somehow it is like you are being lifted out of every day life and dropped into a Scottish movie. Head North in October and you are in for an even bigger treat for the colours of the hills are a-changing…
The drive from Kilmacolm to Inverness is more than a hop, a skip and a jump and with a baby plus two dogs in tow demanding multiple stops it took us the better part of an afternoon but that journey was beautiful I promise you. Truthfully I do not think I had ever really given Inverness much thought as a destination before this but it proved to be just the right balance of country and city and a perfect little Scottish weekend getaway.
As always scroll down to discover where to stay, eat and what to do in Inverness…
When we pulled up out front of Ivy Cottage my heart skipped a beat. This is such a quintessentially Highland bolthole with a touch of luxury thrown in – think roll top baths and open fires and painted wood panelling and a tree swing in the garden and gorgeous little knick-a-bracs everywhere you look (yeah, I am well aware that is not quite the right saying but the husband proclaimed his love of the knick-a-bracs in the cottage and it was far too adorable to let it go…).
Ivy cottage forms part of Aldourie Castle estate and, whilst it sits on the perimeter, it is extremely cosy and peaceful yet just a ten minute walk through the grounds to the castle itself. Honestly my sole complaint was that we only stayed two nights – an extra night at least would have been very welcome if for nothing else than to cosy ourselves up in this idyllic wee home and just enjoy it for a little longer.
You cannot go to Inverness without exploring Loch Ness and the absolute best way to do it is to book yourself (and your kids and even your dog if you like) onto a Jacobite cruise. We loved every minute of the Rebellion Cruise which you can read about in this post but there are options to suit everyone from one hour to a full day. Trust me, do the tourist thing, you won’t regret it.
The city itself was something of a surprise to me. As I said earlier, Inverness was not a place I knew much about (ok, anything) but we spent a couple of hours wandering and discovering beautiful old architecture, incredible views of the river running right through the centre and quirky little streets and stores like Leakey’s – the only bookshop I have ever known to have an open fire right in the middle of it, quite literally surrounded by piles and piles of old, musty books – it was a treasure trove.
One of the best things about most Scottish cities is that the countryside is never far away. And it is begging to be explored. We did not get the chance to venture too far afield but the scenery on our doorstep, around Aldourie Castle, was just beautiful. We walked right down to the water’s edge and the dogs paddled in the Loch and we felt like the only people in the world…
Finally, if you come all this way, you cannot miss Culloden. Even if history ain’t your thing, I do not think it is possible to be on that windswept moor where the Jacobites made their final stand, see those giant flags and not feel moved imagining everything that went before you. My personal favourite bit of history though was Leanach Cottage; a single, thatched dwelling which lies right on the battlefield and she is a beauty.
If you find yourself in the city then I highly recommend stopping in at The Heathmount for a meal and a tipple from the generous gin menu. The food is everything you would hope for – good Scottish fare in a nice setting. I opted for a couple of starters (I quite often do that for the variety) and have to tell you that the marsala mushrooms were quite unlike anything I have ever tried – my mouth is literally watering just thinking about them right now… how embarrassing.
We stopped in at Dores Inn for a final fill before our drive home on the Sunday and enjoyed a good pub lunch right on the shores of the Loch. It is in a truly beautiful setting and if the weather had been slightly less wild that day we might have considered eating al fresco to enjoy it.
But honestly, perhaps my favourite meals were those we shared as a family by the woodburning stove in the kitchen of Ivy Cottage. You can find everything you need in Inverness to stock your larder as well as for a good Scottish roast which is best enjoyed with a glass of wine in the warmth of the olde worlde cottage before retiring to the sitting room to relax on the charmingly mismatched sofas with the baby tucked up fast asleep under the wooden eaves upstairs and the dogs by your feet in front of the fire…
With thanks to Visit Scotland for sponsoring this post.