Inverness is a brilliant base from which to explore the gorgeous Scottish Highlands, with a variety of activities on offer from local walks to dolphin spotting. The city is well connected by road, rail and air; this, coupled with the central location, means it’s perfect for day trips. You can either select a tour company, or research and plan your own route. Here are seven options to choose from, each offering a different taste of Scotland.
Scotland’s full of castles and, while there are several options relatively close to Inverness, it’s worth driving a little further on a day trip in order to see possibly the most photographed and iconic, Eilean Donan. It’s appeared in many movies over the years (including such classics as The Wicker Man and Highlander), as well as on countless ads for Scottish products.
Combine a trip to the castle with exploring the Isle of Skye, passing the famous Five Sisters of Kintail mountains, seeing the jagged ridgelines of the Cuillin hills, or simply slowly wandering along an empty stretch of coast beach-combing. Once you’re done, make sure you pick up some of the delicious fish and chips in Portree.
The Royal Burgh of Nairn is perfectly placed for exploring. It’s frequently sunny (a rarity in Scotland) and has miles of beaches nearby. Cawdor castle and gardens are close too, as are several world-class golf courses, including Castle Stuart. Nairn also offers several places to eat and to shop, a promenade to walk along and gaze out to the Moray Firth beyond, river walks, and various activities, including wild dolphin spotting.
Day trips from Inverness can be taken in virtually all directions. Heading south and east will take you into the vast wilds of the Cairngorms National Park. Aviemore is a good place to pause, whether for a meal or to join the Strathspey Steam Railway. When there’s snow on the ground, other possibilities include winter sports, such as skiing or snowboarding. The Reindeer Centre offers visitors the chance to see the only free-ranging herd of reindeer in the UK, and to get close to the friendly creatures themselves. It’s also possible to combine these activities with visiting one of the many Speyside distilleries.
Heading along the Great Glen towards Fort William gives you some day trip options. Do you continue driving the Road to the Isles (formally known as the A830) all the way to where it ends in Mallaig, or do you leave your vehicle at Fort William to join the iconic Harry Potter train? The train journey has been voted the best in the world on more than one occasion. No matter which one you go for, both road and rail cross iconic landscapes, with soaring peaks, dark lochs, majestic forests, sudden bays and islands, close-up views of wildlife, and a wealth of heritage and culture. Mallaig is an excellent place to pause and find some food before the return journey.