Loch Ness is one of the most scenic parts of Scotland, set amid rolling hills and steeped in history. Learn about Culloden, visit Bronze Age ruins, cruise the loch, and play golf – oh, and see if you can spot the famous Loch Ness monster. Here’s our list of recommendations.
Situated on the edge of Loch Ness, 21 miles (34km) southwest of Inverness, Urquhart Castle was once one of Scotland’s largest castles. Its ruins include a tower house with a fantastic view over the Great Glen. The castle dates back to between the 13th and 16th century and played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence (14th century). It then became a royal castle and was raided several times by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. The castle was abandoned in the 17th century, but, now that its ruins are open to visitors, it is one of the most visited castles in Scotland.
Situated in Fort George’s former lieutenant governor’s house, the Highlanders’ Museum has an estimated 40,000 artefacts, documents and photographs on display and is the largest regimental museum in Scotland outside of Edinburgh. Inside the museum, take a peek at the ante and dining rooms to get a feel for what the interior of the governor’s house used to look like, or marvel at the vast collection of medals, uniforms and historic paintings of the officers.
There are many cruise companies around Loch Ness to choose from to view the scenery and local wildlife from the water. One of the most highly rated is Cruise Loch Ness, who offer a number of boat tours, including a ‘Finding Nessie’ hunting trip, daily relaxing cruises to enjoy scenic Loch Ness and evening cruises to soak up the beauty of the sunset. The company has been running since 1968 and their cruises are informative and informal.
The site of the final battle of the Jacobite Rising in 1746, the Culloden Battlefield, provides a sombre and atmospheric experience. The battlefield has a 20ft-tall (6m) memorial cairn and headstones to mark the mass graves of fallen soldiers. At the nearby visitor centre, you can arrange tours and learn about the history of the battle. Explore the battleground by following the existing paths or make use of the raised platform instead.
Fort George is registered as a historic monument, as it was built in the 18th century to defend Inverness against naval attacks. From the fort ramparts, you can observe local wildlife such as dolphins, minke whales, killer whales and seals. The fort has been constructed in a star-shaped design and, to this day, remains virtually unaltered. Exhibits and facsimiles allow you to see how the fort was used during different periods. But the fort is not just an exhibit site – it is still functioning as a military barracks for the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Corrimony Chambered Cairn
Dating back to the Bronze Age, this excavated passage grave, surrounded by a stone kerb and 11 standing stones, is a fascinating historical site. The cairn was built for collective burials by various groups in the area. The entrance to the tomb points southwest, indicating that the builders believed in the migration of souls towards the stars. The bodies were prepared for burial, and fires were lit so the cairn functioned as a crematorium. It is remarkably well preserved.
The place to go for all types of fun water sports, Explore Highland runs open canoeing, river kayaking, sea kayaking and white water rafting sessions on the Caledonian Canal. Boat rental is available, and less experienced individuals or groups can also book guided adventure holidays and paddling courses. The instructors are very experienced and passionate and will make sure you have a fantastic time.
Merkinch Local Nature Reserve
A little known gem on the edge of Inverness, Merkinch Local Nature Reserve is an area full of wildlife, including roe deer, owls, weasels, herons, cormorants, wading birds, kingfishers and the occasional osprey. There are multiple habitats, such as the Muirtown Pools, salt and freshwater marshes with reed beds as well as bog, scrub and wooded areas, which all contribute to the great variety of wildlife in the nature reserve. It is 54.7 hectares (135 acres) of land and also extends to where the River Ness runs into the sea.
Tomatin Distillery Co Ltd
This distillery is located in a particularly scenic part of the highlands. Learn about the unique legacy of Tomatin by taking the Legacy Tour, and finish your visit with a taste of signature malt whiskies.
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