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Inverness CastleThe biggest settlement in all of the Highlands, hence the default capital of the region, Inverness (pop  41 000) is not quite lost in its own wilderness, like the rest of the region that it connects the rest of the country to.  It simply used to be a good enough place to stop by, a great base for exploring the rest of the region—but now, with several chic restaurants and posh hotels occupying coveted spots by the riverbank of the River Ness, the city (the Highlands’ only city) has taken on a more sophisticated look. 

With that said, the city is still the go-to base if you are exploring the region by commuting, as it has main roads and all other forms of transformation that reach remote parts of the Highlands. But as it is, Inverness is a city worth getting to know.

Start your exploration of the city by starting with High Street, which is defined by the Town House, a squat-looking Gothic structure that houses council officers nowadays and was built in 1878, as part of Inverness’s rise to prominence as the capital of the Highlands, a few years into the city’s establishment of major railways connected to different parts of the country.

From here, you will certainly find your way south via Castle Street to Inverness Castle, which dominates the whole city.  The Inverness Castle is relatively young, built in the 1830s to house courts and administrative structures.  Nowadays, it is not open to the public, and houses the Sheriff Court.  It enjoys a picturesque location, by the banks of the River Ness, which for many is the focal point of the whole city.  In the summer and fall months, you will be treated to an interactive exhibition at the Castle Garrison Encounter, which requires the visitor’s participation in re-enacting what a new recruit to the Hanoverian army does.

If you walk below the castle, you will see the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (Castle Wynd, +44 1463 237114, free), which features displays on the region’s history, whether it is natural, geological, or social.  Its art gallery also plays hosts to travelling exhibitions from all around the world.

From the city cathedral, which is not too impressive, you can walk upriver to the Ness Islands, which are islands on the River Ness, connected by two suspension bridges.  The public park is a peaceful place to explore or simply relax in.

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Culloden monumentThis moorland, five miles east of Inverness, is famous for being the site of the last battle fought on British soil, the Battle of Culloden on the 16th of April, 1746.  In fact, if the Jacobites, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, had pressed on to London and not retreated in Scotland, many events afterwards would not have taken place.  But as it is, the Jacobites found themselves ill-equipped and outnumbered by the British army led by the Duke of Cumberland, and the location of the battle didn’t help either, being a flat moorland with nowhere to hide for a surprise attack.

The moorland of Culloden is still free to explore, but the new visitor’s centre (+44 8444 932159, £10) is a great way to familiarize yourself with the story leading up to the battle, and its aftermath. 

The centre has many features, including rooftop viewing area, which gives a whole different perspective of the battle, and what the battlefield contributed to it, a battle immersion film, and a lot more.


Cawdor CastleCawdor Castle (Nairn, +44 1667 404401, £9) located five miles southwest of Nairn, is inextricably connected to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, though historical timelines prove that the bard may have been too liberal in placing his famous tragic character in the castle which was built a few centuries after the actual events featured in his play.   Nevertheless, the castle is still worth exploring, despite this error (poetic license, perhaps).  The castle is still very much inhabited, and has several rooms on display. 

While touring the castle, you will be made aware of its unusual layout—it is built around a hawthorn tree!  The extensive grounds surrounding the castle have many features for visitors to enjoy—including a picnic area, a duck pond, and a golf course. 



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Or you can check out our reviewed hotels below and contact them directly.

Bazpackers (4 Culduthel Road, +44 1463 717663, £12-14=dorm/£16-20=double room) Cozy and laidback (no curfew but not so noisy with party backpackers either), this hostel is very near to the castle and has views of the River Ness from its dorm windows.  The double/twin rooms are Spartan-basic, so prepare to bring your own toiletries.

Inverness Student Hotel
(8 Culduthel Road, +44 1463 236556, £14/15-dorm).  This is one of the busiest hostels in the area, with rooms that vary in size, and great window views, clean facilities.  If you want, you can join the minibus tours offered by the  MacBackpackers group.  Expect crowded common rooms, though.  

SYHA Inverness (Victoria Drive, +44 1463 231771, from £15.50).  Not quite as central as the other hostels in Inverness, it is nevertheless a comfortable hostel, with a clean kitchen, and a couple of lounges, probably to keep the crowd at bay.

Ivybank Guesthouse (28 Old Edinburgh Road, +44 1463 232796, from £28).  This listed Georgian guesthouse is a family-run bed and breakfast, with impeccable period furnishings in each individually decorated room.  The house itself is located just a few minutes away from the castle.

Trafford Bank Guesthouse (96  Fairfield Road, +44 1463 241414, from £45) was formerly a Bishop’s residence, so you know it’s bound to be an attractive one.  The house has since been refurnished in fine antiques mixed with modern and traditional Scottish touches.  It offers five rooms, which are named after the color/pattern scheme of its decors.
Moyness (6 Bruce Gardens, +44 1463 233836, from £34).  The 19th century villa housing this guesthouse is located in a quiet part of Inverness, set in its own grounds.   The rooms are furnished in modern and classy furniture, while still maintaining the integrity of the house’s original Victorian architecture.

Bluebell House
(31 Kenneth Street,  +44 1463 238201, from £30/person)
is indeed a home away from home—if your own has its own carved mahogany four-poster bed.  Nevertheless, its home comforts include very great hosts who make you feel very welcome, who offer small touches of hospitality, along with the bigger ones, like very comfortable bedrooms.

Rocpool Reserve
(Culduthel Road, +44 1463 240089,, from £140).  This luxurious hotel is chic and modern – no tartan here.  The furnishings here are all in muted boutique hotel colors, and spacious rooms (the “Extra Decadent Rooms” do not lie) are worth splurging for, if you want a high-end experience in the Highlands.

The Alexander (16 Ness Bank, +44 1463 231151, from £50) has eleven en-suite rooms, with the front ones facing the delightful river that the Georgian house overlooks.  The subtle color palette of the entire house makes for a very relaxing stay.

Avalon Guesthouse (79 Glenurquhart, +44 1463 239075, from £60) is set in an unassuming house, but the rooms are all comfortable and spotless, with tasteful furnishings.  The real winner here is the hospitality of the hosts, who anticipate your needs before you can even think of them.

Situated in a residential area,
Lynver Guesthouse (30 Southside Road, +44 1463 242906, from £30) has spacious rooms, plenty of parking, and many options for breakfast.  The guesthouse itself is very well-maintained and never seems to show its age.

Ardconnel House (21 Ardconnel Street, +44 1463 240455, from  £35).  This Victorian terraced building has six cozy bedrooms, and even the attic rooms do not feel cramped at all.  The guest lounge is a very relaxing room, with high ceilings and great window views.