Wow, I feel really behind. My Inverness trip was like a month ago.
Inverness is 4 to 5 hours on the train from Edinburgh, and is considered the capital of the highlands. To prove it, there were lots of shaggy highland cows to be seen on the train ride up.
Inverness is small, but its also considered one of the fastest growing towns in the UK. There is a really good mix of modern and historical buildings. There is also some shipping and manufacturing going on, so its not an unchanging tourist hub. Instead, it is a living city.
There is plenty for a tourist to do, but we soon found out that most of the attractions were a bus ride away.
We camped out at a caravan park near the river, and a short walk away from town. Every year, they have a big Highland Games not very far from where we were at.
The high street was pretty active, but we didn’t manage to spend a lot of time there on the first night. Above the high street, Inverness Castle looks down on the river but it didn’t hold our attention as much because it was built more recently and was more styled as a large home than a fortress. It does give you some amazing views of the river Ness and the cathedral spires across the water. Walking along the river, you get a proper tranquil holiday feel. Fishermen were even standing out in the river in waders, which I haven’t seen very often in Scotland (but I’m told its very common up in Moray Speyside).
The next morning, we managed to take a bus out to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.
Urquhart Castle has seen a lot of battles and I was really impressed by the video they put on in the presentation centre showing its history. The castle changed hands many times over the centuries but was most recently held by the clan Grant. Prior to that the castle was a held by the MacDonalds. When the Lord of the Isles and the Black Douglas conspired with the English against James IV, the castle fell back to the Scottish crown who then gave it to the clan Grant.
The castle saw many years of war. Viking attacks and attacks from other clans were pretty constant up until the Jacobite period. Its destruction was to prevent it from becoming a stronghold for the Jacobites. It is also very likely that there was an earlier wooden fort on the same location.
After getting back to Inverness, Aarti and I checked out Leakey’s Book Shop for about 40 minutes. I would highly recommend it. Its just what a used book shop should be. Leatherbound covers mixing with modern paperbacks on two floors connected by an old wooden staircase. Boxes of unstacked books scattered throughout.
After that we caught a bus out to Fort George for the afternoon.
There was a lot of walking that afternoon. A lot more than either of us expected. We had to walk about 40 minutes from where the bus dropped us in order to get to the Fort. On the plus side, we were able to get some tasty local ice cream when we finally arrived.
Its still an active army barracks, but was never used as intended. It was built as a stronghold to defend against further highland uprisings. On our way back, we saw a few guys kite surfing. Not sure if they were army guys, but very cool all the same.
We had some pretty serious issues with the buses on that afternoon. Due to a accident, the bus didn’t stop where it was supposed to and we had to walk along a rural road for about an hour just to find out that it would be another hour to get a bus from the Inverness airport. We grabbed a cab back to the town centre feeling very tired and hungry.