Straddling the mighty River Ness and rubbing shoulders with world-famous Loch Ness, the vibrant Scottish city of Inverness has a whole lot to offer. Granted, it's a bit of a gem in its own right - few could argue against the allure of the city's handsome sandstone castle, thriving culinary scene, and warm and welcoming locals - but it's the location of Inverness that really shines.
The perfect jumping-off point for soaking up wild and wonderful Scottish scenery, visit Inverness and you'll find the splendours of the Highlands waiting right on your doorstep. Find yourself immersed in a scenic tapestry of rural beauty; glens carved over centuries by ancient glaciers, glistening lochs that stretch as far as the eye can see, rugged beaches, soaring mountains and dense, evergreen forests. And, dotted amidst these cinematic landscapes, there's striking castle ruins, world-class railways, and picture-postcard villages aplenty, making this corner of the UK a must-visit for anyone wanting a dose of natural beauty blended with rich cultural heritage.
So, where to visit during your time in Inverness? With the wonderful Palace Hotel as your base, it might be difficult to tear yourself away, but if you can bring yourself to, here are a few of our favourite suggestions.
Explore Charming Inverness
First up, it's more than worth heading into the 'capital of the Highlands' to see what the city itself has to offer. Scotland's most northerly city, Inverness is wonderfully compact, so it's ideal for exploring on foot. Stroll through the streets and along the banks of the river around the lovely Ness Islands, and you'll stumble upon many excellent museums, galleries, quirky shops and independent cafés.
If you fancy indulging in a little Scottish heritage, you'll want to visit Inverness Castle. The north tower is open to the public and boasts stunning views across the city, river and Highland hills beyond. Continue to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery to get even closer to the cultural heart of Inverness, seeing fascinating exhibitions and artefacts that immerse you in the rich legacy of the area. Other spots worth checking out are the Inverness Botanic Gardens, home to a dazzling array of tropical plants, and Abertarff House, a National Trust property first built in 1593 that boasts the title of the oldest house in Inverness.
Feel like stretching your legs a little more? A walk along the famous Caledonian Canal linking Inverness to Fort William will lead you to Dochgarroch Lock, a picturesque spot filled with pretty boats and yachts. Make sure to reward your efforts with a stop at An Talla Visitor Centre and Café for a coffee and slice of cake. A slightly shorter walk in the opposite direction will take you to Clachnaharry Locks at the mouth of the canal. The spot where the canal joins the Moray Firth, it's wonderfully scenic and the perfect spot for watching the sunset over the waters.
For a change of pace, the Victorian Market in the heart of Inverness offers something a little different to your regular high-street shopping. Bursting with independent businesses, including tea rooms, gift shops and a florist, it's the perfect place to while away an hour or two. Book lovers won't want to miss out on a trip to nearby Leakey's, Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop and a treasure trove of books, old and new. Found in an old Gaelic church just a couple of minutes from the market, it's a feast for the eyes, with beautiful stained-glass windows and even an old pulpit sat proudly behind the cash register.
Explore Inverness during your free time on 'Highland Adventure'.
Uncover the Mysteries of Loch Ness
Shrouded in captivating myths and legends and just a stone's throw from Inverness, Loch Ness sits at the top of many visitors Scottish must-see lists, and for good reason. It's difficult not to be impressed by this natural beauty, nestled in striking surroundings against a glorious backdrop of soaring mountains and fairytale forests. However, the loch's claim to fame goes far beyond its looks.
The Loch Ness monster, or 'Nessie' as she's more affectionately known, has long mesmerised visitors. Thought to have been first spotted as far back as the 6th century, modern-day sightings over the last hundred years - including the first recorded sighting on land and the infamous "surgeon's photograph" of the monster in the 1930s - have brought Nessie firmly back to the forefront of public imagination. Even if you don't manage to catch a glimpse of the elusive mythical beast during your visit, there's no denying that the waters evoke a sense of magic and folklore that means a visit to Loch Ness feels pretty special.
Head out on a gentle boat cruise and you'll soak up the breathtaking surrounding scenery from the best possible vantage point. Make sure you keep your eye out for dramatic Urquhart Castle, the atmospheric ruins of a 13th-century castle found perched on the loch's banks.
Discovery legendary Loch Ness and visit Urquhart Castle on 'Edinburgh, the Highlands and Islands'.
Step Back in Time on the Jacobite Steam Train
Blending the two ingredients that create the perfect rail journey - breathtaking scenery and a nostalgic steam locomotive - the world-famous Jacobite has recaptured a golden era of steam rail travel for a whole new generation of visitors and enthusiasts. Named after the historic Jacobite political movement, which has many connections to the local area, the train makes its way along the iconic West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig. The line, which carves a winding route through the heart of the wild Scottish Highlands, is one that's regularly voted one of the most scenic in the world.
A journey on the Jacobite whisks passengers past the looming shadow of Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain, alongside the shores of scenic Loch Eil and across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a spectacular, 21-arched bridge and masterpiece of Victorian engineering, built between 1897 and 1901. Arguably the most spectacular part of the entire journey, the 'Hogwarts Express' was famously seen crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct in the 'Harry Potter' movies, further adding to the magical allure of the location.
The Jacobite embodies the nostalgic romance of rail travel in the best possible way. We might be a little biased, but we think a journey on this iconic train is, without doubt, the most memorable way to experience the rugged beauty of the Highlands.
Take your seat on one of the world's most iconic trains on 'Edinburgh, the Highlands and Islands', before continuing to Inverness.