If you’re not an Outlander fan then the one other thing the Scottish Highlands is very famous for is, of course, Loch Ness and the Lochness Monster. Loch Ness and the surrounds is so much more than legends and the beauty of the countryside surrounding Inverness is like something out of a fairy tale. The second part of my Scotland Tour post is the highlights we experienced in the countryside surrounding Inverness and Loch Ness.
Of course, we need to start with Loch Ness. Only a few kilometres outside Inverness, Loch Ness is the first place to start when exploring the Inverness countryside. There are a number of cruise tours to take on Loch Ness. We opted for the Loch Ness by Jacobite one, and even they have a number of cruises ranging from full day tours to one hour tours. With limited time we opted for the one hour tour, but DON’T do what we did and book in advance. We literally ran down the stairs to the boats and got the very last two spots on the boat. Despite it being a grey morning and pretty windy, the cruise was incredible! Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot Nessie in the dark Loch Ness waters, but the surrounding mountains and ruins of Urquhart Castle made up for it.
The Peter Pan Waterfall
The beautiful Reekie Linn waterfall was the inspiration for the mermaid waterfall in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. I’m a huge fairy tale fan and Peter Pan is one of my favourites, so when the husband discovered this little gem, which you probably won’t find in any normal travel guide, we had to give it a visit. Along a windy road, through fantasy like trees and down a tiny footpath, the waterfall is simply magical. Barrie visited the waterfall during his time in Scotland after his mother’s death and it’s easy to see why this magical waterfall inspired Barrie. I have to admit I was a bit inspired myself by the magic of Scotland.
Visiting a Scottish castle ruin is a must on any Highlands tour, but if you don’t want to trudge behind a string of tourists, try Duffus Castle. It’s not the biggest ruin but it has a pretty spectacular view, especially from the toilet I must say. It’s just a few kilometers outside of Inverness and it’s completely free. Around the castle built on a hill (not the one from the song) it’s open fields and an old farm house just next to the parking area for the castle. The area is perfectly kept and preserved but feels private and mystical at the same time. It’s one of those little gems you discover and then want to keep all to yourself afterward (but I’ll share with you). I’d definitely give the bigger ones a skip and opt for Duffus Castle instead.
The turnaround town for us on our little roadtrip around Inverness was Fort Augustus. The town itself can get very busy over a weekend and you need to park in the public parking area at the beginning of the town coming from Inverness’s side which only allows you one hour of parking per payment. It is however the perfect lunch spot, if you can find a restaurant with short lines. My suggestion would be to aim to be in Fort Augustus either before or after lunch time. Get fish and chips (or fish fingers cause that was all I wanted) and have a seat next to the waterways. The town is also home to the Caledonian Canal which links the Scottish east and west coasts with each other. The town centres around the locks that regulate the flow in the canal and makes for some really great photo opportunities against the Scottish mountains.
This was definitely a highlight for me and we had to rush to get there before closing time, but it was completely worth the rush because this is where I saw my first real life polar bear cub! Polar bears (or ice bears as I call them) are one of my favourite animals (I have to admit I love all bears though) and getting to see the first baby polar bear born in the UK in 25 years was a magical experience. Hamish was born a week before Christmas last year (2017) and wasn’t a complete baby anymore when we saw him, but he was pure child. Jumping in and out of the muddy water we almost didn’t see him as his white fur was so full of muddy water, but boy was he having a wonderful time. Playing with a plastic bin, jumping on it and practicing his hunting skills while splashing about. I literally couldn’t take my eyes off him! The park takes such good care with their enclosures for both the polar bears (2 males and 1 female and baby Hamish) and all their other creatures. It doesn’t feel like a zoo and you get to see a number of endangered animals such as Russian tigers, Scottish wildcats and bison. It’s a wonderful place to visit for both children and adults and I wish we’d had more time to spend there.
You cannot visit the highlands and not see, and take a photo of, a highland cow, or as I like to call them, fluffy cows! The highland cows with their iconic long fringes can be found all along the countryside and there’s at least one to feed and take a photo of at every small roadside café. Like with any cow it’s important to respect their space and don’t taunt them (cows are very intelligent creatures) but do take your photo, most of them have been practicing their pose since birth.
Hi, I'm Andri.
A 20-something creative, content creator, writer, reader, traveler, healthy living enthusiast and eco warrior! My day job is in digital publishing, but just like The Loud Library, I am full of contradictions. I love my bunny rabbit Olive, cows and sharing my journey to rediscover my spark.