Inverness; Touristination Place

clavacairns

Inverness has seen a huge upturn in visitation these last two years due to the Outlander Effect and renewed interest in the Battle of Culloden and the Jacobite trail. When I was in Inverness in the summer of 2016, the streets were swarming with many tourists from all over the world. I had wanted to visit the area because I had an interest in seeing where the Battle of Culloden had taken place, and of course the famous Loch Ness area, but also the trip to Inverness through the Highland via train was breathtaking. If you are lucky enough to be able to drive the winding road to visit this amazing seaside town, do. There are plenty of places to stop off for a picnic and gazing at large imposing, majestic Monros.

History

Inverness (Inbhir Nis) is situated on the mouth of the river Ness at the Moray Firth, it was home to the Pictish people. The city is near where the King MacBeth murdered King Duncan in the 11-Century. Many clans battled over lands in the area including the MacDonalds, Monro and Macintosh. And even Oliver Cromwell paid a visit with troops and occupied it. It is close to the famous Culloden Moor where the last battle of the Jacobites was in 1745.

Things to Do

Castles there are, Inverness Castle is imposing, but is a recent fixture build in 1836 by William Burn that was built on the site of a previous defensive structure. This castle is not open to the public, but you can view from the grounds. Castle Urquhart is at Loch Ness and is a great clamoring ruin that can be viewed. It’s been featured in films and series. I love ruined castles just as much as the “tour” castles, I like to climb the grounds and imagine what they must have been like ages ago and what the people were doing there.

Another must see and experienced is Culloden Moor is where the famed battle took place in 1745 and the visitor center is one of the best historic sites I have been to. The chilling interactive display that takes you through the history of the battle and allows you to wander through each side of the combatants as you walk the story wall is very moving. When you get to the battlefield you will feel the presence of those lost with stone markers and spirits. Many bring flowers and place them by identified clan sites, or there is the stone for the rest of the clans that joined without official envoy. I visited on a true Scots day filled with dreich and was soaked through with wet and memory. Whatever your flavor of emotion, it is one of the sites where you will be humbled.

The Food

There are many great seaside and riverside restaurants. I tried my first Cullen Skink soup in Inverness. What is that? Well, it’s not lizard soup which well, with skink that came to mind. It’s a delicious fish soup common in the coastal towns. I tried a few restaurants on the river during my stay, there were so many. Good thing I was hiking to the Clava Cairns the next day. Don’t forget that  one of the most popular edibles in Scotland is Mac and Cheese, and some places deep fry it.

Top Ten Reviews

The Loch

Oh, yeah. The main reason for going back this time is to actually get a tour around the lake. On my last visit the time got swallowed up by Culloden and Clava Cairns explorations and I did not make the full hike to the lake up the river Ness. This visit I hope to get around the lake a bit and do some hiking, and maybe crawl over that castle. Of course, the famous attraction at the Loch, Nessie, is what most tourists seek. Science girl here. While it’s possible that there are  some huge fish in a lake like this, I doubt a monster really exists. But everyone can have  their fun with it, it’s great for the kids. Fun theories I have read over the years include prehistoric plesiosaurs. If you like having fun with legends like this, there are plenty of tourist trinkets to be found in the shops and taking a cruise on the loch is a must.

And on To Skye and Lewis

If you’re in the neighborhood, you should check out the isla around the area. One of my reasons for heading back to Inverness is to make it to Skye and Lewis. Last season i was only able to view the Hebrides from shore and boat, I did not step on any islands. This year I plan on visiting these two and exploring their shores and inland wonders. I recommend Travel’s With a Kilt Blog article on Skye for some pointers on hiking and other amazing sites on this island. Lewis is home to the Standing Stones of Callanish, and amazing collection of standing stones sure to inspire your dreams. Getting to Lewis is a bit of a trek, and you may find tours from Inverness that cover Skye and Lewis that will take up a whole day. 

inverness

Weekend Things to do on the Isle of Skye

Travels With a Kilt

Hike Around Inverness

10 Scottish Castles That Inspired Outlander

Best Places to Get Cullen Skink

Inverness Restaurants

Loch Ness Activities

Other Useful Links

Visit Inverness

National Trust Culloden

Culloden House

Inverness Botanics

Loch Ness Centre

Learn Gaelic

Castle Urquhart

 

It’s Not Yer Starbucks, Mate!

starbucks-com

Starbucks.co.uk

Coffee

Ah, weary traveler. Suffering from jetlag on day two and you crawl out of bed at the wee hour of 4:30 am Glasgow time because well, the seagulls were screeching near the window and you couldn’t sleep anyway because you are still behind in hours. Run to the hotel gym for a bit, then walk the city streets to figure the town out. Yes, that’s me. And yes, remembering that previous times being in the UK and the coffee not being very American, even an Americano not seeming right, it may be a search. But wait, I spy an American export. It’s a Starbucks. Maybe they can get my coffee rightish.

Stand in queue and wait, yes it will have to be an Americano, because sadly I have to do decaf these days. Okay. Wait, there’s only milk. Scratching of head (heid). Um, do you have cream? Yeah, we have pouring creme behind counter. Okay. Ooo, this is like heavy creme. Waistline expands while pouring.

Creme for coffee is not really left out in the cafes of Europe. In the States, many of us have half-and-half, what we call creme. Not so in Scottish Starbucks. Most Europeans drink smaller servings of coffee than we do, and use whole milk as cream. Starbucks may have a slight feel of your local, but you are in another country and it caters to the region. So, things are a bit different. And probably more healthy. America tends to supersize and so does our waistlines. You know you are going to gain a bit of weight no matter how much you exercise and tour, because damn do they deep fat fry here. So maybe milk is better. But since I am so ingrained in my coffee ritual, because I had to cut down on the caffeine, I ended up buying milk and pouring creme and set up a mix in the fridge for the service apartment I was staying in. Add a small amount of butter and eggs for the stay and I was set. MMMM. And they taste different than in the US. Tastier in fact.

In the US we are subject to so much factory farming that the taste has gone out of our food.  This is not to say there are not factory/corporate farms in the UK. They seem to have better use of local farms and markets. Many of us go to smaller food stores and buy health food, grass fed coos milk to make up for it in the US. You can get better foods in the US if you try, but the flavor is always going to be different in another country. Different soil, grass, cows. You also may get in the habit of taking tea in the afternoons along with the natives in the UK. Great way to de-stress. So milk is the thing.

Don’t whine at the Starbucks, adapt and adjust. Think like a European.

Or, better yet, go to the plethora of independently owned cafes and carts. I had one of the best coffees in Scotland at a student run cart just outside Edinburgh Castle. Tasted just like it came out of the PNW and I told them so. I was so happy to find some damn fine brew and said “Just like in the PNW!”, and the lad was off explaining how they roasted their own beans and they were part of a collective of like minded coffee brewers. Great, felt like a barista in Portland but with the accent. Had a lovely chat about the changing coffee themes in Scotland, explained to him the concept of half-and-half creme and he might do a mix and tell the Americans, they would love it and Twitter like mad about him. Seemed to like that idea, so Edinburgh may get American creme yet.

Best Coffee Places in Glasgow

Best Coffee Places in Edinburgh at the Scotland Coffee Lovers Blog – So happy I found these guys, can try a new one each day

The Top 10 Independent Coffee Shops In Town Dublin

Galway Cafes

Where are the Washcloths??

Staying at hotels and B&Bs, you will find does not include washcloths. If you ask for them at the counter, they will not have them. Of course you may think, why don’t they adapt for tourists. Well, it’s their country. In the UK, they have large body towels and hand towels as standard, that’s it. And some places don’t use a top sheet in the bed, especially if they have a duvet cover on, they wash that instead.

There are often radiators in all rooms and you will need to adjust them to ambient heat for your stay. Not too bad, very efficient. If you live in a older US city you are use to this kind of heating, but if not, adjust. And bring a sweater, even in summer. There have been some heat waves in the UK, and one year I was in London it was like being in Los Angeles, but bring the sweater or one ling sleeve shirt just in case if traveling in summer. The rest of the year, bring at least one sweater.

The wall sockets must be turned on. Most hotels and B&Bs are on energy miser mode. Again you are in another country, not the gas guzzling, electricity using US. These places like their Lecky bills low, and utilities in the UK are very high. Then you need to learn how to use the dial water heaters at source for showers. This is fun, let me tell you. Sometimes you have to pull a switch in another part of the bathroom. So, make sure radiant heat is started, pull of clothes and fight the switch. If you are traveling with someone,  get a system going!

This is why I told you to start training for travel, means training the brain as well.

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