Exploring the Highlands of Scotland

Our first trip to Scotland was in April 2016 to hike the St Cuthbert's Way, which will have another blog all its own later. In August 2016, we spent a very wet weekend in Glasgow going to the World Pipe Band Championships, which I was initially dubious about simply because I wasn't sure if bagpipes were my thing, although as soon it was over, we were planning our return for the following year!

Forres, about 25 miles from Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, has become a favourite place for us. The train journey is long, although the scenery it takes you through is absolutely worth it. We found a lovely (dog friendly) apartment through booking.com, called Varis Apartments, in a great position just off the High Street and right next to a place called Grant Park.

At the European Pipe band Championships 2017

At the European Pipe band Championships 2017

Forres

The attractive town of Forres is one of Scotland's oldest small towns.

Every year an event called Colours of Cluny is held at Grant Park/Cluny Hills We went in November 2017. The trees and pathways on Cluny Hills come alive with lights and music and it's great fun to see. We were able to purchase tickets online at a slight discount before going. These sort of events happen in different places in Scotland, although we are only able recommend the Colours of Cluny.

Colours of Cluny 2017

Colours of Cluny 2017




The Cluny Hills and Grant Park form the centre of a network of walks for all abilities. You can stroll through the park and up through the woods, or if you feel more energetic climb to the top of the Cluny Hills visiting the historic Nelson’s Tower, if you go to the top there is an excellent view across the Moray Firth.

There is a thriving High Street, with plenty of places such art galleries, independent shops, bakeries, grocery shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from. We found a couple of dog friendly pubs, one being the Mosset Tavern. At McLeans bakery we discovered a decadent Scottish speciality called Empire Biscuits, very rich, soft, buttery biscuits, sandwiched between jam, topped with icing. Here is a recipe for you to try them for yourself. For the best gelato go to Miele's Fish & Chip shop, which also sells good fish and chips!

Forres has very good train and bus services to Inverness, Nairn, Elgin and Aberdeen and beyond, this makes it a great place to base yourself and be able to get out exploring. There are also walking paths from Forres get to Findhorn Bay and the Moray Firth and the surrounding areas.

Inverness

Inverness is considered the capital of the Highlands. It is itself a lovely city with plenty of things to do, although if you base yourself there and have more than a couple of days, you might find you want to get out and explore. The Scottish Highlands are just full of stunning scenery. We took the train from Forres into Inverness a couple of times which was easy to do. The train terminates right in the centre of town. The river Ness runs through the city and if you fancy a walk start on Ness Bank near Inverness Castle and head upstream until you get to the suspension bridges that connect the tree covered Ness Islands. Here cross to the west side and head back towards town. In all a pleasant walk that will take you under an hour. Inverness Cathedral is open to visitors, with a £10 entrance fee.

From Inverness we took the No16 bus from the bus station to Loch Ness, (get off at a place called Dores) which has beautiful woodland walks to enjoy, or a bit of Loch Ness monster spotting opportunities. There is one only place to have a drink or eat is the Dores Inn, which serves good food.

On monster watch at Loch Ness

On monster watch at Loch Ness



Another trip we took from Inverness by bus was to the Battlefield of Culloden. From Inverness railway station get the number 5 bus, which takes you to Culloden Battlefield, the bus returns to Invenress on an hourly basis. If you are interested in history or a fan of the TV show Outlander, you might like to do take this trip. Entrance to the Battlefield memorial site is free, although you have to pay to see the museum, which we chose not to do. The visitor's centre has a cafe and restrooms if needed. You may want to take your own refreshments as it can be quite expensive at these places.

Memorial wall at Culloden Battlefield

Memorial wall at Culloden Battlefield



This Summer we are returning to stay in Forres for the European Pipe band Championships, which is being held in Inverness for the first time, instead of it's previous location at Grant Park in Forres. We are intending to get out more and see more of the Highlands and will keep you posted!

Let us know of any places you have visited in Scotland and can recommend.