United Kingdom: Inverness, Scotland

Where: Inverness, Scotland

Inverness, a.k.a. the gateway to the Highlands. There’s about a million and one places in Scotland I could and would move to in a heartbeat, but Inverness may take the cake of them all. Loaded with culture and historical significance, this is one of my favorites of the larger cities within Scotland. Inverness has a swanky, high-end feel while still being very connected to its roots.

We rented the most amazing AirBnB right off Greig Street overlooking Inverness Castle and River Ness. It was a top floor unit and newly remodeled and absolutely everything that we needed and more. I would go back to Inverness just to rent out that AirBnB again. It was in the perfect location and also had permitted street parking so once we parked out car. We didn’t need to move it again to explore the city.

After driving for the morning and checking out a few castles/stops along the way, we arrived in Inverness around 6:00p on a Wednesday. The airbnb was easy to find (incredible location) and our host, Angela, was there to greet us upon arrival and show us what we needed to know about the area. SIDE NOTE: She was by far the best host we’ve had while using AirBnB. We told her we were hungry and she recommended that we check out The Kitchen Brasserie that was literally a 2 minute walk from where we were staying. We decided to check it out and, my god, are we glad we did!

The Kitchen Brasserie is a modern and sophisticated take on traditional Scottish fares and they do it beautifully. We went for a full course meal and my boyfriend started with wild mushroom stuffed risotto balls, while I went with the more traditional option, Cullen Skink. OMG! The Cullen Skink was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. It’s a smoked haddock soup with diced potatoes and a rich, buttery broth. For our main courses, my boyfriend ordered the local venison with wild beets and blueberries in a red wine glaze and I ordered braised beef cheeks with sautéed leeks and a jus made from the pan drippings. Both dishes absolutely blew our minds and really enabled us to try the freshest of local flavors. By the time we’d finished our entrees, we were both on the verge of exploding so we just split a dessert, rather than us both having one and we went with a chocolate tart with a creme anglaise and more wild berries. It was so good I didn’t even manage to snap a single picture before it was gone. Just do yourself a favor and go to The Kitchen Brasserie, alright?!

The next morning we woke up bright and early as we had another big day of exploring; we were off to the infamous Culloden Battlefield (pronounced cull-ah-den). If you’re familiar with the series Outlander then you’ve probably got an idea of what the Jacobite Uprising was. If not, here’s a quick, highly basic history lesson for you: there was a Protestant king on the throne of England, the Scots wanted their Catholic king, and rightful heir, Bonnie Prince Charley, a Stuart, on the throne. This was also a ploy for England to wipe out the “barbaric” Highlander way of life. The highlanders and the English went to battle at Culloden Battle field where the highlanders experienced a brutal defeat. The whole battle lasted about an hour and the traditional way of life for the highlanders was defeated with them. They playing of bagpipes and the wearing of kilts was outlawed after the defeat at Culloden.

Visiting the site, you’ll walk through the fields of Culloden Moor where the battle lines are clearly laid out and you can get a good idea of the ghastly terrain that these soldiers went to battle in. It was by far the coldest and windiest day of our trip so it made for a more moving effect when we were out on the field. While you’re touring the area you’ll also see the Leanach Cottage, one of the most well-preserved traditional thatched roofed homes remaining in Scotland. The whole tour takes about two hours to walk through the exhibit, tour the battlefield and “pay tribute” to the clan stones (markers of where highlander clan members fell), and snap some photos. Let me forewarn you, BRING LOTS OF LAYERS. I had to wrap a scarf around my head to keep the bitter cold from tearing apart the skin on my face. That might be a bit dramatic, but you get the idea.

After touring around Culloden, we hopped back in the car and drove another 20 min or so to check out the Clava Cairns, an Iron Age burial site with standing stones. This was a cool spot. If you’re spiritual like me, you can literally feel the energy in the area when you enter the site. There’s a lot of unknowns about the site too which just adds to it’s mystique as scientists and researchers are still searching for clues as to it’s true significance. What they do know is that the inhabitants at the time practices varies branches of an ancient Pagan religion, and the stones seem to line up with solar and lunar activity. The photos definitely don’t do this site justice, its hard to get an idea of how large these cairns are or how tall the standing stones actually are. An impressive feat for iron age beings.

That was all we had time for that day so we hopped back in the car and drove back through another scenic route back towards Inverness where we snapped some shots of massive Clydesdale horses and an absolutely beautiful viaduct.

The next morning we were off again to tour another castle known as Cawdor Castle. Let me just preface this by saying that this was my favorite, non-coastal castle that we saw. Cawdor Castle is magnificent, the gardens are impeccable, and the location itself is something straight out of a fantasy novel. Plan of spending a considerable amount of time at this castle as it took up the entire afternoon for us.

The castle is stately, impressive, and intimidating all at the same time and as you walk up the gravel drive, it isn’t until you pass a massive tree that you really get a glimpse of how impressive the castle is. It’s gray stone facade is accentuated by all the stunning green around it and a functional drawbridge stands open, welcoming visitors in. The castle has had many renovations and additions throughout the years but traces of it’s unique history can be found hiding around every corner. The interior of this castle was just as impressive as its exterior and we self-toured through nearly every wing in the house while an audio guide told us about the significance of every room. After thoroughly checking out the castle (even opening some doors we weren’t supposed to), we made our way out to the gardens for some lunch.

I mentioned in some previous posts that we were on a pretty tight budget with this trip so we often found ourselves at the local Co-Ops purchasing grab-and-go snacks for us to take along in the car, and our usual breakfast consisted of a ham and cheese baguette, a scotch pie, and maybe a beer. Hey, when in Scotland, amiright? Anyways, we had packed some grab-and -go sandwiches and the most amazing damn chips I’ve ever had in my life (Chardonnay vinegar and sea salt) in the car so we grabbed those and found a spot in the fairytale dream garden to munch. It was a simple, inexpensive lunch that I will remember for the rest of my life.

The gardens of this castle were immaculate and had every color of the rainbow in the flowers and plants growing perfectly in every direction you looked. At the rear of the garden, there was a wooden door that led down to the creek that flowed directly behind the castle. It was like walking through a secret garden and the fact that we were the only people on the property made for an intimate experience and we were able to get some stunning photos. Actually, that was one of my favorite things about the entire trip; the lack of people everywhere. It was incredible and a breath of fresh air for a city slicker like me.

After spending the day clambering around the castle and grounds, we headed back to Inverness, got some chinese take out at Happy Chinese (get the chicken balls) and headed back to our AirBnB for the evening to recharge before we hit the road again the following day, headed for the Isle of Skye.

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