On the Aldourie Estate in Scotland we are lucky to welcome a variety of guests to stay in its four beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm whilst others are go-with-the-flow families looking for a relaxing yet fun-filled short break. We also love hosting couples who are looking for sanctuary and space and time to enjoy with only one another because, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it?
The latter type of holidaymakers tend to prefer long drives out to the hills and ambling around peaceful villages they have seen in magazines or in films. So, we have produced a list for the those who wish to explore the local area of Inverness for family attractions because it in fact boasts a deceivingly ample offering of tourist destinations that can often get overshadowed by the wild calls of the idyllic, majestic countryside that is the Scottish Highlands.
If refreshing walks and scenic beauty are your idea of a day well spent then a trip along River Ness is a must. It is about 12 miles long and flows from the north of Loch Ness to north-east in Loch Dochfour. In the summer bask in the warm and peaceful riverside whilst relaxing and taking in the freshly-scented air. In winter, we hope you’re lucky enough to witness the mountains top with snow for truly breath-taking views. To add a touch of magic to your cottage holiday in Inverness, head south in the evening to the Ness islands in the middle of the river and stroll the walking paths linked by little bridges. Lit up against the dark skies, they make for a beautiful moonlit walk.
Situated at the edge of the Moray Firth facing harsh North Sea winds, this remarkable fort is well established for tourists yet maintains a strong sense of authenticity due to its current use as a British Army barracks. The impressive landmark overflows with both historical charm – step inside its pretty chapel – and fascinating facts – muse the battle relics in the museum. Cleverly laid out for visitors to experience Fort George in its full glory, you can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. As you cross the drawbridge you are taken back to the year 1727, bracing the sudden winds to cross over a wide killing ground. Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.
Inverness Botanic Gardens
Plant and flower lovers will adore this celebration of natural life with its well-kept ecosystems. Descend a delightful stone staircase with wrought iron railings into a botanical paradise peppered with archways in stone walls, columns and statues. Sit by the small but perfectly formed fountain and let its trickling sounds relax you for a while as the kids play in the maze. A lovely day out for families, the memory tree is particularly appealing as are the greenhouses, a great learning experience full of a variety of plants.
Again, another family attraction must-see is Ship Space, a free to enter interactive maritime museum. It houses an amazing collection of relics from the Titanic as well as its main attraction, the impressive 88ft outdoor replica. Located along the Caledonian Canal, visitors can explore its various exhibits, photographs and information about various ships, including film footage of divers going down into the sunken Titanic. This family hotspot will have the kids’ imagination whirring and it’s worth dedicating an hour to get the best out of this unique exhibition. This is an eclectic space full of different levels so, although fabulous for exploring, it’s not ideally laid out for disabled access.
The Highlanders’ Museum
Residing in the walls of Fort George (detailed above) the Highlanders’ Museum featuring The Queen’s own collection covers three floors of the Lieutenant Governors’ House. It represents three of the four famous Scottish regiments which The Highlanders descend from; originally Highland clans of the 1700s. Refurbished to a high standard this is a fine attraction showcasing important Scottish history in impressive, authentic surroundings. This museum has an extensive collection of thrilling artefacts so if you are factoring this visit into a tour of Fort George, remember to allow plenty of time to peruse at your leisure.
Eden Court Theatre
Whether it’s to delight over a nostalgic ballet, go to the cinema for the latest flick or dine out in contemporary surroundings, this ambient Inverness venue is a cultural and social hub featuring light, airy spaces that will bring even more fun to your cottage holiday on Loch Ness. Couples and group stays can break up their action-packed adventure holiday in Scotland with a sophisticated evening out with drinks, dinner and a music concert. Or families who book their Loch Ness cottage holiday over winter can go to see the Christmas pantomime at this family-friendly attraction in Inverness. Oh, yes they can!
Greig Street Bridge
Having been described as “bouncy” and “elegant” by Loch Ness holiday cottage guests, wouldn’t you want to give it a go? A footbridge with an impressive view of the city of Inverness, Greig Street Bridge crosses over the River Ness and so provides ample opportunity to stop not only to admire its fine ironwork frame but also the castle and churches on each side of the river. In spring, take a walk at your leisure and stop to look at the daises on the fresh green banks or on a sunny autumn day enjoy the bridge’s peacefulness and gentle swing as you watch the rippling water below and the richly –coloured Highland leaves flying on the breeze.
Grandiose with exquisite detail this striking cathedral is a credit to Inverness. Situated on the riverbank it makes a captivating postcard picture for your photograph travels. The historical space is a hive of stained glass and beautiful sculptures found through magnificent arches framing beautiful mosaic flooring. You will find a sense of Scottish spirit and a peaceful atmosphere within these walls whilst outside you can enjoy its eye-catching architecture against a wild Scottish Highlands’ canvas.
The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre
It’s what it says on the (tartan shortbread) tin; a wonderfully traditional shop to stop off at during your Highlands short break, great for tourists who want to remember their Scottish holiday in style. With everything you could ever want as a Scottish holiday gift or to remind yourself of the Highlands and Loch Ness, this friendly store specialises in making kilts and will happily take your own material and fashion it into a wonderful outfit. Perhaps you’re planning a small wedding on Loch Ness and brought your chosen tartan along for the groomsmen’s kilts. Yet another cosy little place in Inverness to make a lasting impression.
Old High St Stephen’s Church
Aesthetically very different from the cathedral the ancient stone work and bonny pointed turrets make this church a tourist attraction in its own right. Old High is a fascinating building that has been in use since Celtic times and, inside, leaflets will provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. This a brilliant add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness as the church is only a stone’s throw from the centre. Explore its beautiful cemetery and be amazed at the clever and enduring architecture before entering the doors and losing yourself in its historic stained glass stories.
As you will have realised there is more to Inverness than initially meets the eye and it’s not simply a convenient airport for landing flights from London Heathrow and other major UK and international cities – although that is quite a pull, we admit. Inverness is a tourist city in its own right and the ideal holiday destination for short breaks where a bit of culture and history is just as important as freeing loch walks and dramatic landscapes.
Look out for our next blog post where we’ll invite you to explore the best tours around Inverness, from wine tastings and boat trips to nature spotting and sight seeing.