After spending my first three days in Edinburgh and Stirling, I continued my first trip to Scotland up north to the Highlands. In this blogpost, I will tell you everything about Inverness, Loch Ness (spoiler: I didn’t see Nessie) and the Eilean Donan Castle.
Since I’m a student, I didn’t have a large budget for this trip. Luckily, I’m pretty good at finding cheap public transport options. So I managed to buy a busticket from Edinburgh to Inverness for only 3 pounds (!!!). You can find cheap bustickets in the UK via megabus. The only downside: you need to book some time in advance and I believe you cannot take another bus. The bus trip was an adventure in itself: I saw the Forth Bridge just outside Edinburgh and even a bit of the Cairngorms National Park.
Finally in Inverness after a four-hour busdrive, I checked into my hostel (Inverness Tourist Hostel), which was fine. The location was very convenient: close to the bus and train station, and a supermarket. After having lunch, I had planned to take a bus to Culloden Battlefield. Here, Highlanders had fought the English to gain independence. As I’m an Outlander fan, I really wanted to visit this place. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and apparently almost zero local buses drive on a Sunday. I was a bit baffled about that, to be honest, and had definitely not expected that. Note to my future self: always check bus timetables a day in advance, Sanne.
A little dejected, I returned to my hostel. I decided that if I could not go anywhere by bus, then I wanted to walk somewhere nice. So, I checked the Walkhighlands website, which has great walks in Scotland with varying levels of difficulty. I picked the River Ness and Caledonian Canal circuit walk and walked roughly half of it. The walk took me to Beauly Firth, which was very serene and beautiful. It had just rained and the clouds made a spectacular contrast with the water. After the ‘busy’ city of Edinburgh, I welcomed this peace and time of reflection.
Day 5: exploring Loch Ness
When you’re in Inverness, there is one thing you just have to do: a boat trip on Loch Ness. I took an one-hour boat trip in the early morning that took me to Urquhart Castle and back, organised by Jacobite Tours. You can buy a ticket in advance at the bus station of Inverness to avoid disappointment. I was very lucky, because at the time our tour began, the rain stopped and we even saw a rare glimpse of the sun. I found the tour definitely worth it, because (in my opinion) the best way to explore a lake is by boat.
After the boat trip, I had tea at the hotel opposite the harbour, and took the bus to Urquhart Castle. Entrance to this castle is free with the Explorer Pass. Once more, the guided tour that the castle provided was great. Our guide was a Scot who not only brought the castle ruins to life but also told something about the clan life that used to be so important in Scotland. And of course, the views from the castle of Loch Ness are amazing.
Since I had not been to Culloden Battlefield the day before, I decided to go there at the end of the afternoon. First, I had to take a bus back to Inverness and then another bus to the battlefield. It was too late to visit the visitor centre, so I just walked around on the battlefield, read the signs, saw the stones with names of the clans. I felt a bit sad and empty, walking on a field where hundreds of men had died, where dreams had been crushed. However, I did not regret coming to Culloden Battlefield. It’s important to visit sights like this that make you remember these tragic events.
My time in Inverness had come to an end. Early in the morning I took a train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, which allowed me to see something from the western Highlands from the train. The weather was murky unfortunately. In Kyle of Lochalsh, I took a bus to Dornie, where the Eilean Donan Castle can be found, (one of) the most photographed castle(s) in Scotland. And of course, I took a lot of pictures, as well (see the featured image of this post).
The castle looks very romantic from afar, but it makes I found it less idyllic when I learnt that a lot of the castle was rebuilt, because the castle was in ruins. Therefore, I was more impressed by the exterior and location of the castle than the interior of the castle itself. The hills surrounding the castle are stunning and of course, the scene wouldn’t be complete without a lake.
After spending some time in and outside the castle and walking around Dornie (the town itself wasn’t much, to be honest), I took the bus back to Kyle of Lochalsh and started to walk over the
sea bridge to Skye, where I would stay for a few nights.
I also made a video that can give you an impression of what my time was like:
Stay tuned for my next post about the Isle of Skye!