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You don't have to just stay in the city when you get here. Scotland is a beautiful country and it would be a shame not to see more of it. There are plenty of day trips from Inverness, depending on your interests.
Take a trip to the Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns - you can get on a bus at the Inverness bus station and head out for a couple of hours either in the morning or afternoon. Jacobite runs these tours. You can also cruise with them on Loch Ness. Contact them at +44 1463 233999 or http://www.jacobite.co.uk/
You can also take private tours which can be quite inexpensive if there are four or six of you in the party. Companies such as Hebridean Explorer, WOW Scotland and InvernessTours.com all rate highly on TripAdvisor and between them offer a wide variety of day tours, half day tours and multiple day tours to suit all tastes. Some of these companies also provide one way tours to or from Inverness to Glasgow, Edinburgh and other cities. These smaller tours are often guided by specialists in local history, natural history, scottish history and the clans of Scotland.
Or, hop on one of the Puffin Express buses for day or half-day tours to places like Loch Ness, Inverewe Gardens and Wester Ross, or the old village of Cromarty. Longer tours, starting from Edinburgh or Glasgow, feature Inverness as well as farther-flung destinations including the islands of Mull and Skye, the Castle of Mey, or John o'Groats. You can contact them at: From UK: 01463 717181; outside UK + 44 1463 717181, or by stopping by their website at http://www.puffinexpress.co.uk/
Take the service train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, from where you can catch a bus - or even just walk across the bridge - to Skye. This makes for a superb day out and is truly one of the great train journeys of the world.
To figure out which tour company has the best deals and the right tours for what you want to see in Scotland, ask at your hotel or hostel. The staff can probably recommend various companies and give you an idea on what to do and see just outside Inverness. You definitely can't miss a trip to Loch Ness, the famous lake which the infamous "Nessie" - the Loch Ness monster - is rumoured to inhabit. But besides that, there's plenty of beautiful countryside and interesting historic landmarks to take in, so do a little research beforehand.
If you have a car with you, some options for a day out include:
- exploring the countryside around Loch Ness. You can drive right around the Loch, though on the east side the road strays inland south of Foyers. However, there are some very appealing, small-scale landscapes in the area east of Dores and south of Farr, with several beautiful little hill lochs. On some of the quieter back roads in that area, you'll hardly meet another visitor: but do take a decent map, as it's easy to get lost. At the south end of the Loch, Fort Augustus gets pretty busy in high season, but it can be a pleasant place to sit, beer and fish supper at hand, as you watch yachts go through the canal locks.
- a look around upper Speyside, including the villages of Aviemore and Boat of Garten (which are linked by a historic steam railway), Carrbridge, Grantown on Spey, Nethybridge, Kingussie and Newtonmore. This area is heavily devoted to outdoor recreation and in summer you can go cycling, kayaking, sailing, walking, indeed pursue just about any activity. In winter, this is one of the main areas for ski-ing in Scotland. You can cover a lot of upper Speyside by public transport and bike, catching a train to Aviemore and using either the steam railway or local buses from there..
- walking in Glen Affric, south-west of Inverness. This is an area of beautiful loch and mountain scenery, but you need to be well-equipped with good walking gear and food supplies for your day out. A good map is important, too.
- a tour of whisky country, east of Inverness and south of Elgin. Lower Speyside has Scotland's largest concentration of whisky distilleries and many of them offer guided tours. In some of the villages, you can smell the whisky in the air.
- a visit to the Black Isle, which isn't an island but a peninsula. You can reach it by heading across the Kessock Bridge and there are bus services from Inverness to Fortrose and Cromarty. The villages are pleasant and there's some nice, gentle walking to be had, for example to the top of the South Sutor of Cromarty, a hill that guards the entrance to the Cromarty Firth. Another highlight in the area is dolphin watching from the shore at Chanonry Point, between Fortrose and Rosemarkie. Dolphins play in the narrows here, often very close to the shore, and you may be lucky enough to see them 'pilot' a passing ship, swimming and leaping just ahead of the vessel's bow.
- and finally, if you have a sudden urge for some retail therapy and Inverness' extensive shopping hasn't quite done the trick, you can always head up to the Falls of Shin, about 50 miles north-west, on the way to Lochinver, to find the most northerly branch of Harrods.
It is possible to do longer trips in a day, for example to Applecross, Ullapool or the wonderful Assynt district of Sutherland, but you will spend a large proportion of your day driving or being driven. Better, really, to arrange to spend a couple of nights in the west and explore properly from there.