If you live in the Midlands like I do, then you’ll know just how hard it can be to visit Scotland without taking an unnecessary flight or driving 500 miles – or so you think. We decided to take the train, and started off with intentions to visit three very different towns in three days… but quickly wrote the idea off as too ambitious. We narrowed it down to Edinburgh and Inverness; two beautiful and insanely picturesque locations. In time, I’ll share with you exactly how I did my planning, and how we stayed sane during our hours-long train journeys, but for now we’re just going to focus on what I got up to and what I’d recommend!
Scroll up to the top of this post and take a look at the featured photo. Think it’s Edinburgh? It’s actually Inverness, also known as the ‘Capital of the Highlands’. I absolutely fell in love with Inverness during the planning, but even more so when we arrived there and saw all the gorgeous architecture. It helped that I picked a hotel right by the River Ness, which is such a stunning location – easily accessible to the modern parts of the town but also overlooking Inverness Castle. Take a look below to see my gallery of favourite images.
Wherever you’re based in Inverness, the Castle is likely to be just a stone’s throw away. We visited in early March so the wind was still quite chilly, but it was lovely to have a short wander around the exterior and check out the statues. We also apparently visited on a weekend where a trip up to the Castle Viewpoint was free or heavily discounted, so there was a huge queue to go up. There are already so many photos from the Viewpoint on the internet, that we decided it wasn’t worth waiting outside just to create more.
Inverness Museum & Art Gallery
Nestled directly opposite Inverness Castle, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery is free to enter, but does ask for donations from those kind enough to give. I have Scottish ancestry (specifically from the Highlands/North-West) so the Museum was a must-see for me. If you’re interested in the Gaelic language, Bonnie Prince Charlie, or the Battle of Culloden (the last organised battle fought on British soil), then Inverness Museum is definitely for you. The Art Gallery was… smaller, so don’t get your hopes up about this part!
Miele’s specialise in weird and wonderful gelato flavours that are known throughout the country. I was hoping to try their infamous Irn Bru flavour, but sadly it wasn’t available. Instead, I had my normal go-to: Belgian White Chocolate, which I must say rivalled the one I had in Rome. Josh had the slightly weirder Ferrero Roche flavour, that was exactly as you’d imagine – incredible!
Leakey’s bookshop is featured on many a blog for it’s cosy, winding interior and choice of old or pre-loved books, but few mention that you can also purchase antique art prints. We tend to bring back an art print with us from every place we travel, so it made me happy to purchase my first provenanced piece of art!
*Photo by sethoscope on Flickr.
From the outside, the Caledonian is probably the most stunning building in Inverness – so we couldn’t believe the posters in the window which said it was a casual sports pub! The interior wasn’t quite as special, obviously, but the food impressed us and the sheer amount of choice on the menu. We also had one of our most memorable moments in here because Josh tried his first bit of haggis ever.
Mr Simms’ Olde Sweet Shoppe
This is the perfect place to purchase some edible souvenirs for just about any family member or friend – they have so many traditional and flavoursome sweets from floor to ceiling! But if you don’t personally have much of a sweet tooth, you can always pick up some incredible ingredients for baking. I used my dark chocolate with orange swirls to melt & marble over some malted milk biscuits, and they turned out amazing!
Things we missed out on in Inverness
Other than the Castle Viewpoint, I also missed out on the chance to walk part of the Great Glen Way, starting at the Castle Tavern and leading onto Ness Islands. We didn’t have as much time as we thought we’d have, and with it being cold we tried to stick to indoor activities. Another thing I’d have loved to do would have been a short cruise on the River Ness – either a dolphin-spotting cruise or just a wind down the river. Many were closed for the winter, or you had to travel miles to the main port. It wouldn’t be so bad if we knew the town’s transport links better, so maybe we’ll save this for another time!
From the Capital of the Highlands to the Capital of Scotland. Edinburgh is where we spent most of our trip – almost a full three days – but we feel like we barely scratched the surface. I actually got a little bit emotional before the train home, and I hope I can convey to you why that is.
Greyfriar’s Bobby was a story my Grandad loved – and since being in Scotland makes me feel so much closer to my grandparents, this was something I valued more than other attractions we could’ve gone to. First we visited the grave of the best boi there ever was, then we had a drink at the Nicholson’s pub of the same name – which has been a dream of mine for a long time now!
“Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”
The Ghost Bus Tour
This tour was a spontaneous decision on our first night, thanks to a post by Escape with Sarah that I came across at just the right time. It was very entertaining but oftentimes I jump at my own shadow so I’m glad I had Josh there with me! The tour also helped us get to grips with the localities in Edinburgh – for example this is where we first discovered the Grassmarket area, which looked beautiful at night but has a macabre past.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
Located right at the very top of the Royal Mile, the Scotch Whisky Experience is in a great location and as the largest private collection of whiskey in the world (at 3,384 unopened bottles) it’s definitely a sight to behold! We had such a good time here that I decided to write a full blog post on it.
Located on Cockburn Street off the Royal Mile, La Locanda is an upmarket and somewhat exclusive Italian restaurant that we were very lucky to get into. (Seriously, we got the last walk-in table and they had to turn away at least 10 groups after us!). The service was amazing with very friendly staff and the food was to die for. This meal was worth every penny and brought our trip to Edinburgh to an incredible close. If you’d like to get in here, I recommend booking ahead!
If I lived or worked in Edinburgh, I imagine I’d be in the Grassmarket area a whole lot. I can imagine sitting here on my lunch break just staring up at the incredible view of the castle and thinking up stories. It’s also in a great location for food & drink, with a Forbidden Planet and several other Geeky locations nearby.
This photo is available for purchase as a print (and other merchandise) on my RedBubble shop.
Things we missed out on in Edinburgh
Sadly, there’s a lot we didn’t get to do in Edinburgh – largely due to the early train times and late arrivals, we were permanently tired when we should be ready to go! We missed out on: Holyrood Palace, climbing Arthur’s Seat, Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh Zoo, Dean Village, The National Museum and many more attractions that could have been real highlights. But, like Inverness, at least we have more to do when we return (and we’ll at least know the neighbourhoods and distances between them a bit better).
Hoping to return to Scotland as soon as humanly possible,