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Inverness

My husband and I are traveling to Scotland next May. I am just beginning to make an outline of our plans in preparation for buying tickets and making reservations. We are planning on being there about 3 weeks, and visiting the cities of Edinburgh, Stirling, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh. Right now, I am thinking that we will stay in Edinburgh for two weeks, and make a day trip via train to St. Andrews, and two day trips to Stirling. Then checkout of our apartment in Edinburgh and travel by train to Inverness - to later return the same way and stay at an airport hotel in Edinburgh the night before we fly out of there to return home (to Orlando's airport). I'm trying to decide how long to stay in Inverness. We don't want to try driving a car while we're in Scotland. We will be staying in a self-catering apartment while we are in Scotland, as we cook most of our own meals (we eat a strictly plant-base diet, so it's pretty necessary to cook for ourselves). So part of our time will involve grocery shopping and settling in upon our arrival in Inverness (and Edinburgh, for that matter). While in Inverness, I have found a day trip which cruises on Loch Ness to see Eileen Donan Castle. And another day trip which takes us up into the Highlands and Speyside. I want to feel too, that we have actually seen and experienced the city of Inverness itself, as much as possible without being able to drive ourselves about. I'd appreciate any suggestions and/or ideas about this plan and how many nights we might want to stay in Inverness. Thanks so much!

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Connie,

From Inverness, your Loch Ness cruise would take you to Urquhart Castle, not Eilean Donan. There is an excellent Tesco supermarket in central Inverness, which should have everything you need for your vegan diet. Including vegetarian haggis, if you don't have a chance to try it in Edinburgh. If you can't find all of your necessary foods at the central Tesco, there is a huge Tesco superstore near Raigmore Hospital. They're open 24 hours. It's close to 2 miles from the city centre, so you'd need to take a bus or taxi to get there. A lot depends on where in Inverness you're staying.

There are many day trips available from Inverness. And overnight trips as well. Three or four days would really be enough to spend in the city. You should take advantage of your time in the Highlands to do some more exploring. The rail and bus system is excellent; you can also avail yourselves of tour buses as well. Skye can easily be reached by train to Kyle of Lochalsh, then Stagecoach buses to Skye. Or you could take the bus to Fort William; the train to Mallaig; the ferry to Armadale; then buses around Skye. The village of Plockton would also be a good place to visit. It's on the Kyle line, so you could visit it on the way to Kyle from Inverness, then take a later train the rest of the way to Kyle.

Your other options would be buses to Ullapool, Lochinver, Gairloch, etc.

You'll be getting many more suggestions for places to see and things to do once you're in Inverness. Choose which ones you think you'd like, and have a wonderful time!

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
13702 posts

I'll just add that I'm vegan and finding plant-based food was easier than I thought in Scotland so you may be able to find some enjoyable meals out.

When you are in Edinburgh, I do suggest you try Loudon's Cafe in the Fountainbridge area (only breakfast/lunch/tea, not open for dinner). I actually got their Veggie Haggis Benny (vegan Benedict) for brunch and it was delicious. The vegan desserts were awesome but of course filled with sugar if that is something you avoid.

http://www.loudons.co.uk/

Near the National Museum of Scotland I enjoyed The Union of Genius (on Forrest Rd) with some excellent soups for lunch and picked up a vegan sandwich at Bobby's Sandwich Bar which is also on Forrest Rd.

In Inverness I had a delicious group dinner with my RS tour at The Mustard Seed restaurant. They even had a vegan menu.

The 2 things I enjoyed most in the Inverness area were Clava Cairns and Cawdor Castle but I'm not sure if you can find public transportation to either of these. As mentioned I was on a RS tour so didn't have to figure out transportation.

PS I tried Haggis flavored potato chips which were vegan. They were not as successful taste-wise for me as the Vegan Haggis Benny, hahaha!!

Posted by
27 posts

We were there 2 nights earlier this month, and did the Loch Ness/castle tour. It was very nice but we found the castle portion of the tour a bit rushed.

On both nights we spent our evenings here and enjoyed Scottish music:

https://www.hootanannyinverness.co.uk/

The second night we had dinner there and it was one of the best meals of our trip. You must reserve in advance, though, if you want to have dinner.

Posted by
1376 posts

To add to what lpadley just posted, you can also hear traditional Scottish music most nights at The Gellions, which is a pub at 14 Bridge Street, across the street from the TI office in Inverness.

If Davy Holt, Caman, or Schiehallion are performing any of the nights you're in Inverness, you're in for a good time!

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: The local number 5 bus out of Queensgate will take you fairly close to Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns. You can check with the TI office when you get to Inverness. As there is still a bit of a walk from the bus stop, a taxi might be a better bet. I don't think that Uber service is available yet in Inverness.

Posted by
1811 posts

You can do a (very long) day trip to Orkney from Inverness. A bus takes you to John O'Groats and then a ferry to Orkney.

Posted by
1016 posts

Another vote for the Mustard Seed restaurant in Inverness - excellent.
There is also a large Morrisons grocery store very close to the city centre, and Marks & Spencer has a very good food section with excellent quality produce.

Mike is right that you can get to Kyle of Lochalsh by public transport and thence over the bridge to Skye. However, bus services on the island are mainly centred on getting school kids to Portree High School, so the service is very limited and not of great use for sightseeing on the island. If Skye interests you, perhaps consider an organised tour by an operator such as Rabbies (they get good feedback and have earned a good reputation with locals as their crew spend time repairing footpaths etc in the areas where their tours run). They use small buses (less than 20 people) and can access places that the public buses don't reach.

In terms of seeing the city of Inverness - a day would probably do it, so if you are going to stay for 4 or 5 nights I think you will want to explore excursions, and the ones others have mentioned are a good bet. Eilean Donan castle is not on Loch Ness (that's Urquhart castle), so to see Eilean Donan you'd need a tour such as Rabbies or similar. You could also do it by taking a taxi from Kyle railway station.

Posted by
5678 posts

HI Connie,

It's your trip, but I would never plan a trip to Scotland for someone where they spent over 50% of their time in Edinburgh. Unless you have some reason that you want to spend two weeks there, I would suggest that you explore some other options. As someone has pointed out you can do wonderful day trips out of Inverness which will let you see more of the countryside. Alternatively, look into staying in Pitlochry. You can do train rides up to Blair Castle, down to Dunkeld, up to Aviemore and Kingussie. You can do some lovely walks. Or you could do both. You will be able to find self-catering options in lots of places in Scotland.

Can you outline how you anticipate spending your time in Edinburgh for two weeks? What is driving your thinking on staying there for two weeks?

Have you tried looking into tours and seeing if they can deal with a vegan diet--and I mean better than a plate of salad for dinner! A lot of people on this forum have used Rabbies for tours. They offer a variety of options. I would email them directly and ask about food. You could also email VisitScotland and ask them for information.

Food in Scotland has come a very long way since I first visited in the early 70's. Check out this link. Look here and here as well.

If you really want to have two places then I would spend more time in Inverness. Split it 50/50 at least. I think you'll find that would give you more flexibility to see more of Scotland through either day tours or by bus or train.

I am curious to know why you have ruled out renting a car? It would open up more options for you. I would not suggest renting a car in Edinburgh or Glasgow but having a car enables you to see more of the countryside. Are you worried about driving on the left? Truly, it's not as terrifying as you think. And you get used to it. With a partner who can be your navigator, it becomes even easier as they can focus on where you are going and look for signposts and allow the driver to focus on the driving. It would allow you to stay outside the city and make your shopping trips much easier.

Pam

Posted by
3140 posts

Just agreeing with Pam here on all her points.
I did all the driving on our recent trip to Scotland. Not a worry at all!

Get an automatic if you are not comfortable with manual and make sure it has sat nav!!!
I also agree that while Edinburgh is a wonderful city, 2 weeks is a tad long, especially because there are so many other great places to see.
I did a recent trip report if you want to check it out.

Posted by
644 posts

Someone suggested a Rabbies tour. We recently did one (9 days in the Highlands, Skye, Mull, etc.) after spending two nights in Edinburgh. We stayed in B&Bs, where you can talk with the proprietor about what you would like for breakfast, although you may end up just buying your own. The other meals, lunch and dinner, are on your own. Sometimes we were in very small towns and the choices were limited. So maybe you could contact them and ask if they provide suggestions for you.

With the Rabbies tour you can book your own accommodations, within certain guidelines. That way you can plan ahead and perhaps find a self-catering place where you can fix your own breakfasts and dinners.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you very much to everyone for your wonderful suggestions and advice. Time for me get to seriously planning! I may have to post again, with more questions, as I proceed and stumble upon more choices and decisions :-)

Posted by
341 posts

Connie, I liked Inverness a lot. Inverness has a lively, easily walkable downtown and lovely pedestrian friendly bridge near the castle over the River Ness. There's an underrated river walk in downtown too that's worth checking out. It is well worth a day and evening out in town. More than that I'm not sure. You could extend that stay easily for several more days based on the day trips out from town.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks so much for all the advice. I should've given more background info, I think. This is my third trip to Scotland. And, hope to come back more times in the future!

Last September I went with a small tour group and stayed just outside Ft. William on the Calledonian Canal. We went to Eileen Donan Castle and the Isle of Skye.We took the Nevis Range Gondola Mountain ride up to the top of Aonach Mor. We spent a day walking in Glencoe. We rode the West Highland Line steam train to Mallaig, for lunch, and back again.We rode on the tour bus coach to Oban, explored the town and toured the whiskey distillery. We went on to Inveraray Castle. We ended up at a hotel across from the Glasgow airport, but the next day my sister and I traveled to Edinburgh where we were only able to spend a couple days. One of which we traveled by train to see Bothwell Castle - family history in the small village there.

I just loved Edinburgh, and want to explore it in depth next spring. Including the museums, the waterfront, the parks, etc. I thought a couple nights in another more northerly city would allow us to see the northeastern part of Scotland, a little. So, I'd like to take day trips (ie. Stirling, St. Andrews) and hoped there would be some areas outside of Inverness worth visiting by train or on a tour bus. I may nix the idea of a boat ride to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, as I've been there on my first Scotland trip and I don't care about seeing it again. I'm not set on Inverness - I just thought it might be the best location to base at to see a little of northeast Scotland. The Highland and Speyside Explorer by WOW that leaves from there looks great to me.

I don't want to try to travel all over Scotland in one visit. I want to experience a smaller portion of the country in depth, and have faith that I can return another time to do another small portion!

So....this is probably a better explanation of my intent. I really so appreciate everyone's kindness is giving me suggestions and tips.

Posted by
9364 posts

aha! Yes now with some context the rough outline of your plan makes more sense.

You might consider Aberdeen, or even Stonehaven as a base for the northeast. I have to say that a couple of years ago when I planned a family trip that included Aberdeenshire I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and beauty of the things we saw in that region -- the contrast of the gorgeous refined Craigievar Castle with the moody dramatic ruins of Dunnottar, the gorgeous gardens at Pitmedden (and the lovely drive to get there), and the Dee River -- broad and lovely in some places, rushing and dramatic at the Falls of Feugh at Banchory. I follow a lot of Scottish instagram accounts and since then have seen even more places I'd love to visit there. More castles and the dramatically site villages along the north coast such as Crovie and Gardentown, as well as more time along the river and in to Braemar. (And we spent a morning at the Strathisla distillery in Keith, which was also gorgeous itself.)

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for all the lovely sounding destinations, Kim. Am I correct that you all must have been driving a rental car on your trip?