Inverness – The Hub of the Highlands

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Inverness

Although it is the most northerly of Scotland’s ‘cities’ Inverness isn’t hard to reach. With the four major roads which span the Scottish Highlands converging on the city, its own airport and a railway station and bus station, both of which are travel hubs for the east coast of Scotland, Inverness is well located as a great starting (or finishing) point for any trip to the Highlands.

But the city shouldn’t be regarded as a mere waypoint on a greater journey. It has much to offer those who may wish to linger awhile and explore what Inverness and the surrounding area has to offer. There is a great selection of hotels, B&Bs and guest houses both within the city and nearby so finding suitable accommodation shouldn’t be a problem.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

River Ness

The River Ness runs through the middle of the city and the numerous hotels and cafes on its banks and the attractive bridges across the river give both wonderful views and the opportunity for visitors to simply sit and people watch as the world goes by as well as sample what culinary delights the city has to offer.

Inverness is the cultural heart of the Highlands with museums and art galleries dedicated to local history and culture. Various guided tours of the city are available pointing out places of interest and giving an insight into the history of the area – fairies, slaves and rebellion feature large!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/ https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Victorian Market

For dedicated shoppers Inverness has a Victorian Market and a large, modern shopping centre as well as numerous small shops selling all kinds of items from souvenirs to kilts and other tartan clothing. If you search diligently you may even be able to purchase a haggis!

Inverness is also associated with that iconic piece of clothing, said to have been worn by Sherlock Holmes – the Inverness Cape. This is a sleeveless coat, with an over cape. Many bands, including pipe bands and those with accordion players use the Inverness Cape as part of their uniform, as it gives good access to their musical instruments, unlike coats with sleeves that can be restrictive. Coachmen, who drove horses and carriages, also used to be clothed in an Inverness Cape for the freedom it provided to control and handle the horses.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Inverness Cathedral

Inverness Cathedral, dedicated to St Andrew, has an important place in Scottish religious history and is currently the seat of the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. It is a magnificent building and well worth a visit. Inverness Castle is a wonderful sight from across the river towering, as it does, over the city and the river and is another place not to be missed.

Caledonian Canal

For those of a nautical bent Inverness lies at one end of the Caledonian Canal, that 60-mile-long diagonal slash through Scotland which offers an interesting opportunity to sail peacefully from one side of Scotland to the other. Several companies hire motor cruisers on the canal and it is possible to cruise from Inverness to Fort William passing through some magnificent scenery along the way. As you traverse Loch Ness, look out for the Loch Ness monster!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Dolphins Cetaceans and Porpoises

Dolphin watching trips out in the Moray Firth can be taken where a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins can often be seen frolicking in the waves. Other cetaceans can also be spotted including harbour porpoises and even, occasionally, minke whales. If your sea legs aren’t the best then stay on shore and go to Chanonry Point – the best of several places on the Moray Firth from where these creatures can be seen.

NC500

The city is also the starting point for the NC500, that 500-mile long road trip which takes you up the east coast, along the north coast and down the west coast of Scotland returning to Inverness by a cross-country route cutting through some magnificent scenery on its way.

Only a couple of miles from Inverness you may be interested in visiting what is one of Scotland’s most iconic historical sites. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Battle of Culloden in 1746 was the last pitched battle fought on British soil and resulted in the defeat by an English army of the rebellious Jacobite forces under the command of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. The site of the battle is preserved as much as possible with a visitors’ centre including a 360-degree theatre which puts you right in the middle of the battle and a museum which displays artifacts which have been recovered from the battlefield.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Inverness Castle

Inverness also has a castle, which acted as a place of corrections for many years, after being rebuilt in the nineteenth century on what was originally a defensive site, overlooking the River Ness. Inverness castle is no longer the site of the Sheriff court but the grounds and North Tower are open to visitors, with a wide view of the River Ness and many historical artifacts. When acting as a defensive site, it was associated with Mary Queen of Scots, though was later blown up by Bonnie Prince Charlie, as it was taken over by a clan who supported the English forces.

No matter what you decide Inverness will make you welcome. By the way, Inverness is said to be the place in the British Isles where the clearest English is spoken!

 

More On Inverness

Information on INVERNESS

THINGS TO DO AND MAPS Of Inverness

 

Visit Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh’s crowning glory

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Amongst the many sights and experiences Edinburgh has to offer its visitors Edinburgh Castle is surely the crowning glory. This magnificent edifice perches nearly 300 feet above the city on the ancient volcanic plug of Castle Rock, an extinct volcano which dominates Scotland’s capital and makes the castle visible for many miles away.

Because of its strategic position Castle Rock has been occupied since 900bc and, when the Romans first came this way in about AD80, they found that the local Votadini people had the well-established fort of ‘Din Eidyn’ looking balefully down at them – and the Romans wisely left it alone!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Since then the castle has been rebuilt, expanded, fortified and altered. It has been bombarded, besieged, captured and recaptured (it is the most besieged castle in Britain). It has been a fortress, a barracks, a prison, a hospital, a royal residence, a museum and a treasury.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Crown Jewels of Scotland, known as ‘The Honours of Scotland’ (the oldest crown jewels in the UK) are housed in the castle and are made from gold that was mined in Scotland. The Stone of Destiny, sitting upon which monarchs of both Scotland and England have been crowned for centuries is also there.

Within its walls is the oldest building in Edinburgh – St Margaret’s Chapel – which still hosts weddings and christenings to this day. Every day at one o’clock precisely (excepting Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day) a cannon is fired from the Mills Mount Battery – originally a time signal for ships in the River Forth but nowadays just one of the many traditions associated with the castle.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Still a military garrison, Edinburgh Castle is now a world-famous visitor attraction and an iconic part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. It houses Scotland’s National War Museum and, of course, it is host to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, that magnificent spectacle of military skill which takes place every August on the castle Esplanade. The first tattoo took place in 1949 and attracted about 100,000 spectators in total. The last time the tattoo was held was 2019 (the 2020 event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic) when 220,000 people watched the various live events and many, many more watched it on television. The 2021 event is expected to happen as normal.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Edinburgh Castle is a large and complex place and it houses so much of interest: the Lang Stairs, The Portcullis Gate, The Half Moon Battery, The Argyll Battery, The Mills Mount Battery, the huge cannon of Mons Meg, The Great Hall, The Argyll Tower, Foog’s Gate, the Castle Vaults and the two small museums of the Royal Scots Regiment and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. A full day is needed to do this place justice!

As you wander through the castle keep in mind that you are treading in the footsteps of kings and queens, princes and princesses, rebels and saints, writers and poets, and rogues (including the architect who restored the Great Hall – and then refused to hand over the keys!).https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Edinburgh Castle offers guided tours by castle stewards or you may choose to follow the audio guide at your own pace. Whichever you choose you can’t fail to be impressed – witnessing or indeed being a central character in much of Scotland’s history it could be said that, in many ways, the history of the castle is the history of Scotland.

Read more about Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle on YouTube:

Castle of Mey Scotland – – Royal Holiday Home

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
Stefan Serena Flickr Public Domain

In 1952, just after the death of her husband King George VI, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, better known as ‘The Queen Mother’, bought the 450-year-old abandoned Barrogill Castle in the far north of Scotland as a place where she could relax away from prying eyes. She oversaw the restoration of this remote castle on the north coast of Caithness just six miles from John O’Groats for use as her holiday home. Stefan Serena Flickr Public Domain

Choosing many of the fixtures and fittings herself she returned the castle to its original name of The Castle of Mey and took vacations there for three weeks in August and ten days in October each year until her death in 2002. Some years before she died she had the foresight to establish the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust to oversee the future affairs of the castle and it’s because of her forward-looking attitude that it is possible today for the public to visit the castle and explore the wonderful gardens which she designed.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Castle of Mey is the northernmost castle on the British mainland and, protected by a 12-foot high wall known as ‘The Great Wall of Mey’, is now under the care of The Prince’s Foundation, an educational charity established in 1986 by Charles, Prince of Wales. The castle stands on a slight rise about 400 yards from the sea with magnificent views over the Pentland Firth to the distant Orkney Islands. Once the seat of the Earls of Caithness the castle is open every day from the beginning of May to the end of September with a break of 10 days in July/August when His Royal Highness Prince Charles (president of The Prince’s Foundation) and his wife Camilla Duchess of Cornwall often visit.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
Edward Tenny Flickr Public Domain

A new visitors centre was opened in 2007 and, in its first year, some 29,000 visitors explored the castle and the extensive gardens, particularly the shell garden where the Queen Mother used to sit with her corgis in the afternoons, and sampled the home-grown fare in the award-winning tearoom – much of which comes from the castle gardens and adjacent lands. In the walled garden you will find a lookout tower which is a great place to take in the scenery. There is also a small museum and quite a large gift shop.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
Edward Tenny Flickr Public Domain

The castle is still very much as the Queen Mother restored it and has seen little update since then (her motto was ‘if it works don’t fix it’!). The knowledgeable guides will do all they can to make your visit interesting and enjoyable and are happy to answer any questions you may have. It must be kept in mind that the Castle of Mey is an historic building and disabled access is not possible to all parts of it although the shop, tearoom and toilets are fully accessible.

A big part of the castle’s attraction, especially for children, is the animal centre. Its relaxed and welcoming atmosphere can be enjoyed by adults and children alike and gives the opportunity to see how animals should be cared for. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Visitors to the animal centre in the east woods can interact with some of the animals, providing an enjoyable and educational visit. There is a colourful collection of unusual and eye-catching poultry breeds, various waterfowl including ducks and geese and unusual sheep breeds in the paddock. The different sizes, shapes and colours of all these creatures make a curiously wonderful display. At the right time of year bottle-feeding of young lambs is a highlight and, with a little luck, your visit will coincide with a new hatch of chicks – fluffy, yellow balls of new life!

Two unusual features of the animal centre experience is the opportunity to try your hand at spinning fleece from the castle’s flock of cheviot sheep or attempting to milk Daisy the wooden cow! These are both popular activities and, depending on how busy it is, you may have to wait a while for your turn. Demonstrations are normally held three days a week during opening hours.

A ROMANTIC WEDDING VENUE

For a romantic wedding with a difference the castle visitor centre offers itself as a wedding venue with facilities for up to 60 guests in the grounds of the castle overlooking the Pentland Firth. Photographs can be taken in the visitors centre, the castle or the gardens. It is also possible to hold the wedding ceremony elsewhere and have the photographs taken in the castle and gardens. Weddings are confined to those months when the castle isn’t open to the public but, considering that the castle is only open for part of the year, that still leaves a good choice of dates.

THE CAPTAIN’S HOUSE

Only a few hundred yards from the castle the Captain’s House offers quiet self-catering accommodation. It is the only property on the castle estate which is used as a holiday let and was a favourite picnic spot of the Queen Mother. A large conservatory overlooks the enclosed garden and gives excellent views over the Pentland Firth. It’s a great place for reading, painting or simply chilling out and appreciating the solitude and the breathtaking views.

Castle Of Mey Video

For those of a more active nature the Captain’s House is perfectly situated for walking, bird watching or fishing with sheer cliffs and sandy beaches all around and Gills Bay, from where you can take a ferry to Orkney, is just a mile away. Equipped to a very high standard the Captain’s House has one double and two twin rooms and can sleep six people.

THE GRANARY LODGE

Opened in 2019 the Granary Lodge offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodation on the castle grounds. This is an ideal place to witness the impressive sunsets visible here and, if you are lucky, the evening sky may be enhanced by an appearance from the ‘Heavenly Dancers’ – also known as the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis to help make you stay just that little bit more special. Be it a day trip or a longer visit, the Castle of Mey and its surroundings cannot fail to impress!

Falkland Palace: Scotland’s Ancient Royal Residence

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Located in the Fife village of Falkland, about an hour’s drive north over the River Forth from Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, Falkland Palace has historic royal connections going back beyond the 12th century and saw most of the early Scottish rulers and the later Stuart monarchs. Originally a hunting lodge and later a castle, the 16th century Palace of Falkland was inspired by the grand châteaux of France and it was the Stuart monarchs James IV and his son James V who transformed this favoured retreat of the royal Stuarts into a fine example of Renaissance architecture. King James V, father of Mary, Queen of Scots, died there in 1542 and when Mary herself returned from her time in France she came to Falkland Palace as often as she could whilst carrying out her royal duties as Queen.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The surrounding countryside was kept as a private hunting estate where members of the royal court and favoured guests would hunt wild boar and deer and fly falcons over the hills. As you explore the spectacular Renaissance architecture of what was, in effect, the country residence of the Stuart monarchs and walk around the magnificent gardens and orchard where you will find Britain’s oldest original real (or royal) tennis courts, the roofed spectator area of which is home to a number of nesting swallows during spring and summer (you may need to duck when they come flying in and out!), you will come to understand why this palace was a royal favourite. In the gardens you can still find some remnants of the 12th-century Castle.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Sadly, in 1654, a fire partially destroyed the palace during its occupation by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, and it was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. It was saved from total ruin some 200 years later by John Crichton-Stuart the 3rd Marquess of Bute who bought the estate and carried out a programme of restoration giving it a new lease of life. Work was done on the gatehouse, the south grange and the cross house. Parts of the palace are still in ruins but the original and reconstructed rooms contain 17th-century Flemish tapestries, elaborate painted ceilings and antique furnishings. The palace also has its own chapel.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Although still owned by the Crichton-Stuart family, Falkland Palace (a Scottish Tourist Board 4-star visitor attraction) is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and guided tours start at regular intervals. Pre-booking is not required. Tours start from East Port through the impressive entrance archway with the keeper’s rooms and then on to the King and Queens’ bedchambers, the old library, the bakehouse and the tapestry corridor. The guides are knowledgeable and friendly and once you have toured the palace you are then free to wander through the gardens (don’t miss the glasshouses) following in the footsteps of royalty and admiring the palace from the outside. Exit is best made through the gift shop from where you are returned to East Port just a hundred meters or so away from where your tour began.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/But don’t just hurry through the shop! Stay a while and browse the well-stocked displays of Scottish history books, arts and crafts, delicacies like Scottish tablet (once tasted never forgotten), highland toffee (mind your fillings) and whisky marmalade (the breakfast spread of kings). You might buy yourself an ornamental spurtle (look it up) and, of course, this being Scotland you simply cannot leave without treating yourself to a miniature or two of malt whisky!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Actually, once you’ve toured the palace, the village of Falkland (Scotland’s first conservation village) is well worth a look. It has many interesting and historic buildings some of which have appeared in various movies over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘marriage lintels’ which appear in various places on several houses near the palace – they are an interesting and revealing insight into life in medieval times. The village also has hotels, bars and coffee shops where refreshments may be had.

Falkland village can become very busy during the tourist season – the palace is a popular attraction – and, once the main car parks are full, parking can be problematic so an early arrival would be a good idea. There are many companies who organise bus tours or private tours of both the village and the palace which will relieve you of the hassle of finding a parking space. Whichever way you choose to visit you won’t regret spending a day following in the footsteps of Scottish royalty!

For more information Visit Scotland:

 

Video tour of Falkland Palace:

Isle of Arran – Scotland in Miniature

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Many tourists who visit Scotland will want to spend a few days on one of the islands off the west coast. Known as the Hebrides. The most visited is probably the Isle of Skye (famous for the Cuillin mountains) since it has been connected to the mainland by a bridge since 1995 and it’s a simple matter to drive there.

Travelling to all of the other Hebridean islands requires a ferry crossing but don’t let that put you off visiting them – they are definitely well worth that little bit of extra effort to reach but there is one island which is often overlooked by tourists possibly because it isn’t part of the Hebridean archipelago, situated as it is, much further south.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/In the Firth of Clyde between the mainland and the long, southward-stretching tongue of the Kintyre peninsula lies the Isle of Arran. Scotland’s seventh-biggest island, Arran is also one of the most accessible of the west coast islands being close to the heavily-populated central belt and just a short ferry trip from the mainland. Arran has been continuously inhabited since the early Neolithic period and numerous prehistoric remains have been found. The island once belonged to Norway but is now firmly in Scottish hands!

Rugged and mountainous in its northern half and flat and fertile in the south, Arran is often called ‘Scotland in miniature’. This quirk of geology mirrors the Scottish mainland and is the result of the Highland Boundary Fault, which divides Scotland into the highlands and the lowlands, continuing through Arran resulting in two quite distinct geological zones, just like the mainland – a ‘Scotland in miniature’!

It is possible to fly to Arran but the best way is to catch the ferry from the mainland ferry port of Ardrossan (well served by road and rail links) to Brodick, https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Arran’s main town. The crossing takes just under an hour and if you are travelling by car, advance booking is recommended. During the summer months, you can also sail from Kintyre to Lochranza in the north of the Island, a trip which takes only 30 minutes.

Once on the island there is a wide choice of things to do. For those with plenty of energy there is Goat Fell. At 2886 feet (874m) it’s the highest peak on Arran and all who venture into this dramatic and spectacular landscape are treated to unrivalled views of the island and, on a clear day, all the way across to Ben Lomond on the mainland and the coast of Ireland to the southwest.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/For the less energetic outdoor enthusiasts there is a plethora of paths, trails and walks of all lengths to explore, ranging from short and easy wanders along sandy beaches to longer and slightly more challenging routes. Whichever you choose, remember to dress appropriately and tell someone where you are going – just in case!

Challenging mountain climbs, dramatic landscapes, seascapes and wonderfully scenic walks are not the end of Arran’s attractions. There are no less than seven golf courses, lots of wildlife and local arts and crafts and produce to sample. You can go sailing, sea kayaking, paragliding, windsurfing, pony trekking (or ride a horse along a beach with the spray in your face), go sea fishing, trout fishing, salmon fishing or ride the waves in a rigid inflatable boat.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

For those of a more relaxed frame of mind there are historic castles, museums, two malt whisky distilleries, a brewery and lots more to explore and since Arran is only 56 miles in circumference nowhere is more than a 30-minute drive away from where you are staying.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Speaking of places to stay, Arran offers a wide range of accommodation from basic campsites to youth hostels, independent hostels, guest houses, B&Bs, self catering cottages and a number of excellent hotels all the way up to 5-star accommodation. You can even arrange a vacation stay using Airbnb and, since many people on the island work in the tourist industry you can be assured of a warm welcome.

Scotland in miniature it may be but there’s nothing small about a vacation on the Isle of Arran!

 

YouTube Video:

Website for the Isle of Arran

All pictures, other than those identified on the picture itself, are CC0 and can be used freely without accreditation.

Cruising on the Caledonian Canal

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Want to see Scotland from a different perspective? How about hiring a motor cruiser for a leisurely cruise across the country? Opened in 1822 the Caledonian Canal runs from Fort William on the west coast to Inverness on the east coast stretching for some 60 miles (97 km) from one side of Scotland to the other and a cruise along its length is a magnificent way to see some of the best of Scotland’s scenery for the Highlands provide a backdrop of incredible beauty for your cruising holiday in Scotland.

Only about a third of the canal is man-made, the rest consists of four lochs – Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Ness and Loch Dochfour. These four lochs and the entire length of the canal lie within the Great Glen, a geological fault in the Earth’s crust which pretty much cuts Scotland in half diagonally from south-west to north-east. The canal (which is actually a Scheduled Ancient Monument) was built as a way for small boats to get from the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean without going all the way up and around the top of Scotland thus facilitating commerce between the two coasts.

Because it’s an inshore waterway the canal never really gets rough – certainly not as rough as the sea can get – no matter what the weather and this makes it ideal for beginners who have never contemplated cruising on a motor boat before and fancy a chance to be the skipper of their own motor cruiser.

There are several companies which offer charter boats for canal boat hire on the Caledonian Canal and they all operate in a similar way. You can choose from one of the many four-berth cruisers all the way up to 10-berth boats with dual steering positions – one on the upper deck for sunny days and one in the cabin for those not-so-sunny days.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

All the Caledonian canal boat charter companies offer training before they let you loose on the canal and I don’t mean a quick ‘this lever does this and this lever does that’ run through. Everything on board will be explained to you, and your tutor will spend as much time as you feel is necessary for you to be comfortable with running the cruiser including lessons on berthing at a pontoon, how to refuel, how to top up your water supply, etc., and what to do in an emergency.

You will be supplied with charts of the canal, and their use will be explained to you but don’t worry, if you can read a road map you will have no problem reading a chart. Once you are confident with everything then it’s time to explore the canal! https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/There are 29 locks on the canal all of which are manned by a lock keeper so all you have to do to safely navigate a lock is follow their instructions. You are free to roam up and down the entire length of the canal from Banavie just outside Fort William to the Muirtown Basin Marina just outside Inverness. Chartered boats are not allowed beyond either of these limits.

Sights To See Along The Caledonian Canal

Once you start to explore the canal what can you expect to see? You can expect to see sights like ancient castles, quiet towns, cosy lochside pubs and restaurants and to hear the sound of bagpipes drifting over the water and, of course, you can expect to see some magnificent scenery along the way. Since you are in complete control of where and when you cruise on the canal you will have the opportunity to take a whisky distillery tour or a tour of an historic castle. You can indulge yourself in fishing, wildlife and bird-watching all from the comfort of your cruiser and there are many other activities available along the length of the canal and, if you choose to traverse Loch Ness, you never know what you might spot! It’s entirely your choice as to what you do – you could even find a quiet spot to tie-up your cruiser and simply enjoy the peace and quiet for a few days.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Those stretches of the canal which connect the four lochs together can be quite narrow and during the height of the season it gets quite busy. You must be prepared to meet oncoming traffic which could be anything from a cruiser the same size as yours to surprisingly big cruise boats and barges carrying dozens of passengers to small sailing yachts and even canoes. The rule when passing oncoming traffic is ‘keep to the right’ ie: when passing oncoming traffic they must be on your left. These narrow stretches of canal widen into the broad, open waters of the lochs where navigation is easy.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Boat decks and pontoon surfaces can be slippery when wet so suitable footwear must be worn. Highland lochs are cold, even during the height of summer, so try very hard not to fall overboard! Your cruiser will be equipped with a lifejacket for every person on board and it’s a good idea to wear one whilst you are on deck. Be aware that lifejackets MUST be worn whilst negotiating locks – if anyone on deck isn’t wearing a lifejacket then the boat won’t be allowed into the lock. Your tutor will demonstrate how to properly wear a lifejacket.

Unfortunately, cruisers aren’t really suitable for disabled persons or those with mobility problems. Internal stairways are steep and simply getting on and off a boat can be problematic. Young children should be supervised at all times and should definitely wear lifejackets whilst on deck – including getting on and off a boat.

There is a speed limit on the narrow sections of the canal of five knots for all craft. That’s about a brisk walking pace. There is no speed limit on the open lochs but your cruiser won’t go much faster than that anyway so take your time and enjoy the scenery.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/There are plenty of berthing points along the canal especially close to the locks. Not all berthing points are equipped with fueling or watering points but the larger ones are. Shore power (240v) is also available at some berthing points.

You may need to run your cruiser’s engine whilst berthed to make sure the batteries are topped up but please do not run engines after 9 pm or before 7 am and do keep noise to a minimum late in the evening – there are many residential properties close to the canal and, of course, there will be other boats berthed close to you so be a good neighbour and keep the noise to a minimum.

If you have ever wondered what it is like going through the locks on a boat, as the water goes down and the lock gates swing open, watch this speeded up video of navigating the locks.

If you’re not impressed by the thought of captaining your own cruise boat then you could try one of the several cruise companies which offer cruises on larger boats on the canal. This is a great way to see the canal and experience the sights and sounds along the way without having to lift a finger! Whichever option you choose I’m sure you will have a great time motor cruising on the Caledonian Canal.

Oban – Gateway to the Isles

In a sheltered position in the Firth of Lorne on the west coast of Scotland you will find the ‘’Little Bay’’ of Oban.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/From its beginning as a small fishing village, today’s bustling town of Oban is now the main departure point for ferries to the Western Isles and much of the west coast of Scotland and during the height of the tourist season its normal population of about 9000 people swells to more than 25,000 most of whom stay for only a few days before moving on.

But Oban is far more than a mere stopping point or way station on a bigger journey. This picturesque town, lying in the horseshoe of Oban Bay, is full of history! The ruins of Dunollie Castle occupy a fortified position to the north of the town. With its roots in the early middle ages it has seen much strife and was, for many years, the most important fortress of the Chiefs of Clan MacDougall. It is now run by the Dunollie Preservation Trust and is open to the public.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Prominent in the town, especially for those who arrive by sea, is a tall, red chimney with a black tip. It belongs to the Oban Distillery which is one of the very few distilleries in Scotland located in an urban setting, as it is, being just off the main road (A85) which runs along the seafront, making it one of the easiest to access and possibly the most-visited distillery in Scotland. Well worth a visit, Oban Distillery goes back to 1794 and was a major factor in the early development of the town. It is now owned by the Diageo group and has been designated a 5-Star Visitor Attraction by VisitScotland.

Oban has no fewer than two cathedrals. The red stone building of St John’s Cathedral, lies on the main road into Oban from the north. It is the Cathedral of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The other one is St Columba’s Cathedral. Situated on Corran Esplanade it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. The interior of both of these cathedrals is a ‘’must see’’ for every visitor to Oban. Located near the town’s north pier is Oban War and Peace Museum. Occupying the ground floor of what was once the local newspaper building, the museum offers visitors the story of Oban in wartime and in peacetime and is full of fascinating facts about the local area. There is no charge for admission to this completely independent museum which is run mainly by volunteers so don’t forget to buy something from the gift shop!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Probably the most prominent feature of the town is the Listed Monument of McCaig’s Tower, often known as McCaig’s Folly. Modelled on the Colosseum in Rome this unfinished structure stands on Battery Hill behind the town and is a favourite subject of the postcards for sale in the local shops. Intended as a family monument the tower was built by a wealthy banker, John Stuart McCaig between 1895 and 1902. His motives weren’t entirely selfish though. It was also his intent to provide work for local stonemasons. McCaig’s Tower is accessible by road (keep your eyes peeled for the signs – some of them aren’t easy to spot!) or, for the energetic, it can be reached by a hard ten-minute uphill slog from the town centre. First time visitors to the tower are in for a surprise. Inside, a grassy hillock provides a quiet public garden as a respite from the busy town and the location is a magnificent viewpoint from which to view the town of Oban and the bay and (if it isn’t too misty) further afield to the isles of Kerrera, Lismore, Mull and the peninsula of Morvern.

Speaking of viewpoints there is another excellent place from which to see Oban and the surrounding area. Pulpit Hill, to the south of the harbour is less than 300 feet high but offers great views. It’s a little harder to reach than McCaig’s Folly but is well worth the effort. There is a viewpoint indicator on the summit which points out various interesting features visible from the top. You can drive pretty close to the top and walk the last few yards or there is a path from a
point near the harbour. If you choose to drive be aware that the road is largely single track with passing places and some sharp bends. Care is needed to avoid oncoming traffic.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Oban is also a major centre for those who enjoy sailing pleasure craft along Scotland’s west coast. Oban has a large marina but, curiously, it isn’t in Oban! It’s actually located on the island of Kerrera, the large island which shelters Oban Bay. There are several other smaller marinas in the area and transit berths are available at Oban’s North Pier. The town also retains a significant fishing fleet.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Oban can be a busy and crowded town at times but visitors are well catered for in the shape of the many hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars to be found and there is nothing nicer than finding a strategically-placed coffee shop or hotel bar from where you may sip your favourite beverage, look out over the bay and wonder to which of the many hebridean islands that ferry is going. Just thinking about it might make you want to jump onto the next one leaving the harbour!

And here is a video from Youtube, showing Oban:

URQUHART CASTLE

Between Fort William in the east and Inverness in the west lies the geological fault of the Great Glen – a deep, diagonal slash in the land. 62 miles in length, it cuts Scotland in half separating the Grampian mountains from the northwest highlands.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Lying within this glen is Loch Ness and on the shore of the loch about halfway along you will find the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Close to the village of Drumnadrochit and located in a prominent position surrounded on three sides by water Urquhart Castle is famous for being the place from which the Loch Ness monster has most often been seen and photographed and, perhaps for this reason, it is one of the most visited castles in Scotland but the existence or otherwise of this legendary creature isn’t the only reason for visiting Urquhart Castle.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland the castle is steeped in history – there is evidence of a castle of some description on the site as far back as the reign of King Alexander II (1214-1249). One of the largest castles in Scotland in total area Urquhart Castle is easily accessible from the main A82 road which runs alongside the loch. The castle has witnessed some of the most significant chapters in the history of Scotland and, with a wild natural beauty and centuries of history behind it, offers a taste of the highlands at their most dramatic giving a glimpse of life in a medieval castle complemented by stunning views over Loch Ness.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Overlooking the castle and the loch and discreetly hidden by the sloping hillside below the main A82 a new, modern visitor centre was opened in 2002. Accessed from the car park by steps or elevator the visitor centre comprises three main areas: the shop, leading to the viewing terrace and the path to the castle; an exhibition area which includes a large model of the castle and an audio-visual theatre.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Be sure to visit the cafe for the views from the outside terrace are quite spectacular which is why it was once a popular wedding venue. Sadly, weddings are no longer conducted at the castle but happy couples are quite welcome to take photographs. Once into the castle grounds proper there is much to see including a full-sized replica trebuchet (a bit like a catapult), a fine example of a truly impressive siege weapon from a time before gunpowder.

Also in the extensive grounds you will find the remains of several buildings including those of the kitchens and the great hall. The Grant Tower, the best-preserved part of the castle, can be explored by a narrow and rather restricted spiral staircase. At busy times this can be quite congested and you may have to wait your turn but the view from the top over Loch Ness makes it worthwhile.

Even though there are many castles in Scotland larger or more complete than Urquhart Castle there are few with quite such a depth of history and even fewer located in such magnificent surroundings nor is there the possibility anywhere else, however unlikely, of taking a photograph which proves that a certain mythical creature does in fact exist. Can you imagine a wedding photograph with the Loch Ness Monster in the background?

More information on Urquhart Castle.

Click here for more on Urquhart Castle.

 

All photographs on this page were sourced from Pixabay

And a Youtube video

WELCOME TO FORT WILLIAM

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Located at the western end of the Great Glen at the head of Loch Linnhe Fort William is often known as ‘The Outdoor Capital of Scotland’ because of its excellent position as a base for outdoor activities. With a population of about 11,000 this highland town is never quiet! Summer or winter thousands of tourists arrive in the area, many of them seeking adventure on the hills and mountains which surround the town.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/And what a collection of fine mountains there are! Ben Nevis (4413 ft/1345 m), the UK’s highest mountain, towers over the town – so close in fact that to get a decent view of it one has to travel a couple of miles outside of the town!

About two miles east of Fort William is Aonach Mòr (4006 ft/1221 m) where you will find the Nevis Range ski area which is well worth of visit even if you don’t ski since there is a gondola lift which operates all year round and is the easiest way to ascend the mountain.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Both of these mountains (and many others in the area) are known as ‘Munros’ – a term which is used to describe mountains in Scotland which are over 3000 ft/914 m. Ben Nevis has an abandoned weather observatory on its summit and the observations taken there in bygone days were important for our understanding of Scottish mountain weather and Aonach Mòr has played host to The Mountain Bike World Cup for several years in a row. Climbing the Munros is almost a national sport in Scotland and, since there are 282 of them there are plenty to choose from.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/There are many adventures to be had in the great outdoors in the area from hillwalking to rock climbing, ice climbing, kayaking, wildlife spotting (on land and sea), fishing, diving, off-road driving and motorcycling, boat hire and more and all of these can be indulged in by yourself (provided you have the necessary equipment and expertise of course) or under the supervision of one of the various guided tours available in the area.

Fort William is also one end of two well-known long-distance walking routes – the West Highland Way, a 95-mile long route which has its other end in the town of Milngavie, near Glasgow, and the Great Glen Way, a 78-mile long walking/cycling route whose other end is the city of Inverness, on the east coast of Scotland. Many hundreds of people travel one or other of these routes every year.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/For those whose interests don’t lean towards outdoor activities Fort William still has much to offer. The gaelic name for Fort William is An Gearasdan which means ‘The Fort’ and many local people still refer to it by that name today and the remains of the original fort are still worth a visit. This was built by the English in an attempt to pacify the clans during the turbulent period of the various Jacobite rebellions which culminated in the Scottish army’s defeat at Culloden in 1746. In the town’s High Street the West Highland Museum is a great place to go to find out more of the history of the town and surrounding area.

Scotland’s ‘national drink’ and its most famous export, whisky, is represented in the town by the Ben Nevis distillery and no visit to the area would be complete without a tour of the distillery followed by a visit to the distillery shop and a tasting of the product itself, whose gaelic name is uisge beatha – the ‘water of life’. The huge water pipes which supply the distillery with pure, clean, highland water, can be seen running down the side of Ben Nevis. There are many pubs and hotels in the town and surrounding area which will supply visitors with a good variety of Scotch whiskies – so don’t be shy, sample a few!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/ https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Fort William lies at the western end of the Great Glen, a huge gash in the land running between Inverness on the east coast and the town of Corpach, close to Fort William, in the west. Within this gigantic trench lies the Caledonian Canal – a fully-navigable series of lochs and connecting channels which offer an easy way for small boats to pass from the north sea to the sea loch of Loch Linnhe and thence into the Atlantic Ocean. It is possible to hire a small cruiser and sail up and down the Caledonian Canal. There are several locks to negotiate along the length of the canal but none are difficult and the lock-keepers are on hand to help.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The surrounding area offers spectacular views of mountains, lochs and rivers as well as some fascinating history and, if you chose wisely, you will be treated to the finest Scottish cuisine available in one of the several former castles (yes, that’s right, castles) which dot the area and are now hotels. Some of them take a little trouble to find but a visit to Fort William and the surrounding area will reward you with sights and experiences (and tastes) which will live in your memory for a long time.

Want to know more? Then take a look at these websites:

Undiscovered Scotland – Fort William

Visit Scotland – Fort William

Fort William is also the starting point for Britain’s only scheduled steam train, The Jacobite, which runs along the West Highland Line to the port of Mallaig from where a ferry can be had to Eilean a’ Cheò, the Misty Isle, better known as the Isle of Skye. This luxurious train passes over the Glenfinnan viaduct, a spectacular 21-span curved viaduct near the head of Loch Shiel which will be familiar to any ‘Harry Potter’ fan. This 41-mile heritage train journey is not to be missed but book early – understandably, it’s very popular!