Inverness & the Highlands

We're off to Inverness for a few days over the New Year - weather/roads permitting, we were thinking of heading North and/or West(ish) for the day to get out to one of the coastal areas.

Firstly is there anything that's a must do while we're in and around the city, and what would be the best routes out to get to the famous unspoilt empty beaches.

Many thanks in advance.
 

scots_wahey

Old-Salt
I would urge you to visit Fort George - amazing and still a working military barracks. Whilst its a long drive the beaches on the West Coast are stunning - we spent a magical few days in Gairloch a few years back.
 
We're off to Inverness for a few days over the New Year - weather/roads permitting, we were thinking of heading North and/or West(ish) for the day to get out to one of the coastal areas.

Firstly is there anything that's a must do while we're in and around the city, and what would be the best routes out to get to the famous unspoilt empty beaches.

Many thanks in advance.
North Eastish is just as nice, with less tourists. About an hour to Tain (Glenmorangie Distillery), you also have the 'Black Isle' that way too. Just saying. :)
 
Great - thanks - yeah, we know it's a drive, but that's cool. It's more will the roads be open if there's the snow they reckon is going to fall this month.

I'd love to spend a leisurely wander around Fort George, but I know SWMBO will get bored. I'll stick it on the table with other ideas and see if I can nudge it forward.
 
East you have the Moray Firth, which is renowned for its dolphins. Fort George is well worth a visit. There is also the Culloden battlefield and visitor centre.

West there is Plockton, Lochcarron and the bridge across to Skye. Torridon and the Applecross peninsula are lovely, but there is a fair chance that the Applecross road will be closed off at this time of year with snow and ice.

North, there is the Black Isle, Strathpeffer and Cromarty.

South, there is the Strathspey steam railway at Boat of Garten (check for dates). Avoid Aviemore at all costs. It is a shithole.

I would be surprised if the weather is anything other than 'bracing' (ie freezing) and most of the places of interest and facilities outside of Inverness will be closed. The beaches will be windswept and cold. The highlands very much close down out of season.

Check if anything you intend to visit is open before you set off.
 

Mr Tweedy

Old-Salt
I would second the recommendation for Fort George, And add Culloden Battle Site - It is well worth a visit, as long as you can stomach the obvious " The brave Highland warriors were only beaten by the dastardly English because of their underhand and cowardly use of firearms" narrative. (It reminds me somewhat of the Waterloo visitor attractions, where if you didn't know better you might be forgiven for thinking Napoleon won!).

Heading NNE up the A9 from Inverness will take you to some stunning beaches and coastline, and past a number of interesting distilleries, and just a few miles East of Fort George is Nairn beach which is quite nice.
 
Fort William is about 1hr 15m away from Inverness,you follow Loch Ness all the way down to Fort Augustas.
From Fort William take the road to the Isles.


Great sea food to be had in Mallaig.

Plus points, It's out of season so the roads won't be packed with coaches and bloody motor homes. No midges.

Minus points, The cloud base will be about 500' and visibility will be less. Everywhere you want to visit will be shut.

Enjoy!
 

kimmi851

Old-Salt
The coastal roads will be reasonably clear regardless, the roads that are impassable are usually closed formally when the snow gets bad. The sea is actually reasonably warm (well it seemed so whenever I drunkenly threw myself into it) so the coast roads are generally not terrible.

Avoid Findhorn. Trust me.

The beaches around Lossie are truly gorgeous. Just skip Elgin as its a dive.

If you are doing distilleries I recommend choosing a couple of distilleries you want to tour and delegate the driving for the day, no point travelling that far for multiple days. The roads to them are usually cleared to keep the whisky moveable.
 
If you're determined on the West coast then take the A835 out of Inverness to Ullapool (alternative is to branch off at Garve to Kinlochewe and drive up the side of Loch Maree to Gairloch, carry on round through Laide and Dundonnel past the Corrieshalloch Gorge to Ullapool). If you're feeling adventurous carry on North from Ullapool through the mountains to Durness.
Roads shouldn't be too bad just now, although I had great weather in Ullapool one, then drove to the hotel in Dundonnal, only just because I was tucked in behind a snowplough.
 
Avoid Findhorn. Trust me.
C'mon! You're just trying to keep it all for yourself! Pop into the Findhorn Foundation for a cup of tea and a chat, does wonders for your blood pressure.
 
I took my mum to Scotland in mid-summer about 7 years ago, swear we only passed one or two cars as we drove from Moray Firth area (east coast) to Gairloch area (west). There were deserted beaches on the west and you only understand why when you stop the car and get out (midges were lethal). The beach will prob be midge-free but inland won't. But lovely place, you'd be driving along and round a corner and you could be in Canada, a few mins later and you're looking at a Norwegian Fjord, or a 50s villiage. It was the first time I'd ever seen native deer.
 
If your here on the 28th December and like football you could do worse than popping along to watch the famous Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club. ( famous only for the longest name in Scottish professional football). You could see me there, I will be the one in the arctic clothing.
 
Chanonry point for a bit of dolphin spotting and if you fancy something weirder Clootie well.

 
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Fort George

Culloden must be seen. Especially before the developers start sticking new builds next to it.

Beauly - very pretty Victorian village. Great tailor's there too if you need anything woolly, tweedy or...well, tailored.

Applecross - go over the Bealach na Ba -simply stunning, but not ideal for nervous drivers/vertigo sufferers. Food at the Applecross Inn is fantastic.

Commando Memorial Spean Bridge

The Dores Inn, Dores - eastern side of Loch Ness, great food (book ahead) and right on the Loch edge where the Loch Ness Monster Hunter lives.

Dalwhinne Distillery off the A9.

Tomatin Distillery off the A9. Strongly recommend the "big T" as their blended whisky and their 15yr sherry finish if they have any left.

Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit, if you want a bit of culture, innit.

A friend of mine runs a hotel in Perthshire if you are wanting to stop en route, let me know if you want the details (the hotel, not my friend).

ETA - The Black Isle is well worth a gander. Good brewery there, too. The Black Isle Brewery, Munlochy.
 
On your way up to Inverness you could pull off to visit the Dalwhinnie distillery. Once in Inverness you could head south west on the A82 taking you to loch Ness, there’s the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge further along. Staying on the A82 takes you to fort William for a bite to eat, further still is Glen Coe, take a decent camera. Alternatively down the A82, onto the A887 then A87 takes you through one of the most beautiful drives I have ever done and to Eileen Dornan Castle (of Highlander fame). Stay on the A87 straight to Isle of Skye. If you fancy hopping over to one of the islands, Lewis is well worth it. Give the Uists and Benbecula a miss, it’s bleak.
 
Tomatin Distillery off the A9. Strongly recommend the "big T" as their blended whisky and their 15yr sherry finish if they have any left.
My youngest son & wife live in Tomatin, apart from the distillery and an impressive railway arch there is uuuummm well that's it.
 

Mr Tweedy

Old-Salt
Fort George

Culloden must be seen. Especially before the developers start sticking new builds next to it.

Beauly - very pretty Victorian village. Great tailor's there too if you need anything woolly, tweedy or...well, tailored.

Applecross - go over the Bealach na Ba -simply stunning, but not ideal for nervous drivers/vertigo sufferers. Food at the Applecross Inn is fantastic.

Commando Memorial Spean Bridge

The Dores Inn, Dores - eastern side of Loch Ness, great food (book ahead) and right on the Loch edge where the Loch Ness Monster Hunter lives.

Dalwhinne Distillery off the A9.

Tomatin Distillery off the A9. Strongly recommend the "big T" as their blended whisky and their 15yr sherry finish if they have any left.

Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit, if you want a bit of culture, innit.

A friend of mine runs a hotel in Perthshire if you are wanting to stop en route, let me know if you want the details (the hotel, not my friend).

ETA - The Black Isle is well worth a gander. Good brewery there, too. The Black Isle Brewery, Munlochy.
On the way up to Inverness (assuming you go up the A9), you can get brownie points by taking her into the House of Bruar - The "Harrods of the Highlands". Great spot for lunch, and the food hall is worth it on it's own. (Just make sure you have plenty of credit on your card!).
 

Blogg

LE
All of the Above. It's worth going out westwards to one of the remnants of ancient forest.

But not in December/January. Oh dear me no.

Also remember the days are short. Add a dose of heavy cloud or just crap weather and at times can seem like the day never starts before it ends again
 

Hippohunter

Old-Salt
Kincraig Wildlife Park About an hour down the A9 just south of Aviemore, Fort George a magnificent piece of military engineering, Culloden battlefield, a visit to any distillery and a good evening in either the Gellions or Hootenanys pubs
 

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