Discover Inverness & The Highlands In 7 Days – Your Guide
Discover Inverness & the highlands in 7 days! If you’re planning on spending a week in Scotland, you can just about scratch the surface of what this incredible country has to offer. We hope this guide will make your journey memorable. Visiting the Highlands offers you a new perspective on Scotland that you might not get by touring cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow: far from these cities’ bustling high streets and cosmopolitan outlook, you can find a slower pace of living in small communities that have their own, unique take on what it is to be Scottish.
From breathtaking natural beauty to charming fishing villages to fairytale castles, the Scottish Highlands truly has something in store for everyone. So if you’re planning a week-long trip to the Highlands, here are some great ideas to help you plan your Scottish getaway.
Take a road trip along the North Coast 500
We’re featuring this option first because it really does give you a taste of the best that the Highlands has to offer in a short amount of time. The North Coast 500 is a 500-mile road trip around Northern Scotland, starting and finishing in Inverness. A week is a good amount of time to dedicate to this epic road trip and lets you experience the wonders of the Highlands within a compact time frame.
You can sample craft beers and do some dolphin spotting on the Black Isle, discover archaeological and geological wonders in Caithness and visit the quaint fishing villages and fairytale castles of Sutherland. The North Coast 500 offers an exciting mix of culture, nature and history for those who love a good road trip. You can find out more on the official website of the North Coast 500.
While Inverness is often used as the base from which to discover the rest of the Highlands, there’s plenty that this wee city has to offer that makes it worth dedicating a day to. You can read our 24-hour itinerary for discovering Inverness here.
Make a visit to the new Inverness Castle Viewing Platform to take in the landscape of the city and the hills around it. Have a look through Inverness Museum & Art Gallery to learn more about the city and its history as well as discovering some of the best modern artists and artisan makers in the Highlands.
Inverness is a good spot for some holiday shopping, too. Shop some local goods at the Victorian Market and get lost among the bookcases in Leakey’s Bookshop. After some tartan or cashmere? Try Chisolms Kiltmaker, Highland House of Fraser or The Edinburgh Woollen Mill for souvenirs your family and friends will love.
Discover Scottish history
Many people visit Scotland to learn more about their heritage, but even if your family has no connections to Scotland, learning more about the country’s varied history is a must for your holiday in Scotland. Most towns in the Highlands have some kind of a local museum or a castle that was once home to fierce leaders of Scottish clans.
In fact, many castles in Scotland are still home to the descendants of these rulers and offer tours to visitors. So take some time to visit some of the many Highland castles in and around Inverness. Some firm favourites include Cawdor Castle and Brodie Castle, both of which are located a 30-40 minute drive from Inverness.
You can find some great museums built around old military forts and battlefields as well as folk museums exhibiting the ways people lived in Scotland in past eras all over the Highlands. You can find a directory of these museums here.
Take in some local colour
Make some new friends by rubbing elbows with locals in little country pubs or head to the local cèilidh to try some traditional Scottish folk dances. The atmosphere at a cèilidh is very friendly and contagiously fun, making for unique and unforgettable holiday memories.
Before each traditional group or partner dance, the band, traditionally made up of fiddle, accordion and often also guitar, drums and flute go over the steps to the next dance, which makes cèilidhs accessible to tourists. Don’t worry too much about every step right, though: the most important thing is having a good time and a bit of a giggle!
If you’re planning your visit in the summer, try catching one of the many Highland Games organised yearly. These events started back in the Victorian era in the form they’re known today, consisting of competitions to find the strongest men and women in Scotland. These competitions include, among others, the iconic caber toss, where a long, upright log is tossed so that it turns around in the air, as well as the sheaf toss, where a heavy hay bale is thrown in the air with the help of a pitchfork.
Alongside these strength competitions, you’ll find Highland dancing, herding dog trials, Celtic arts and lots and lots of bagpipe music. The Inverness Highland Games are held in July each year and you can find a list of all the different Highland Games held nationwide here.
Try some distinctively Scottish drams & brews
What trip to Scotland would be complete without a little whisky? Scotland’s distilleries are divided into five distinct regions, each of which produces whiskies with their own unique characteristics.
The Highlands is one of these five regions, producing many whiskies famous the world over for a peaty character with a hint of salty sea air, while other distilleries are famous for fruity, lighter drams. These two extremes reflect the varied characteristics of the Highlands landscape, from sandy beaches to rugged moors and mountains.
There are an impressive 47 whisky distilleries in the Scottish Highlands, most of which offer tours for visitors. Some of the best distilleries to visit include Glenmorangie in Tain, known for their exceptionally smooth single malts and the historic Oban Distillery, located in the charming coastal town of Oban.
Not a fan of whisky? Visit the Black Isle Brewery to sample a world-class selection of organic craft beers. Take one of the brewery’s popular daily tours and admire the cute Hebridean sheep grazing around you on the lush farmland that surrounds the brewery for a memorable day out for fans of craft beer.
For gin lovers, a visit to the Dunnet Bay Distilleries in Thurso is sure to please. Perhaps most famous for their award-winning Rock Rose Gin, Dunnet Bay uses aromatic, locally grown botanicals to give their spirits their signature taste. Your tour ends with a tutored tasting session that’ll teach you gin facts to wow your friends with.
Experience breathtaking natural beauty
The Scottish Highlands are home to some truly stunning scenery: picturesque villages and small towns dot a landscape of rugged hills and razor-sharp cliffs that drop down to the roaring ocean. Even those without a single hike under their belt should take some time to admire the natural beauty of the region – if only for an afternoon.
You can’t go wrong with a visit to the Cairngorms National Park. There’s lots to do in this huge national park, from mountain climbing to watersports to llama trekking. You can also explore the local villages and castles or simply try and spot some of the rare wildlife that inhabits the area: you can take part in a wildlife safari or visit Britain’s only free-ranging reindeer herd.
Five of the UK’s six highest mountains lay in the Cairngorms Park, alongside an impressive 55 munros. This makes the national park a must-visit for seasoned hikers, hillwalkers, rock climbers and skiers alike. You can even go zip lining in Aviemore!
And what visit to Inverness would be complete without a visit to Loch Ness to try and catch a glimpse of Nessie? Take a boat tour on the lake with Jacobite Cruises before a hearty meal at the Dores Inn on the shore. On your day out on this huge loch, you can also visit the ruins of the historic Urquhart castle or simply sit on the banks of the loch watching boats go past.
Need a hotel in Inverness?
The Palace Hotel in the heart of Inverness makes for the ideal home base for your Highland holiday. Located opposite Inverness Castle on the banks of River Ness, you can discover the rest of the Highlands on day trips from Inverness or use the hotel as the start and finish point of your road trip along the North Coast 500.