In September 2020, when the travel restrictions had been relaxed here in Scotland we managed to get away for a few days in the Highlands. The impromptu plan was borne from spotting an amazing offer for Travelodge rooms no more than £30 per night! So we booked four nights in the centre of Inverness for less than £150. Exactly what we were looking for when we planned to spend as much time outdoors as possible and would just need somewhere to shower and rest our weary heads at the end of the day. The thought of having five days in Inverness with local walks was really appealling.
Of course, pre-Covid days we would have expected breakfast too but we knew there would be plenty of places open for breakfast across the city. This wouldn’t be an issue. We were just excited to be staying away from home and a four night stay in Inverness with local walks each day would be perfect.
As always we both wanted time to enjoy our respective hobbies/passions whilst we were away. We had researched swim spots and golf golf courses to play and settled on some sort of loose itinerary for the week. With our bags packed and sweets for the journey our excitement reached fever pitch. Here’s what we got up to on our five days in Inverness with local walks:
Walk at Falls of Foyers
Perth to Inverness along the A9 isn’t the worst journey in the world, it’s certainly scenic but we were looking forward to some single track roads. The south side of Loch Ness really is fabulous to explore but in places not really made for huge campervans. Even the most proficient at reversing will still struggle to allow other road users to pass.
We were excited for a stop off at Camerons Tea Rooms and joined the queue of masked strangers for hot chocolate and a slice of home made cake. The menu here looked divine, full of locally sourced fresh produce. We sat outdoors checking out the map for our first walk of the week.
There is a small car park for the start of our walk not far from the Tea Rooms and it’s quite busy but there are a few spaces. I imagine in the height of summer that this is chaos so a Plan B would definitely be needed, just in case.
Crossing the road and going through the gate a steep path winds down through beautiful old trees to a viewpoint. It’s not very big and in these days of social distancing we had to wait our turn to see the falls. The cascade of water falls 62 metres to a large pool beneath. Sadly there was not much water flowing over at the time we visited but I imagine it is spectacular.
From here we chose to follow the woodland walk down to the shore of Loch Ness. It was nice to spend some time by the water in the sunshine before hiking back up the steep hill to the car. Steps galore but a few benches dotted about to take advantage of the views (code for: catching your breath!). We also found a larger viewpoint for the waterfall as we were walking back up. It’s much further away but gives a great perspective and is well worth the walk.
This was an excellent way to kick start our five days in Inverness but now it was time to check in at the hotel and find somewhere to eat.
Walks at Chanonry Point and Rosemarkie
I’ve had the joy of looking for dolphins at Chanonry Point whilst in the area for work a few years ago. Turns out my work colleague (and good friend) is jinxed when it comes to spotting wildlife and we didn’t see any on that particular trip. I had my fingers crossed that we would break that curse today!
Fuelled by a lorne (square sausage – a Scottish delicacy) and black pudding breakfast roll and good coffee from a cafe in the city Dude and I headed out on the Black Isle to Chanonry Point. The journey out to this part of the narrow peninsula is about 30 minutes from Inverness city centre by car and it’s so pretty. The car park is a decent size but does get really busy and we were lucky to bag one of the last remaining spaces.
Armed with binoculars we strolled along the shoreline to join the crowds of people eagerly waiting with long lenses and anticipation. Within minutes there were sightings of dorsal fins in the fairly calm water out in the wider part of the Moray Firth. Four, six, now ten dolphins seen breaching the water then reappeared further on. Pure magic to watch.
I hadn’t even given the tides a thought when planning our day but to give yourself the best opportunity at watching dolphins a Chanonry Point would be on a rising tide. Of course, as with my previous visits you might not see anything at all, and that’s nature.
After all this excitement we decided to explore further up the beach to Rosemarkie. Walking by the camp site and admiring the views before reaching the village itself. It’s a pretty wee place, full of character and a Fairy Glen complete with waterfall. We didn’t walk the 3km woodland trail but it’s certainly on our list for next time.
After a short walk along the road we were exploring Fortrose Cathedral. Tucked away, just off the High Street is the beautiful red sandstone building. The oldest part of the ruins date back to the 1300s and it’s relatively short history is fascinating. From here we wandered down the narrow street toward Fortrose Caravan Park. Excitement of dolphins in the Moray Firth had reached fever pitch here too as campers studied the water through binoculars and told us of the event.
From here the path lead us down along the golf course and back to the car park at Chanonry Point. The weather had been kind to us and we had covered about 7 or 8km.
Next stop: Cromarty
Near the eastern tip of the Black Isle peninsula is Cromarty. It’s a short and scenic 15 minute car journey from our last stop off and the perfect place for lunch or an ice cream. We had no particular plan or route mapped out so we enjoyed a saunter around the town.
In the 1700s it was a busy harbour for traders of raw materials for cloth and ironware factories. These days, the harbour is filled with leisure boats and a few small fishing boats. It’s narrow streets are busy with tourists and a mix of quaint cottages and grand buildings line each side.
We walked by the birth place of Hugh Miller (now part of a museum, sadly closed at the time of our visit). Notably built by his great Grandfather, a pirate, the thatched cottage sits with it’s gable end on the street. Hugh Miller was a man with fingers in many pies. A Folklorist, stonemason, writer and geologist, he is described as one of the great Scots of the 19th Century.
There were plenty of people out in kayaks and on SUP’s, making the most of the flat calm water. They seemed tiny against the backdrop of the huge oilrigs of Invergordon on the opposite side of the Cromarty Firth.
After spending a good couple of hours mooching about, stopping for cold drinks and watching the world go by I really enjoyed my time here. It has this homely feel to it and I think we will definitely be back to discover more.
Muir of Ord Golf Course
According to some people the game of golf spoils a good walk. I would be inclined to disagree. I know this walk might not suit everyone but it’s something I do quite regularly when my favourite human plays golf.
Dude had done his research and settled upon playing a round at Muir of Ord golf course during this trip. 18holes = 10km-ish walk. Less than 30 minutes by car, Muir of Ord is a sweet place with one of the best bakeries I’ve ever been to. Sadly on the day we went it was closed *note to self* remember to check opening times before getting all excited about homemade cakes!
This 18 hole golf course is full of surprises, not least the railway line that runs through the middle of it! After a makeover in the 1920’s, the course pretty much remains as it was designed in 1875 with bunkers and blind greens and a downhill par 3.
But from my point as the observer in golf there are some beautiful old trees, lovely views across to Ben Wyvis and the Beauly Firth from some of the higher tees. My keen eye spotted red squirrels, great spotted woodpecker, skylarks and a friendly local puss cat.
Inverness city riverside walk
Early September and we had been very lucky with the weather. In days gone by we probably would have spent the evening drinking in the pub but these new times meant we stayed indoors as little as possible during this trip. After eating our meals we decided to wander along the river Ness.
Strolling by Inverness Cathedral and along the riverside path to Ness islands we admired the architecture, marvelled at the blue sky and watched ducks on the water. The river was running high and fast but in places we were still able to see the stoney riverbed.
We crossed one of the beautiful Victorian footbridges and onto the middle of the river. The natural islands are in the middle of the river Ness and they give visitors a different perspective looking down stream. With pathways through the mature trees it’s a good place to watch the wildlife, including squirrels.
It’s just a short walk but a lovely way to enjoy the evening light and a nice way to explore the city. We actually did this walk each night after dinner.
Day four of our week in Inverness and we’re still basking in the early autumn sunshine. Heading out into Ross-shire to the market town of Dingwall. We were guilty of driving through here when we drove the North Coast 500 but it really is worth stopping off. Just a 30 minute drive from the city centre and we found a space in one of the free car parks. I love that places offer free parking. Encouraging people to stay longer, explore and not be limited by a time constraint.
Despite parking just a short walk from the MacDonald Monument (the end goal of this walk) we walked about 6km through the town centre, along the coast and beside fields before heading up the hill to see the monument. Starting outside the museum (which was closed at the time because of Covid regulations), the walk soon leaves the built up High Street and we walk along the canal (one of Thomas Telford’s projects) for a short while enjoying cheery interactions with locals.
Following the path we soon emerge onto a picnic area overlooking the Cromarty Firth, with views of the Black Isle and the distinguishable Fyrish Monument in the distance. From here we continued along a narrow coastal path where the calls of wigeon and geese were like an orchestra. Inland, over the fields we were treated to our first glimpse of the MacDonald Monument nestled in amongst trees and overlooking the Firth.
Alongside fields, carefully over the railway line and through a wee underpass (saves having to cross the main road) we were wandering back toward the carpark before turning up a narrow, steep hill. There is no footpath and for those less able there are parking spaces at the top of the hill but it’s fair to say it’s a short, sharp pull up!
The monument then reveals itself in all it’s glory above the tree line. Built in the early 1900’s it commemorates Sir Hector ‘Fighting Mac’ MacDonald, a local crofter’s son who rose through the ranks whilst serving with the 92nd Gordon Highlanders. With a rather sad ending, he had taken his own life and the monument erected in his memory. It’s rather impressive.
Rogie Falls short walk
I’m a HUGE fan of waterfalls in Scotland and this one is quite something. The first time we stopped off here was when we did the North Coast 500 and that was in October time so the falls were impressive.
Again, just a 30 minute drive from the centre of Inverness for this short, but beautiful, 1.5km walk.
The wide, well made path winds it’s way through the pine and silver birch trees. The sun was still shining for us and I welcomed the opportunity to be in the shade. Following the waymarkers we got down to the viewpoint and after seeing the coach in the car park we knew it would be busy. It’s a regular stop off for many tours a) because it’s beautiful but b) because there are public toilets in the carpark.
So we waited for the crowds to dissipate before venturing on to the metal suspension bridge. The damp air and roaring sound of water makes it feel very dramatic. Lichens growing on trees and the whole thing resembling a temperate rainforest.
During August and September there is a possibility you can see salmon leaping up the falls in an attempt to get upstream to spawn. It’s quite an emotional experience watching these animals repeatedly try to find their way to continue their journey (not in a reality TV kinda way).
After crossing the bridge we mooched about along the river looking for any salmon that may be taking a rest after their valiant efforts down below.
Our main walk though was back across the other side following green/red waymarked posts. It was here that we lost the crowds. The narrow track followed the river and was lined with heather, silver birch trees, pines and ferns. We found lots of fungi that love the damp conditions and I saved a few upturned beetles!
This wee wander is enough to stretch your legs if you’re driving through but I would say it’s well worth exploring further than the main falls.
Loch Ness walk & swim at Dores beach
Final day and with the car all packed up we drove just a few miles south west to the shores of Loch Ness.
In a bid to make the most of the day before making our way back home it was time for final walk and a swim to cool off. We made use of the free parking just a couple of hundred metres from the beach and set off along the path that runs from the big pub carpark and is directly behind the beach.
It soon veers off into the woodlands, away from the beach and the tall pines provide shade from the already scorching sun. Scotland really can pull it out of the bag occasionally. We follow the wide, flat trail onto the Aldourie Castle Estate and explore off the main track looking for fungi and wood ants nests! We also found a small jetty but didn’t stay long because we were getting bitten by bitey things!
Making our way back toward the beach and we realised we had seen only a handful of people and that it had been nice to end our stay in Inverness with such a bonnie walk.
Hurrah! It was time for a swim and the prospect of swimming in what is probably Scotland’s most loch was slightly overwhelming. So after retrieving my kit from the car I duly changed into my swimming costume (in the privacy of my towelling robe).
Quite possibly the busiest place I’ve been wild swimming in Scotland. Usually I opt for secluded places but this didn’t matter at all. I bravely marched across the sand and took my first strokes through the notorious water. Feeling like I’d won the lottery I didn’t have to try too hard to imagine I could have been in Lake Garda, Italy. It really was stunning. But then……
I felt a sudden surge of water propel me back toward the shore. I panicked and my imagination went into overdrive, that was it, I was done for! Nessie didn’t want this overweight swimmer in her loch. I looked over to Dude who was sitting on the sand reading a book. He wouldn’t have even noticed if I’d have been taken!
Thankfully, it was just the bow wave of a boat on the far side of the loch. Aaaaannnnnd breathe. Jeez.
I stayed in the water while longer but I remained closer to the shore. Just in case.
Five days in Inverness with local walks.
What an incredible few days away. Throughout lockdown I’d been working from home (this was my normal anyway) and Dude had been working hard through it all too, so we had relished the change of scenery. That sense of freedom, fresh air and new encounters was a complete sensory overload but we soaked it all up.
Our five days in Inverness with local walks no further than 30 minutes was just what we needed.