Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Inverness

If you have two days to spare and want to escape London, go to Inverness, Scotland. A flight ticket, if you book three months in advance, can come as cheap as £18. A month's turnaround can be double the price, which again, is not a bad deal, considering that you reach in less than 90 minutes and have the whole day to utilise. If you have more time on your hands, nothing like a rail link capturing the spectacular sights that the journey has to offer, especially once you cross the Scottish border. Driving down to the Gateway of the Highlands takes you longer but the roads are well sign-posted and as a group, it can be fun driving along. 
Located in the far north of Scotland, Inverness as a destination caters to all tastes. One of the beauties of the place is the plethora of accommodation options available to the traveller. From extremely affordable youth hostels to cosy B&Bs to upmarket hotels, Inverness is good for all pockets. Winston Guest House, the B&B where we stayed is ideally located along the river Ness and for £67 a night you get the warmest double bedroom ensuite stay plus breakfast. The view from the room leaves you refreshed and you wish you had more than two days in hand.




Day 1, 1st Half: The Reflections Tour in the Jacobite Queen gave us the experience of a lifetime. That the weather was crazy is an understatement. In the 3 hours cruise we experienced snow, sun, rain, more snow, more sun, more rain and not necessarily in that order. The best time to visit Inverness is June-September when there is virtually 24 hours daylight. But since you cannot expect only sunshine even then, you might as well go whenever you please. We were there the week before Easter. The first week of April and we carried our jackets, caps, and ended up buying gloves for 50p-thank you Primark- thanks to the unpredictable weather. Was it adventurous? Check the pics and figure out for yourself!



  
The journey from Inverness to Loch Ness is full of sights and sounds. The sail through the historic Caledonian Canal is an experience in itself. Loch(Lake in Scottish) Ness has dark brackish water that does nothing to its fish. If one is lucky, one can spot varieties of marine life and even the adorable monster Nessie that is, unofficially, the mascot of Inverness & Loch Ness. The audio guide during the cruise enlightens and amuses with its information and trivia. Tourists can board off at the Urquhart Castle and explore its ruins or travel back to Inverness in the same boat. Depends on how bright or inclement the weather is or how keen one is. Inside the Jacobite Queen is a refreshment bar that has choices of cold and hot drinks with cakes, sandwiches and enough to keep one full during the journey.
Day 1, 2nd Half: As you head back to Inverness taking in the sights you missed during the onward journey, you have already started planning your second half. How about a walk to the little island that you saw en route! There is so much to still do. Thank God for those sturdy shoes! It is 6pm. The sun refuses to dim. Under happy circumstances, it will be daylight till 8pm. The walk along the Ness towards the island takes you past the figures of Faith Hope & Charity, the War Memorial, more than five bridges, vibrant spring flowers, and benches that are a wooden delight. Apart from animal life like red squirrels and rabbits if you tread cautiously.
 
                                                        

             
         

Day 2: The best way to see the rest of Inverness is hopping on to a HoHo bus. There are thirteen points it covers and one is free to de-board or get back as one wishes, having spent an hour at the haunt of one's choice. The reasonably priced ticket is valid for 24 hours and if you have availed the Jacobite cruise the day before, you get a rebate on the Hop On Hop On bus. Couldn't get better, could it! Take a full tour the first time and get off at the last point. Or pick up a booklet from the bus itself and decide your preferred order. The first tour of the HoHo takes you past the following. The audio guided tour adds to the impact.
                      
 
The last stop is the Holm Mill, a must visit for all shopaholics and lovers of history & tradition. The James Pringle Weavers boast of  200 years of tradition. Step inside the mill- cum- exhibition centre and authenticate the claim for yourself. Don't be surprised if you spend two hours here instead of one. Worry not, the HoHo Bus comes every hour. 
 






After an enriching stay at the Mill, head back to The Bus and get off at the Inverness Castle. The bright day makes it worth your time. Sitting on a cliff overlooking the Ness river, this red sandstone structure is a visual delight. It houses the Sheriff's Court in what was once a castle. Some utilization of property, that! The Castle grounds are open to the public. The view from there across to the other bank is breathtaking. With the snowfall that has happened two nights ago, the mountain peaks in the distance look all the more picturesque.     



Nestled at the foot of the cliff is the Inverness Museum, a compulsory visit if you like sciences, art, flora , fauna and everything else about life. Admission is free and there is a lot to see and do inside. Go on a treasure hunt and win prizes, make your penny into a memorabilia, try on the Achavrail armlet or just take in the life-like animals & birds. Admire the bronze and the marble statues and don't forget the animation room that is on the top floor. After a fruitful hour at the museum walk downhill to Bridge Street. The HoHo Bus starts from there and will take you to your next destination.
      

  



If the old world fascinates you, The Victorian Market is a place you will love browsing. Reach there by 3pm so you get at least an hour before they close shop. From the red carpet to the fishmongers, the feel is welcoming and quaint. And, needless to say, clean. Get talking to Lucas & he tells you about how big companies are eating up the authentic home-run chocolate houses in Belgium & Scotland. It is just before Easter and his shop is replete with delicious Easter eggs & chocolate animals. 
There are places that you have already seen & things you've already done yesterday like the Island Walk & the River Cruise. You now feel the need to just sit by the Ness, nibble into some pure chocolate & bask in the bright sun that shows no signs of setting. After 8pm, if you feel like, walk down to the the Eden Court Thetre & Cinema and catch a flick. Don't forget the mouth-watering fish & chips for dinner. Indulge yourself, people. I shall see you in Aberdeen next. Ciao!











1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
    The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.

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