It may lie within the lush, green, seemingly untouched splendor of the Scottish Highlands, but Inverness is a busy, bustling city break destination – complete with a huge shopping center, restaurants of every kind, and pumping nightclubs. Of course, many will come because of its closeness to Loch Ness, the largest Scottish loch by volume, whose unfathomable depths inspired the story of one of the world's most famous mythical creatures: the Loch Ness Monster. Keep your eyes peeled for Nessie – that's if you can look away from the dramatic, hilly landscape all around.
Things to see
The best place to monster-watch when visiting Loch Ness? That has to be Urquhart Castle. The ruins of this once major fortress date right back to the 13th Century and over the centuries have been the site of many a bloody battle. Climb the Grant Tower for fine views of the loch and surrounding grandeur. For more information on the area and the infamous Nessie, visit the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre – it's located at the nearby Drumnadrochit Hotel and tells the whole history of the loch using immersive animation, lasers, and other special effects. It's an experience that appeals to all ages and you'll actually learn a few things about Loch Ness beyond the fact it's supposedly a home for dinosaurs. Back in Inverness, be sure to check out Inverness Castle: a strikingly red sandstone structure that now serves as a courthouse.
Hotels in Inverness
Despite being far-removed from the other cosmopolitan centers of the UK, there are plenty of luxury hotels in Inverness to make your stay utterly memorable. Think Egyptian cotton sheets, fine velvet bathrobes, hot tubs, split-level suites, the works. Many Inverness hotels are found right on the banks of the glittering River Ness: quite a sight to wake up to in the morning. This is not to say you have to spend a lot to have an enjoyable stay, with many cheaper hotels and bed and breakfasts also available featuring mod-cons like gyms and free WiFi.
Where to stay
If you're staying in the city itself, you'll want to book your Inverness hotel as close to the center as possible. This will put you within wandering distance of the modern Eastgate Centre shopping mall, as well as the some of the older landmarks – especially the grand Neo-Gothic buildings dotted around the Old Town. Look out as well for the Victorian Market: beneath its vaulted roof are crammed traditional old shops selling sweets, jewellery, and kilts. Alternatively, you could also opt to stay near Loch Ness, where plenty of inns and bed and breakfasts cater to the legions of tourists flocking here every year.
How to get to
If you're heading over from the other end of the UK, there's one classic, rather atmospheric way to get to Inverness station, and that's by sleeper train. These run frequently from London – board in the evening, and wake up in Inverness! If you don't fancy such an epic ride by rail, however, you can also choose to hop on a plane. Inverness Airport is only around 20 minutes from the city center (taxis are readily available) and flights land here from London as well as Bristol, Belfast, and Birmingham, not to mention mainland Europe.