11 September 2009

Sightseeing in the Highlands: Inverness

(This is the first post in a multi-part series on our recent trip to Inverness, Skye, and the Black Isle in the Highlands.)

With our last week before the start of the term, Nana and I decided to play tourist a bit, and packed ourselves off for three days (two nights) in the Highlands.

The first stop on our trip, and our home base for the duration, was Inverness, the economic and administrative capital of the Highlands. As the major transport hub for the north of Scotland, Inverness is a good launchpad for day trips into the surrounding countryside.

Inverness gets its name from the Scottish Gaelic Ihnbir Nis, which means "mouth of the Ness." The River Ness flows out of Loch Ness and straight through the town, emptying into the Moray Firth to the northeast. There are a lot of Invers in the Highlands--the stress, we learned, is on the second, distinguishing part of the word (inver-NESS).

The modest  skyline of Inverness is dominated by the castle, a 19th-century throwback built on the site of several ancient fortifications. The castle, which overlooks the river, is made of Old Red Sandstone, a distinctive building material common in Scotland generally, but even more so in the eastern Highlands.

The castle is also a terminus of the Great Glen Way. The Great Glen,  or Glen More (Scottish Gaelic, Gleann Mòr, "Big Valley"), is a tectonic fault that slices diagonally across the middle of Scotland, from the Moray Firth near Inverness to Fort William near the western coast. Its most recognizable feature is probably Loch Ness. It's also the easiest route across the Highlands from East to West.

Inverness is a commuter town, drawing workers and shoppers from all over the Highlands. This means that, after August, when the tourist traffic is a bit slower, the streets are eerily empty at night.

In general, Inverness is a pretty town, with its fare share of restaurants and pubs--not much of a destination in and of itself, but a comfortable place to stay. A stroll along the river, and across one of the many footbridges, is a pleasant way to spend an evening.

If you do find yourself in Inverness, don't miss the excellent local history museum--free admission, in the same building as the tourist information centre, just down the hill from the Castle.

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.