A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to make a rare trip up to Inverness in order to catch up with a friend. Although an essential hub for the Highlands of Scotland, this northern city has always been more of a thoroughfare for me as I headed towards the Kessock Bridge and across to Ullapool, Torridon or Applecross. This time round, however, I was looking forward to exploring the city and surrounding area. As I left work and travelled north, I caught glimpses of the dramatic snow covered Glencoe mountains peering out in the darkness, before a brief stop at Glen Nevis Youth Hostel to meet up with my friend.
It was a wet and windy night so we took our time. When we reached the west side of Loch Ness it was dark, and the water levels were very high making the loch look eerie and surreal with the moonlight reflecting off it. Having always been a fan of 'Nessie', and recalling the excitement of standing on the banks of Loch Ness in eager anticipation as a child, it really did feel like he might have made an appearance if we had braved the weather and taken the time to stop longer.
Saturday morning started with a walk into the city along the river Ness which was rather swollen after the high rainfall the previous night. We weren't short on choice for places to walk - paths around Inverness offer a variety of routes including the Great Glen Way, General Wade's Military road and Inverness City Centre Historic Trail, but as we continued to head for town it was nearing lunchtime and we decided to stop for a bite to eat.
We came across Velocity Café and Bicycle Workshop on Crowne Avenue - a brilliant concept where you can fix your bike with any of the tools supplied in the workshop adjoining the café. Our reward after our walk was a delicious salad bowl made from tasty organic ingredients followed by home-made lemon and mascarpone sponge, but there was an excellent range across the menu including options for a gluten free diet. This is a 'must visit' café in Inverness and it's only a short walk from Inverness Youth Hostel too!
The afternoon choice was a film at the Eden Court Theatre which is a large comfortable theatre, cinema and arts venue. It's a modern facility offering a broad spectrum of entertainment including comedy, dance and music. We didn't sample the coffee shop this time, but it did look tempting and there were certainly plenty of people making use of it.
Later in the afternoon the weather had improved a little and my guide suggested a short trip to the Falls of Foyers, normally a gentile waterfall, on the quieter east side of Loch Ness. In all my years of travelling around Scotland I had never heard of these falls before, so with a bit of intrepidation we headed off with about an hour and a half of daylight left. Seeing Loch Ness from the east is quite special - the backdrop of the mountains is much more scenic than from the west - and if you haven't experienced a single track road in Scotland with passing places to allow for overtaking, then it's always a wee bit of joy when you get the flash of lights or wave of appreciation for being a courteous driver.
The idea of heading to the falls was to see how they would be affected by the large rainfall over the last 24 hours and we were not left disappointed. I have never seen such a force of water in Scotland and, whilst it may not quite be Niagara or Victoria Falls, it was a rare spectacle and really was worth the half hour journey from Inverness.
On Sunday morning I could see some blue sky so thought it would be good to head out with the camera, this time to another lesser known spot. Clava Cairns is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb surrounded by standing stones, many of which survive today, and the ancient beech trees surrounding add to the mystery of this place.
Never one to pass on a final coffee opportunity, we returned to the Velocity Café where a hearty tomato and vegetable soup and two tier chocolate cherry cake were the choice of the day before hitting the road south. With a promise of many more things to explore from my trusty local guide, I left Inverness already planning a return visit, there's a lot to discover in this vibrant Highland city.
Written by Donna Thompson - March, 2015
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