Muschamp Rd

Scotland Trip 2024: Inverness & Culloden

April 2nd, 2024
In Inverness

Inverness is known as the capital of the Highlands but a lot of people just pass through, I decided to spend two nights there and explore the city and surrounding area a little. I never got to do everything I wanted to, nor did I take a cruise and look for a certain sea monster, however I did enjoy my time in Inverness and set my first of several walking records while on my trip to Scotland.

As per my original plan I took the train North to Inverness. You can see my selfie when I exited the train station. Prior to traveling further North alone after I taking part in the Highland Whisky Academy, Mike was nice enough to drop me at the closest train station which was Kintore. I’d gotten off there after flying to Aberdeen from London.

In Inverness I stayed at the Best Western. It actually was quite nice and I chose it because of where it was located on the map. It is right on the River Ness but I did not pay extra to have a view. I actually booked the hotel mostly with Airmiles. I had walked with my now heavier backpack from the train station but it was the next day that I over did it.

The River Ness
The River Ness


My first stop after taking a selfie was of course my hotel. There actually is a historical hotel attached to the train station, so maybe I stay there if I visit Inverness again. My room was of course not ready yet, but as long as I could drop off my pack that was fine. Now with 12 kg less to carry I made a beeline for Leakey’s Bookshop. This is supposedly the largest used bookstore in Scotland and is in an old church. However before I could buy several kilograms worth of books I passed by the Black Isle pub so I popped in to try the local craft beer.

Black Isle Pizza and Beer
Black Isle pizza and beer

While having a pizza, a lady asked if she could sit at my table. I don’t know if she recognized my vintage Bluejays hat but turns out she was also from Vancouver Island. She had married a gentleman from Arran or was it Rassy, but they live in Inverness now. They were having a pre-match pint and pizza, they invited me to attend the local soccer match, but I told her my actual destination was Leakey’s which impressed her. So after we talked and I got a second stronger beer I had to push on to the book shop as it was closed on Sunday.

Leakey's Bookshop
Got books?

Leakey’s has many, many books, I mainly was interested in books on Scotland but I actually picked up some books on whisky too. I ended up buying over 3 kg worth of books. I know this because I had to carry them for quite a while, because by the time I purchased my books, aka after lunch, the post office was closed and would not open on a Sunday I was informed. In fact things closing on certain days becomes a bigger problem the further North you go in Scotland, especially during the winter.

After getting my room and eventually my bag I set out once again on foot to get dinner. The Six Nations rugby tournament was on. I watched a match end in my hotel room and then another entire match in a local pub that was recommended by the Lonely Planet. It was a pretty long day but I went to the Malt Room for a nightcap, perhaps even two.

The Malt Room
Behind this door is whisky


The Culloden battlefield, which was fought in 1745, wasn’t on my must do list. However a lot of things close on Sunday, the castle was closed for renovation while I was in Inverness for instance. I had planned to look at the Highland House of Fraser which has a museum devoted to tartans and kilts but despite what their website said at the time, it turned out they too were close on Sunday. For the record, getting to Culloden is easier when the direct public bus is running.

I was advised by the hotel to take a cab as it was a Sunday. However even on Sunday a bus supposedly goes close to the battlefield but it turned out to not be the bus number I was told to wait for. That bus does not run anymore a bus driver eventually told me. I eventually got the bus which did take me closest to the battlefield which was running on a Sunday. An American family also got the same bus and they couldn’t get the bus app to work either. I tried over and over. I would learn later that I was charged for multiple bus tickets I couldn’t even use by the app and officially requested a refund. Never heard anything more after emailing and phoning them.

It was over a 2 km walk to Culloden battlefield, I just followed the family. I paid for the guided tour but would have liked to have taken even more time. I eventually decided to make an impulsive rush for the bus back to Inverness, I had noticed the American family leaving while my tour guide was giving his final spiel. He also fielded questions and I of course stopped to take a selfie or two.

In hindsight, I could have planned Sunday in Inverness better, as despite running part of the 2 km, I missed the bus. I believe the American family made it as I never caught up to them again. I kept walking to where Apple Maps said I could catch a different bus back to Inverness. But when I saw the bus stop I was not confident so I resumed walking towards Inverness. I ended up walking most of the way back to Inverness, something few Jacobites managed.

The Clan MacKay did fight at Culloden but there may not be a stone marker for them, because they actually fought as part of the British Army. I bought a book on the battle, so I can learn more. This may have been the book that pushed me over 3 kg. Luckily I bought a tote bag at Leakey’s.

I should have spent more time at Culloden as the battlefield was open on Sunday, but after buying a nicknack I learned the next guided tour was in five minutes, so I snapped that spot up. The cafeteria was closed for renovations and in its place was a food truck, but I actually ended up walking all the way to Blacksmiths Pub. Apple Maps knows where pubs are in Scotland. Bus service on Sunday is sparse, hence stubbornly walking a record number of kilometres according to Apple Fitness. My meal was nice and I finally hailed a cab to the Highland House of Fraser but despite the website saying they were open, they were not. I think they are having a hard time finding staff.

Kiltmakers are in demand it seems.

As a result of all this I never tried on let alone bought a kilt. I thought about going to the King’s own kiltmaker in Edinburgh, and I might someday, but after my exhausting trip to Culloden my plan remained the Sunday night Ceilidh at MacGregor’s. This was recommended by one of the blogs I consulted while planning this trip. The pub also had a buffet, but I did not try it opting for something off the regular menu. I also missed part of the performance as it took way longer to get to Culloden and back than I thought it would. I did enjoyed my beer and ended up sharing my table with a woman from Germany named Rebea. She was surprised I knew how to pronounce and spell her name.

She was off on a group tour to the Isle of Skye the next morning and I had booked the first train out of town, so neither of us stayed out late. I’d probably visit Inverness again, but then again I might not as I want to see the Western Islands if I go to Scotland again. A lot of tours operate or pass through Inverness, but most people don’t consider it a must do in Scotland. If you have thoughts or advice on what to see and do in Inverness you can leave a comment below.

Ceilidh at MacGregor's
Ceilidh at MacGregor’s Pub in Inverness

There are more pictures from my travels on Flickr. My hotel in Inverness was also a spa. Usually I don’t use services like this but I’m getting old and did I mention I set a personal record walking all over Culloden. As a result, I spent the final hours of the evening before my early morning train ride in the hot tub. I even tried the sauna and steam room. Having a hot tub at your hotel is a favourite of my sister. I don’t think anyone used the hot tub at our lodge, but I definitely used the one in Inverness and again in Edinburgh. After Inverness my next stop was of course Thurso.


  • Stefan says:

    Looking forward……

  • Stefan says:

    Looping forward to the next stories.
    And hope to get some Whiskey recommendations.
    My favorite is Laphroaig. Maybe you know it.

    • Andrew McKay says:

      Laphroaig is an Islay whisky. That is a very popular region. It is also famously peaty and smokey and even considered a little salty or briny. We did taste some peated whiskies during the Highland Whisky Academy, but a lot of the distilleries we went to were famous for sherry cask finishes, that seems to be really en vogue or using exotic or multiple types of oak is trending. Whisky was bigger business in 2022 than 2023 but it is still 7 billion a year to Scotland’s economy and then there is all the related benefits like tourism and just brand building. I would definitely consider doing another tour of Scotland, perhaps even Islay there are other whisky academies including one on Islay.

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