When I arrived in The Scottish Highlands for the first time, wind howling and snow fall so heavy it left most of the UK in a state of lock down, the last thing I expected to see was a tiger!
The first thing that struck me when planning a trip up to Scotland, the Highlands in particular, was that flying quickly became the most obvious means of transport, the £120 return and approx 1 hour flight time from Manchester to Inverness is less about indulgence and more about plain common sense.
We booked with LoganAir out of Manchester to Inverness and our flight fell 2 days in to “the beast from the east” snow storm which grounded the country to a holt for nearly a week. We braced our selves for a “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” scenario but good old MAN airport and Logan got us to INV on time and with only a 5 min delay in take off, as we were waiting for a chap who was a bit late, love it.
We hired a car and it’s 20 minutes drive to Inverness. A cracking Air BnB right in the centre set us up the perfect base came for our 4 day trip. At this point I must admit that Inverness itself is not the reason for our trip, the city is small and perfectly formed with a good offering of cafes & restaurants but we were interested in the surrounding areas and it’s short drive access to some fantastic scenery.
Day 1 we swung by to check out Nessie and of course the famous Loch itself, a crisp clear day and fish & chips at the Dores Inn gave us all we needed and the 20 min drive from Inverness meant none of the day was wasted in travel. Velocity cafe & bicycle workshop served up our late afternoon coffee & cake requirements whilst and Leakey’s Bookshop provided a stunning space to get lost in a literary wonderland.
Day 2 we got more adventurous and actually did an east coast to west coast hop fitting in a couple of walks. Inverness to Loch Maree then over to the coast at Torridon. It takes just over 90 mins to drive coast to coast in this part of the country and the scenery from the car alone was worth it. There is a famous 500 mile circular you can do that starts in Inverness and that’s certainly going to be one for later this year.
Day 3 took us for coffee and cake to Bad Girls Bakery in Muir of Ord followed by a 1pm tasting tour at the Glen Ord Distillery. From there we scoped out the spectacular Rogie Falls.
Day 4 took us to a place that even now I’m not sure I really experienced. The snow was thick and the air was bitter cold, we enjoyed a Kiwi Brunch at a infamous local gem, The Mountain Cafe in Aveimore and our sat nav took us 20 minutes further into the mountains to the Highland Wildlife Park…
We pull into the car park and in 3 inches of snow a Camel strolls by the road side. We had the park practically to ourselves and could hardly believe it – Polar Bears in their 2 acre plot were just 30 cm away from us, a Snow Leopard casually stretching and walking around the indoor section of its mountainous terrain, Tigers fed and ran in the snow with distant howls from Wolves Wood – this has to be one of the most impressive visitor attraction / conservation experience I’ve ever seen.
Our most notable meal out was at Rocpool Restaurant, well worth booking ahead as it was full by 7pm and my advice is order the Burrata and Carpaccio to share followed by the Venison.
We roped off our trip pre flight with a healthy breakfast at Nourish in the centre of Inverness. A lovely atmosphere, highly recommend the super food porridge and of course the organic coffee was top notch. I’m writing this as we wing our way back, on time, to Manchester and our Logan Air flight attendant approaches with complimentary tea & shortbread, I’ll be home in 45 mins, what could be better.