Travel Tips for a Perfect Stay

Top Tips for your Scottish Highlands Adventure

Eilean Donan Castle - A favourite day out from our Inverness B&B

Of course, every good guide book has a section dedicated to useful hints and travel tips, and we are sure that they have plenty of advice about all sorts of things to help you during your stay. However, we have found that they usually miss out some of the most useful information that you really need to know. So, in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps, here are a few tips based on the experience with our guests at Inverglen Guest House. We hope this will help you during your travels in Scotland. If you think there are other things we should include in this guide then please let us know.

Travelling Around Scotland

If you are spending most of your time visiting the large cities or towns then it is perfectly possible to do so by public transport. Good links exist between major cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, and once there you will also find that getting around the city by public transport or taxi is relatively easy. However, if you intend to explore our wonderful countryside then you will either need a car or the services of a specialist tour provider.

Many people are worried about driving on the “wrong”  side of the road, but be assured that it is simple and you’ll be fine as long as you take it carefully. We only have 5 million people living in the country so away from the major cities, you will rarely be in heavy traffic.

Day tours to Skye with WOW Scotland - Highly recommended by Inverglen Guest House
Day tours to Skye with WOW Scotland

Don’t despair if the thought of driving is a little too much for you. There are many specialist tour operators who will gladly take you to all manner of places. These tours can range from pre-determined schedules right through to fully bespoke tours designed specifically for you. Why not check out some of our local operators on our website – http://www.inverglenguesthouse.co.uk/boat-trips-and-tours

Just a word of caution if you intend sampling some of our fine whisky or delicious beers – Scotland has strict drink drive laws and at the time of writing the legal limit is just 50mg in every 100ml of blood. This means even 1 drink can put you over the limit. Our advice is to not drink at all if you are driving.

A Sat Nav / GPS or Paper Map

So you decided to go with the car option. The first thing you may notice is that Scotland is bigger than most people realise, and many places are remote and sparsely populated. Consequently, it isn’t always possible to stop and ask someone for directions, and road signs may be in short supply. Luckily modern technology in the form of a Sat Nav or GPS can pinpoint your position to within a few meters, and keep you on the right track. However, they aren’t foolproof and you should treat their advice with a degree of caution. Also be aware that if your system works via the mobile phone network, you may find that some areas have less than perfect coverage.

In the UK we use Postcodes (see tip below) to pinpoint locations, and in main towns, a postcode will often be all you need for the Sat Nav. However, outside of the main population areas, you may find that the postal code is a little vague (possibly covering a large area rather than an exact location). Therefore always enter the full address if possible. We certainly recommend a Sat Nav or GPS for getting you from A to B, but you can’t beat a good old-fashioned paper road map for giving you the bigger picture.

If you only focus on the route from one place to another, you may well be missing some fantastic places that lie just a few miles off the direct route. If you would like some inspiration on places to visit why not take a look at our Things to Do Pages.

The locations pictured below are hidden gems that are so easily missed if you stick to just the main routes.

Bow Fiddle Rock
Bow Fiddle Rock
Buachaille Etive Mor
Buachaille Etive Mor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Post Code

If you are using a Sat Nav or GPS then you are going to become very familiar with postcodes as they are an integral part of finding a specific location. Every address in the UK has a Post Code.  These are specific to a small number of addresses and within large cities a full postcode will cover a relatively small area (just a few properties).  

Postcodes comprise a combination of letters and numbers – for example our postcode is IV2 3NW. The first part of the code “IV2” tells you two things. Firstly the IV letters refer to Inverness (as EH would be Edinburgh, and GA refers to Glasgow). The number then gives an indication of how close an address is to the main city. So, IV1 would be right in the very centre of Inverness, whereas IV2 is just a little further out. At the extreme end, for example, Portree on the Isle of Skye (over 100 road miles from Inverness) is IV51.

Whilst in most towns and cities a full postcode (comprising between 5 and 8 characters) will give you a very specific geographic location, in rural areas a single postcode may cover a much larger geographical area.

Route Planning

When planning your trips it is often advisable to consult with one of the online route planning services. Google maps is definitely worth looking at, as are the services provides by The AA and The RAC. Distances and journey times can be difficult to predict, especially in the more remote locations where roads may be single track requiring you to stop at regular intervals to allow vehicles coming in the opposite direction to pass.

Whilst the online resources attempt to give you an idea of how long a journey may take, the reality may prove a little different. Always expect the journey to take longer than you are told, and if it turns out to be quicker you have more time to enjoy being there.

Negotiating Roundabouts

For those not used to driving in the UK a roundabout can be very daunting. We have spent many a morning after breakfast trying to explain how they work. The basic rule is that you always stop before entering a roundabout and you always give way to traffic coming from your right. If in doubt wait until there is a good gap before entering the roundabout and always give a clear indication of where you intend to exit. If you spot your exit late, don’t try to turn off quickly, just go around again and get it at the second (or third) attempt.

If you want to get properly ready to drive in the UK you can familiarise yourself with the rules for driving by checking out the Highway Code

Have a Mobile Phone

In all but the remotest locations Scotland has good mobile phone coverage, and as public telephone kiosks are become rarer you will be grateful for the convenience. We recommend you bring your mobile/cell phone with you, or you can buy one when you are here – a basic pay as you go phone can be purchased for around £25.00  (or even less) and many shops sell “top up” vouchers for calls.

Pre-book the things on your ‘Must See’ List

Shinty MatchScotland in the height of summer can be incredibly busy. Major events like the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and T in the Park, to name but a few, need to be booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Also don’t risk just turning up at the ferry port hoping to catch a ferry to one of our many islands as you may be disappointed! You should also think about pre-booking for key visitor attractions such as Edinburgh or Stirling Castles, or if you want to enjoy the 3D and interactive elements at the Battle of Bannockburn site. At the very least pre-booking can save you a lot of time otherwise spent waiting in line.

In Inverness it may be advisable to pre-book if you wish to take the popular train journey to Kyle of Lochalsh, or for a cruise on Loch Ness.

Why not check out some of the main events happening in and around Inverness and Loch Ness on our Events Page.

Highland Piper
Highland Piper
Highland Dancing
Highland Dancing Competition
Highland Games Event
Highland Games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurants and food

The White House
The White House
Rocpool Restaurant
Rocpool Restaurant
Heathmount
Heathmount

In the major cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen you will find that there are many restaurants of all types that open all day and will continue late into the evening. However, in other places the choice of restaurants may be very limited and they are likely to stop serving at 9pm (or earlier).

If visiting Scotland in the winter months do check with your accommodation provider to see what the local restaurant situation is like. In some places you may have a very limited choice.

Inverness has a wide selection of excellent restaurants (check out our recommendations page – http://www.inverglenguesthouse.co.uk/local-restaurants-cafes-and-pubs ) but many of these stop serving at about 9pm. You will also find that some are closed on a Sunday and Monday. From about May through to October the most popular restaurants are very busy and reservations are essential.

Year of Food and Drink Scotland 2015

Scotland has a truly wonderful larder of produce and you can be assured of some fantastic food and drink on your travels. Almost everyone knows about haggis (try it and you may be pleasantly surprised), and our salmon is world famous, but why not try Cullen Skink (a smoked fish chowder), Cranachan (a desert of oatmeal, raspberries, cream and whisky), or Crowdie (a delicious cream cheese). We have a fantastic range of  food and drink and we love helping you discover new things to delight your taste buds.

 

Check Opening Times

We may enjoy long summer evenings (it stays light up until almost midnight in the far north at the end of June), but many attractions still close at around 5pm. This comes as a surprise to many and means that they miss out seeing some of the best places. The long daylight hours can fool you into thinking it is earlier than it really is so keep an eye on your watch. Always check the opening times for key attractions you wish to visit.

Also check for seasonal opening variations. Some attractions may be closed over the winter months, and indeed one of the best castles near Inverness (Cawdor Castle) doesn’t open until May.

Visiting a Distillery

Scotland is world famous for its Whisky, and there are many distilleries you can visit to learn about the production process and also sample some of the produce. Not all distilleries offer tours, but many do and if this is something you wish to do then you will find plenty of choice within easy reach of Inverness. Whilst there are no distilleries within Inverness itself, within 25 miles there are 4 distilleries (Glen Ord, Tomatin, Dalmore and Benromach) all offering tours. If you are travelling north of Inverness, you may wish to check out Glenmorangie distillery in Tain, or just a little further north is Balblair distillery.

If you are looking for more choice then the epicentre of the Speyside whisky industry is around Dufftown which is just over 50 miles from Inverness and here you will find plenty of distilleries, large and small, all waiting to impress you with their amber nectar.During the summer months most distilleries are open from Monday to Saturday (many also open on Sunday). The first tours are usually around 10am with the last tours at around 4pm. Outside of Summer you may find much more restricted opening times, and many do not open at weekends.

Please remember that Scotland has strict drink drive laws and we recommend that you do not combine the two. There are many companies offering Whisky Tours so you can fully enjoy the experience without having to do the driving.

Seeing Dolphins, Red Deer, Red Squirrels & Other Wildlife

Moray Firth DolphinScotland is a haven for wildlife and there are several species that should be on the must see list. Scotland’s big 5 are, Golden Eagles, Red Squirrels, Red Deer, Otters and Harbour seals, all of which can be found in the Highlands.

Near Inverness on the Moray Firth we have a resident population of Bottlenose dolphins. These dolphins regularly appear near the city and land based dolphin watching at Chanonry Point is a popular pastime. The best chance of seeing the dolphins is on a turning tide as it moves from low tide. Just ask us and we’ll let you know the tide times.

Another popular species that can be seen in Scotland is the Osprey. This magnificent bird is a summer visitor to the UK and they can be regularly seen fishing in the local area. There is a specialist viewing point at Loch Garten where Ospreys can be seen nesting.

Of course there are lots of other animals for you to enjoy such as Red Kites, Basking Sharks, Pine Martins, Grouse, Scottish Wildcats (rarely seen), Roe and Sika Deer, Mountain Hares and many others. If visiting Loch Ness you may even be lucky enough to see our very own Nessie!

Live Music

Scotland has a rich tradition of music and you are never too far away from the skirl of the bagpipes. However, we have much more to offer and in Inverness there is a wide variety of live music with performances taking place on every night of the week.

Regular folk sessions take place at several pubs in the town centre and music is often a main attraction at Eden Court Theatre and The Ironworks.

How many photographs will I take?

Guest often ask us where they can buy additional memory cards for their cameras. We can only conclude that people under-estimate how many pictures they will take. Our advice is that you should plan on taking at least twice as many memory cards as you normally expect to need. Cards are fairly cheap these days but it is better to have spare capacity rather than run out of room just as the most spectacular scene opens up before you.

For inspiration on places to visit why not check out our webpage showcasing some of our wonderful wildlife and scenery. http://www.inverglenguesthouse.co.uk/highland-scenery

Favourite Photo Locations

As you may know, we also run photography workshops (single and multi day trips), and on our photography website we have started a blog giving details of our favourite photo locations. Why not visit our blog for a little inspiration as we add more locations – Inverglen Photography Blog

Enjoy every day! – This is our best piece of advice.
With so many things to see and do an early start and a well-planned route will ensure you have treasured memories and spectacular photographs!

We want all our guests to get the most out of their visit to Scotland. We really enjoy helping you  plan your day so just ask if there is anything you want to know.

Inverglen Guest House is the ideal base from which to explore the highlands of Scotland.
We look forward to welcoming you to our home, where we hope you will also feel like it is your home as well.

Time for the Ride of Your Life

GreatNESS meets ActiveNESS – The Etape Loch NessEtape Loch Ness

  • Sunday 23rd April 2017
  • Over 5,000 participants
  • 66 Miles / 106 Km
  • Complete Circuit of Loch Ness
  • Fastest Riders aim to complete the course in under 3 hours
  • King of the Mountains – 380 Metres of climbing in 9 Km (including gradients of up to 12%)

A cycle sportive taking place around iconic Loch Ness. Riders cycle 66-miles / 106-km on traffic free roads all the way around Loch Ness. This 360° closed-road route starts and finishes in the Highland capital of Inverness. The 2017 event will take place on Sunday 23 April with a record 5200 riders taking part.

Spectators

If you live in or are visiting the following villages, why not get your friends and family to give riders a cheer as they go past, it really does make a difference.

  • Drumnadrochit – riders expected 06.50-08.00
  • Invermoriston – riders expected 07.20-09.00
  • Fort Augustus – riders expected 07.35-09.25
  • Foyers / Inverfarigaig – riders expected 08.10-11.00
  • Dores – riders expected 08.40-11.45
  • Inverness – riders expected 09.00-12.30

The final 2 miles through Inverness alongside the River Ness provide the best vantage points for spectators and at the Event Hub at Eden Court Theatre.

Here are some images from the 2016 event.

Scotland’s Gin Revolution

Scotland – The UK’s Gin CapitalPickerings Gin

Of course, everyone knows about the great Whiskies produced in Scotland, but perhaps you are not so familiar with the great Gins that we are producing. Apparently, over 70% of the Gin produced in the United Kingdom comes from Scotland!

It seems that hand-crafted Gin is what everyone wants, and Scotland has taken up the challenge. Our long history of quality whisky distilling has given us the skills and the heritage needed to produce exciting Gin, using quality local ingredients that bring new flavours to your taste buds.

You find more details about some of Scotland’s Gin further on in this article, but if you are visiting Inverness you’ll need to know where to go to sup the end product. Here are some links to a few of the establishments that serve a variety of Scottish Gins.

For other restaurants, cafes and bars in Inverness and the surrounding area, why not take a look at our Local Eateries Page.

A Little Gin History

1500’s

Gin has been around for hundreds of years, with accounts of juniper-based drinks going back to the 1500’s, probably having originated in Holland. It is said that soldiers fighting for the Dutch against the Spanish would knock back the infusion prior to a battle, thus resulting in the phrase “Dutch Courage”. However, gin didn’t become popular until the later part of the 1600’s when it was sold for its claimed medicinal benefits.

1600’s

In 1689, new taxes were imposed on spirits imported into the UK from France, thus the production of gin in the UK increased massively as people sought cheaper alternatives. Indeed, producing gin required no specific licences so thousands of gin-shops sprang up all over the country.

1700’s

By the 1720s and 1730s, cheap gin had become a major health problem for the poor. Death rates outstripped the birth rate and gin drinking was given much of the blame. Gin was dubbed Mother’s Ruin, and since it often contained oil of sulphuric acid and turpentine, this isn’t exactly a surprise. Major action was needed and after several Gin Acts were passed imposing high taxes on retailers, gin was no longer cheap and became beyond the reach of the poor.

1800’s 

In the 1800s, a sweeter, cordial like gin concoction was developed called Old Tom. Taverns would hang a picture of an old tomcat outside and a passer-by could insert a coin into a slot underneath – which resulted in a measure of gin being poured down a tube from inside.

Gin was also becoming popular with British ex-pats in tropical colonies where malaria was present. Quinine was being used as an anti-malarial, but it had a rather bitter flavour. However, adding gin to the quinine reduced the bitterness to acceptable levels. To improve matters further, the quinine was dissolved in carbonated water to form tonic water – and hence the G&T was invented.

1900’s

As the fashion for sweet drinks diminished, London Dry Gin became popular. It also saw the trend for cocktails develop – with a Dry Martini being a particular favourite. Cocktails continued during the US prohibition era and saw the invention of Bathtub Gin (a combination of industrial alcohol, glycerine, juniper oil and water from the bath tap with fruit juices and mixers).

Gin was probably at its most popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Barmen and cocktail experts from the US were in great demand and many travelled to London to ply their trade. This golden era for gin continued up until the early 1960s, after which vodka started to take prominence and gin seemed boring by comparison.

However, gin was to get a boost when in 1988 the Bombay Sapphire was launched. The unusual blue bottle was eye catching and the refreshing juniper-light taste attracted a new following. Gin had been reinvented, and by the time Hendricks came along 10 years later the gin revolution was definitely underway.

2000’s

Gin is now most definitely back, and we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of craft gin-makers. These days licences are required, so we can see just how popular gin distilling has become. Between March 2014 and March 2015, 65  new micro-distilleries opened in the UK, making craft distilling one of the most exciting trends to emerge from the world of drink in recent years. 

The increasing popularity of craft gin is in large part driven by a marked trend for authenticity and quality. Another aspect driving the popularity of gin is the huge variations in styles and flavours.

Scottish Gins

Scottish gins are leading the way with over 70% of UK gin being produced in Scotland. The best-known brands coming out of Scotland are probably,  Hendrick’s (produced in Girvan, South Ayrshire), Tanqueray (produced in Leven, South Ayrshire) and Gordon’s (produced in Leven, Fife), the world’s number one London Dry Gin.

There was a time when a G&T could only be accompanied by “ice and a slice” (of lemon), but the producers of Hendrick’s decided it was time for a change. They not only developed a combination of curious packaging but declared that the lemon should be ditched in favour of a slice of cucumber. Now this may have seemed a strange combination, but it proved to be very popular and nowadays you will find all sorts of more exotic variations from watermelon to rosemary, and lime to grapefruit.

Trying to keep pace with the burgeoning Scottish gin market is getting to be ever more difficult as new varieties keep popping up. However, you can start to see just how many Scottish Gins there are from the map on the left. You can purchase this map as a print from – http://amcmurchie.com/product/scottish-gin/

We also have a Pinterest board dedicated to Scottish Gin

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Gin

Whilst writing this blog we would like to make a special mention of Edinburgh Gin. Nestled beneath the stairs at 1a Rutland Place, Edinburgh you’ll find something of a hidden wonderland – the Edinburgh Gin Distillery. Here you can enjoy a variety of tours that will introduce you to the history of Gin and the distilling process, as well as providing you with a generous tasting.

john and Sue at EG
Enjoying a tasting at EG

As you can see we have taken the tour so are well qualified to give it our recommendation.

You can find out more at – Edinburgh Gin Distillery Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiced Apple Crumble Cake

Spiced Apple Crumble Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

Cake Ingredients 

140g butter
140g light muscovado sugar
250g self-raising flour
2 teaspoonfuls mixed spice
100g raisins
3 large eggs, beaten
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1 cm cubes
4-5 tablespoonfuls milk

Topping

1 rounded tablespoonful plain flour
25g butter
25g demerara sugar
1 rounded tablespoonful roughly chopped hazelnuts

Method

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 3, 160C (140C fan), and line a 2 litre loaf tin with greaseproof paper, or a loaf tin liner.

Put the self-raising flour, and spice into a bowl, and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar. Then add the apples, eggs, raisins and milk and mix well until everything is combined. Spoon into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top with the back of the spoon.

To make the topping, rub the flour, butter and sugar through your fingers to make a rough crumble, then stir through the nuts. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 50 – 55 minutes, until firm to touch and a fine skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla, Chai & Pistachio Muffins

Vanilla, Chai & Pistachio Muffins

Vanilla Chai and Pistachio Muffins

Ingredients

280g plain flour
100g light muscovado sugar
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoonful baking powder
1 teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoonful salt
2 chai teabags (contents only – if the contents are very large or coarse, you may need to grind these down a little)
1 large egg
250mls buttermilk (or natural yoghurt/milk mixture)
80mls vegetable oil
1 teaspoonful vanilla extract
75g shelled and chopped pistachio nuts

Drizzle Icing

1 teaspoonful vanilla extract
75g icing sugar
1 tablespoonful water

Method

Preheat oven to gas mark 5, 180C, 375F and put paper muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tin.

Mix together the flour, both sugars, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and the contents of 2 chai teabags in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the egg, oil, buttermilk and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir together until just combined.

Spoon the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cases, then sprinkle over the chopped pistachio nuts. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the muffins comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Mix together the icing sugar, water and vanilla until smooth, and drizzle over the tops of the cool muffins.

Banana and Pecan Loaf

Banana and Pecan Loaf

Banana and Pecan Loaf

Recipe

125g unsalted butter, softened
170g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g very ripe bananas
100g roughly chopped pecan nuts
250g self-raising flour

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, Gas mark 4. Line a 1kg loaf tin.

Beat the butter with the caster sugar until light and creamy, then add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well until fully combined. Mash the bananas using a fork, until they have a coarse (not pureed) texture. Fold the mashed bananas, flour and chopped pecans into the mixture until thoroughly mixed together.

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin liner and smooth the top with the back of the spoon. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about an hour, or until golden and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Cake is best eaten within 3 days, but can be sliced, wrapped in greaseproof paper, and frozen for up to 1 month. Delicious served with butter, or maybe even with chocolate spread if you’re feeling like a really sweet treat!

Recipe taken from Easy Breakfast & Brunch, published by Ryland, Peters & Small, 2007

Cranberry, Orange and Pistachio Cookies

Cranberry, Orange & Pistachio Cookies

Cranberry Orange and Pistachio Cookies

Cookie ingredients

1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
1 egg
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts 
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

Orange Sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Method

Heat oven to 350F, 180C or gas Mark 4.

Mix together the granulated sugar and teaspoon of orange zest in a small bowl to make the orange sugar, and set aside for later.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy using a wooden spoon, then add the caster sugar and egg and beat well until fully combined. Then take a metal spoon, and fold in all of the remaining cookie ingredients until they have combined into a soft/firm dough.

Shape the dough into small balls, about 1 inch diameter, and roll each ball in the orange sugar. Place onto an ungreased, but non-stick cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass (or your palm).

Bake for 7 – 11 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Cool on the baking tray for a few minutes, then carefully remove from the baking tray using a spatula, and cool fully on a wire rack.

Note

These cookies keep well in an airtight tin for about a week (if they last that long!), or they can be frozen before baking, defrosted and then baked if you want a smaller batch. You can also substitute the dried fruit and nuts for your favourite treats – try cherry, orange and almond, or date, lemon and walnut – delicious!

This recipe was sourced from Sweet ReciPEAs at http://www.sweetrecipeas.com/2007/04/09/195 and was adapted from the original recipe from Land O’Lakes Holiday Cookies 2005. Susan makes all her biscuits and cakes by hand, so this recipe has been changed a little to reflect this, but if you have a food processor or mixer, you may be able to combine some of the steps.

Autumn, Winter and Spring – A Great Time to Visit (and great rates)

During the height of summer, visitors to Scotland can be found the entire length and breadth of the country, and it is a lovely time to visit. However, the canny travellers are starting to recognise that the period from October to the end of April may actually be the best time to experience this magnificent land.

Affric Autumn
Loch Affric early Autumn

The changing seasons bring drama to the Scottish Highlands. As summer fades and the days grow shorter there is a pronounced change in the landscape. During October the trees start to take on a

River Affric
River Affric

glorious golden hue, and by late October the colours can be truly spectacular.

One of our favourite locations is Glen Affric. Often described as Scotlands most beautiful glen, this is an area of wonderful natural beauty. This special location is within an easy drive from Inverness, and can easily be combined with a visit to Loch Ness.

It is popular with walkers and photographers as it delivers a classic landscape with perfectly-placed lochs, towering mountains and a mix of pine, birch and oak trees.

It is an excellent example of the Caledonian Forest that once covered much of Scotland. Wildlife thrives and the whole glen is protected as a National Nature Reserve.

As much as we like Glen Affric in the Summer, we truly believe it shows its best during the Autumn, Winter and Spring months.

The Autumn colours usually start to appear in early October and over a period of about 6 weeks the landscape is a riot of golden hues.

Trees in autumnal colours beside the river Ness
River Ness In Autumn Colours
The view over Loch Ness
Loch Ness View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn colour in the woodland in Cawdor woods
Cawdor Burn
The sun is setting over Loch Ness
Sunset at Loch Ness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Autumn gives way to winter, so the landscape changes once again. Snow appears on the mountains and as temperatures drop so more of the landscape is covered in a beautiful white blanket.

Snow covered mountains at Glencoe
Snow at Glencoe

Close to Inverness is Cairngorm National Park. The UK’s largest National Park is located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands and in addition to stunning scenery it is has everything from castles and distilleries to family attractions and endless outdoor fun. It is also home to several snowsport centres such as The Cairngorm Mountain, The Lecht and Glenshee.

As you would expect, this winter season can prove spectacular and highly rewarding. Here are just a few images from The Cairngorm National Park taken over the winter months.

A small river running through the snow covered valley
The Lecht with early winter Snow
Aviemore Sled Dog Rally
Aviemore Sled Dog Rally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen Lochan
A winters day at Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich

 

As winter fades and spring takes hold, so we are blessed with longer warmer days (although snow is still a possibility through to the end of May). The Gorse is one of the first flowers to bloom providing a vibrant yellow backdrop to the countryside. It is also a time of year that can bring fantastic sunrises and sunsets, and a viewing of the Northern Lights is also a real possibility. 

Here are a few images captured during the spring months.

Bow Fiddle Rock
Bow Fiddle Rock
Red Barns at East Croachy
Red Barns at East Croachy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gorse at Hopeman Bay
Gorse at Hopeman Bay
Chanonry Point Lighthouse
Chanonry Point Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, there is plenty to see and do in the Highlands during the Autumn, Winter and Spring Months. The temperature may be a little chilly on occasions, but we enjoy many crisp sunny days when the countryside literally sparkles. Photographers, in particular, will enjoy these months as the soft light is superb for glorious landscapes. 

It is also generally a quiet time of year for tourists so there are bargains to be had on accommodation. At Inverglen Guest House we have some great offers running over the Autumn, Winter and Spring Months. Not only do we have lower rates generally, but for those staying 2 or more nights, we are offering additional discounts that make staying with us even more affordable. Do check out our rates to see how affordable a stay can be.

Excellent Customer Service – It’s Official

Inverglen Guest House is awarded WorldHost World Host LogoRecognised Business status

Inverglen Guest House, in Inverness, has become one of the latest businesses in Scotland to gain national recognition for providing commitment to the highest levels of customer service through the award of WorldHost Recognised Business status.

WorldHost is a suite of world-class customer service training programmes, and to achieve WorldHost Recognised Business Status a business must have at least 50% of its front-line staff successfully complete this training programme. Each business will have signed a commitment to delivering excellent customer service.

Inverglen Guest House is passionate about the standards of service we provide, and to have this officially recognised by achieving WorldHost Recognised Business status is a fantastic achievement. When our guests see the WorldHost logo displayed in our business they’ll know that we have made a commitment to delivering an exceptional experience for them.

The WorldHost initiative aims to build on the legacy of world-class events like the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, and transforms customer service standards across Scotland’s visitor economy.

Visit the Stars via Scotland

Stargazing and Aurora Watching in Scotland

Scotland, and the Scottish Highlands in particular, is a fantastic place to view the natural wonders of the night sky. With relatively little light pollution away from the larger towns and cities it is possible to find some truly dark places where the stars will both dazzle and enthrall you.

If you are staying with us at Inverglen Guest House, then right on our doorstep is Moray, an area with many dark skies locations. The Moray coast has fantastic clear, dark, northern horizons that are ideal for both Aurora watching and general star-gazing. One of the favorite spots is at Alturlie Point just a few miles from our Guest House where displays of the Northern Lights are regularly seen. Another of our local tips for star-gazing is the Clava Cairns (a bronze age burial site with standing stones) where spectacular skies can be seen.

If you are interested in learning more about the night sky why not check out http://www.sigma-astro.co.uk/ which is Moray’s Astronomy Club. The club hosts public events throughout the year, dependent on interesting astronomical opportunities, or occasionally drop-of-the-hat sessions such as Aurora Watches.

Another superb Scottish Highlands location for star gazing is The Isle of Skye. This follows the launch of “Dark Skye” by the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Professor John Brown. This project plans to build on the recent accreditation of nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites across the island. In the northwest area there are 3 sites around Waternish, another near Broadford, and a further 2 at Kylerhea and Kinloch Forest. The remaining three sites are on Clan Donald land at Armadale in the southwest of the island.

The Isle of Skye is blessed with very little light pollution and it is fairly easy to find yourself in some excellent dark locations. All the designated Dark Skye Discovery Sites  are well marked, have car parking and are wheelchair accessible. You can find out more at www.darksky-skye.com

How to Photograph the Night Sky

Photographing the night sky and getting good images does require a degree of discipline and is certainly helped by having the right equipment. However, it needn’t be too difficult and it is a truly fascinating and amazing experience.

When you find yourself in a truly dark location you will be amazed at just how many stars can be seen. If you follow the steps below there is a good chance you will get some truly wonderful images of the night sky.

Equipment

  • DSLR Camera (or similar) – you don’t need top of the range, but just one that is good at a high ISO
  • Wide angle lens – the wider the better and preferably with a wide maximum aperture (f2.8 or better)
  • Cable release (or intervalometer if you would like star trails or are shooting a timelapse)
  • Good sturdy tripod
  • Warm clothes (it can get cold)
  • Torch (a head torch is useful)

Where and When

Although the UK can be quite bad for light pollution in general, the Scottish Highlands does afford many more dark sky locations. You need to find somewhere with as little light pollution as possible, and we’ll gladly point you in the right direction. We are lucky to be right next to a north facing coastline which can yeild some spectacular views of the Northern Lights.

You can photograph the night sky throughout the year, but for the best results you need a good clear night with no clouds and no moon in the sky. Scotland in winter can be a fantastic location, but do be aware of the cold. In summer, the days are far longer, making star watching more challenging, but still highly rewarding.

Although for the best star photos you will want to choose nights when there is no moon, it can sometimes be a help, particularly when it is in its first phases as  it’s light will help get a more even exposure by bringing out details in the foreground.

Taking the Photograph

It is best to get to your location before it gets too dark. This will give you time to explore the area and find the best place from which to take your pictures. If you are trying to do this in the pitch dark you run the risk of tripping over unseen hazards (a reason why the head torch is helpful).

Once you have your spot, set your tripod up and ensure it is firmly planted. Now put your camera into manual mode and ensure that the lens is set for manual focusing. Make sure your lens is set to focus to infinity by turning the focus ring until you see the ∞ symbol.

Although the stars may look fairly static, they are actually moving pretty quickly across the sky due to the earth’s rotation. If you leave the camera shutter open too long it will create star trails (which is okay if that is what you want), rather than capturing stars as stars.

Selecting the right shutter speed to avoid star trails forming is fairly easy. All you need to know is the focal length of your lens and your camera’s crop factor. All you do is take the number 500 and divide it by the focal length of your lens, the divide that figure by the crop factor of your camera’s sensor if it isn’t full frame. As an example I have taken a 20mm lens on a Canon 50D (which has a 1.6 crop factor) to work out the shutter speed as follows:

500 divided by 2o (the focal length of the lens) = 25

25 divided by 1.6 (the crop factor of the Canon 50D) = 15 Second (rounded down from 15.625 seconds)

Using the above calculation we know that the longest exposure we can take before the stars start to blur is 15 seconds.

As you are in manual mode on your camera, set the shutter speed to 15 seconds (or the appropriate figure based on your lens and crop factor as detailed above) and also set the lens to its widest aperture. Now, you are going to need a fairly high ISO and depending on where you are and how much ambient light there is, the correct setting may vary quite a bit. As a starting point I would recommend trying something like ISO 2000, but you may need to experiment to see what works for your chosen location. Just fire off a test shot and see what things look like on the camera and adjust as necessary. A test shot also allows you to check that the focus is good.

The above tips will get you started, but beyond these basics there is a host of variations that allow you to get creative with your compositions.

In future posts we will give tips on photographing The Northern Lights and also producing star trails.

River Beauly and Lovat Bridge circuit walk

River Beauly and Lovat Bridge Walk

This was our New Year’s Day outing, a short 5 mile circular walk from the fabulous Walk Highlands website, which has a wide variety of hikes and walks from gentle river strolls like this one (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/lochness/Beaulyriver.shtml) to more adventurous and ambitious mountain hikes.

Starting just south of Black Bridge on the road linking Kiltarlity and Kilmorack, the walk starts by crossing the River Beauly, and walking through forest and open farmland, before the trail takes you right along the riverbank past some beautiful river facing houses and a weir. There are also some lovely glimpses of Beaufort Castle, which was the historic ancestral home of the Lords Lovat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_Castle,_Scotland).

We had a lovely afternoon for our walk, but it had been raining heavily the day before, so the river was quite swollen and had flooded in  parts – John had to wade a bit to get some of these snaps, but at least we know his boots are still waterproof!

Due to fading light we had to miss off part of the forest walk, but we’ll be heading back in April/May time, as the walk description says that the Croiche Wood is carpeted in wild bluebells in the springtime, and there were lots of wild broom, gorse and rhododendron shrubs along parts of the walk which will be gorgeous in full bloom.

Whilst you’re in the area, why not take in a visit to the lovely town of Beauly? There is a historic ruined abbey, and a fantastic deli and tea shop called Corner on the Square, as well as a number of quirky little shops and stores in the high street for you to have a look around. And for those of you who love a photography store, you will pass right by Ffordes on your way back from the start and finish point of this walk. Sadly our walk was on a Sunday, and it was closed, but I’m sure John will be back there soon as the staff are really helpful and knowledgeable, and they have a great selection of second hand equipment to tempt even the most strong willed photographer!