Our weekend in the Scottish Highlands: Inverness, Loch Ness, Glen Affric, and Aviemore.
Our first week in Scotland has been a total blur. But we’re here, alive, and well — though a bit disoriented and jet lagged. The cats, however, seem to be adjusting quite nicely to their new home.
I’m already back to work, but last week we took a little vacation up to the Highlands to live out my Outlander dreams of seeing Inverness. (My husband is a great sport and always keen for an adventure.) We just stayed for one night, because I know we will be back up there soon, with all the family coming to visit over the next year.
I booked us a room at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness (I found a really good deal on Hotels.com!) and we decided to road trip there via a scenic route a good friend of ours drove a year before. I was happy for the recommendation because we avoided the highways and were able to make a whole day of exploring the Highlands without being surrounded by other tourists.
Read on to see the route we took, where we explored, and all the tasty vegan meals we enjoyed on our two day excursion in the Scottish Highlands.
Day One: The Route from Edinburgh to Inverness
We began our journey up to Inverness from Edinburgh. If you want to avoid crazy traffic and highways and really want to immerse yourself in the Highlands — this route might be for you. We stopped in each wee town along the way for a stretch, a tea, or a snack. (Maybe a drink or two, too.) Be prepared for steep and narrow hillside roads, sheep (more sheep) and gorgeous, wilderness.
I am grateful that my husband is a total badass and we able to safely navigate us through the winding roads, because I am terrified to drive over here. I’m sure that will change, but if you don’t have access to a car, you can alternately take a train or a bus.
The route: Edinburgh to Perth to Blairgowrie to Braemar to Tomintoul to Grantown-On-Spey to Carrbridge to Inverness.
Click here to see the Google Maps version so you can make your own journey.
An Evening Exploring Inverness
We made it to Inverness just before sunset, so we walked into the city during “Golden Hour” which, as you can see from the photo above, was magical.
I wasn’t sure if there would be anything for vegans way up north (so far Edinburgh has been amazing for us veggies), but we were starving by the time we got there. So we crossed the footbridge over the River Ness (Nessy, you down there?!) and began our evening with a stroll around the city to get our bearings as the sun dissipated over the hillside.
For a Saturday night, Inverness offered us welcome quiet from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh. (It’s Fringe there right now and completely mad with people.)
We ended up enjoying an interesting vegan meal at Zizzi. I normally don’t eat grains, ever, because my skin reacts so badly to them — but this place was the only real option for us as the other restaurant I wanted to eat at was closed. So I said “so long” to my health and ate the pizza.
But Zizzi was great for accommodating vegans. They had a special sticker on each of our meals that said “vegan” so the kitchen knew how to prepare our dishes. They even had vegan cheese!
Day Two: Loch Ness, Glen Affric and Dinner in Aviemore
We began our day at the only vegetarian cafe in Inverness that was open on Sunday morning: Velocity Cafe & Bicycle Workshop. It’s a hip joint right downtown. My husband ordered a half sandwich and soup, I ordered a salad bowl and we shared a pot of hot tea.
Once we were fueled up, we drove out of the city to Loch Ness (~30 minute drive). We stopped for a couple pictures along the way before moving on to Glen Affric, where we hiked for a little bit before hitting the road back home. (Sadly, we didn’t find Nessy. But I know she’s in there somewhere… 😉 We shall be back later this fall when my mom and stepdad come to visit us.)
Anyway, to break up our five-hour drive home, we decided to stop for dinner in Aviemore. I had heard great things about this sweet town and was pleasantly surprised to find that The Old Bridge Inn had their own vegan menu.
One thing I am learning here, is that people actually make dinner reservations and they are taken seriously.
(This is something I am getting used to over here still. I never really made them at home unless I had a large party.)
The bartender was a bit miffed that we hadn’t made reservations when we arrived, because the restaurant was completely booked for the night. But he squeezed us in and we were very grateful. The food and drinks were amazing. I would definitely come back, just with dinner reservations of course.
Supper at The Old Bridge Inn was a wonderful way to end our weekend getaway.
The Highlands have not seen the last of us yet! I know we will be back soon to explore more of this gorgeous land.
Have you ever been to the Highlands? Where are your favorite places to travel? Let me know in a comment below!
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