There are some fantastic places that are very close to the Highland capital of Inverness, but perhaps not on the usual beaten track.
Why not explore into the stunningly beautiful Easter Ross and Sutherland regions, with its breath-taking scenery and wonderful places so steeped in history and culture? Discover some of the awe inspiring “hidden gems” included in this the fascinating itinerary, created to deliver a unique experience for those visiting this wonderful part of the world.
Millionaire’s View • Dunrobin Castle • Dornoch OR Glenmorangie Distillery • Seaboard VillagesTarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack • Seaboard Villages • Mermaid of the North
Shandwick Pictish Stone • Nigg Old Church and Pictish Stone
The tour meets at 08:45am for a 09:00am start from in front of the Columba Hotel, 7 Ness Walk, Inverness . Meet the "Man in the Kilt" who will be your driver and guide. Hop aboard a bus that seats 8 people, which has heating and air-conditioning (no wifi or bathrooms but your guide will make restroom stops along the way).
After leaving Inverness, we make our way towards Dunrobin Castle, the seat of the powerful Sutherland family. Dating from the 13th century, Dunrobin is one of the oldest inhabited residences in Scotland with stunning formal gardens, Dunrobin Castle truly is reminiscent of something from a fairy tale. En route, stop to take in the vista that locals call the “millionaire’s view”; need we say any more?
Then there's the option of enjoying a dram or two at Glenmorangie Distillery, or if the “uisge-beatha” isn’t your tipple, a visit to the picturesque mediaeval burgh of Dornoch is the alternative, where the local shops and cafes can be explored, along with the wonderful Cathedral, founded in the 13th century.
After lunch, we travel to the quaint village of Portmahomack, and the Tarbat Discovery Centre, where archaeological investigation in the 1990s revealed an extensive monastic settlement, dating back to the 6thcentury! The Centre is dedicated to the interpretation of this site, and also investigates the enigmatic Picts, the native people that lived here between the 4th and 9th centuries CE. Artefacts include some beautifully carved fragments of Pictish stones. This is an important and emotive place, referred to as the “Iona of the East”.
Carrying along the Pictish Trail, we visit the traditional fishing communities of the Seaboard Villages, so beautifully situated on the Moray Firth coast. We stop to say hello to the “Mermaid of the North”, who sits proud on the “Clach Dubh” or “Black Rock” on Balintore Beach, before visiting the awe-inspiring Shandwick Pictish Stone, which has stood on its original site since the 9th century CE. This stone stands just under 9 feet high (2.7m), with both sides elaborately carved in relief to include intricate designs and enigmatic symbols.
Finally, we explore the Old Nigg Parish Church, which dates from the 17th century, and also houses the Nigg Pictish Cross Slab, possibly the most remarkable and elaborate of all. The church itself has a fantastic history, which includes local lore, connections with the geologist and author Hugh Miller, “lofty places” and “the cholera stone”. We can tell you no more, because it will ruin the surprise!
This is a truly fantastic tour, providing the opportunity to explore little known ancient places immersed in history and legend. The sandstone of the East Highlands creates fertile rolling hills and sandy yellow beaches, all a recipe for stunning scenery and beautiful landscapes.
The tour returns back to the starting point in front of the Columba Hotel,Inverness