Explore two of Scotland's most notable castles and legendary Loch Ness on this marvelous full day tour.
Your tour first travels to Cawdor Castle, traveling alongside the Cromarty Firth, via Inverness to reach what is considered the most romantic castle in the Highlands. Older, larger and grander houses than Cawdor exist, but there are few places that so pleasantly combine history and home, legend and reality, ancient and new, as in this castle which has sheltered the Cawdor family for 600 years. Dating from the 14th century, this splendid castle was originally the fortress home of the Thanes of Cawdor.
Arriving, you will cross an authentic drawbridge and immediately step into Scottish history and the medieval past. The oldest part of the castle is the central tower, built around a legendary thorn tree. Rather than feeling like a museum, you will soon realize that this castle feels like a living home. Look around and sense the unyielding solidity of the ancient stonework. Enter the low doorways, climb the winding stairs, look out from windows set deep in massive walls and understand the necessity of the warmth of the beautiful tapestries. You will also see the snug sitting-room in the core of the Tower; the forbidding dungeon; the freshwater well and you can even imagine the cooks preparing a feast in the original kitchens as you are swept back centuries in time. The warm and personal atmosphere makes it easy to envision how life here may have been in medieval times. Your visit also includes a look at the lovely castle gardens.
Continuing on, you will next make your way to Inverness, the `Capital of the Highlands` which spans the tranquil River Ness, and is where the waters of Beauly Firth and Inverness Firth unite. All Highland roads meet at Inverness, a renowned center of touring. A brief drive-through of this bustling town is made before stopping for lunch at a local hotel.
Following a relaxing meal, your tour heads towards Loch Ness, which is world famous thanks to Nessie, although the possible existence of the monster is still a matter of considerable speculation. However, setting aside whisky-induced hallucinations, and wishful-thinking sightings, many eye witness accounts of Nessie come from people whose honesty and integrity are beyond doubt. No matter how logical one is, it is impossible to drive alongside Loch Ness without hopefully scouring the dark waters. The loch is also extremely beautiful, long and narrow, with steep wooded banks and a depth of 900 feet in parts.
Navigating your way through the village of Drumnadrochit, it's on to Urquhart Castle for a visit. Urquhart Castle was built both as a fortress and as a residence and in war-time, its strategic military position provided the lord and those under his protection with as secure a defense as it was possible to achieve. Through its 500-year history, Urquhart Castle has witnessed a considerable amount of warlike activity, figuring prominently in the Scots` struggle for independence from England in the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the castle and glen were frequently raided and plundered, chiefly by the Macdonald lords of the Isles; and the Castle was last inhabited by government troops during the Jacobite troubles in the 1690`s. Sadly, In 1692 it was blown up to save it from the Jacobites and today, a jagged keep rises from crumbling walls against a lovely backdrop of loch and rolling hills. The pathway from the bus park down to the lower level of the castle is fairly steep in parts; however, visitors can remain on the upper level and obtain good panoramic views and photo opportunities.
Leaving Urquhart Castle behind, you will now enjoy the lovely scenery of Scottish glens, each with its own charm, as your route continues on towards Beauly, noted for its salmon river. Highland hills form the backdrop on the last segment of your journey as you travel back alongside the Cromarty Firth on the return to Invergordon.
Please note: This tour includes approximately 2 3/4 hours of walking, at times over uneven ground, as well as a significant number of steps to negotiate (approximately 160 steps). It is not considered suitable for wheelchair guests or those with mobility concerns. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather appropriate clothing and flat, comfortable walking shoes are suggested. Guests should be prepared for the possibility of rain. The order of sites visited may vary.