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Situated on the banks of the River Ness where it flows into the Moray Firth, and famous around the world for its legendarily shy Loch Ness Monster, Inverness is biggest urban centre in the Scottish Highlands – as well as one of the happiest and most welcoming cities in the UK. But while there’s plenty to see in the city itself, it’s also a gateway to the glories of the Highlands. With some of Scotland’s best drives on its doorstep, the best way by far to explore the area is by car.
Inverness Airport (INV) is conveniently located just 8 miles from the city centre. If you’re planning to hire a car on arrival, Avis and Europcar both have desks in the terminal, and it takes around 20 minutes to drive to Inverness proper on the A96. If you’d rather take public transport, the easiest way is to take the Jet Bus service.
Car hire brands available in Inverness include Avis, Europcar, Budget, Sixt and Hertz.
If you're seeking a quiet half-day’s activity, the Ness Islands Railway, a miniature rail line, is just a short drive from the city centre. Nearby are the Inverness Botanic Gardens and the Ness Islands, accessible by footbridges. The islands are the perfect place for a leisurely stroll or a picnic – just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for seals! Driving time: 10 minutes.
Of course, a visit to Inverness wouldn’t be complete without a day trip down to Loch Ness to try and spy old Nessie. For a tranquil and secluded view of the loch, drive south out of Inverness on the B862 for around twenty minutes until you reach the B852. This road traces half the length of the loch’s eastern banks and has some excellent views. An alternative – but busier – route heads out of Inverness on the A82 and runs along the western banks of Loch Ness. On this road, you’ll pass the ruins of Urquhart Castle, which was built in 1509 and now houses a visitor centre and café. You’ll also drive through the major Loch Ness tourist attractions at the village of Drumnadrochit – a necessary stop if you want to stock up on novelty Nessie hats. Driving time: 25 minutes.
Also within easy reach of the city are the magnificent Cairngorms, Scotland’s most famous mountain range and a national park. In winter, people flock here for skiing and snowboarding, but there’s plenty to see throughout the year. The park was named one of the top 20 places to visit in the world by National Geographic’s Traveller magazine. Try out canoeing or whitewater rafting at its watersport centres, visit the Queen’s holiday home, Balmoral Castle, or encounter the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd. Driving time: 42 minutes (to Aviemore).
If you’re a veteran at driving in the UK, you might think that the uncongested roads of the Scottish Highlands will be a breeze. However, there are a few things to be aware of if you’re driving through the Highlands, especially in winter. The weather can change suddenly, so if your route takes you through exposed sections, it’s worth checking the forecast (or even checking with locals) before hitting the road. There are also a number of mountain passes which are not suitable for learner drivers, and which are sometimes closed in poor weather; again, check your route before you leave.
To start organising your trip to Inverness and other parts of the UK, use the Expedia search tool to help you find the best car hire, flight and hotel deals and research the best attractions and activities.
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