Inverness Area–Castles, Battles and Standing Stones

standing stone at clava cairns near Inverness

What sites are there to see around the Inverness area? Plenty! After our fun times in Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh, our itinerary took us up through the Cairngorms and on to the Inverness area.

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Aviemore and the Cairngorm Mountain Range

We left the Aberdeen area and drove northward through the beautiful moors to go around the mountains to Aviemore. We took a very small, narrow road going north, and came over a rise to this amazing view. The view was absolutely incredible and so different than what we are used to.


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Since we had already hiked that morning in Braemar, we decided to take it easy that afternoon, and just drove up to the Cairngorm Mountain parking area and took some photos of the views.

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We ate lunch at a cute little pub and then headed to Nairn, a beautiful sea-side town with incredible views about 30 minutes from Inverness. 

Invernairne Guest House

For the next two nights we stayed at a beautiful guest house with beach access in Nairn. Invernairne is a lovely country house run by very nice, hospitable hosts who make killer scrambled eggs in the morning! They have a great honor bar, stocked with all kinds of liquor, wines and beer, sodas, etc. The hotel has a lovely backyard with tables and a beautiful sunken garden. Taking the path down to the beach reveals a beautiful expanse of the Moray Firth, the mountains beyond, and a rocky and sandy beach. 

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We took the short path down to the beach and enjoyed being by the beautiful water. The beach there is part sand and part rock. There is also a nice walkway that runs along the beach to provide much easier walking.

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Our room was in the back of the hotel so we faced the Moray Firth and had amazing views. Everything was top-notch and very well done, from our comfortable bed and bedding to the well-appointed bathroom.

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We only spent one evening exploring Nairn. When our dinner plans fell through, we ate in a restaurant across from the grassy public park next to the public beach, and enjoyed the seaside town atmosphere. We drove a bit through the town, and it seemed pretty lively.

Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle is very close to Nairn, so we went there first as soon as it opened. It was very beautiful and the tour of the interior took about an hour. The castle had a great history and was lovely to visit.

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Cawdor Castle

Our next stop was Cawdor Castle. Dating from around 1454, the Castle has beautiful interiors and artwork, and a really cool legend of how the location was chosen next to a holly tree. The original holly tree is on display in the lowest level.

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What is truly special about Cawdor are the gardens. I think we took 250 photos there. The castle has three gardens, and includes a maze under the gaze of a Minotaur statue and beautiful sculptures throughout. When we visited the gardens were in top form. Here are some photos:

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Culloden Battlefield near Inverness

Our next stop that day was Culloden. For all of you Outlander fans, yes, it’s the big battle that Jamie fought in. This site was where the British defeated the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie and squashed all efforts to re-establish the Stuart Kings in Scotland.

The Battlefield has a very good visitor center/ museum, and then you can go outside and walk around the battlefield. There are monuments for many of the different clans that fought there. The battlefield is a pretty large area, but definitely walkable. It was sobering to see the boggy ground that some of the Jacobites were forced to attack over. It is no wonder that they were unsuccessful. As we traveled around Scotland, we saw constant reminders of just how Bad Ass the Scottish are, how they never wanted to give up and kept fighting, and what incredible, fierce warriors they were. The history of Scotland is very violent, bloody, and fierce, but I find it completely fascinating.

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Clava Cairns

Our final historic site that day was Clava Cairns. For you Outlander fans, these stones are similar to the one Claire touched and was transported through time. Clava Cairns has probably at least 30 standing stones, spread out over a fairly small area. The standing stones surround mound-type buildings called Cairns, made of rock. One has an opening and you can stand inside. In the exact middle the temperature decreases at least 10 degrees. It was very cool (pun intended).

We enjoyed walking around the area and reading about how these Cairns and stones were used, why they were built, and the efforts to preserve them. I highly recommend a visit here!

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Dinner at Cafe 1 in Inverness

Since the Cairns were fairly close to Inverness, we made reservations that evening in the town so that we could see some of the city. Inverness is a beautiful, small city along a nice river. We ate at a fabulous restaurant called CAFE 1. It was very busy and crowded, but the meal was delicious and the service was great. I highly recommend it!

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The Inverness area offers some great sites for the history buff. If you only have a very short time, I recommend visiting Cawdor Castle, Culloden and Clava Cairns. Nairn is a beautiful and convenient place to stay, and wasn’t very touristy at all. Most of the sites were very close and easy to get to from Nairn.

Next up: We travel from Nairn to Isle of Skye, with a visit to Loch Ness along the way. What are your favorite things to do and see near Inverness?

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