Northern Scotland’s Inverness Castle ranks among the most strategically important castles in Scotland. The north tower (left) is open for visitors and provides a prime observation point across Inverness city toward the hills of the Northern Highlands.
Explore Northern Scotland from
Inverness & the Northern Highlands
Northern Scotland is Highlands & Islands and much more.
Home At First’s Northern Scotland extends north-south from the northern tip of mainland Britain at John o’ Groats south beyond Loch Ness as far as Fort William, and east-west from the fierce North Sea shore of eastern Aberdeenshire west to the rugged Atlantic coast of Wester Ross and mountainous Isle of Skye. Northern Scotland isn’t all remote highlands and islands. The region offers many of Scotland’s great attractions set amid ever-changing scenery. Tucked amid the folds of the mountains and the sea-inlets are dozens of villages and towns worth discovery. The regional capital of Inverness, qualifies as Britain’s northernmost city, with much of its original 17th century architecture lining River Ness, which divides the town in half and passes below impressive Inverness Castle on its way north to the Beauly Firth.
Inverness is the both the capital of Northern Scotland and the region’s geographic center. Home At First‘s Inverness city apartments make excellent bases from which to explore Northern Scotland. And, while this can best be accomplished by rental car, from Inverness it also is possible to explore limited portions of the region by railway lines that extend to all four compass points: west to Kyle of Lochalsh by Skye, north to the seacoast at Thurso and Wick, east to Aberdeen on the North Sea, and south through Aviemore and the Cairgorms National Park to Pitlochry, Central Scotland.
An hour north of Inverness Home At First has rural cottages on a Highlands Estate in the former county of Ross-shire, its 3,000 square miles extending across mainland Scotland from the North Sea west to the wild Atlantic coast. Fish, bike, canoe, and hike on our Highlands Estate, and golf on any of several nearby challenging links and parkland courses. Using our exclusive Northern Scotland Activity Guide, you explore the Northern Highlands independently, touring the region by car from sea to sea, and from Inverness to John o’ Groats in the far north of Britain, returning to your cozy Scottish lodging each evening.
Explore Northern Scotland — discover history & remarkable scenery from either of two superb touring bases: Inverness apartments or Highlands Estate cottages.
Explore Scotland by Independent Day-trips from your Inverness apartment or Northern Highlands cottage —
Begin your discovery of Scotland by exploring your home region: the small city of Inverness and the eastern portion of Scotland’s Northern Highlands. The intricate regional geography of rivers, hills, firths (fjords), and moors offers a fascinating array of places to explore. This part of Scotland has extraordinary history with associations with Picts, Highland clans, Vikings, Jacobites, and British Royalty.
Touring Northern Scotland by Car: Further from home, your explorations by car can take you on a long circle tour west and south through some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery: across the Northern Highlands to the rugged coast of Wester Ross, through spectacular coastal mountains to Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye. From Skye, the return route passes picturesque Eilean Donan Castle, winding past several of Scotland’s highest Munros before tracing the west shore of Loch Ness back to Inverness and home.
Another touring route circles west across Ross-shire to the fishing port of Ullapool on Loch Broom, north into remote and thinly populated northwestern Sutherland before turning southeast and returning home via the Dornoch Firth and the Royal Burgh of Tain with its Glenmorangie Distillery.
A third day-trip by car heads east into the historic counties of Nairn, Moray, and Banffshire before turning southwest and traversing the distillery-dense Speyside Whisky Route, brushing Cairngorms National Park, then turning north to return to Inverness and home.
Touring Northern Scotland by Train: Guests staying in Inverness city apartments have the option of touring without driving by taking the train. From Inverness station in the city center (within walking distance of Home At First‘s Inverness apartments), trains depart on scenic lines west for Kyle of Lochalsh, north for Wick and Thurso, east for Elgin and Aberdeen, and south for Aviemore in the Cairngorms and Pitlochry in the Central Highlands. Although railways do not go everywhere in Northern Scotland, Inverness-based guests using a ScotRail Pass can easily fill a week with rail adventures throughout the region and return each evening to their apartments in the happy capital of Northern Scotland.
Discovering Home At First’s Northern Scotland — Activities
Activities: In addition to touring by car or train, visitors play links or parkland golf, try fishing for salmon and trout, visit numerous (scotch) whisky distilleries, search for castles in all states of repair, keep an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster, and encounter important historic sites of fact like Culloden Moor battlefield (where the Jacobite cause was lost) and of fiction like Cawdor Castle (where Shakespeare’s Macbeth became King of Scotland). For more activities, see the following slide show:
Discovering Home At First’s Northern Scotland — Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the driving like? Northern Scotland roads — mostly two-lane, but many one-lane (“single-track”) roads, and the occasional three-lane road, plus the A-9 north/south national highway that is at times a 4-lane motorway — follow the profiles of the glens (valleys), hugging the shores of the lochs (Scottish lakes, sounds, and fjords), and occasionally climbing mountain passes to reach the next glen. With few people traffic congestion is rare, except in Inverness, where the one-way street system is often confusing and finding parking can be aggravating. Traffic can also back up on some key mountain pass routes, on the busy streets of market towns, and on the winding, narrow streets of antique villages.
How far can we day-trip by driving? Despite the almost total absence of high-speed motorways, Home At First‘s Inverness apartments and Highland Estate cottages make great bases for exploring its fascinating region with two coasts, larger towns of Tain, Dornoch, Nairn, Elgin, and smaller towns and villages including Ullapool, Fortrose, Cromarty, Dornoch, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus, Applecross, Gairloch, Torridon, Aviemore, Thurso, and Wick within reach. Regions accessible by car include the Far North (Sutherland & Caithness), Wester Ross, Isle of Skye, Speyside and the Cairngorms, Loch Ness & Lochaber.
What can we realistically accomplish if we opt to travel by train? Using a ScotRail Pass valid for 4 days of rail travel during an 8-day travel period, Home At First guests to Inverness can travel to the four points of the compass:
• Rail service east on the 3-hour journey from Inverness to Aberdeen operates almost hourly, making it possible to visit Aberdeen as a long day-trip with 2-6 hours in Aberdeen.
• Rail service west on the very scenic 2.5-hour journey from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh operates every two hours from about 9AM, provides a 2-hour lunch stop in Kyle, and returns to Inverness in time for supper.
• Rail service north to the top of mainland Scotland operates twice each morning on the 4.5-hour journey from Inverness to Wick (via Thurso). Taking the earlier train permits a 2-hour lunch stop or 5.5-hour visit in Thurso or a 4.5-hour visit to Wick before returning to Inverness by 5PM or 8PM. Intermediate stops along of interest along this route include Tain, Golspie, Dunrobbin Castle, and Brora.
• Rail services south on the main line from Inverness to Perth, Edinburgh, and Glasgow depart Inverness hourly. Journey time to Edinburgh or Glasgow is about 3.5 hours, sometimes requiring a change of trains in Perth. Leaving Inverness at around 8AM means being able to visit Edinburgh or Glasgow for up to 6 hours before taking the train back to Inverness in time for a 9:30PM arrival. Stops along this route include the interesting small towns of Aviemore, Blair Atholl, and Pitlochry, as well as the historic small city of Stirling.
What is there to see and do? We tell you in very practical detail in our exclusive “Northern Scotland Activity Guide” created specifically for the use of Home At First guests in Northern Scotland.
Home At First’s Northern Scotland — The Lodgings:
Apartments in Inverness
Sample City Apartments
Shown and described below are two popular Inverness City Apartments enjoyed by Home At First guests. They are shown here as samples of different sizes and capacities, and to illustrate the standard of quality that comes with all apartments regardless of design, size, style, and location. While the range of apartments to choose from is extensive, the standard of quality and service is the same regardless of apartment.
ARRIVAL & HOSTING: Each apartment’s host or hostess will meet you at the apartment when you arrive to explain its operations. Your host/hostess is also ready with suggestions for activities, shopping, and eating and is on-call in the event of questions, emergencies, or (unlikely) problems.
LOCATION: The apartments are a five-minute walk uphill to Inverness Castle. Restaurants, shops, cafés, churches, Inverness’s train and bus stations, and its tourist information office are all within 10-minutes walk of the apartment, meaning you do not need a car to explore Inverness. And, whether using a car or a ScotRail pass, exploring Northern Scotland is easily done from Home At First‘s perfectly-situated apartment in Inverness.
Home At First’s Northern Scotland — The Lodgings:
Northern Highlands Estate
Cottages in Ross-shire
Sample Rural Estate Cottages
Shown above are images of Home At First‘s Northern Highlands Estate to illustrate show areas for hiking, boating, swimming, fishing, the estate office, the activities center, and the estate owner’s castle with its elaborate Italianate gardens.
Shown and described below are images of several of the Northern Highlands Estate Cottages enjoyed by Home At First guests: exterior views in the left column, and interior views in the right column. They are shown here as samples of different sizes and capacities, and to illustrate the standard of quality that comes with all of the estate’s cottages regardless of design, size, style, and location. While the range of cottages to choose from is extensive, the standard of quality and choice of activities is the same for all.
What are Home At First’s Northern Highlands Estate Cottage like? We offer several cottages on a large, rural, private estate in Ross-shire, not far from the A9 main north/south highway, the Tarbat Peninsula, the Cromarty Firth, and the Dornoch Firth. Each cottage is unique. The cottages come in a variety of sizes, and shapes, and decor. Some have multiple bedrooms and baths; others may have a single bedroom and bathroom. Flat-screen TVs are ubiquitous — expect multiple TVs in larger apartments. All estate cottages have terraces or furnished patios and gardens. All are secure private quarters with private bathrooms, and must meet certain standards of quality and equipment: