On the 24th November last year I received an email stating that I’d won a 2 night stay at my choice of Mercure hotel and that there were 26 participating hotels across the U.K to choose from. This particular prize was from a Facebook competition I’d entered on the Daily Mail travel page, where you just had to fill in your details and there were 5 winners. I was delighted at receiving the email; I’d been trying to win a hotel stay since I started comping again back in August and so to win one in my choice of UK city was amazing. I looked through the list and decided upon Inverness, as one of the reasons I chose to move to Scotland for university was because I really wanted to visit the Highlands and Mercure Inverness was the only Highlands hotel on the list.
The stay had to be used by the 28th February and so I decided to book it for the last weekend of February, which coincidentally ended on the 28th, as I figured by then it would have warmed up slightly. It ended up being between -3 – 4 degrees, (welcome to Scotland)… but it was sunny and so did feel warmer! For those of you reading this who aren’t Scotish natives/ don’t visit regularly one of the people we met on the trip was from Aberdeen and I think she summed up Scottish weather perfectly when she said “I think Visit Scotland must take all photos of Scotland on 3 days of the year and these are those 3 days”. Having been in Glasgow for 7 months now I have to say I agree with her, Scottish weather is something else.
I got the train to Inverness, it’s 3 hours from Glasgow and with my student railcard it was only £7.50! I booked the Megabus to return on Sunday and the journey was only half an hour longer and cost £12.50 and so altogether my travel there and back cost £20!
I arrived in Inverness at 12 and went to check in to the hotel, upon my arrival, I was greeted by the receptionist who welcomed me to the hotel and explained what was included in the prize (a 2 night stay in a twin room, bed and breakfast on both days and dinner to the value of £44 for the both of us on the first night). The total prize value was about £200.
After checking in I immediately went up to the room and after not knowing what to expect was pleasantly surprised, besides the bathroom that could have done with a refurbishment, the room was generally quite nice and pretty clean. I immediately thought I’d rather enjoy my stay there. My sister arrived about 40 minutes after I did and after she had settled into the room we went to go lunch. We decided on a local Turkish restaurant a few minutes and the meal was pretty decent.
After lunch we went back to the hotel to get our bags and at this point I was very excited because we were going on our first proper outing on the trip. I’d booked us on a Jacobite Cruise and tour of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle! When researching what to do during our stay I was disappointed to find that most tour operators were closed as it wasn’t peak season however I was pleased to find that Jacobite tours were still running daily tours during February. The tour involved a 30 minute cruise of the infamous Loch, a 1 hour self-guided tour of Urquhart Castle and then a 1 hour guided coach tour back to Inverness. I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint, I’d highly recommend the tour! The staff were friendly and pleasant. The cruise was a delight (although it went by far too quickly), and the Loch was beautiful, it definitely lived up to all my expectations of it! And in regards to Urquhart Castle, I fell in love when exploring it.
Once back in Inverness we got some snacks for our room, chilled for a bit and then went to down to dinner. I had a burger and chips, which was actually pretty decent and a Prosecco cocktail to go with it but I didn’t think much of the cocktail. I did, however, rather enjoy my dessert, though, which was a Tarte Tartin with ice cream, it was absolutely scrumptious.
After dinner we were knackered and decided that we’d call it a night and get up early and go explore again tomorrow.
We went down to breakfast and I was happy to see that there were many options to choose from: including a full English, cereal, and continental options. I settled for a full English… as you can’t go wrong with a full English.
Once we’d finished breakfast we decided to go and find a car to hire for the day as we’d done some research and decided we really wanted to go and see Divach falls. We hired a car from Focus cars, who are about a 10-minute drive from the bus station (a lovely local coach driver dropped us off there for free!). However I wouldn’t’ recommend Focus as they ended up charging my sister a significant sum for damage we didn’t cause and they also had to replace the car that we originally hired, but that’s another story…
After hiring the car we drove to Drumnadrochit, a beautiful little village on the western shore of Loch Ness. We stopped for lunch at the ‘Glen Café’ and then after lunch we proceeded to drive up to the falls. Now if you’re planning on going to the falls, be warned the ‘parking’ area is not what I would deem an appropriate parking area. I repeat, it’s not a suitable parking area. What it actually is, is a raised drop just off the side of the road that my sister didn’t feel comfortable parking on, as after we’d already had trouble with the first car we didn’t want anything to happen to this one. Fortunately, after driving further up into the hills we found somewhere suitable to park. We then walked back down to the ‘parking’ area and down to the falls. Now the actual falls were pretty but I have to say I was disappointed, based on what we’d read I thought there would be more to see, but there wasn’t. However if you already happen to be in Drumnadrochit, for the day I would still recommend going and see them for a short wile, but don’t drive out of your way to visit them.
After our disappointment with the falls we decided to go somewhere else, we drove up to a park in the village of Glen Affric that supposedly had incredible views of the Glen. Once again upon arriving at the park we were disappointed with the view, as it was just okay, and as it was now sunset we decided to call it a day and drove back to Inverness. After we’d put our stuff down and rested we went to have dinner at a local Indian/Thai restaurant. I opted for the Thai menu as I’d never tried Thai food before and I’m glad to say my dish was lovely.
After this we went back to the hotel and chilled for a bit. My sister was knackered and took a nap as she had an early flight to catch back in the morning, whilst I decided to go and explore the town centre and see what Inverness had to offer in terms of nightlife (not much at all).
By the time I had gotten up my sister had already left as her flight was just before 7; we’d booked her flights last minute and that was the cheapest option. However, I’d booked my return journey at 15:10 to ensure that after breakfast I would have a good few hours to explore, before I went back to Glasgow. Before I went down to breakfast I researched what I’d do for the day, I decided that I still wanted to go a hike, as after Saturday’s polava we didn’t go on one as originally planned. I came across Craig Phadraig Woods, a wooded area about 30 minutes from the city centre by bus. The woods had a recognised Forestry Commission 1 hour long walk to the summit and once at the top it supposedly had incredible views of the summit. After getting lost walking to the start of the woods (typical Chloe) I got there just before 12 and so figured I’d explore for a just over an hour before heading back to the city centre.
There were two different walking trails in the woods, yellow and blue. The yellow trail was a circular 1 hour walk starting from the car park and leading back there without reaching the summit. The blue trail was a vertical walk leading up to the summit, and thus the views of the Ben Wyvis. I’d planned on doing the blue trail, however according to the directions that I was reading the blue and yellow trail met at some point and so you had to follow the yellow trail until it crossed the blue. Long story short, I got lost (once again typical Chloe) and almost left. But just as I was thinking about leaving I actually realised I still had time to find the summit and then fortunately I bumped into a pleasant elder couple and we managed to find the summit together. I have to say, I’m glad I stayed to see it, the views were amazing and I actually felt so content and just at peace, whilst sitting there taking it all in. Whilst up there I met a lovely local, Dylan, who’d come up there to watch the view and to study. I was not jealous, not jealous at all.
Upon my return to Inverness I went to see the castle, which had lovely views overlooking the whole of Inverness and then walked around the town centre for a bit before making my way to the bus station.
Although Saturday had been disappointing due to the car trouble and because of our disappointment at the sites we’d chosen to visit, I’m glad to say I really enjoyed the trip. The hotel stay was pleasant, the food was decent and the staff were friendly. Moreover, the Loch was amazing, it was actually so beautiful, and I was in awe. Finally, I have to say another highlight was my little trip up to Craig Phadraig, the views were stunning, and I’m so glad I went and if only that was the view I had when I went to do my own revision, I’d probably be just a tad more motivated…
Have you been to Inverness, what did you get up to when you were there? Did you win a weekend away or would you like to? Let me know in the comments below!