The Scottish Highlands are some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of the world, and home to intriguing and rich histories dating back to the ancient world...
The Highlands is not only one of the most historic regions in Scotland, but it is also home to some of the country's most scenic countryside. Thanks to its sparse population as a result of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, the Scottish Highlands Tour features some of the most natural and pristine landscapes in the UK, highlighted by the Ben Nevis, the British Isle's highest mountain. This land offers unparalleled views of the sanctity of nature at every turn. And as a result, the drive from Inverness to Durness is a particular favorite for driving enthusiasts around the world.
The drive from Inverness to Durness is 104 miles when taking the A9, and it's a drive that would normally take 2 hours and 46 minutes when traveling direct. But that's not taking into account stopping for a short spell to visit the landmarks and attractions along the way. And while there isn't exactly an overabundance of "attractions" in the Scottish Highlands road trip, odds are you will find yourself stopping at various points, just to take in the majestic beauty of it all. When driving on your Scottish Highlands vacation in your UK car rental, you'll definitely want to make sure you keep your camera at the ready.
Read on to Drive to Discover the Scottish Highlands
Since your trip is starting in Inverness, the most convenient airport to fly into is going to be Inverness Airport (INV / EGPE). The next nearest airport is located in Aberdeen, which is 101 miles away. Inverness Airport, on the other hand, is located just ten minutes from the city's downtown. As the largest of Scotland's "seven cities," Inverness is thriving with rich history and a growing arts scene. One of its most popular attractions is Inverness Castle, which sits perched atop a hill, overlooking the beautiful River Ness. As you might get from the name, the river feeds into the famous Loch Ness, where you might be able to catch a glimpse of its famous resident, if you're lucky. To get to the famed Loch, take a scenic boat ride down the Caledonian Canal.
Or visit the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery on Castle Wynd, which is located directly below the flower-filled grounds of Inverness Castle. Meanwhile, Church Street is where you'll want to go to see some of the oldest structures still standing in the city, including the historic Abertarff House. Having been built in 1593, it has the distinction of being recognized as the oldest complete building in Inverness.
All along the riverside in Inverness are restaurants and shops where you can get a true sampling of the authentic taste of the city. A walk to the Moray Firth will have you gazing at the local wildlife, including schools of migrating dolphins, for hours at a time.
Although Inverness is a historic city in its own right, don't think that a history lesson is all it has to offer. The city enjoys a vibrant and growing arts scene, with modern music and art festivals held all throughout the year. Inverness's golfing championships are also globally renowned, as are, of course, the Highland Games.
If you're staying the night in Inverness, then you'll be pleasantly surprised by the selection of accommodations available in the city. From B&Bs to luxury hotels to old-fashioned inns, you'll have no problem finding the perfect night's sleep. The Culloden House is a particular favorite among travelers to the region, and it was included in the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List of 2010. Or book a room at The Royal Highland Hotel, which is regularly one of the highest-rated and most favorably reviewed hotels in the city. Meanwhile, The Glen Mhor Hotel offers a nice balance of comfort, amenities, and affordability.
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It won't be long after leaving Inverness before you come across your first stop. How long? Oh, about eleven minutes or so. Located just under five miles away from Inverness, you'll reach the small village of North Kessock immediately, once you drive your UK car rental across the Kessock Bridge.
Although the village itself is relatively small and features little fanfare, North Kessock is a worthwhile stop, as it is one of the best places to view the bottlenose dolphins when they migrate through the Moray Firth. Another excellent place to stop is The Dolphin and Seal Centre, which is located just north of the village in the Tourist Information Car Park. The Black Isle Wildlife & country Park is also in North Kessock.
When driving on your Scottish Highlands tour, pay attention to the trees alongside the road. If you notice bands of cloth wrapped around the limbs or trunks, then you're passing what is called a Clootie Well. Clootie Wells are wells or springs that have trees sprouting up around them. According to local heritage, these wells are often the scene of healing rituals, in which the cloth strips are dipped into the water and tied around tree trunks or branches while people offer a prayer of supplication to the spirit that resides in the well.
If you get caught up in the romantic nature of this quaint little village, then don't worry, you can always book a night at the Old Drynie House or the Herdsmans Cottage. Both offer turn of the century rustic charm on some of the most beautifully landscaped properties you'll ever see.
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On the third day of your Scottish Highlands road trip, you're really going to be venturing into the Highlands. This leg of the trip will take you through some of the more remote and wooded parts of country. On one stretch, you'll pass through a patch of forested area that's made up of the West KnockBain Wood on your right side, and Muckernich Wood on your left. There's not much to see attraction-wise during this leg of the journey, but you'll have a hard time finding a prettier landscape to drive through.
Eventually, you'll cross the Cromarty Bridge, which spans the Cromarty Firth. If you want, you can stop here to take a ride on the Westward Ho Ferry (previously the Cromarty Rose Ferry). Then, once you jump back on the A9 in your UK auto rental, it won't be long before you come to the The Storehouse of Foulis. This lovely old-fashioned restaurant and gift shop makes for the perfect place to stop, relax, and enjoy a fabulous breakfast, lunch, or dinner, all while taking in the grand view of the Cromarty Firth and the Black Isle. With free Wi-Fi available, The Storehouse is also a great place to stop if you need to check your email or update your travel itinerary. Of course, the restaurant's gift shop is also a great place to pick up souvenirs for your loved ones back home.
After your stomach is full, jump back on the A9 with your souvenirs in tow. You'll follow the Cromarty Firth until you come to a turn off for B9176. Take B9176 and you'll find yourself driving through some of the prettiest farmland and Scottish farmhouses you have ever seen. Beyond the farmland, you'll once again venture into some heavily forested area, until you take the stone bridge over the River Averon, after which will have you passing by miles and miles of gorgeous Scottish countryside broken up by pockets of forests and farms. Eventually, you'll pass by the Burn of Achnacloich and then the trathy Bur and into one of the most remote portions of your road trip.
Eventually, you'll come to a point where the B9176 merges with the 1 to become the A836 (or still the 1, depending on who you ask). Not long after you are on the A836, you'll pass the Dornoch Firth on your right, and the tiny hamlet of Ardchronie on your left. If you're ready to stop for a bit, stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat, then the small village of Ardgay offers a pleasant place to do all three. Located along the western shore of Dornoch Firth, this little community even has a couple of places you might want to add to your travel itinerary, like the historic Croick Church and the Alladale Wilderness Preserve. If you want to stay the night in Ardgay, then booking a room in advance at the lodge on the Alladale Wilderness Preserve will ensure you get to enjoy the most out of your stay.
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Shortly after getting back on the A836 in your luxurious UK car rental, you'll pass over the Bonar Bridge, which spans the Kyle of Sutherland. If you're a golf enthusiast, then a stop at the Bonar Bridge Ardgay Golf Club might be worth a stop. After hitting the links, you'll be back on the road and heading into some of the more rugged and rocky sections of the Highlands. You'll pass by Loch Shin on your left, the Shin Forest on your right, and then you'll head into a scenic drive, past numerous glens, lochs, and forested sections that will no doubt take up plenty of your film stock. Once you pass by Allt Ceann Locha and then Moody Cuillins, you'll soon find yourself entering Scotland's rockier landscapes.
After traveling through miles and miles of untouched land, you'll eventually arrive at your final destination, Durness. The first thing you'll discover is that this is a remote village with a population that's very spread out. But the sheer beauty of the place is simply uncompromised. You won't have a hard time understanding why Durness was the inspiration behind John Lennon's masterpiece, "In My Life." In fact, the tiny community even has a memorial garden dedicated to the musician that's well worth a visit.
When visiting Durness, however, one of the things you must see is the Smoo Cave. The Smoo Cave is a beautiful conjoined cave where seawater and freshwater combine, making it an attractive place for seals, porpoises, sea birds, and other marine life to gather. Meanwhile, the 922 foot-high Clo Mor Cliffs are the highest on the British mainland. And you'll find few prettier coastal areas than the beaches at Durness Beach, Sango Bay, and Balnakiel Beach.
Another popular tourist spot is the Balnakeil Old Church. The church is home to the grave of Donuill Mac Morraichaidh, an infamous serial bandit and murderer. Meanwhile, if you're interested in archeology at all, then taking a visit to the dig sites near Loch Croispol and Loch Borrallie will certainly be worthwhile. And like any true Scotland community, Durness also has its own golf club, the Durness Golf Club. Golfers from all around the world travel to Durness to try their hand at the course's challenging rocky terrain, all while taking in some of the best scenery ever afforded by a walk through a golf course.
Since Durness doesn't have its own airport, you'll probably want to stay the night and then take a return drive back to Inverness the following day. After all, this scenic drive takes less than three hours from point to point, and it will give you another chance to see the beauty of Scotland's Highlands once more before you leave.
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Now that you have an idea of the route you're going to be taking on your drive from Inverness to Durness, all you need now is to start preparing for your trip. Since Scotland's hotels, inns, and B&Bs tend to be smaller than what you might be used to, it is important to reserve your accommodations well in advance if there is any place you will want to explore more thoroughly on your Scottish Highlands vacation.
You'll also want to reserve your UK rental car well in advance with Auto Europe, to help ensure that you have the ideal automobile for enjoying your road trip to the fullest. With the resources provided here by Auto Europe, and our comprehensive travel guide, you'll be fully prepared for enjoying one of the world's finest driving tours - the Scottish Highlands tour.
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