Inverness is viewed by many as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, a friendly city whose vast economic growth in the past decade reflects the region's contribution to Scotland as a whole. Much of its economic growth could well be due to the Highlands' thriving tourism trade thanks to beautiful scenery both in the city and beyond, and the popular mythical folklore surrounding nearby Loch Ness and the creature said to live within. Here are our favourite Highland destinations that the whole family will be sure to enjoy.
The administrative centre of the Highlands is the UK's most northern city, and something of a haven for a happy lifestyle if a recent survey is anything to go by.
Dominating the Inverness skyline is striking red stone Inverness Castle, built by architect William Burn in 1836. Sadly the castle itself is not currently open to the public, but the grounds make for an excellent stroll beside the River Ness. Back in the town centre, Victoria Market and Eastgate Centre are ideal for a spot of shopping.
Highland Wildlife Park
Inside Cairngorns National Park, about 50 minutes south of Inverness, you'll find the Highland Wildlife Park and all its weird and wonderful inhabitants. This is the only place in the UK where you will find polar bears so make sure to meet Arktos and Walker while you're here. The park is divided into two halves, one to explore on foot and the other allowing you to drive around whether in your own car or by booking places on one of the daily Land Rover tours. Be sure to keep a close eye on the enclosures, as you never know which of the rare animals on show could be peeking back at you.
The A82 out of Inverness runs alongside one of Scotland's most famous natural features - the 23 mile long Loch Ness. Its astonishing depths means it contains more fresh water than every lake in England and Wales combined, but it is most famous for reports of a resident aquatic 'monster'.
On the west shore of Loch Ness is the village of Drumnadrochit, where you can discover everything about this fascinating stretch of water at The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, from historical artefacts to the mythology surrounding Nessie.A mile or so east of Drumnadrochit is Urquhart Castle, a beautiful building that looks out onto Loch Ness and is also open to the public.
All of these scenic spots are less than an hour's drive from Inverness, making it one of Scotland's most popular places from which to hire a car.