The city of Inverness in northern Scotland is the gateway to the Highlands, a busy centre that is ideal as a base for those wanting to make excursions into this attractive part of the country. The town sits on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Ness, and just a few miles from the beautiful and mysterious Loch Ness, home to the legendary monster but also one of the most scenic parts of the Highlands.
Just 20 miles (32km) east of Inverness is the low-key holiday resort of Nairn, on the Moray Firth, with its long white beaches and championship golf course, venue of the 1999 Walker Cup. Nearby is the magnificent Cawdor Castle that was featured in Shakespeare's Macbeth, and Fort George, one of several Hanoverian bastions erected in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. The infamous battle and ensuing massacre that ended in Bonnie Prince Charlie's uprising took place on the outskirts of Inverness, at Culloden, and was the last major battle to take place on British soil. Fort George is one of the most outstanding military fortifications to be found anywhere in Europe. Designed to intimidate the Jacobite Highlanders, Fort George has never seen a shot fired in anger, although today, more than 200 years after it was completed, it is still a working garrison. There is an interesting visitors centre in Culloden, which tells the story of the Jacobite uprising.
Inverness town centre boasts a variety of historic stone buildings, not least of which is a castle on a low cliff overlooking the River Ness and affording a good view of the area and the suspension bridges spanning the river. To add to the atmosphere, a piper plays on Castle Hill every evening during the summer. Inverness is particularly proud of its renown as a floral city, and one of its favourite local attractions, at Bught Park, is the Floral Hall, a recreation of a sub-tropical landscape complete with waterfall. There are flowers all over the town during summer, when a walk along the riverside to explore the Ness Islands is a pleasant way to pass some time. There is also a museum and art gallery, and some good shopping malls. The indoor Victorian market on Academy Street is a great place for visitors to pick up souvenirs and gifts.