On the second leg of our Scotland trip we hopped on the Scotrail at Waverly Station and took a picturesque train ride from Edinburgh up to Inverness to explore the Scottish Highlands. We saw so much during our two-day stay, from castles to battlefields, coastlines to farmland, and of course the famous Loch Ness. I was in awe for most of the journey at how incredibly beautiful this area of Scotland is! STAY. We looked for a place to stay that was close by to the Inverness train station and accessible to shops, bars and restaurants so we could easily walk wherever we needed to go. I found Blackfriars in Inverness to be a perfect spot – the location was central, they offered free breakfast in the pub each morning, and they had a great family-style suite that was comfortable for traveling with a kid! Our room had two separate sleeping areas, nice room to spread out, and some really picturesque window seats (we spotted a giant rainbow out of them when we first arrived and it felt like kismet!).EAT. We arrived right around dinnertime the first night in Inverness and walked a few doors down to gastropub called Macgregors where the food was tasty and they had a great outdoor beer garden area. We also ate breakfast and dinner at the restaurant on the first floor of our hotel, Blackfriars – it was nice to have an easy spot to eat at the end of our long tour day. Another cute spot we visited in Inverness  was called The Walrus & Corkscrew, it was a charming little wine bar and a perfect place to have a glass of wine and write our postcards! EXPLORE.  I was hesitant to rent a car and drive around to the sites because of the whole driving-on-the-other-side-of-the-road thing, and I figured that we could probably see more if we had someone who was a local expert doing the navigating and planning. I was right, probably the best decision we made in planning this trip was booking a private tour with Invergordon Tours! The owner, Gavin, was an absolute gem and gave us the best experience. The owner, Gavin picked us up at our hotel, and we set off in his car to start our day of exploration (as we started off on the drive we talked about some of our must-sees of the day, and I appreciate how he evolved and personalized the tour as the day progressed!). We started the day by visiting the banks of Loch Ness and then hopped on a boat tour where we got out on the Loch and learned about some of the history of the area, and of course about Nessie the Loch Ness monster. The boat tour was also a great way to see Urquhart Castle from the water, it banked on a dock there for a few minutes so the views of the castle were great. After the boat tour we made some stops at local shops for souvenirs (Jane was on the hunt for the *perfect* Loch Ness monster stuffed animal and postcards to send to her friends). We stopped to see a magical waterfall – the Fairie Glenn Falls – in Rosemarkie, and the tour guide enchanted Jane with stories of real fairies living in the forest. My one request of the day was seeing a Highland Cow, and to my delight our tour guide brought us to a charming farm where we got to see the cows (and alpacas and goats) up close. They were CUTE and shaggy and everything I was hoping for. After driving along the coastline we stopped for a quick lunch, explored some beach areas where dolphins are often spotted, and then ended the day with a walk around the Clava Cairns and a stop at Culloden Battlefield. When we got back to the car to end our tour, Gavin set up a little scotch and chocolate tasting to cap off the day – it was such a perfect ending to a memorable day!

PS: See more of our Scotland trip in this post about our stay in Edinburgh.