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Inverness Botanic Gardens: stunning array of plants and flowers

Well, I had never been to the Botanic Gardens in Inverness before and after seeing some of their posts on Facebook, I decided it was time to visit. It’s just a 20 minutes drive or so, over by the large sports centre and swimming pool (maybe combine a visit?) It’s always open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm and is free entry! Although they do ask for a donation.

The main sign at the Inverness Botanic Gardens

The Gardens were opened back in 1993 by Prince Edward. They describe it as an “oasis of calm and beauty within walking distance of the bustling city centre” and it really is that.

We chose to go on one of the hottest days of the year, and it was glorious walking around the different gardens. I was really hoping to get some inspiration and ideas for our garden at Pinewood, and I did just that! We stopped many times and sat a while in the chairs and benches they have scattered all round, taking in the sights and smells of the wonderful flowers. With the good weather we’ve been having, the gardens were an explosion of colour with so many different plants to see. There are some large greenhouses which ranged from the tropical rainforests to the arid desert. In the Tropical House, there’s a waterfall which cascades into a pond filled with Koi carp. There are some spectacular bird of paradise plants in here, and many weird and interesting ones which we didn’t know! But everything has little labels and signs up, so you can see what you’re looking at. We loved the Cactus House, with its amazing variety of cacti of all shapes and sizes.

The plants in the Tropical House

One of the best things about the Gardens is the way it just meanders around. You find something new at every corner.  Secret gardens, breathtaking meadows, bug hotels (yes, bug hotels!), wooden sculptures tucked away, and walled areas. And my favourite: a very large vegetable garden – the Project Garden. This is where people with learning disabilities can learn to grown an amazing array of vegetables and learn about wildlife.

Vegetable garden at Inverness Botanic Gardens

Wonderful variety of flowers in the meadow

The Bug Hotel

And another highlight is that one of the greenhouses contains plants for sale. We walked away with 4 great new plants for the enclosed garden. There’s also a Cobbs Café too and you can sit outside with your hot drink and cake and enjoy the garden.

The Gardens were such a wonderful find – I wish we had been before, but we will be back!


Sea glass and dolphins

Back in October 2017, I posted ‘The Best Place to Spot Dolphins’. I went back on the weekend to combine a walk along the beach with sea glass hunting! I was accompanied by an expert from America as I had never been sea glass exploring before.

Sea glass is bottles, jars and glass that have unfortunately ended up in the sea, but have been worn by the waves into beautiful gems. Find a good pebbly beach to collect these beach gems – and there is no shortage around here!  What I like about it, is sea glass is made by man but refined by nature. The sea takes our pollution and turns it into amazing little pieces of treasure. It can take many years to do this. You can also find ceramics too.

There are many beaches in our area which are great for sea glass hunting.  We found our haul over on Rosemarkie Beach, by Chanonry Point.  My American expert was overwhelmed by her lode! She found some incredibly interesting pieces.

Our sea glass haul

While she was hunting the glass, I was hunting the dolphins with my camera. One hour after low tide is the best place to spot them. Chanonry Point is (officially) one of the best places in the world to spot Bottlenose dolphins. There has been lots of dolphin activity recently, so there was a large crowd gathering. I was only there for about 45 minutes and saw a lot! Sadly, I didn’t capture any full-body breaching, but I will be back!

Capturing the dolphins on film

Cruising up Loch Ness

Yesterday was a fantastic good weather day. The sun was out and it was in the low 20’s. Bright blue, cloudless skies. We decided to get on to the water and do a cruise of Loch Ness. There are a few options with Jacobite Cruises. From a 2 hour cruise through the Caledonian Canal and onto Loch Ness. To a 4 hour cruise which lets you off at Urquhart Castle. With the time we had, we decided to do the 2 hour Freedom Cruise.

The cruise departs from Clansman Harbour, which is only about a 20 minute drive from Pinewood, via Abriachan. This two hour adventure includes a 1 hour return cruise across Loch Ness. And then a hop ashore one hour visit of the castle. We did find though that one hour at the castle wasn’t quite enough. So, you may decide to do the Rebellion cruise, which gives you 2 hours there. Our cruise was £22 per person.

The Jacobite Cruise boat arriving at the Clansman Harbour

Setting off from the habour, the haar (a Scottish word for fog or mist) was settling across the loch.  It made for a very eerie cruise. But we broke through it out the other side and gained our first sighting of the castle. This time of year (May), the boat was full but there was plenty of room up and below deck. We were on the deck so we could easily walk around and get photos.

All aboard!

I’d been to Urquhart Castle before but it was great getting a view from the loch!

Arriving at Urquhart Castle

Whilst at the castle, I also jumped in on one of the free Guided Tours. It’s a 30 minute guided tour of the castle and its history.

The tour guide at Urquhart Castle

But be cautious if you do this during your 1 hour cruise stop here. You don’t get much time at the end to finish wandering around before you have to get back onboard.  So much sure you visit the Great Tower before the tour starts and not leave it til after the guided tour.

Docking at the castle

This is a great little trip out. They sell refreshments and tourist goodies on the boat.  And back at the harbour, you could visit the Clansman Hotel for a spot to eat, an ice cream, or a look around their shop.

Sadly, we didn’t see Nessie this time!