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Highland hills rich in plants and wildlife are a backdrop to the Moray Firth and the sand-and-shingle beaches of the coast. Inverness, 'capital' of the Highlands, stands at the entrance of the man-made Caledonian Canal, which connects Scotland's east and west coasts. On its way, the canal passes through Loch Ness, home of the famous but officially unverified monster. Neither Loch Ness, nor Inverness, would make it into my Top Ten favorite places in Scotland. There are however many interesting sights in this area.
Avoch Cottages clustered around small harbour have their gable ends facing the sea so fishing boats can be drawn up between them during rough weather. Easy walk along farm lanes south of village on north side of Munlochy Bay provides views of bay and surrounding mountains.
Beauly Main street of town dominated by 1905 Boer War memorial and remains of 13th-century Beauly Priory, which contains 16th-century monument to Sir Kenneth Mackenzie. Nearby mud flats home to waders and wildfowl. Walk through Reelig Glen, 3 miles east of Beauly.
Cawdor Cawdor Castle has turreted 14th-century tower with 17th-century additions and still serves as home to Earls of Cawdor. Drawing room has 17th-century fireplace and portrait of Emma Hamilton, Nelson's mistress. Tapestry Bedroom has Venetian bed and 17th-century tapestries portraying Biblical scenes. Three differently styled gardens, nature trails. Castle is scene of King Duncan's murder in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Licensed self-service restaurant.
Clachnaharry Sea lock built here for Caledonian Canal because North Sea runs out long way at low tide; one of great engineering achievements of the canal-building age. Canal opened in 1822.
Clava Cairns Cairns dating from late Stone Age surrounded by standing stone circles and hidden by trees. Originally contained domed burial chambers with passage entrances.
Cobb Memorial Cairn commemorates John Cobb. British racing and motorboat driver who lost his life in 1952 attempting to better world water speed record on Loch Ness. His jet-propelled craft, travelling over 200 mph, disintegrated.
Cononbridge and Maryburgh Two villages joined by bridge at head of Cromarty Birth, built by Thomas Telford in 1809. Walks upstream along river bank.
Craig Phadrig Remains of vitrified Iron Age fort, said to have been stronghold of Pictish King Buds, stand atop 556ft hill. Wide views of Moray and Beauly firths, and mountains to west. Varied walks through open woodland.
Creag Far-leitire Small ridge rises from woods of pine and birch, and carpets of heather. Old pine trees, well spaced out, as well as denser, younger woods. Views of Inshriach Forest plantations and Spey Valley from summit.
Culloden Muir/Moor Site of last battle fought on Scottish soil -- Bonnie Prince Charlie defeated by Duke of Cumberland in 1746. Battlefield restored to 1746 appearance. Visitor centre has audiovisual display of battle. Farmhouse has museum contain-ing historical maps and relics.
Dingwall Town's oldest building, a former schoolhouse, dates from 1650. Town House, mostly 18th century with older tower, has a museum. Good bird watching possible from harbour's foreshore.
Divach Falls Walk to falls from Lewiston passes old slatted wooden deer leaps. Cataract cascades 100ft down rocky valley of birch and oak.
Dochfour Gardens Terraced gardens stand in 15 acres by Loch Dochfour. Daffodils, trees and rhododendrons; water garden and yew topiary. Kitchen garden with soft fruit in season.
Drumnadrochit Small stone village dominated by Loch Ness Monster trade. Exhibition centre tells of monster sightings and reveals ingenuity of searchers. Visitor centre features film on monster history and myth. Sonar scanning cruises.
Farigaig Forest Centre Converted stone stable houses Forestry Commission Interpretive Centre, demonstrating forest wildlife conservation practices. Walks, picnic areas, car parks.
Feshiebridge Four-house hamlet stands by bridge over River Feshie rapids. These rapids turn quickly to birch surrounded poois as water makes its way through Glen Feshie.
Fort George One of finest artillery fortifications in Europe, completed 1769. Regimental museum of Queen's Own Highlanders has military items covering period from 1778 to present day.
Fortrose Cathedral, probably destroyed by Cromwell, retains some vaulting. Hill of Fortrose provides views over town and Chanonry Point.
Foyers Foyers Falls on eastern shore of Loch Ness. Best places to view falls are from vantage points along path through trees.
Highland Wildlife Park Royal Zoological Society of Scotland park; wildlife includes European bison, mouflon red deer and birds.
Inverness Highland 'capital' on River Ness. Castle Wynd Museum has bagpipes, various Jacobite relics. Abertarff House in Church Street built in 1693. St Andrew's Cathedral built l866.
Insh Church Tiny white-painted church dating from 18th century has 8th-century bronze hand bell inside.
Kilravock Castle Grounds of 15th-century castle contain tree garden with some varieties unique to Britain. Nature trails, guided castle tours.
Loch Moy Remains of 14th-century Castle of Moy and obelisk honouring 19th-century Mackintosh chief stand on one of loch's islands.
Loch nan Lann Loch reached by path at foot of Beinn a' Bhacaidh. Stepping stones leading from this loch descend deep gorge to boathouse 600ft below on Loch Ness.
Loch Ness Possibly Scotland's most famous stretch of water, renowned for perennial tourist attraction, the Loch Ness Monster. Loch is 24 miles long, about a mile across, and up to 754ft deep. Road from Urquhart Castle to Invermoriston runs alongside wooded slopes of loch; plenty of viewpoints.
Nairn Town granted royal charter in 12th century. Laing Hall in King Street houses the Fishertown Museum, which has exhibits on domestic life of town, model boats and collection of photographs and articles on fishing industry. Ornamental gardens just off High Street, and walks along River Nairn. Sandy beaches popular in summer, provide nickname, the 'Brighton of the North'. Nairn Viaduct Viaduct, 600yds long and 130ft above ground at maximum height, built in 1898 for Highland Railway's route between Aviemore and Inverness through Nairn Valley. Each of the 28 arches has span of 50ft. Arch over river has span of 100ft.
North Kessock Iron Age fort tops Ord Hill, over-shadowing village of small houses along mud-and-shingle shore. Kessock Bridge replaced ferry route across
Beauly Firth. Sea trout angling, bird life along fore-shore of firth. Walks through forest along slopes of Ord Hill allow views of firth.
Rock Wood Ponds Trail from car park at edge of loch follows 2 mile circular route along deer paths and through open country, providing views of area's many tiny lochs. Bird life includes chaffinches, goldcrests, crossbills and others.
Rogie Falls Named after Norse for 'splashing, foaming river'. Leaping salmon can sometimes be seen from sus-pension bridge.
Rosemarkie Sandstone cliffs dotted with caves face the sea and overlook red-sandstone cottages.
Groam House is small museum containing Pictish stone. Footpath starting on road to Cromarty, just north of village, leads along Fairy Glen to two waterfalls. Ledges allow visitors behind falls.
Strathpeffer Village, once Victorian health resort with sulphur springs, now famous for doll museum housed in remains of baths complex. Dolls, teddy bears, games and toys spanning 150 years on display, as well as other features of Victorian nursery such as baby clothes, lace and cradles.
Urquhart Castle Jutting out on strategic point into Loch Ness, part of this large of ten-rebuilt castle ruin dates from Norman times. Blown up in 1692 to prevent Jacobite occupation.
Whitebridge Humpback bridge, no longer used, built over River Fechlln by General Wade in 1732 to move forces against rebellious Jacobites.