Who are you?
David Dowling, living in Inverness with my partner, Sharon. Inverness is the beginning and end of the North Coast 500, but the city has so much more to offer in its own right as a great touring destination.
Why are you a local authority on Inverness?
I have lived in Inverness since I was five years old, and have seen it grow from a small town of some 30,000 people to the modern city it is today, with a population heading towards 100,000. I have been driving on the NC500 since long before it was being called the NC500!
What do you love about it?
From the centre of Inverness, within just 15 minutes you can be out in the countryside, whether you go north, south, east or west. We go away in our van most weekends, and it’s only a couple of hours to Scotland’s fabulous West Coast, including Skye, Fort William and Gairloch. Ullapool is even closer. With tourism supporting such a substantial part of the local economy, there are plenty of really excellent bars, restaurants and activities to enjoy.
What’s your favourite place to visit?
We particularly like the village of Rosemarkie, on the south coast of the spectacular Black Isle peninsula, in Ross-shire. It is only about 20 minutes away. Sometimes we take our van and stay for a couple of nights at the fabulous Camping and Caravanning Club site, which has become a very popular base with dolphin spotters.
A drive out to Loch Ness is lovely. Try the less-well-known south side of the loch – call in at the Dores Inn for a meal, then walk on the shore and see if Nessie puts her head up to say hello!
Driving north on the A9 for about 15 minutes brings you to The Storehouse, excellent for lunch or afternoon tea. Visitor attractions in the area also include historic Culloden Battlefield, the imposing Fort George and the Tomatin Distillery, famous for its single malt.
Which local site would you recommend?
The best by some distance is Ardtower Caravan Park. It is immaculately kept, all the pitches are hardstanding and it has toilets and showers that would put many hotels to shame. The site is in a great location, close to the main A9, and it’s only a short trip into town.
What food and drink is the area known for?
Inverness and the West Coast are great for seafood. You also often see venison on local menus. In the summer, there are many fruit farms worth stopping at, for the very freshest strawberries and raspberries.
Tell us somewhere great to eat!
We are spoilt for choice! Café I and Rocpool vie for the number one spot in fine dining. The Mustard Seed is excellent, and the Heathmount Hotel has the winning combination of a well-stocked bar and great food.
Thai Dining is another favourite and the aforementioned Black Isle Brewery has a fine pizza oven, as well as all the real ales.
Where can you get spare kit?
Highland Campervans, on the way to Inverness Airport, has a useful accessories shop.
Where can you find the cheapest petrol.diesel?
Locally, there are three Tesco filling stations, a Morrisons and an Asda.
Where should you avoid when in the area?
There’s nowhere in Inverness that I would say needs avoiding, although the one-way system in the city centre can get quite busy at times.
Share a secret highlight that only the locals would know…
The ‘Secret Beach’, about three miles west of Nairn, is gorgeous. These days, it is becoming a bit less secret, though – if you search for this lovely place on Google Maps, it now comes up with the co-ordinates!
Inverness Castle is very impressive and has a viewing tower providing great views over the River Ness.
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We particularly like the village of Rosemarkie, on the south coast of the spectacular Black Isle peninsula, in Ross-shire. Sometimes we take our van and stay for a couple of nights at the fabulous Camping and Caravanning Club site, which has become a very popular base with dolphin spotters.