The scenery on the drive up to Inverness was once again green and lush, passing rolling hills dotted with fluffy sheep and the cutest animals to ever exist: Highland cows. Patches of snow were sprinkled across the hills, not far from the road’s edge. More snow has been forecasted to fall over the next few days, but hopefully it will be after we leave so we don't have to drive through it.
Inverness was a particularly nostalgic place for Danny. He lived and worked here for a few months about 12 years ago and hadn’t been back since. This time it was Danny, rather than Lonely Planet, who guided me around the ancient city. Highlights included a hostel he stayed at, the restaurant where he worked and the location of one of the pubs he frequented (but doesn't exist anymore). That was the end of the tour. It was here that I resorted back to the guidebooks to see whether there were more exciting sights than these in Inverness.
It turned out there was one: the Castle. It sat high over the fast-flowing River Ness, which looked like it would flood at the slightest drop of rain. Unfortunately, as it was already 4 p.m., the sun had set and we couldn’t see anything, so there ended our exploration of the city.
Danny shouted me to dinner at the Italian restaurant where he used to work. Apparently it hadn't changed over the years – half of the menu was exactly the same. He spent most of the night regaling me with stories about his time in Inverness, tales that I had never heard before, and many were quite amusing. Some of his recollections of the restaurant we were currently sitting in had me wary of the meal I would receive, but the food turned out to be great (and there were no nasty side effects the next day).
The following morning we returned to the Castle, which was now functioning as the Courthouse. It wasn't big or impressive, and the views over the city were subpar, so we departed only a few minutes after arriving. The rest of the morning was filled with shopping, with Danny buying Scotch eggs (I don't understand why they are eaten cold), pork pies (ditto) and Scotch sausages. There wasn’t much on offer for me.
Leaving Inverness behind, we headed south and followed the road along the Loch Ness Trail. It was a horrible day, filled with rain and fog that cast a grey tinge over the landscape. Danny had his face pressed against the window for much of the drive, determined to catch of glimpse of Nessie. Unsurprisingly, he was out of luck. He even analysed his photos later, just in case he missed something, but there was clearly no evidence of any unusual creatures.
We couldn’t resist stopping at the Loch Ness Visitor's Centre, where we skipped the tacky exhibition and made a beeline for the store. Disappointingly, their range of souvenirs was fairly pathetic compared to what was available in Inverness. Most of their stock had run out and they hadn't bothered to replace it over the low season. On a positive note for Danny there was also a whisky shop, brightening his day after his failed Nessie sighting.