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Photo: mendhak (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Ceud mi failte or a hundred thousand welcomes to the city of Inverness: the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is home to around 50,000 people and is the fifth biggest city in Scotland. Historically and culturally rich, Inverness offers beautiful scenery, good food ,and thrills which are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. As a native Invernesian (yes, that is really what we are called!), let me give you some tips for making the most out of your time in this great city without feeling like a numpty.

Explore the great outdoors! It is no coincidence that the Highlands have been used as a backdrop for many movies and television series from Harry Potter and James Bond to Outlander. Inverness is the perfect spot from which to begin your exploration of the rugged and romantic Highlands. In the summer months, you can go hiking up the tallest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis, which is located close to the capital. In the winter, why not try some skiing? Whether you are a complete novice or are ready to conquer the black run, the Cairngorm Mountains are the place to be when the snow starts to fall. And afterwards, warm up with a coffee or hot chocolate in one of the cosy local cafes in the town of Aviemore.

See the sights! Inverness has plenty of historical and cultural sites to visit on your trip here. Why not pay a visit to Loch Ness and try to catch a glimpse of the famous, yet notoriously shy, Loch Ness Monster who isrumoured to live in its depths? While you are there, stop by the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle on the banks of the Loch. If you bring your kilt, you will fit right in as a Scottish laird (lord). For all you history buffs, you can step back in time with a visit to Culloden Battlefield. On this site in 1745, the Catholic ledJacobite rebellion against the Protestant Monarchy was finally crushed. This battle was over in less thanhour and was also the last to take place on British soil.

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Photo: Michel Curi (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0; Caption: Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

Bring a jacket! This is a must, even during the summer, and is particularly true in Inverness. In order to really make the most out of being here, you have to be prepared for the rain. The scenery is unparalleled in its beauty, the people are friendly and welcoming and the weather is terrible. It is a fact. On average, it rains 250 days a year in Inverness, which sounds a lot. And to be frank it is. But don’t let that stop you! If you really want to enjoy the scenery and everything that Bonnie Scotland has to offer, make sure you pack that parka.

Be brave when it comes to the local cuisine! Despite what you may have heard, Scottish food can be pretty wonderful, at least in my humble opinion. Next to the sea, Inverness has access to fresh salmon, mussels, and scallops which are a staple of most restaurant menus. However, the Scots also enjoy some very different types of food than you may be used to. Whenever people talk to me about Scottish food they always ask whether we really eat deep fried Mars Bars. And the answer is yes we do. While I have never had one, I have heard good reviews. So try one, I dare you. The most famous Scottish meal is undoubtedly haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Haggis is absolutely delicious. Just don’t ask what it is. Honestly, don’t ask. Traditionally eaten on the 25th January every year to celebrate Burns Night, a commemoration of the life and poetry of Scotland’s most famous poet Robert Burns, this is no ordinary meal. If you attend a formal Burns supper, which I thoroughly recommend, you will experience this first hand. The haggis will be carried out of the kitchen by the chef while the bagpipes are played. Then someone will recite a famous Robert Burns poem, aptly named Address to a Haggis, to the haggis before you eat it. This is possibly the most Scottish thing that you will ever experience in your life. It is perfectly normal, please do not be alarmed.

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Photo: Scots music (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0

Do attend a ceilidh! A ceilidh is like a big party where people of all ages (and all nationalities) come together to dance traditional Scottish dances to traditional Scottish music. These are common all year long but mainly around Burns Night and New Year’s Eve (the one in Hootanannys in Inverness is great). But don’t worry if you don’t know your Gay Gordons from your Highland Schottische. While Scottish children learn these dances in school, we love when visitors want to give it a go and are always very happy to help you learn. The main thing is to throw yourself into it, even if that takes a whiskey or two.

Finally, don’t be surprised that you can actually understand us when we talk! Something about Invernesians that always surprises people is that we don’t have incredibly strong Scottish accents, like people from Glasgow or Aberdeen. In fact, our accents are incredibly clear and easy to understand, which is particularly helpful when English is not your native language. So while you are here strike up a conservation with some locals. They are very friendly and will be more than happy to make some recommendations of the many things that there are to see and do here in the beautiful city of Inverness. I hope to see you there!

Cover photo: Vicky Brock (flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

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    Aimee Feeney is originally from Scotland but is currently studying for a Masters in Crisis and Security Management at Leiden University in the Netherlands. When she is not studying, she enjoys cycling and improving her French.

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