With a warm welcome everywhere you turn, fantastic scenery, a thriving food and drink scene and easy access to world-class leisure and sports facilities, it’s no surprise Office for National Statistics figures in 2016 showed the Scottish Highlands were home to the happiest people in the UK.
Today’s Culloden offers something for everyone: easy access to Inverness, the bustling capital of the Highlands, as well as proximity to loads of picturesque villages, rugged landscapes, and popular coastal spots.
And history plays a huge role in the local culture, as you’d expect. Inverness of course has history in spades — not least of which as the chief stronghold of the Picts; Culloden made its own mark when nearby Drumossie Moor was the site of the last battle pitched on British soil: when the Jacobites ultimately failed against the Duke of Cumberland’s forces to overthrow the House of Hanover in 1746.
Scotland’s long been known for its whisky, but we’re pretty good at brewing beer too. And at Culloden West, you’re only eight miles or so from the Black Isle Brewery, which produces organic, homegrown beer and runs daily tours.
Just over 20 miles away, you’ll find the award-winning Cairngorm Brewery with its 20-barrel brewhouse, capable of producing 6,500 litres of ale each day. And 25 miles away, you’ll find the An Teallach Ale Company, which brews a wide variety of beers.
There’s a reason BBC’s Autumnwatch has filmed in the area. Merkinch Local Nature Reserve has more than 50 hectares that are home to roe deer, weasels and wading birds. And if you want to see the local sea life, take a boat out on to the Moray Firth. You may be lucky enough to spot a bottlenose dolphin as well as seals, porpoises and even a minke whale or basking shark.
Culloden Wood is a great place to see nature up close and personal too: it’s well known as a brilliant area for spotting birds and butterflies. Plus, it’s popular with walkers, runners and cyclists.
Of course nearby Inverness has all the shops you’d expect from a bustling city centre, including the popular Eastgate Centre, as well as the Victorian market. Built in 1890, the latter is full of interesting and one-of-a-kind outlets.
Plus, on the High Street you’ll find international or national chain stores, alongside plenty of small independent businesses. And nearby towns like Nairn have some brilliant places for keen shoppers to explore, while you’ll find Brodie Countryfare just a few minutes’ drive from the castle of the same name.
While the area’s known for its spectacular scenery, it’s fair to say a number of outstanding landmarks near Culloden West are man-made. The Culloden Viaduct, known also as the Nairn Viaduct or the Clava Viaduct, spans the River Nairn. It opened in 1898, is still in use today, and is the longest masonry railway viaduct in Scotland.
You could also take a boat out on the Caledonian Canal, built in the early 19th century, for a day trip and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Or step way back in time and visit Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age cemetery dating back about 4,000 years: a fantastic example of Highland heritage.
On the banks of the River Ness, Eden Court Theatre and Cinema is one of the Highland’s cultural hotspots. Each year its two theatres, cinemas, bar, restaurant, and exhibition spaces attract around 300,000 people. It’s also a great place to visit for the whole family.
Plus, The Ironworks in Inverness — a purpose built live music venue — has played host to the likes of Kasabian, Runrig, Van Morrison, The Charlatans and Biffy Clyro.
Travel back in time with the National Trust’s Culloden Visitor Centre and find out exactly what happened when the Jacobites took their last stand. Here, you’ll find loads of interesting artefacts from the battle, as well as interactive displays that bring the conflict to life.
You can take part in a self-guided trail, or book a private hour-long tour of the battlefield.
And travel 12 miles west towards Beauly, and you’ll find Wardlaw Mausoleum. It was built in 1634 as the burial place for the Lovat Frasers. Lord Lovat, the ‘Old Fox’ of the Jacobite Rebellion — better known today by readers and TV audiences as the grandfather of Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series — was buried in the crypt.
The Highlands are home too to many other fascinating castles and historical sites. For example, take a half an hour drive east and check out Brodie Castle.
This rose-coloured, turreted castle stands on land conferred to the family by Robert the Bruce. It’s home to a magnificent collection of furniture, ceramics and artwork, including works by 17th-century Dutch masters and 20th-century Scottish Colourists. It also boasts an impressive library with more than 6,000 volumes.
Tire the kids out — that’s the aim of the game, right? — with a load of great things for them to see and do including the Inverness Mystery Treasure Trail. The self-guided treasure trail will have them solving riddles as they explore, and takes around two hours to complete.
Or they can make a splash at Inverness Leisure, which has a massive wave pool and water geysers, or bowl a strike at Rollerbowl. It’s got lightweight balls, making sure the kids have as much chance as the grown-ups to knock all the pins down.
Frankie and Lola’s softplay centre has a safari-themed playframe, as well as a candytown themed space for little ones, and Infinity Trampoline Park will get the whole family bouncing. You can perfect tricks on main court, settle scores on the dodgeball arena, flip into the foam pit or unleash some slam dunk action in the basketball zone.