The legendary Highland hospitality is never more apparent than when sharing some food or drink – so you’re likely to find yourself enjoying a dram and some good craic with the locals wherever you go. A night out in this area is more cosy pubs, live music venues and relaxed bars than nightclubs and DJs – though there are a number of those on offer in both Inverness and Nairn.
Something for everyone
Whether your style is more cocktails in a contemporary bar, a pint in a sunny beer garden or a warming glass of red or whisky around a roaring fire, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. And you may even be surprised at the quality of the local drinks on offer in this fairly remote part of Scotland. But the north has happily been keeping pace with the booming artisan drinks market, with a raft of local craft breweries and distillers cropping up in recent years.
It’s not uncommon for bars and hotels to serve a huge range of Scottish and local gins and beers to enjoy along with an impressive range of cocktails. Craft gins are being produced locally by distillers like the new community-owned GlenWyvis Distillery.
Craft beers, too, are on the up, with a raft of fantastic local craft breweries like the Black Isle Brewery and the Cromarty Brewing Company. And we can’t forget the whisky. A huge variety of Scotland’s national drink lines the shelves of most bars and restaurants. Visitors shouldn’t forget to check out what’s on at Eden Court, the biggest theatre for miles around, which has an excellent programme of live events including plays, musicals, ballets and operas, as well as a cinema.
Village halls, churches and Inverness Cathedral all sometimes host live events such as chamber orchestras and choir performances, so it’s worth asking at a Tourist Information to see what’s going on locally.
Whether your style is more cocktails in a contemporary bar, a pint in a sunny beer garden or a warming glass of red or whisky around a roaring fire, you’ll find what you’re looking for here
The traditional scene
With many visitors to the area keen to immerse themselves in the local culture, the music scene doesn’t disappoint. From regular ceilidhs to casual traditional music sessions, the Highlands’ long history of music is still very much in existence.
The summer months in particular will see traditional Scottish evenings and ceilidhs from many of the local venues and hotels in the area. People gather to dance popular dances like the Gay Gordons, Strip the Willow and Dashing White Sergeant. If you’ve never done it before – don’t worry. Getting it wrong is half the fun! And there’s usually a ‘caller’ who talks you through the steps before each dance.
For example, Nairn Ceilidh Group runs regular ceilidhs from June to August in Nairn Community & Arts Centre. These have been enjoyed from visitors far and near over three decades, and have raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity.
One of the best places to drink in the traditions of the Highlands is Hootannany, a three-floor venue in the heart of Inverness that serves up excellent food and plenty of live music. With regular ceilidhs and traditional bands, you really can’t miss this popular night spot if you want to experience a true Highland fling. The 1,000-capacity Ironworks is the biggest live music venue in town, hosting a wide range of international and local bands as well as nurturing local talent.
The summer months in particular will see traditional Scottish evenings and ceilidhs from many of the local venues and hotels in the area
Live music and craft beers
For traditional music on a smaller scale, visit MacGregor’s Bar, where you can enjoy some lively music in a relaxed and friendly environment. The bar’s founder, Bruce MacGregor, is one of Scotland’s finest musicians, and he and other Scottish greats are often to be found playing tunes in the bar, both at the Sunday afternoon sessions and whenever the mood takes.
Visit on a Sunday afternoon and take in the regular music session while trying their beer tasting menus for a taste of some of the best Scottish beers around. You’ll never be far from a dram or two in this area, but there are a couple of places for real connoisseurs to try.
The Malt Room is Inverness’ first whisky bar, a cosy and welcoming place with an extensive whisky menu. Check out their tasting nights to learn more about Scotland’s national drink from knowledgeable staff.
The Anderson in Fortrose just a few miles north of Inverness is another place that whisky – and beer – buffs will love. This local institution has been welcoming locals and tourists for years. They run regular traditional music sessions, too, where you can bring your own fiddle, banjo or voice, or just come along and enjoy the craic.
For traditional music on a smaller scale, visit MacGregor’s Bar, where you can enjoy some lively music in a relaxed and friendly environment