Cruising along the Loch Ness in a boat might not be your usual choice of activity in the winter months.
But it’s a good time of year to get your winter woollies out and enjoy the great outdoors.
And what better way to do it than by booking yourself in for a special Loch Ness Cruise Break weekend package at Drumossie Hotel in Inverness? It even includes a trip out on the water.
There may have been no sign of the famous monster lurking in the depths of the freshwater loch when I visited with my husband, but the Jacobite Cruises team entertained the passengers with a host of interesting facts about the mysterious Great Glen.
The loch stretches 23 miles south-west of Inverness to Fort Augustus and has attracted many intriguing characters to its shores.
There’s a cairn erected to commemorate John Rhodes Cobb, the first person to travel over 200mph on water, sadly killed during an attempt to break the world record in 1952.
And you can also learn all about the turbulent history of Urquhart Castle, a picturesque ruin overlooking the loch, which is one of the most visited castles in Scotland.
When you leave the boat at the Clansman Harbour, it’s worth popping in past the Loch Ness Nessie Shop to stock up on souvenirs before the short drive back to the Highland capital.
There’s still many tourist attractions open in the Highlands during the winter months, including Culloden, where you can find out about the famous battle where the 1745 Jacobite Rising came to a bloody end.
History enthusiasts can also travel a short distance from here to visit the impressive Fort George, described as the “mightiest” artillery fortification in Britain, which is open all year.
Or you can easily spend an afternoon touring round all the shops in Inverness. Spending time visiting some of the unique independent shops is a great way to get to know the city with all its quaint little roads and back street lanes.
For unusual gifts and home furnishings, there’s Judith Glue and The Drawing Room, and a short distance from the city centre is the Holm Mills Shopping Village, selling clothes, shoes and a selection of fine Scottish foods. It’s also home to a weaving exhibition, giving visitors the chance to experience the days of old in the Highlands.
Not to be missed during your trip is a visit to the legendary Leakey’s book store – a pretty 18th Century Gaelic church in the city centre where you’ll find thousands of second-hand books stacked high up on the shelves.
It is, in fact, the second-largest second-hand book store in Scotland, and if you’re looking for a particular title, be it in the history, art, classic or contemporary novel sections, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
For all the mainstream shops there’s a wide variety on the pedestrianised high street in the city, which leads to the Eastgate Shopping Centre, the city mall with a food hall and national chain stores.
After a spot of lunch in Nourish, a vegan cafe along the road from Leakey’s (don’t miss it, the winter warming food served up was a treat) we strolled along the river to Ness Islands to stretch our legs.
The small collection of islands in the middle of the river are connected by footbridges leading to a longer crossing over the River Ness. You can then walk down the other side of the water taking in views of both the cathedral and castle.
It’s only a short 10-minute drive back to the art-deco Drumossie Hotel from the city centre, which a peaceful place to unwind after a long day of walking.
Set in nine acres of ground, it’s the perfect hotel for relaxing in and has spectacular views over the Moray Firth.
On our first night of our two-night stay we opted for a bar supper for a more informal evening in the lounge, where my husband was served up a superb steak.
Seated in a comfortable area next to the reception, the calm and friendly manner of the staff helped set the pace for the relaxing winter break we had expected.
But it was the second night that really impressed us with a more formal dining experience in the Grill Room.
Both the waiters and chefs clearly work hard to make sure their guests enjoy a great dining experience and we can thoroughly recommend the wild halibut fillet with crab bisque, finished off with the flavoursome black cherry soufflé.
Inverness is certainly a great place for a short break at any time of year, but it’s nice to experience the many visitor attractions when they’re not too busy.
And with its perfect mix of shops, restaurants, history and scenery, there’s plenty on offer to entertain even the most discerning of tourists.