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Nairn


This is a fascinating area whose character has a hint of the sea air about it. Yet the hills are close at hand and a backdrop to views across the Moray Firth, looking north from the ramparts of Fort George, the golf courses of Nairn or the woodland-edge of the Culbin Forest.

Long ago, it was said of Nairn that it was so big that different languages were spoken at either end of it - a reference to the Gaelic-speaking crofters to landward and the Lowland Scots-speaking fishers by the sea. Today, Nairn still has a sea-town and a landward town, split by the main Inverness-Elgin road. It also has the air of a traditional seaside resort with its Victorian villas and hotels - a role which became important in the mid-19th century when the railway arrived. The story is told at the Nairn Museum. The town boasts two championship golf courses (Nairn Golf Club hosted the Walker Cup in 1999) and a modern swimming pool and leisure park.

Nearby Fort George is Europe's best preserved 18th-century military fortification and a direct result of the battle at nearby Culloden - a reaction by the Hanoverian government of the day to ensure the Highlands would never again rise in rebellion. This fascinating place, built on a huge scale, has never fired a shot in anger. Cawdor Castle is also close at hand and makes for an entertaining visit - a family residence for six centuries and filled with fascinating artefacts. It also has an excellent garden and a choice of paths through the estate. There is also a good path network leading out from Nairn, notably up the River Nairn, connecting with Cawdor, as well as eastwards into the Culbin Forest and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' reserve of Culbin Sands.

There are plenty of other points of interest all around: picturesque Dulsie Bridge, a military road bridge of 1764; the Ardclach Bell Tower (a fortified belltower of 1655); also the village of Auldearn, where the Royalist forces routed a Covenanting army in 1645, during Scotland's religious wars. An explanatory panel by the 17th-century Boath doocot sets the scene. Overall, the Nairn area offers key historical sites in Scotland's story, plus a gentle landscape with excellent beaches and a good range of things to do.

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