Culloden Moor Museum - 20 minutes away. This must be one of the best battlefield museums ever designed. Culloden was the last battle to be fought on British soil in 1746, when the Duke of Cumberland's English and Scottish troops annihilated Bonny Prince Charlie's Highland army and virtually destroyed the ancient clan system with it. There has been much romantic literature written about this period, and the museum captures some of that romance along with the brutality and hopelessness of this forlorn and misguided adventure. It reconstructs the course of the whole 1745 Rebellion with interactive exhibits and spoken word from both sides and from all layers of society. There is also a filmed representation of a terrifying highland charge, while outside you can see the desolate field of battle and where individual clans stood and fell. This is a must for anyone with a hint of Scottish romance in their soul.
Cawdor Castle - 25 minutes away. This beautiful ancient castle and its wonderful gardens date back to medieval times and are certainly worth a visit - if only to read the various printed hand-held room guides, written by the last Earl Cawdor with his customary wit and humour. The castle retains a literary connection with Shakespeare's Macbeth whose supposed first title was "Thane of Cawdor", although historically this connection is almost entirely a figment of Shakespeare's imagination - or at least, to give The Bard some credit, that of his sources.
Fort George - 25 minutes away. This is the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain and is the finest example of 18th century military engineering you'll find anywhere in the British Isles. It was begun after the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden (1746). It took 20 years to complete, and considering it was never attacked, or likely to be, must represent one of the largest white elephants in Britain - even worse than the Millennium Dome! However it remains virtually unaltered today and still serves as a military base and the museum for the Seaforth and Cameron Highland regiments - both alas no more. One of the original contractors on the site was Robert Adams' father, and thus Scotland's most famous architect cut his youthful teeth working on this gigantic project - which in true Scottish architectural tradition cost more than twice as much as originally quoted!
The Road north to Brora. On the way to Brora there are numerous attractions: first on the hill road over to Bonar bridge, on the south side of the Dornoch Firth, there is a wonderful viewpoint at Struie Hill, overlooking the firth and the mountains beyond; then back in Tain, apart from the grandiose Victorian graveyard on the road out to Tain golf course, there is Browns Gallery (see Highland art below) and for a true uplift in spirit try a visit to GlenMorangie Distillery with a tasting afterwards. Just before you get to Brora you must visit Dunrobin Castle. The architect was Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, although the castle is more French in style than Scottish and stands high above Barry's wonderful gardens overlooking the sea. Whatever you do, don't forget to go to the museum, housed in a pavilion at the north end of the garden, which contains the weirdest collection of hunting trophies (heads and stuffed birds and animals) you are ever likely to see. On the way back, south of Tain, visit the Anta factory shop at Fearn: there you can find linen, carpets, pottery, stoneware, fabrics, lighting and furniture. Quarryfield was largely decorated by Anta.
There is still a strong highland tradition of paintings which capture the wonderful colours of Scotland. The spirit of the original colourists such as Peploe and Cadell still lingers on in a vibrant local art scene which can be explored both at Browns Gallery in Tain (above) and also at the Kilmorack gallery on the way to Cannich beyond Beauly.
The Road to Glen Affric - a 2-3 hour round trip. Some 7 miles west from Quarryfield is the small town of Beauly. Apart from its excellent delicatessen (The Corner on the Square), you will find Campbells of Beauly, the home of tweeds, woollens and tartans. Here you can a have a kilt or tartan trousers made for you - or just buy a soft cashmere tartan scarf. A mile after leaving Beauly to the west, just before you cross the River Beauly itself, turn right towards Cannich. A mile further on, on the right, is the Kilmorack Gallery (see above) in an old chapel. Close-by to the west, at certain times of day you can see salmon running through the fish ladders on the Kilmorack dam and further on, the Aigas dam. If you carry on up the glen, always running parallel with the river, you pass eventually through the village of Cannich, and about a couple of miles or so after the village, you can turn right into the remote, romantic and colourful Glen Affric. The road and the river end at Loch Affric, which is the halfway point between the North Sea and the Atlantic.
Cromarty - 30 minutes away. To the east, on the tip of the Black Isle, lies the ancient and beautiful village of Cromarty. Around 1800 it was a wealthy fishing and trading town rivalling Inverness, as its rich traditional architecture still belies. Take a boat trip to see the dolphins - Ecoventures, 01381 600323. After visiting the village, follow the road eastwards up the hill until you can get no further - braving the deteriorating road. From there you can look over the Sutors, being the entrance to the Cromarty Firth, one of the deepest natural harbours of Britain. Here the great battleships of the Home Fleet used to come to shelter by the naval dockyard of Invergordon, but now it tends to be full of oil rigs towed in from the North Sea for servicing. The Royal Hotel in Cromarty, with its fresh seafood and local beer, is a great place for lunch.
Apart from the above, any day trip to the west coast is worth taking. Go down the Caledonian canal to Fort William and Ben Nevis - try the south side of Loch Ness and visit the Foyer Falls, or the north side and visit Castle Urquhart. Don't forget to stop at the Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge. For sheer highland splendour and remoteness travel down Loch Ness to Invergarry and then head west and turn off to Loch Quoich and a narrow road ending at the sea at Kinloch Hourn - be warned: there is no fuel after Invergarry and it will be a long day.
Further north, follow the road to Ullapool and then the Summer Isles, or visit Inverewe Gardens near to Gairloch. You can also take a return trip on the train from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh by the Isle of Skye.
By far the best place to eat out, but maybe too formal for some, is Chez Roux (Michelin quality and price) at the Rocpool Reserve Hotel, 14 Culduthel Road, Inverness (tel: 01463 240089). This is not to be muddled with the Rocpool Restaurant, 1 Ness Walk (01463 717274), which is a good and fun restaurant down by the river, but without the white table cloths. Apart from these two, the Munlochy Hotel (2 minutes down the road), the Anderson in Fortrose and the Royal Hotel in Cromarty provide good fresh local food.
For a day's fishing, stalking or shooting try CKD Galbraith, Inverness (01463 224343) but you will probably need to book well in advance. Brahan Estate (01349 861150) at Conon Bridge also has fishing and mountain biking available. Otherwise, there is mountain biking available all over - see activescotland and look in the Highlands section. In winter there is skiing on the Cairngorm mountain or in summer you can take the funicular to the top for a wonderful view - or walk up and take the funicular down. There are also hundreds of mountains available to climb - for which you don't need mountaineering skills or anyone's permission. Probably the most obvious is Ben Wyvis, being visible from the top of the hill behind Quarryfield - www.walkhighlands.co.uk/lochness/Benwyvis.shtml . But Strathconon is another fertile area for a spot of exercise among the stags. For a more sedate outing nearby, pop down to North Kessock (10 minutes) and visit the Scottish Dolphin and Seal Centre - 01343 820339.