Dubbed the capital of the Highlands, Inverness has lots to offer visitors and is also the gateway to the NC500 (North Coast 500). You can easily spend a day or two exploring this pretty city or use it as a base to discover the beautiful surrounding countryside. Read on to discover some great Inverness attractions!
There are plenty of places to visit in Inverness, however, the castle is definitely a place that draws visitors attention. Located on a cliff above the river Ness, the site is ancient with the first castle being built here in 1057, although Robert the Bruce destroyed it in 1308. The red sand stone structure you see today dates from 1836.
The Highland Council have plans to develop the castle and transform it into a major tourist attraction. At present, there’s a new viewing platform, however, check the website below as it’s currently undergoing works and opening hours are disrupted.
Address: Castle Street, Inverness, IV2 3EG
River Ness Walk and Ness Islands
Just a stone’s throw from the castle is the attractive River Ness, which flows through the centre of Inverness. There is a lovely walk along its banks that includes crossing the river on a number of suspension bridges, these bridges link little islands. The nature walk is well signposted from the city centre.
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
If you would like to find out a little more about Highland life and the talented artists that call it home, then visit the Inverness museum. For art lovers, there are two floors full of work by local artists and craft makers. Our favourite part was the photographic exhibition which documents 100 years of history.
Address: Castle Wynd, Inverness, IV2 3EB
Whenever you arrive somewhere new it’s always fun walking around and doing a bit of window shopping. Inverness has a good selection of shops from small boutiques to major chains found in the modern Eastgate Shopping Centre. But for something a little different head to the old Victorian Market. Products on offer include handmade chocolates, Celtic jewellery, unusual cakes and sweets and other gifts. There is also a traditional barber if you need a trim. Be sure to try out the Milk Bar for a great coffee and cake!
Address: Academy Street, Inverness, IV1 1JN
Leakey’s Second Hand Bookshop
It’s like something from Harry Potter in this wonderful old church… the building features stain glass windows and a spiral staircase. The books are piled high from the floor to the ceiling. If you visit in the winter months, then you will really appreciate the central wood burner that keeps the place heated. This is Scotland’s largest collection of rare books and maps. It’s located centrally, just a short walk from the train station and the staff are really friendly.
Address: Greyfriars Hall, 117 Church Street, Inverness, IV1 1EY
Inverness Bike Tours
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Perhaps you’re looking for some more vigourous activities in Inverness? Why not exchange 4 wheels for 2 and try out Inverness Bike tours. They do a great wee tour of the waterways of Inverness. The tour will take you along the river Ness and the legendary Caledonian Canal, which runs from Inverness to Fort William. A knowledgeable local guide will entertain you as you ride in a small group of up to 10 people.
Address: 5-7 Ness walk, Inverness, IV3 5NE
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If you’re travelling with children, then a visit to Whin park is a must, it’s a great place to burn off some energy.
There is loads of space to run around, some great play structures, a well-kept boating lake, crazy golf and of course the brilliant miniature railway. The railway is tonnes of fun for both kids and adults, take a picnic or pick up a treat from the little shop at the entrance.
Address: Bught Road, Inverness, IV3 5TH
Inverness Botanic Garden
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A beautiful green oasis in the city and depending on your time of visit, it has a stunning display of flowering plants. The garden was opened in 1993 by Prince Edward and features heated glass houses, with a range of tropical and arid plants. Our kids loved the cactus house and the café. Entry to the garden is free, but donations are welcomed.
Address: Bught Lane, Inverness, IV3 5SS
Inverness sightseeing doesn’t need to be limited to the city… Any Outlander fans out there? If you have your own transport and are looking for things to do near Inverness, head to Clava Cairns, an easy 15-minute drive from Inverness. This 4000-year-old bronze age cemetery has been firmly placed on the map following the incredible success of the Outlander series. It’s been said that Clava Cairns served as the inspiration for the fictitious Craigh na Dun stone circle in the series although there is much debate as to whether this is true or not.
Just a short five-minute drive from Clava Cairns and you’ll find Culloden Battlefield. There is something incredibly atmospheric about this place. It’s where the last battle was fought between the Jacobites (those faithful to the Stuart monarchy) and the government troops back in 1746. The Jacobites were slain within an hour and the battle marked the end of the Jacobite Rising. Visitors can walk on the ‘battlefield’, see some of the clan headstones and immerse themselves in the visitor centre. Our kids were particularly taken with the 360-degree battle immersion theatre (for older kids though). You could easily combine a visit to both Culloden and Clava Cairns if you’re planning to do some day trips from Inverness.
A beautiful 30 minute drive away and you’ll find Urqhart Castle, one of Scotland’s most iconic castles. The ruins of this 13th century castle sit proudly on a rocky promontory on the banks of Loch Ness. A great location to do some Nessie spotting! It has a long and colourful history and was involved in a tug of war battle between the English and the Scots during the Wars of independence. Another must on your Scottish bucket list!
Where to eat & drink in Inverness
There is plenty of choice for places to eat in Inverness. Here are some of our top picks:
Enjoy dinner down by the river at the Mustard Seed restaurant
Rocpool – enjoy a meal in this classy restaurant where you’ll be spoiled with wonderful fresh Scottish ingredients.
The Walrus & Corkscrew – enjoy a glass of Merlot alongside a plate of cheese and charcuterie at this newly opened wine bar.
Enjoy some tasty artisanal beers at Black Isle Brewery bar.
Where to stay in Inverness
How to get to Inverness
Inverness by Car
If you’re coming from the south (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth), the easiest way to reach Inverness is via the A9. Alternatively, you can take the more scenic A82 if coming from Glasgow which will take you along the banks of Loch Ness.
Inverness by Train
There are many direct trains to Inverness train station which is located a stone’s throw from the town centre. Check out train timetables on the trainline website or on the Scotrail website. For a truly unique experience, you might want to consider catching the overnight Caledonian Sleeper from London. Fall asleep in London and awaken in the stunning Highlands. Prices are a little eye-watering so make sure you book ahead!
Inverness by Bus
Inverness by Air
Inverness has its very own airport located just 15 minutes from the town centre. The following airlines fly to Inverness : British Airways, Logan Air, Easyjet, KLM. Check the airport website to find out which destinations are served by the airport. After landing at Inverness airport, you can either catch public transport (Stagecoach bus n°11) to reach the city centre, catch a taxi or pick up a hire car.