Inverness Travel Guide: Explore the Heart of the Highlands
Inverness: A Full Guide to Your Visit

Inverness: A Full Guide to Your Visit

Discover the enchanting capital of Scotland's Highlands with our ultimate Inverness travel guide.

Explore Inverness, a city brimming with historical landmarks, vibrant culture, and breathtaking scenery in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

Inverness, the capital city of Scotland’s Highlands, is one of the most visited cities in the country. With fifty thousand inhabitants, it is a popular hub for lodging, cuisine, and departing guided tours for travelers visiting the Highlands. Tourism in Inverness is not without allure, since it boasts monuments, museums, traditional stores and walks which deserve spending a full day of your trip.

Stay tuned and read this complete Inverness guide!

History and culture of Inverness

The history of Inverness dives deep into Scottish Prehistoric times, given how its location was already inhabited during the Late Mesolithic period (approx. 6500 BC). Inverness would remain continuously inhabited throughout Protohistory to become one of the capitals of the Picts. Famous Saint Columba would attend its site during the 500s in a bid to convert local settlers to Christianity, a visit of which Medieval sources are kept and archaeological remnants deem it, at the very least, as feasible.

Upon the advent of the Middle Ages, Inverness would find itself in a strategic position, being a hotspot for conflict and rivalry both between clans and also between Scottish noblemen and kings. During this era, the city suffered plenty of raids from the Kingdom of the Isles and the MacDonalds, their ruling warlords.

Already in the Modern Era, Inverness would play a vital role during the Jacobite uprisings taking place during the late 1600s and the early 1700s, particularly during the latest one, the well-known uprising of 1745 which ended with the tragic defeat of the Battle of Culloden in the outskirts of the city.

Present-day Inverness is a small, pleasant town where traditional Scottish culture, music and cuisine can be enjoyed.

What to see in Inverness

Here follows a breakdown featuring what to see in Inverness and the main landmarks in this city.

Downtown Inverness

Downtown Inverness revolves around Academy Street, Church Street and riverside Bank Street. Across the river, King Street and the Ness Walk complete the layout of the old town. The visitor will find most of the lodging and restaurants here, as well as all kinds of stores and eventful landmarks.

Inverness Castle

Present-day Inverness Castle dates back to 1836, and it was built upon the site of several Medieval fortresses, the last of which already laid in ruins during the middle 1600s. The 19th-century castle would serve as a prison and courthouse up until 2020.

Nowadays, the building is under restoration and it is expected to be fully open for visitors by 2025, including the brand-new lookout. Nevertheless, visitors can walk up to the entrance to take in the views and the statue of Jacobite hero Flora MacDonald.

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is an ideal place to learn about the bountiful history, heritage and culture of the city. Its exhibitions feature geology, natural history, Pictish archaeology, ancient weapons and old Jacobite souvenirs, as well as temporary displays of local art.

Inverness Museum is open from April to November, from Tuesday to Saturday, and there is no admission fee.

Victorian Market

Should you be looking for a shopping spot in Inverness, you can’t miss out on its Victorian Market. Placed in the city’s heart, these 1890 arcades host over thirty local stores of all sorts, such as jewelry and fashion shops, gifts, dime stores, bakeries and restaurants. It is open every day!

Inverness Cathedral

Inverness Cathedral, also known as Saint Andrew’s, built in Neo Gothic style, stands across the banks of river Ness and dates back to 1860, being the seat of the Episcopalian Church in the bishopric of Moray, Ross and Caithness. It is open every day during spring and summertime, and it can be visited free of charge.

Old High Church

The Old High Church, of Presbyterian faith, is the oldest church in Inverness since, even though its main building dates from the 1700s, the base of its tower was built in the 1300s. Its graveyard witnessed the harrowing executions of Jacobite soldiers following their defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and remnants of this event can still be found in the southeastern area of the cemetery.

Trips from Inverness

Here follows some interesting trips from Inverness, such as Loch Ness, Culloden Battlefield or Chanonry Point!

Trip to Loch Ness

Should you be interested in visiting Loch Ness from Inverness, it can be very easily reached by bus in just over half an hour. Once there, besides trying to get a glimpse of Nessie in its dark waters, don’t miss out on a visit to the ruins of Urquhart Castle. You can also reach Fort Augustus by bus and admire the loch from there.

Culloden Battlefield

In just a twenty-minute bus ride from Inverness, you can visit Culloden Battlefield, an invaluable piece of Scotland’s history. Both in the battlefield itself, which is admission-free to visit, and in its visitor center, you will be able to discover all details about the battle which took place there in 1746, the last one to be fought in British territory. Do not miss out on a walk to the memorial honoring fallen Jacobites and admire the cairns marking the clans’ mass graves.

Clava Cairns and dolphin sighting at Chanonry Point

Lastly, we propose two different trips in the outskirts of Inverness!

Firstly, the Clava Cairns Megalithic burials, free to visit with no admission fee, where you will behold four-thousand-year-old, Bronze-Age graves.

Finally, if you are a wildlife buff, make sure to go dolphin sighting at Chanonry Point. If the tides are rising when you arrive there, you will be able to spot several families of local dolphins on the hunt.

Activities and experiences in Inverness

Should you crave even more to do in Inverness, stay tuned and discover a charming bookstore and an incredible pub where you will enjoy your nighttime in the capital of the Highlands.

  • Leaky’s Bookstore Under no circumstances should you miss out on a visit to Leaky’s Bookstore in Inverness. It is a second-hand bookstore lodged in an old church. It is a delight to wander its aisles and rooms on the lookout for bibliographic bargains!

  • Hootananny Pub Hootanany Pub is the perfect place to enjoy live music in Inverness. It is open every day, serving suppers in a traditional backdrop and offering live concerts featuring the best Scottish folk artists. Book a table on their website if you don’t want to miss all the fun!

Useful tips for tourists in Inverness

Where to stay in Inverness

There are different lodging options in Inverness according to your personal tastes and needs. Here follows a choice of some recommended B&Bs and hotels in Inverness close to the city center, plus another exceptional one in the outskirts.

Where to eat in Inverness

There are countless pub and restaurant choices to enjoy the best food in Inverness. Take a look at these four options!

  • River House – the seafood mecca in Inverness, try its oysters and mussels!
  • Rocpool Restaurant – gourmet avant-garde food in an exclusive location.
  • Fig & Thistle – a restaurant featuring Scottish and International cuisine with delicious salmon dishes.
  • The Mustard Seed – traditional Scottish cuisine in an old church by the river.

Moving around in Inverness

Getting to Inverness from Edinburgh or Glasgow will take you about three hours, and your best picks are direct bus lines run by Megabus and Citylink, or ScotRail trains. Once in the capital of the Highlands, you will have no trouble finding your way around the city center on foot. Should you want to reach further places such as Culloden or Loch Ness, there are regular buses which will take you there easily.

Frequently Asked Questions about Inverness

  • How many days do I need to visit Inverness? You can visit Inverness in a single day, but if you have a great interest in the city and its surroundings as a visitor, it is best to spend two days to get to know it better. You can find so many ideas in this travel guide!
  • What to do in a single day in Inverness? If you are spending a single day in Inverness, you can stroll the center and the banks of river Ness, admire the castle lookout, discover its museum and snoop around traditional stores.
  • How can I reach Inverness from Edinburgh or Glasgow? You can comfortably reach Inverness from Edinburgh or Glasgow by train with Scotrail. You can also opt for the bus, which will take you around three hours.
  • Which is the best season to visit Inverness? The best season to visit Inverness is between the months of April and September, when light hours are longer, and the monuments are open. Avoid August because of the crowds.
  • Is Inverness a pedestrian-friendly city? Inverness is a very pedestrian-friendly city. All promenades, monuments, and stores are within a twenty-minute walk.

Visiting Inverness is a must in Scotland, especially if you are going to explore the Highlands, or if you are interested in the fascinating history of the Jacobites.

Hurry up and discover the pretty capital of the Highlands!

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Loch Ness