Capital of the Scottish Highlands
City Sightseeing Guide
Activities - Historic Buildings - Shops & Restaurants
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN INVERNESS
Here are just some of the things to see and do while visiting Invernesss:
- Riverside walks - explore the Ness Islands and visit the nearby Botanic Gardens for free.
- Inverness Castle Viewpoint - panoramic views over the city, river and Moray Firth.
- St Andrew's Cathedral which sits by the river.
- Local Culture - visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (free) or book a show at Eden Court Theatre
- Traditional Music - many of the pubs have regular music nights.
- Inverness Town House - guided tours available of this lavishly refurbished 19th century Gothic-style building.
- Dolphin spotting - take a boat trip from Inverness into the Moray Firth (or see them from Chanonry Point).
- Caledonian Canal - ideal for walking or cycling.
- Food and Drink - lots of local restaurants, pubs and cafes.
- Explore the Outlander connections with Inverness and surrounding area (including the Clava Cairns).
Capital of the Highlands, Inverness is an excellent touring base with good road, rail and air connections (see transport details and map).
With its suspension bridges across the River Ness and old stone buildings, it is a pretty place which is well-known for its floral displays (frequently a winner of awards in the Bloom of Britain competitions). In December 2000, it was one of only 3 towns to be awarded city status by the Queen.
Walk down along the river banks (in the direction of the Caledonian Canal) and you'll find the Ness Islands where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the shops. Cross the river on the little bridges and you can visit Whin Park which has a boating pond, picnic area, toilets and a miniature railway (usually runs at weekends from Easter to the end of October, and daily during the local school holidays). Also nearby is Inverness Crazy Golf with ice cream kiosk. Tel: 07752984156.
Close by you will find the Inverness Botanic Gardens (previously called the Floral Hall). Explore the extensive gardens and grounds, as well as the Cactus house (note the main tropical greenhouse is still closed due to Covid restrictions). Free admission. Open daily from 10am to 4pm. Open all year round. Cafe with outdoor decking. Plant and veg sales.
Not far from here is the Inverness Leisure centre (tel: 01463 667500) with swimming pool, gym, climbing wall, etc., and the Inverness Ice Centre (tel: 01463 235711). Also by the Bught Park is the Inverness Skatepark.
Walking up the river in the other direction (towards the harbour) you will see Ben Wyvis on the skyline (this is a mountain over 3000 feet high).
Inverness has an excellent Museum and Art gallery near the castle. Free entry. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10.30am with last admission at 3pm (closed between 1pm and 1.45pm for enhanced cleaning). Pre-booking a time slot is now required (free). Gift shop and coffee shop. Tel: 01349 781730.
The VisitScotland official Tourist Information Office has re-located from Bridge Street and you will now find it in the High Street (tel: 02463 252401).
Inverness Public Library is situated near the bus station. Telephone: 01463 236463.
The Highland Archive and Registration Centre opened in Inverness in 2009. This includes the Family History Centre and Genealogy Service (previously hosted at Inverness Library). The new building is situated on Bught Road by the river between the Botanic Gardens and Whin Park, past the Ness Islands. Telephone: 01463 256444.
If you are thinking of moving to Inverness or the Highland Region - visit the living/working in Scotland web page which provides links for finding jobs, houses, etc.
Eden Court Theatre, situated near the cathedral, is the venue for shows, music and cinema. Originally built in the 1970s, the building incorporates part of the old Bishop's Palace and is said to be haunted by the 'Green Lady' ghost of a wife of one of the bishop's who hanged herself there.
The other place to see films (movies) is at the Vue multi-screen cinema complex just outside city centre at the retail park off the main road heading to Aberdeen.
Internet access is available at:
- Inverness Library (no charge for surfing but proof of ID is required)
- 'Mailboxes' in Church Street
- Laundrette in Young Street - opposite the small Tesco across the river bridge
Ness WiFi launched in 2017 and aims to offer free WiFi in the town centre around the Victorian Market Place, Eastgate shopping centre, railway station and bus station, Spectrum Centre, Inverness Castle, Museum and Eden Court. Many shops, restaurants and hotels have their own WiFi.
Sport and Outdoor Activities
There are plenty of opportunities for sports and outdoor activities in Inverness and the Highlands (see separate lists for specific regions such as the Cairngorm mountains).
- Inverness has 3 golf courses (Inverness Golf Club, Fairways Golf Course and Kings Club).
- Just out of town, near the airport is the Castle Stuart Golf Links.
- Soccer fans might be interested in the local team: Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club (aka Caley Thistle).
- Ten pin bowling at Roller Bowl
- Inverness ice rink
- Inverness Leisure centre (swimming pool, gym, climbing wall, etc.)
- Inverness Kart Raceway - an indoor go-karting arena which operates as a not-for-profit social enterprise company. Booking is advisable. Tel: 01463 717055.
- Highland Council Countryside Rangers operate many guided walks and events throughout the year.
- Inverness walks - local route details from WalkHighlands
- Tiso Inverness Outdoor Experience is a huge shop on the Longman estate which has an 18 ft climbing wall, plus large range of hire equipment and bikes, and a cafe/deli.
- See the outdoor activity operators list in The Internet Guide to Scotland for more companies in the area.
Inverness Marina is a new yacht haven with 150-berth secure marina. If you need equipment, then Caley Marina is the chandlery on Canal Road.
The Caledonian Canal is very popular with yachts and barges (see boat trip links). It stretches some 60 miles from Inverness via Loch Ness to Fort William. You can walk and cycle along the towpath in Inverness.
Dolphin Spirit operates from Inverness Marina with boat trips out into the Inner Moray Firth to see the Bottlenose Dolphins.
For more activities such as cruises on Loch Ness, day tours by coach and city walking tours - please view the links on the Inverness trips page.
Inverness Castle was built on the site of an earlier fortress in 1835 and sits on a low cliff overlooking the river. Take Castle Street which winds its way up around the rear of the castle and past some pretty floral displays to get to the statue of Flora MacDonald. You can get great views across the city from here.
Please note the castle is not open to the public. Until early 2020, it was used as the sheriff court and there are now plans to transform the castle into a major visitor attraction with galleries, museum, shops, etc. which is due to open in 2025.
The Inverness Castle Viewpoint (where you could climb to the top of the tower) is closed for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing building works.
Inverness Castle - Spirit of the Highlands is the new website which contains information about the history of the castle and plans for its re-development.
It is thought that 11th-century castle which featured in Shakepeare's play Macbeth (even though there is no historical evidence to suggest that it was where Duncan I was murdered) was in fact located to the east of the present castle (in what is now Auldcastle Road). Originally built of wood, it was replaced by a fortress of stone on Castle Hill. Apparently there have been sightings of the ghost of King Duncan walking along the banks of the River Ness in full regalia.
On the opposite bank of the river is Saint Andrew's Cathedral (minus its spires as the funds ran out before they could be completed). The font is a copy of
Thorwalden's font in Copenhagen Cathedral. Look out for the Russian gold icons.
Admission is free but donations are very welcome.
Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.
The catheral celebrated 150 years in 2019.
The cafe in the adjacent old schoolhouse is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm (light snacks and lunches, home baking, toilets, cards and gifts for sale). From here you can walk down the river banks and explore the Ness Islands.
There are many old houses in the city centre dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Built in 1791, the Steeple on the corner of Bridge Street and Church Street used to be the steeple of the old jail. Now it houses the Hall of Names which offers heraldic gifts such as Coats of Arms, scrolls and surname family crests.
Opposite, on the corner of Bridge Street and Castle Street is the Town House, an interesting 19th century Gothic-style building used as local government offices and lavishly refurbished (2016-2018). For summer 2022, guided tours of the historical interior are available on Thursdays at 2pm and 3.30pm. Advance booking essential either via the reception desk at the nearby Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, or online.
In Church Street, Abertarff House - the oldest secular building in Inverness (dating back to 1593). For 2022, it will be open from early June to end October (Friday - Monday from 10.30am to 5.30pm). Free admission. Small cafe. Owned by the National Trust for Scotland. From 17 June - 30 September 2022, they are also offering 90-minute guided walks exploring the history of Inverness city centre. These take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays at 1.30pm - advance booking recommended.
Cromwell's Clock Tower in Shore Street (15 minutes walk from the city centre) is all that remains of the large citadel built between 1652 and 1657 by Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth Army. Now part of the ever expanding industrial estate.
Wild About Inverness City Centre Outdoor Trail by Ablekids Press is suitable for children and grown ups of all ages. Covering less than a kilometre, it takes around 45-60 minutes to complete the trail which starts at the Millennium Circle at the foot of the Market Brae Steps, and finishes on Castle Hill. The trail is suitable for those on foot, pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. A map/guide is available as a free PDF download and you can buy a Sticker Activity Book of the trail from Ablekids Press on Market Brae Steps.
You can download a free local walking tour app from your Apple or Android store - just search for 'Inverness City Historic Walk'. Starting from Inverness Castle, it will take you around 32 historic locations in Inverness city centre. A booklet is available from the tourist information centre in Inverness High Street.
The Eastgate Shopping Centre right in the heart of the city includes Marks and Spencer's department store, NEXT, other clothes shops, RBS bank, jewellers, eateries, Waterstones bookshop, Hotel Chocolat, HMV (music & videos), Boots (pharmacy, photography), Starbucks Coffee shop, card shops, etc. On the upper floor there's a large ornamental clock with lots of animated animals to keep the children amused when it chimes.
Disabled visitors can get help from ShopMobility which is based in the Falcon Gallery at Car Park level 2.
Outside the shopping centre you can find a branch of the health food chain Holland and Barrett. Also in the city centre, at number 20 Baron Taylor's Street you'll find a good independent health food shop.
On Academy Street, take a look at the indoor Victorian Market which has shops selling Belgian chocolates, jewellery, needlework, toys, clothes, Scottish souvenirs, etc.
The Isle of Skye Candle Company has a shop in High Street.
If you are interested in old/second-hand books, old maps and antique prints, then check out Leakeys in the old Greyfriars Hall. When you stand on the steps of the Tourist Office, opposite you will see Church Street (running parallel to the river). Walk down the left-hand side and keep going to the end of the street. There at the junction with Friar's Lane is the second largest collection of second-hand and rare books in Scotland. Well worth a visit. Telephone 01463 239 947.
Also in Church Street is Miele's Gelateria full of ice cream made on the premises.
For new books, visit Waterstones in the Eastgate shopping centre. And don't forget W.H. Smith in High Street - go into the basement for books and music. For Scottish music, also check out the music shop and Hootananny which are both in Church Street.
If you walk down Bridge Street (past the steps to the tourist office) towards the river, you will find Judith Glue's shop which has great gifts, foodstuffs, cards, crafts and clothes from Orkney and the Highlands.
Nearby is The Whisky Shop and some tartan shops too. Cross the bridge over the river, and you will see the Highland House of Fraser - a great shop for kilts and tartan with a bureau de change. There's also a video and history exhibition plus kilt making demonstrations in the visitor centre. The shop includes the Inverness webcam.
In Young Street (which continues straight on from the bridge), there's a laundrette (with Internet terminal) on the left and a small branch of the Tesco supermarket on the right.
|Balnain House at 40 Huntly Street (further up from the kilt shop) used to be the Home of Highland Music but was forced to close some years ago and is now the offices of The National Trust for Scotland. Built around 1726, it was once used as a hospital for Hanoverian soldiers after the Battle of Culloden.|
Highland Print Studio on the riverside at 20 Bank Street is an open access workshop with facilities for printmaking and digital imaging. You can book a class or browse the prints for sale. Open to Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 5pm. Tel: 01463 718999.
Scottish Flair - an Edwardian & Victorian Art Gallery is situated at 11 Bank Street (located within The Riverside Art Gallery).
At the rear of Inverness Castle, in Castle Street, visit John Graham & Co for outdoor clothing, fishing & shooting equipment and such like. Also in the same street is Chisholms which have a large selection of kilts and other tartan goods.
The Castle Gallery at 43 Castle Street (tel: 01463 729512) features original contemporary fine and applied art and many unusual gifts to buy.
In the Crown area (just up from Stephen's Brae) you will find The Drawing Room in Kingsmills Road. The shop has a wide range of gifts for adults and children including jewellery, toys, table linen, soaps, glass gifts, Harris Tweed bags and accessories.
Out of town shopping includes the retail park on the A96 to Nairn/Aberdeen. This features a 24-hour Tesco supermarket, DIY store, Boots, etc. Other major stores (furniture, electrical goods, clothes, etc.) can be found in 3 other locations around the city: Carsegate, Inshes and the Longman estate.
Inverness is a popular destination for fans of Diana Galbadon's Outlander books and the TV show. Inverness Outlanders have an audio tour tour of Inverness and surrounding area which can be downloaded for free via Geotourist. There's also a free Map which is available in many tourist outlets in the area.
Self Catering Cottages
Where to eat and drink in Inverness
There is a full range of cuisine available in Inverness from award-winning restaurants (including Chinese, Italian and Indian) to the ubiquitous MacDonalds. Sams (Church Street) and Cinnamon (opposite Morrisons on Millburn Road), plus Rajah Indian Restaurant (behind the post office) are all popular Indian restaurants.
Also try La Tortilla Asesina - a Spanish restaurant / tapas bar on Castle Street. Opposite is the Castle Tavern up which is well recommended for its food and real ales.
For something to suit all, try Girvan's Restaurant which is near the Holland and Barrett health food shop opposite the shopping centre in Eastgate. Girvan's has a varied lunch and dinner menu with excellent food and is good value for money. They also serve tea and cakes. Open 9am - 10pm.
Just along from Girvan's is the Fig & Thistle Bistro and also Little Italy plus the pizzeria Cheese and Tomatin.
On Ness Walk by the bridge opposite the castle, Rocpool Restaurant (award-winning and highly stylish) is on the corner. Just to the left is Prime is a good restaurant specialising in steak and seafood (it has a dedicated pizzeria upstairs). Next door is John Macnabs Bar & Bistro in The Columba Hotel. Just slightly further down the river from there, The Palace Hotel serves nice bar meals (no need to book) and also has a restaurant (but may be busy with coach parties and other guests staying at the hotel, so booking is advisable).
Step into the tranquil haven provided by the Royal Highland Hotel (formerly known as The Station Hotel, next to the train station). They have lunch and dinner menus in the adjacent ASH bar/restaurant.
Overlooking the river by the main bridge near the corner of Bridge Street is Johnny Foxes - this pub offers live entertainment in the evenings and serves good bar meals all day.
Spice Tandoori is an Indian restaurant on the other corner (almost under the castle) overlooking the river - so get yourself a window table.
For pasta & pizza, try Bella Italia on Bridge Street.
The Mustard Seed restaurant is on Bank Street overlooking the river - and can be very busy especially on summer evenings. Almost directly opposite over the river is their sister restaurant - a modern, glass-fronted building called The Kitchen Brasserie (15 Huntly Street).
The McBains by the River at 10 Bank Street has river views as it is situated near the pedestrian bridge leading to Balnain House.
Contrast Brasserie is the award-winning restaurant at the Glenmoriston Town House hotel on Ness Bank on the riverside.
Close by is The Waterside Hotel which has an Italian restaurant in the conservatory overlooking the river, plus a bar.
Also on Ness Bank is Nicky Tam's Whisky and Wine Bar (previously known as Nico's) at rear of the Glen Mhor Hotel.
In Church Street, the Mercure Inverness Hotel has a bar with food - walk into the reception area and turn right through the wooden doors - the bar overlooks the river.
Hootananny is also in Church Street, near Abertarff House. Regular live music and concerts.
On the corner of Church Street and Union Street, is the White House Cocktail Bar and Bistro.
Also in Church Street is Kool Runnings (Caribbean cafe) and the Black Isle Bar & Rooms which specialises in pizza and local beer (from the Black Isle Brewery and elsewhere).
The La Le Turkish Mediterranean Restaurant is next to the Phoenix Ale House in Academy Street.
MacGregor's (at the bottom of Academy Street / far end of Church Street) opened in 2017 and specialises in local craft beers and traditional live music. Winner of the VisitScotland Scottish Thistle award for Best Pub/Bar in 2018/19.
Heading up river from the Grieg Street Bridge to Friars Bridge, you will see The Waterfront Bar & Restaurant (Best Gastro Pub in Scotland 2018) specialising in seafood and game.
In the Crown district of Inverness (just a couple of minutes walk up from Stephen's Brae, then continue past the college, church and school) take a look at the menus for the restaurants at the Heathmount Hotel and the Corriegarth Hotel.
There are also lots of other places throughout city for meals.
miinverness.co.uk has details of offers and deals on meals and entertainment in and around Inverness.
Inverness BID has a useful PDF leaflet covering most of the city centre's cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants.
For a quick sandwich or soup to take out, try Subway or Costas in Inglis Street (between the railway station and the High Street). Inside the Eastgate shopping centre you will also find a variety of eateries.
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If you are touring the area, you may find it useful to have the Official Tourist Map for the Highlands of Scotland.
Inverness City Beautiful
Super book of 250 colour photographs by Inverness-born Jack Watson. See city's impressive array of architecture, enjoy a trip down the spectacular River Ness and historic Caledonian Canal. Visit Highland attractions such as Fort George and Urquhart Castle.
Amazon.co.uk (commission link) or Amazon.com (commission link)
Inverness and the North
This series of short travel guides shows visitors where to look for the beauty of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and the history of its people. In words and pictures David O'Neil shows the area as a touring centre that is second to none
Order your copy from Amazon.co.uk (commission link) or Amazon.com (commission link)
North West Highlands
One of the lovely Pevensey Guide books, full of info about the area's heritage, landscape, climate, place names, flora and fauna. It covers Loch Ness & Inverness, the Black Isle, Easter Ross, Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Lochaber & Fort William, Knoydart & Ardnamurchan. 112 pages with over 100 colour photographs.
Order your copy from Amazon.co.uk (commission link) or Amazon.com (commission link)
Inverness, Loch Ness and the North East Highlands
Useful colour guide by Neil Wilson.
Inverness - Glasgow Cycle Route Map
Loch Ness Monster
For all you fans of the monster,
this book by Paul Harrison is a must!
Walk Loch Ness and the Spey Valley
64 pages of walks by Richard Hallewell in this popular area of the Highlands.
The Great Glen Way