Must-Visit Attractions in and Around Inverness, Scotland

You might be able to spot Nessie from the ruins of Urquhart Castle
You might be able to spot Nessie from the ruins of Urquhart Castle | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alexander Crow
14 September 2020

In the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness is surrounded by a wealth of places to visit. From naturally beautiful areas like Loch Ness to man-made marvels like Cawdor Castle, the scope of things to see and do can be dizzying. To help, Culture Trip has outlined 25 of the very best attractions in the area.

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

Park, Zoo
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European grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus) at Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig, Kingussie, Scotland, United Kingdom
© Angus McComiskey / Alamy Stock Photo
Specialising in native Scottish wildlife and other colder weather creatures, the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park has received acclaim for its Scottish wildcat breeding programme, as it tries to save the species from extinction. Other natural treasures include native grey wolves, polar bears and red pandas.

Eden Court Highlands

Theatre
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With several different shows every year, two theatres, two cinema screens, three galleries and various workshops, Eden Court Highlands is the pre-eminent arts venue in northern Scotland. It underwent a refurbishment and extension between 2004 and 2008, and many people travel to Inverness for the sole purpose of seeing one of the performances it hosts.

Cawdor Castle and Gardens

Building
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This 15th-century castle, with roots dating back to the 14th century, was the home of the Thane of Cawdor, made famous by his mention in William Shakespeare’s cursed play, Macbeth. In addition to its rich history, the castle is home to three beautiful gardens: the walled garden, flower garden and wild garden.

Beauly Priory

Ruins
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Beauly Priory in Scotland
© Jan Holm / Alamy Stock Photo
Disestablished in 1634, the ruins of this 13th-century monastic settlement are still surprisingly preserved and worth exploring. The monks, originally from France, gave the priory the name Beauly, from the French beau lieu, meaning “beautiful place”. Upon visiting, you can certainly understand why.

Inverness Botanic Gardens

Park
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A subtropical wonderland in northern Scotland, the Inverness Botanic Gardens grow an astounding array of plants, from cacti to pitcher plants, with added fish ponds and even a waterfall. The sheltered outdoor garden is also colourful and an excellent place to walk around on a sunny day; as they sit between the Caledonian Canal and the River Ness, the opportunities to walk further are tempting.

Glenmorangie Distillery

Distillery
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It isn’t easy to select one distillery to recommend, simply because there are so many excellent options on offer. However, Glenmorangie is an excellent choice. It has three different tours and experiences, and a visit can potentially be combined with a day trip to Dornoch, Tain and the Seaboard Villages. Just be careful not to have too many wee drams on your visit.

Hootananny

Church, Music Venue
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Exterior of Hootananny music venue Inverness Scotland  June 2010
© Stephen Finn / Alamy Stock Photo
If you want to sample traditional Highland hospitality, drink, music and dance, Hootananny is perhaps the best option. On Fridays and Saturdays, some of the tables are cleared to enable ceilidh dancing, bringing with it many smiles, laughter and a feeling of accomplishment when you remember the steps.

Fort George (and dolphins)

Museum
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Possibly the largest artillery fortification in Europe, the 18th-century Fort George was built to deter another Jacobite rebellion. There is an excellent museum detailing the Jacobite uprising, and the walls are a wonderful place to catch a glimpse of the wild dolphins that make the waters nearby home.

Glen Affric

Park
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The beauty of Scotland Glen Affric Scottish Highlands Scotland UK
© Martin Birchall / Alamy Stock Photo
If you are looking for classic Highland scenery, somewhere away from the bustling crowds and full of incredible natural beauty and an abundance of wildlife, then Glen Affric is worthy of a visit. To get there, it’s a short trip to Cannich from Inverness, and you can then walk or cycle along the stunning glen.

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Art Gallery, Museum
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Built to house the artefacts that tell the story of Inverness’s and the surrounding area’s heritage and culture, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery offers you an insight into Highland life. Meanwhile, the adjoining art galleries feature both permanent and temporary exhibitions, with a special highlight on local artists.

Leakey’s Bookshop

Bookstore
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Inside Leakey's Bookshop, featuring an enormous collection of second-hand books, sprawling over two floors in Inverness, Scotland
© Hugh Mitton / Alamy Stock Photo
Among the largest bookshops in Scotland and built inside a former church, Leakey’s Bookshop is a literature lover’s dream. With everything from rare prints to classic editions, there is sure to be something that catches your eye. The shop also houses a café, which is perfect for taking a break.

Highlanders’ Museum

Museum
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Showcasing the rich military history of Scotland’s Highland regiments, the Highlanders’ Museum is a must-visit for any history buff. Chronicling the Highland soldiers’ history from the nearby Battle of Culloden straight through to today’s active regiments, the museum shares the lives of the soldiers as well as the stories of some of their greatest victories.

Fairy Glen

Natural Feature
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A short trip out of the city, the Fairy Glen is a magical spot in the Highlands, complete with two picturesque waterfalls. The glen was once used for a traditional ceremony where children would decorate the pond with flowers to keep the resident fairies happy. Part of a nature trail, the walk to the glen leads you through some terrific woodland.

Ness Islands

Natural Feature
Map View

Lying in the middle of the River Ness, the Ness Islands are the perfect destination for a leisurely Sunday stroll. Crossing Victorian suspension bridges over to the islands, you’ll find several nature trails that will lead you around the area and past other local attractions, such as the Inverness Botanic Gardens and Whin Park.

Hogwarts Express and the Scenic Highlands Tour

Natural Feature
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tour_img-1698207-24
© GetYourGuide

For any Harry Potter fans who fancy a treat, why not take a trip on the real-life Hogwarts Express? Travelling from Inverness on the famous Jacobite steam train, the tour of the Highlands will take you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. As a bonus, you’ll travel over the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct, a feat of Victorian-era engineering.

Additional reporting by Nicholas Grantham

These recommendations were updated on September 14, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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