Situated at the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness is surrounded by a wealth of places to visit, from internationally-renowned natural wonders to man-made marvels, the scope of things to see and do can be dizzying. To help, here are 17 of the very best.
The most famous loch in the world and home to Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, Loch Ness needs little introduction. Whether you decide to drive the short distance here from Inverness or walk or cycle along the canal and river, if there is one place every visitor to the city needs to see, this is it.
On the banks of Loch Ness stands this ancient fortress. Now mostly ruined, it is still supposed to be one of the best places to spot Nessie. There is a full-sized trebuchet siege engine, a pier for boat tours of the loch, and an excellent visitor centre.
A windswept moorland, poignant and powerful, the battle of Culloden ended the Jacobite cause and altered the course of world history. The informative visitor centre also provides excellent battlefield audio tours if you want them.
The new mercat cross for Inverness was designed by Gerald Laing and is made from sandstone with bronze castings. Featuring a falcon on each side, stooping to catch its prey, it is also topped by Scotland’s national animal; many visitors to Scotland, and quite a few Scots too, do not know that this is a unicorn.
Highland Wildlife Park
Specialising in native Scottish wildlife and other colder weather creatures, the Highland Wildlife Park has received acclaim for its Scottish wildcat breeding programme, as they try to save the species from extinction through inter-breeding with domestic cats.
Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig, Kingussie, +44 1540 651270
Eden Court Theatre
With several different shows every year, two theatres, two cinema screens and various workshops, Eden Court is the pre-eminent arts venue in the north of Scotland. Recently refurbished and extended, many people travel to Inverness for the sole purpose of seeing one of the performances it hosts.
Eden Court Theatre, Bishop’s Road, Inverness, +44 1463 234234
Munlochy Clootie Well
This eerie and ancient Celtic tradition of hanging rags from trees continues in a few places around Inverness, such as near Culloden. However, the main place to see this is at Munlochy, just north of Inverness, where there are thousands of scraps of fabric decorating the trees.
This 15th-century castle was the home of the Thane of Cawdor, a title mentioned in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. With beautiful gardens and a rich history, it is a must-see for visitors to Inverness.
Cawdor Castle, Nairn, +44 1667 404401
Disestablished in 1634, the ruins of this 13th-century monastic settlement are still surprisingly extensive and definitely worth exploring. The monks were originally French, and gave Beauly its name, from ‘Beau Lieu,’ meaning ‘beautiful place’.
A sub-tropical wonderland in the north of Scotland, these 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; sited between the Caledonian Canal and the River Ness, the opportunities to walk further are tempting.
Botanic Gardens, Bught Lane, Inverness, +44 1463 713553
It is difficult to select one distillery to recommend, simply because there are so many excellent options on offer. Glenmorangie has three different tours, and a visit can potentially be combined with a daytrip to Dornoch, Tain and the Seaboard Villages.
Glenmorangie Distillery, Tain, +44 1862 892043
Apart from the miles of sand, the challenging golf, the walks, the shops and the excellent places to eat, the beauty of this little seaside town is that it is only 15 minutes on the train from Inverness. The actress Tilda Swinton lives here, and with good reason; it’s a lovely corner of the world.
For visitors to Inverness who want to sample traditional Highland hospitality, drink, music and dance, this 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.
Hootananny, Church Street, Inverness, +44 1463 233651
River Ness and the Castle
The best way to see Inverness castle is to walk along the River Ness, which provides several perfect angles to take the best photos of the building. The river walk is a good opportunity to explore the heart of the city, walking along the banks as people have been doing since before St. Columba preached here, in 565AD.
A prehistoric, Bronze Age cemetery, first used around 4000 years ago, Clava Cairns is also a popular place for fans of Outlander to visit. As it is close to Culloden it is worth combining a visit to both sites.
Fort George (and dolphins)
Possibly the largest artillery fortification in Europe, Fort George dates from the late 18th century and was built to deter another Jacobite rising. There is an excellent museum and the walls are also a wonderful place to watch wild dolphins.
Fort George, Ardersier, Inverness, +44 131 310 8701
If you are looking for classic Highland scenery, somewhere away from the crowds and full of incredible natural views and wildlife, then Glen Affric is the place to visit. Travel to Cannich from Inverness and then walk or cycle along the stunning glen.