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Many people visit Inverness to use it as a base to explore the surrounding area and take different day-trips, but they usually allow a day to explore what the unofficial capital of the Scottish Highlands has to offer. Here is our guide to some of the different options available, so you can get the most out of this compact wee city in 24 hours.
If you have not had breakfast (or would like a second breakfast!) you should start your day with a visit to the Rendezvous Café. The Scottish Breakfast is the most recommended in Inverness for good reason, made from locally sourced, fresh ingredients, with gluten free and vegetarian options available.
After breakfast, if the weather is good (or you have come to Scotland wisely prepared for all seasons in one day), take a walk down Church Street, stopping off to see some of the old buildings along the way. For bibliophiles, a visit to Leakey’s secondhand bookshop is a must, with thousands of volumes housed in an old church, warmed by a wood-burning stove. If you would like to explore some small independent shops, then the Victorian Market is worth a visit. If you speed through this walk and want to go further, then cross the river by the footbridge and head back along the opposite bank, before recrossing at Ness Islands, creating a loop which takes you back to the castle and affords wonderful views.
There are several excellent places for lunch in Inverness, depending on your tastes. If you would like to eat in a café, try Artysans, or if you would like a pub lunch, then Scotch and Rye has a relaxed ambience. Closer to the river is Johnny Foxes, which has a large menu, including traditional Scottish favourites like haggis and venison.
After you have eaten, the options for the afternoon depend on how active you feel. Hiring a bike is a good way to travel a little further afield than the centre of the city, and you can easily cycle along some of the Great Glen way and the towpath of the Caledonian Canal towards Loch Ness. For nature lovers, a visit to Merkinch Local Nature Reserve can be rewarding — it is a hidden gem, close to the city centre but full of wildlife. Whether you choose to cycle along the canal or visit the nature reserve, stop off for a drink at The Clachnaharry Inn.
If you do not feel quite so active, then a gentle stroll around the Botanic Gardens might prove more enticing. Another highly recommended option is a visit to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, which tells the story of the city and the Highlands through excellent displays and fascinating artefacts. If you would like to see more art, cross the road from the museum to the delightful Castle Gallery. Thirsty? Head for a drink at the tea and coffee merchant’s, Blend, who have a fantastic range to choose from.
Perhaps you already have evening entertainment planned, with tickets booked to see a show or production at Eden Court Theatre, or maybe you have a table booked at one of the city’s excellent restaurants, some of which require booking some time ahead. If you do not have fixed plans, then there are perhaps more places to eat than you might expect, including tea time bites at Girvans, or a pizza at the Black Isle Brewery Bar, who grow many of their own ingredients and source everything else as locally as possible — their beer is amazing too.
After eating, perhaps the best way to appreciate the city and the wider Highland culture is through some live music, and there are several options to do so. The oldest pub in Inverness, The Gellions, is a good place to start, before walking the short distance to Hootananny — both offer traditional Scottish music and, quite often, dancing.
A day spent in Inverness can be perfectly balanced to ensure you are pleasantly tired, but not exhausted, with lots of new memories to think about. Then, when you return to your bed, you can fall asleep instantly to dream of fiddles and dancing and the warm hospitality of the Highlanders.