Never underestimate Inverness
. This dark horse is both the capital of the Highlands and one of the happiest hotspots in the UK
with a high quality of life. Add its rich history and smashing wee restaurants, and it’s almost too much. Small enough to shimmy about on foot, yet massive in allure, here are some out-of-the-box things to do for those with a keen inquisitive streak.
Scot or not, you can’t go to the site of the Battle of Culloden without experiencing a deep connection with the land and history behind it. The Culloden Battlefield sits a brief 15-minute car ride from Inverness and marks the spot where the final battle of the Jacobite risings took place in 1745. Windswept and wholly poignant, this land is the site of the brutal demise of upwards of 1,500 men, more than 1,000 of which were Jacobites. The visitor centre presents the history for what it is, with the immersion theatre and collection of Jacobite artefacts that serve as tangible reminders.
Culloden, Inverness, Scotland
A welcome alternative to the usual retail suspects, the Victorian Market is overflowing with independent shops, each with a wealth of kitschy and coveted curiosities. Dotted with fairy lights and a lofty, ornate wood-domed roof, this is a true blast from the past. This arcade dates back to the 1870s, but there was a fire in the 1890s, and the sandstone entrance is the only original component left. The charming tearooms and coffee shops are unsurpassable.
Victorian Market, Queensgate, Inverness, Scotland
Perfectly anchored amidst the backdrop of the Caledonian Canal, Ship Space, in a nutshell, is one man’s lifelong passion for all things maritime-related. This wonderfully eccentric place won’t take up too much time. It operates from the home and back garden of the man behind the magic and is free for all to explore. The star of the show is the impressive 1:10 scale model of the Titanic, with interior Parisian café and Marconi wireless room. Trust us—you have to see this place to believe it!
Ship Space, 16 Clachnaharry Rd, Inverness, Scotland, +44 01463 716839
Cemetery, Historical Landmark
A short distance from the Culloden Battlefield, The Clava Cairns are what’s left of a Bronze-age burial ground. This prehistoric site was once a sacred place adorned with monuments and a medieval chapel. The remains manifest as an evocative time capsule to a bygone era. Meticulously laid out and imbued with too many stories to comprehend, these 4,000-year-old ceremonial stones make the mind reel. The dancing play of light evident at this site during sunrise and sunset is pure magic.
Clava Cairns, Inverness, Scotland
Entering Leakey’s Bookshop is like stumbling into the deepest and most complex hinterlands of a bibliophile’s mind. Housed in the charismatic old Gaelic Church, this literature dreamland is punctuated with 100,000 books that span every topic imaginable and make it Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. Between the spiral staircase, sprinkling of sofas and the crackling wood burning fire, finding Leakey’s is like coming home.
Leakey’s Bookshop, Church St, Inverness, Scotland, +44 01463 239947
The Clootie Well at Munlochy is certainly not something you see every day, but that’s the fun of it. Awash with an ocean of weary coloured rags, or cloots, that desperately cling to forest branches, these ancient wells are rooted in the pre-Christian era and age-old Celtic rituals. The rags are offerings that are dipped in the sacred wells or springs and are then tied to the branches while a prayer is said. When the rags are no more, the thought is that any illnesses will be gone with the wind. Many visitors still leave offerings, along with inspirational quotes and dreams. Just use biodegradable cloth for the environment’s sake!
Clootie Well, Munlochy, Scotland
Velocity Café and Bicycle Workshop
A torrent of creative bursts, Velocity Café and Bicycle Workshop is a multifaceted social enterprise centred around the charming café-cum-workshop. Between the pleasing selection of proper coffee, hearty soups, chunky bread and homemade cakes (all made with love from locally sourced ingredients) and the bike workshop decked out with all the necessary supplies (think work-stands for hire and knowledgeable bike mechanics), this place is the epitome of cool. Making Queen proud one bicycle at a time!
Velocity Café and Bicycle Workshop, 1 Crown Avenue, Inverness, Scotland, +44 01463 419 956