Inverness, attracting monster spotters, highland explorers and intrepid adventurers, is much more than a base to visit Loch Ness. The Gateway to the Highlands has oodles of cosy character, epic landscapes galore and a fascinating history to boot.Read More
Inverness may be a little overshadowed by neighbouring Loch Ness, but that just makes this charming Scottish city one of the best kept secrets in the Highlands. With attractions including St Andrews Cathedral and Inverness Castle, the city with narrow streets and Victorian architecture is as much of a draw as the dramatic landscapes that surround it. Sitting on the banks of the River Ness, Inverness has all the essential ingredients for a perfect Scottish getaway: nearby whisky distilleries, a suitably impressive castle, and some pretty epic history – including the Jacobite uprising, Battle of Culloden, the Bronze Age Clava Cairns and the Caledonian Canal, the latter an engineering marvel from the early 1800s. Plus, there are great restaurants and bars, quaint tea rooms, scenic hotels and decent public transport links. Given the unpredictability of the Scottish weather – part of the charm, so they say – Inverness also has plenty of indoor attractions too, such as the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, the covered Victorian Market, and the literary mecca, Leakey’s Bookshop. An old converted church, Leakey’s is a true book-lovers dream, with more than 100,000 books and comfy seating perfect for losing yourself in a story or two – if you manage to tear your eyes from the gorgeous architecture first, that is. If you’re blessed with sunny days, or are the type to get out whatever the weather, the Inverness Botanic Gardens make for a tranquil escape from the cosmopolitan streets. A lush oasis within walking distance of the city, the gardens are home to glasshouses, formal landscaping, wildflower meadows, a secret garden, and a requisite café in which to sit and take it all in. For something a little more wild, cross over the suspension bridges to the Ness Islands and follow the shady trails through the forest or skim stones on the rocky shores – keeping your eyes peeled for wild deer and otters. If wildlife is your thing, you can even join a dolphin-spotting cruise across big old Nessy too. Bags all but packed? Read on for more must-dos and plenty of insider tips.