What to see and do in Inverness
February 27, 2019
I have tried to stay as close to Inverness as possible with these suggestions, but my first recommendation would be to hire a car. As a small city many experiences can be enjoyed in close succession, but many attractions of the highlands are outwith the city. Inverness holds many delights but does not show the beauty of the highlands as can be experienced further afield. I am passionate about the area, as travelling far and wide, I know I can return to the place I grew up and still have my breath taken away by the beauty of the highlands. Just a heads up: it is a tourist hotspot and you can easily wander around in summer without hearing a single local accent.
Best things to see and do
Town Centre and River Walk
Inverness meaning ‘mouth of the river Ness’ is a good place to start when exploring the city. An array of bridges along the river allow a walk to be tailored to the weather and schedule, but it is ‘the’ thing to do on a nice day in Inverness. Pass by a line of churches surrounding the city centre and gradually you will get to some more open ground, ending at a set of islands frequented by dog-walkers, and a park for the kids. On one side of the river you have the cathedral and on the other side, the castle, both worth a look around.
Culloden Battlefield is the place to go if you want to explore the history of the highlands. The exhibition is excellent but expensive. I first went on a school trip many years ago, but the experience does keep getting better. If you are interested in history paying for the exhibit is well worth it. The battlefield itself is free, but rather bare if you have not seen the details inside. The battlefield is frequented by a bus service, but if you have a car take a detour to Clava Cairns. The quaint little circle of stones, made famous by ‘Outlander’ is barely a mile away and offers a more mystical aspect of Scottish history than Culloden.
A ‘must see’ of the area, Scotland’s deepest loch is the home of Nessie and therefore an obligation for every visitor. Head out to Doors for a walk (and/or swim!) along the pebble beach and into the woods, then you can get a brilliant view by driving up towards loch Ashy for a couple of miles and look back down across the city. The other way of seeing Loch Ness is by Jacobite cruise. Sailing up to Urquhart Castle, a ruin half way up the Loch, is a relaxing way to experience the famous sight, especially great for kids in my opinion. I had a brilliant time on the boat with my grandparents as a kid, mainly pretending my brother and I were medieval knights trying to ‘secure’ the castle.
Floral Hall and botanic gardens.
With free entry, the Floral hall is a wonderful place to look around at any time of year. A small botanic section, with a pond of fish, is nothing compared to the walled compound of flowers that thrive in the local climate. Accompanied by a cafe, the atmosphere here is really one to treasure.
Art and Gifts
There are numerous art galleries and gift shops around the city centre, covering a broad price range. Taking a stroll up the High street you can branch of towards the castle or further into the old town along Church St., all hosting interesting shops to explore. At the end of the street you will reach Eastgate shopping centre which has a range of small stall holders outwith the shops selling locally produced artisan goods. The Victorian Market, aimed at tourists offers a wonderful selection of goods and is also close by. The museum and Leakies second-hand bookshop are my two final suggestions for the town centre, both unique and well worth a look around.
To really get to know the city and leave the tourists behind, the Ice Rink provides a perfect opportunity to spend an afternoon inside if the weather is, as everyone will complain it is likely to be, a bit rainy. Next to the ice rink, if skating is not for you, a couple of hours is easily spent at a ‘pay as you go’ leisure centre, with lots of activity options.
Perfect Day Trip
Gairloch and Torridon
If you only have one day to explore the highlands, take it from someone who grew up there, Torridon and Gairloch are only 1.5 hours from Inverness and capture the true beauty and range of highland scenery. Gairloch hosts a pier, a beach and a range of cafes and shops to relax the afternoon away. (park at the pier and take a small path up behind a cafe, which will lead you straight to the far end of the beach, from there you can get back onto the road for the couple of minutes into the town centre). Torridon is for the hikers and photographers. A famous range of hills just south of Gairloch will, weather permitting, provide breathtaking scenery no matter how high you want to climb!
Closer to Inverness
Shorter days away could range from beaches at Cromarty or Nairn, or mountains up at Carrbridge and Aviemore. These are all within 45 minutes of Inverness (and have an incredible range of cafes and shops to look around). Carrbridge also hosts landmark, an adventure park, brilliant for families to take a day away from the ‘tourist’ thing.
Eden Court offers many events and just general local culture. For example they display a range of artwork and have a theatre and small cinema. If you are in Inverness for several nights definitely spend one of them here. As a small city, this is the best place to experience that aspect of culture.
Most hotels and bars will cater to tourists with traditional highland menus, perfect for a hearty, warming meal. Inverness is also swarmed by Italian and Indian restaurants, but if you would like an interesting break from chain restaurants or hotels, I recommend Aspendos, where the Turkish food is a refreshing change. The vegan cafe in the town centre is also a gem, if you want a break from the plentiful fish and steak that frequent Highland menus.
Advertising most local businesses, Inverness Bid is the website to visit for current events and news.