Our Definitive Guide to Inverness

Loch Ness

This loch (Scottish Gaelic for lake) contains more fresh water than all lakes in England and Wales combined, stretching through the Great Glen for 23 miles and with a depth of 755 ft.

It’s famous for the beautiful coastline and wildlife. You can take a cruise around the loch all year round with Jacobite Cruises and if you are lucky you can spot the famous monster who inhabits these waters – Nessie!

Urquhart Castle

Located right on the shores of Loch Ness, it was once one of Scotland’s largest castles.

When you get there, you will watch a short documentary about the history of Urquhart Castle, it’s very interesting as the area has seen the most dramatic events in the past 1000 years. Then you can visit the grounds from the prison up to the tallest tower. In front of the castle you can also admire a full-sized trebuchet.

Dores Beach

This lovely beach on Loch Ness can be the start of a great walk, if you enjoy admiring amazing views of the loch. Starting from the beach, you can follow the shore line north (Inverness direction), around Torr Point and back to Dores Beach. It’s a 4-mile walk, but it can offer you lovely surprises such as few sightings of red squirrels.

Falls of Foyers

This short but spectacular walk starts from Upper Foyers, leading you gently downhill to your first stop – the falls, set in a dramatic gorge and hidden from the main road. If you follow the path, you will reach the shores of Loch Ness, for another breath-taking view of the loch.

Chanonry Point & Dolphins

Another wonderful spot to meet the local wildlife! The best time to see dolphins is when the tide starts to rise again after low tide and if you are lucky you might be able to see the dolphins even twice a day! The main viewing area is on a beach behind the lighthouse with easy access. Obviously dolphins are wild animals, so there is no guarantee you will see them. But if you will, you might see them play around with some salmon or leap out of the water!

Cawdor Castle

This castle is perhaps best known for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the main character is made “Thane of Cawdor”, even if the connection is highly fictionalised and the castle itself is never directly mentioned. One curious feature of the castle is that it was built around a small holly tree, as tradition states that a donkey, laden with gold, decided to rest under this very tree. This was then selected as the site of the castle. The remains of the tree can still be seen.

One of the most popular features of the castle are its grounds as there are three vast gardens with beautiful flowers and plants.

Botanic Gardens

Prince Edward opened the Floral Hall & Gardens in 1993, now called Botanic Gardens. It has a Tropical House located in the amazing glasshouses and an adjoining Cactus House. It will burst into colour during the spring, but it has so many variety of plants that this can be a wonderful year-round destination, only few minutes’ walk from the city centre.

Highland Archive Centre

This centre is responsible for collecting, preserving and making accessible archives related to the history of the Highlands. There is also a dedicated Family History Room, as we have a lot of tourists from all over the world – especially USA, Canada, Australia - that every year come to Inverness to look into their ancestry. Interesting trip for everyone that knows their family is originally from the Highlands and sadly had to leave during the Clearances.

Whin Park

Great place for children, it’s the largest outdoor park in Inverness, only 20 minutes’ walk from the city centre. The access is free all year with a free car park next to it. There is a boating pond with boat service open from April until September, a miniature railway, a large play area with slides, swings, rope climbs, a children's assault course, picnic areas, and of course there is also a lovely ice cream & coffee shop for those essential refreshments!

Ness Islands

This gentle walk along the River Ness is the perfect outing when you don’t have a lot of time, but you would like to take a stroll anyway. No hiking boots involved, as these islands are just 15 minutes’ walk from the city centre and are not treacherous at all! They are in the middle of River Ness and are connected by suspension bridges, built in Victorian times. If you enjoy running, the islands are perfect for a wee 5K early in the morning, when no one is around and the peaceful sound of the water is in tune with your pace. You don’t even need to put your head-phones on!

Caledonian Canal

Another great place for a walk or a run. More exposed to the weather than the Ness Islands, it can be a great day out if you enjoy the outdoors, but you are not up for hiking.

If you would like to get to one of the locks, you can go north, following the canal flow into the sea and you will get to see many locks one after the other in just few minutes’ walk.

Otherwise you can go south (Loch Ness direction) and after a lovely 7.5 mile walk in the countryside, you will get to Dochgarroch Locks. If you run into some boats on your way, remember that it’s custom to greet the passengers!

Great Glen Way

Inverness is the finishing line of this long trail that attracts thousands of people from every part of the world. The challenge starts in Fort William and it continues for 117km throughout the Great Glen (Scottish Gaelic for valley), giving you the best scenery you can find in the area. With the magnificent and impressive panorama of Loch Ness always on your right-hand side, you surely will have the experience of a lifetime!

Inverness Castle & Viewpoint

At the very end of the Great Glen Way you will find yourself at the Inverness Castle, placed on top of the hill, right into the very centre of Inverness. A succession of castles has stood on this site since 1057, as lot of sieges occurred throughout the centuries. The current castle was built in 1836 on the site of the original one. At present, only the grounds and the north tower are open to the public, as the castle houses the sheriff court. Flora MacDonald’s bronze statue can be seen in front of the castle, honoured as a famous Jacobite heroine. The north tower is the recently opened viewpoint from which you can see the beauty of Inverness from above.

Museum & Art Gallery

Next to the Inverness Castle, the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery will give you an interesting glimpse of Inverness and the Highlands’ artefacts and history. It features different permanent and temporary exhibitions and it’s open all year round, except for Sundays and Mondays. Admission is free.

St Andrew Cathedral

Built in only 3 years and completed in 1869, it’s the first new Protestant cathedral to be completed in Great Britain since the Reformation. Set on the banks of the River Ness, it’s open every day for visitors. There is a font which is a copy of Thorvaldsen’s kneeling angel font in Copenhagen, but the face is that of the donor’s wife. The picture in front of it records an incident in the dark days after the Battle of Culloden (1746), when the Episcopal Church was proscribed, and its clergy were imprisoned for conducting public worship: Stonehaven fisher-folk are shown holding up an infant in a creel for baptism at the hands of their imprisoned priest, through the bars of his cell.

Eden Court Theatre & Cinema

It’s the hub for arts and theatre in the Highlands and after a complete refurbishment and extension in 2007, it became the largest combined arts centre in Scotland. It features two auditoriums, two cinema screens and two performance studios. These halls are named after former venues scattered around Inverness then demolished or burnt down. If you are looking for a night out, at Eden Court you will certainly enjoy a good concert, musical, play or movie.

Bridges of Inverness

Inverness is famous for its suspension bridges. They are featured on countless postcards and tourist brochures. Built in the Victorian era, there are five pedestrian bridges – Greig Street, Infirmary Bridge and the Ness Island Bridges. The Ness Island Bridges are three and they were actually destroyed by a flooding and then replaced later. The main bridge in the city centre (which extends from the High Street) was a former suspension bridge, built in 1855 and replaced with the current one in 1961.

Eastgate Shopping Centre

First opened in 1983 and then refurbished in 1993, it is the perfect stop if you are looking for a shopping day. It’s located at the end of the High Street, in the heart of the city centre and it’s open all year round. The Centre is notable for an automaton clock depicting Noah's Ark. Each hour a monkey is seen raising up a tree and chiming a bell in order to tell the hour. On each hour the clock diorama also plays an animal themed song and a single set of doors open to show pictures of the animal associated with the song. At 12 o'clock each day a longer display takes place where all of the tunes are played, all the windows are opened and the rest of the diorama also operates. It is still common to see crowds watching the clock for the extended 12 o'clock performance.

Hop On – Hop Off Bus

This tour bus gives you a lovely trip around the city, while informing you about the stops and most important sites that you encounter. It operates every day between end of March and end of September.