24 Epic Things to Do in Inverness, Scotland + Map

Inverness and the surrounding area offer a treasure trove of activities. Known as the capital of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness is one of the most popular places to visit in Scotland.

While most travellers flock to the big-hitter hotspots, like Loch Ness, for those willing to venture off the beaten path, there are many hidden gems to be discovered around Inverness.

From castles with riveting histories to romantic road trips, numerous hiking trails to brilliant food experiences – there is enough to keep you coming back to Inverness, the most northernly cities in the UK and one of the best cities in Scotland.

It is also an ideal base to spend a few days before moving on to explore the outstanding landscapes of the magical Isle of Skye or hiking around Fort William.

Be sure to add a few day trips from Inverness to your Scotland itinerary. This guide has everything you need to plan for the perfect vacation in this vibrant Scottish city.

1. Uncover the Mysteries of Loch Ness 

Loch Ness is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Inverness. There are a plethora of things to do in Loch Ness to make you fall in love with this part of the Scottish Highlands.

Loch Ness is world famous for its legendary resident monster, Nessie. Plus, it has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain.

Apart from the elusive monster, Loch Ness boasts stunning vistas and has a fascinating history. Additionally, this area is perfect for keen hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Start your visit with the lovely Dores Beach which is located only 10 miles from Inverness. You can feast your eyes on the breathtaking view of the loch and the surrounding mountains.

Not too far from Dores is the beautiful Falls of Foyers. Nestled in a deep gorge, this waterfall drops 144 ft into a pool. For one of the most dramatic views of the Scottish Highlands, make a brief stop at the Suidhe Viewpoint.

Another unmissable spot on Loch Ness is Fort Augustus, one of the prettiest villages in Scotland. It lies at the end of Loch Ness. You can catch a boat cruise from here.

2. Enjoy Peaceful Strolls in the Ness Islands

Located only a short walking distance from Inverness city centre, the Ness Islands are an urban oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a lovely place to relax and enjoy nature.

If you are looking for a family-friendly walk or someplace to stretch your legs in Inverness, then Ness Islands are the perfect spot.

Take a leisurely stroll along the riverside pathway through a lush woodland. In summer, you can enjoy a picnic here. Also, this little green pocket of Inverness is a favourite area for local joggers, dog walkers and cyclists.

Ness Islands are home to a diverse range of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled out for seals, otters and deer.

There are charming Victorian footbridges that connect the islands. Before the bridges were built, Inverness residents used to catch a boat ride to access this area.

We would suggest walking one side of River Ness and returning back from the other. That way, you can enjoy the view along the River Ness from both sides.

3. Learn the Haunting Past of Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield is a site of profound historical significance. Also, it is one of the best day trip destinations from Inverness for anyone who wants to learn about Scotland’s turbulent past.

The Battle of Culloden took place in this moorland on April 16, 1746. It saw the Jacobite army, led by Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, against the British Government troops commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. Over 1500 Jacobites lost their lives on that fateful day.

The defeat at Culloden marked the end of the Jacobite Rising. The aftermath of this battle has a huge impact on Scottish history. Today, the moorland is preserved as a war grave, with monuments and memorials. So please be respectful.

As you stroll around the moorland, you will find memorial stones marking the mass graves of the fallen Highlanders. A large memorial cairn was erected in 1881 to commemorate the lives of the fallen.

You can catch a bus from Inverness bus station to get here. To learn more about this place, step inside the visitor centre. They have interactive displays and offer insights into the lives of the soldiers.

4. Visit the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Located in the heart of the city centre, this museum and art gallery is one of the best tourist attractions in Inverness for all culture lovers and history enthusiasts.

They showcase a diverse collection that spans over centuries, offering a glimpse into the past and rich heritage of this part of the Scottish Highlands.

You will find various exhibits on natural history, archaeology, and historical developments. Plus, you will learn the fascinating tales of the Picts, the impact of the Vikings, and the history of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. 

You will discover a diverse range of objects here, like ancient artefacts, geological specimens, memorabilia, Highland weapons and bagpipes, and several items showing the daily life of the residents of Inverness and the surrounding area.

Art lovers will admire the paintings by notable Scottish artists like Alexander Nasmyth and John Quinton Pringle. They also host several educational programmes, workshops, and events all year round. 

5. Explore the Magnificent Ruins of Urquhart Castle

Perched majestically on the northern banks of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle is one of the most-visited castles in Scotland. Whether you are a history enthusiast, Nessie hunter, or looking for stunning scenery, this impressive ruin is one of the best places to visit near Inverness.

The history of this castle dates back to the 13th century, and this mighty fortress has witnessed numerous battles over the centuries. It played a prominent role during the Wars of Scottish Independence fought between the Scottish and English armies in the 14th century.

Throughout history, Urquhart Castle changed hands multiple times between the Scots and the English. It was partially destroyed in the late 17th century to prevent it from getting into the hands of the Jacobites.

If you are travelling by public transport, you can catch a Scottish Citylink bus from Inverness to get here.

For a stunning panoramic view over Loch Ness and the surrounding landscapes, climb the historic Grant Tower. It is a popular place for Nessie sightings. Visitors can also explore the ruins of the Great Hall, drawbridge, gatehouse and the cellar.

6. Browse Books in Leakey’s Bookshop

Leakey’s Bookshop is a must-see for all bibliophiles visiting Inverness. What better way to spend an afternoon tucked away in a cosy armchair by the fireplace with a book in hand?

It is a paradise for all book lovers and exudes an old-world charm. They have a vast collection of books spread over two floors. From contemporary to classics, you will find books on a wide range of subjects.

Opened in 1979, Leakey’s is the largest secondhand bookstore in Scotland. It is housed in a beautiful old church which dates back to the 17th century and once served as a temporary hospital for injured soldiers.

This magical bookstore is located on Church Street in Inverness city centre. You can easily spend a few hours perusing the shelves and immersing into the world of books. They also have a small cafe inside.

7. Explore the Chanonry Point and the Fairy Glen

Chanonry Point and a hike to Fairy Glen waterfalls on the Black Isle is one of the unmissable day trips from Inverness for all nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

This Highland city sits close to the Moray Firth, which is one of the best places in the UK to spot dolphins. You can explore Chanonry Point and the Fairy Glen on a local bus from Inverness.

The narrow peninsula of Chanonry Point is a popular place to see dolphins in the wild. While you might spot them any time of the day, the best time to see them is during a rising tide when they come closer to feed on the salmon. Also, you will get a lovely view of Fort George and Moray Firth from here.

After visiting Chanonry Point, make your way to the nearby Fairy Glen in the village of Rosemarkie. A short walk through a beautiful woodland will bring to two stunning waterfalls.

8. Soak up Panoramic Views from Inverness Castle

Standing proudly on a high cliff overlooking the city and the River Ness, Inverness Castle is an iconic historical landmark of this bustling city. 

The present building was constructed in 1836 and was designed by architect William Burn, although an ancient fortress stood on this site since the 11th century.

Throughout history, Inverness Castle has seen several sieges and battles. It has historical connections to several prominent figures in Scottish history. In the early 14th century, Robert the Bruce attacked this fortress and destroyed it to prevent it from military use in the future.

Did you know Mary Queen of Scots was denied entry to Inverness Castle? As a result, her supporters sieged and captured it. Also, it played an important part during the Jacobite Uprising. In later years, this castle served as a courthouse and prison.

At present, the Inverness Castle is not open to the public. But you are free to stroll around the garden. Look out for the beautiful statue of Flora MacDonald.

9. See Military History Come Alive at Fort George

Strategically situated at the mouth of Moray Firth, Fort George is another must-see attraction near Inverness. This mighty fortification played an important role in defence and has an intriguing past.

In the aftermath of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat in the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the British Government wanted to solidify its control over the Scottish Highlands. Therefore, the construction of Fort George was commissioned by King George II in 1748. Today, Fort George continues to serve as an active military base. 

While here, you can explore the vast complex. The outer boundary wall stretches over a mile. There are numerous cannons strategically placed on the ramparts.

Military history lovers can’t miss a visit to the Highlanders Museum. It has an impressive collection of various medals, flags, personal artefacts, weapons and firearms. You can explore the old barrack rooms to learn about the daily life of the soldiers over the past centuries.

To get here from Inverness, you can catch a local Stagecoach bus service to the village of Ardersier.

10. Lose Yourself at the Victorian Market

Situated right across the Inverness train station, the historic Victorian Market is a popular shopping destination for locals and tourists alike.

If you love exploring independent shops, add this vibrant marketplace to your travel itinerary. Instead of the usual High Street brands, you will find over forty stores run by independent local businesses and artisans of Inverness. 

Established in 1890, this covered market has an elegant and beautiful architecture. Admire the ornate cast-iron and wooden domed roof.

From handmade crafts and jewellery to clothing and local produce – you will find a variety of products here. If you would like to buy some gifts and souvenirs to take back home, this is a great place.

Also, the Victorian Market is home to several cosy cafes and eateries. They also have a food court serving various delicious Scottish and international cuisines.

11. Stroll Along River Ness

The beautiful River Ness flows at the heart of this city. The name of this city originates from this river. The word ‘Inverness’ in Scottish Gaelic means “Mouth of the Ness”.

Rambling along the banks of River Ness to admire the stunning vistas is one of the best activities in this city. 

There are several prominent historic buildings and attractions along the shore. We have already mentioned the dramatic Inverness Castle and the peaceful Ness Islands. Apart from those, look out for the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Free Church of Scotland and the Junction Church.

Also, it is so much fun crossing the charming bridges on the River Ness. The picturesque Greig Street Bridge is very photogenic. This suspension bridge was built in 1881. You can easily combine a walk along the River Ness with the neighbouring Caledonian Canal.

12. Explore the Fascinating History of Cawdor Castle

Located only 25 minutes from the city of Inverness by car, Cawdor Castle is one of the best castles in Scotland. This historic castle dates back to the 14th century and has been the ancestral home of the Calder family for over 600 years.

 It is famous for its fictional connection with William Shakespeare’s renowned play Macbeth, where the main protagonist got the title Thane of Cawdor.

There is an interesting story associated with the construction of this castle. Legends have it that the Thane of Cawdor loaded gold on the back of a donkey and allowed it to roam freely around the estate for a day. Finally, the donkey lay under a tree, and Cawdor Castle was built around that spot. Today, you can see that holly tree in the basement of the castle.

While here, take a tour of the castle. The interior of it is equally fascinating. You can roam around the beautifully decorated rooms filled with antique furniture, tapestries, portraits, and artworks.

13. Embark on a Hiking Adventure in Glen Affric

Often referred to as the prettiest glen in the Highlands, Glen Affric is a hidden gem. This area is a hiker and nature lover’s paradise. We highly recommend a day trip from Inverness to explore this magical place.

Glen Affric is famous for its unspoilt landscapes, stunning lochs, cascading waterfalls, ancient Caledonian pine forests, and diverse wildlife. 

There are a variety of hiking trails that cater to all different levels of abilities. Keen hikers can enjoy a scenic walk to the Dog Falls and the stunning Plodda Falls. Both hiking trails are suitable for families and offer impressive views of the waterfalls.

For an outstanding panoramic view of the glen and the surrounding mountains, take a short walk to the Am Meallan viewpoint. Also, experienced hikers can walk the Affric Kintail Way, a long-distance hiking trail from Drumnadrochit to Morvich in Kintail.

This area is home to a diverse wildlife. Watch out for red deer, golden eagles, and Scottish wildcats. 

You need to rent a car from Inverness to explore this part of Scotland as currently there is no public transport to this area.

14. Visit the Tranquil Inverness Cathedral

Set on the picturesque banks of River Ness, Inverness Cathedral is an important architectural and historical landmark in this city. This cathedral dates back to the 19th century and is dedicated to Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. 

It was the brainchild of Alexander Ross, a prominent Scottish architect known for designing many notable buildings in this city. Completed in 1869 and consecrated the same year, this was the first new Protestant cathedral built in Britain after the Reformation.

Inverness Cathedral is a splendid example of the Gothic Revival style. The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive, with a spacious nave, beautifully carved stone columns and arches. Admire the beautiful stained glass windows. They depict various biblical scenes.

It is the perfect place to reflect. You will get a fabulous view of this cathedral from the nearby castle. It is open to the public all year round.

15. Take a Road Trip in NC500

The North Coast 500 is a 516-mile-long picturesque route that starts and ends in Inverness. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best road trips in Scotland.

The journey takes you to some of the most scenic places in Scotland. You can admire the stunning coastal sceneries, remote mountains, lovely white sand beaches and pretty villages along the way. We would recommend spending at least 5-7 days to explore this part of the Scottish Highlands.

From Inverness, you will be driving through Black Isle, Easter Ross and Sutherland to reach John o’Groats, the northernmost point of mainland Britain. After that, follow the winding roads to Ullapool, Torridon and Applecross before heading back to Inverness. You can drive this route either clockwise or anticlockwise.

Some of the highlights of the road trips are Dunrobin Castle, Smoo Cave, Ardvreck Castle, Wailing Widow Falls and Duncansby Head. One of the most thrilling sections of the NC500 is crossing the Bealach na Ba, a dramatic mountain pass of the Applecross peninsula.

16. Explore the Captivating Clava Cairns

The Clava Cairns are a group of three well-preserved Bronze Age burial mounds. You can easily visit this mysterious prehistoric cemetery complex on a day trip from Inverness. 

They are important archaeological sites in Scotland. Additionally, this is a popular location among the fans of the historical television series Outlander. 

Clava Cairns consist of passage graves, ring cairns, standing stones, and kerb cairns. These are believed to have served as burial sites for prominent residents from the Neolithic period.

Interestingly, you can see cup and ring marks on some stones. Historians believe that they might be prehistoric art and symbolic expression.

The passage graves consist of a central chamber accessed by a narrow passage, often lined with large stones. These circular mounds are often surrounded by several standing stones.

Additionally, the direction of the passages of the two cairns is aligned with the midwinter sunset, suggesting that astronomical observations may have played a role in their construction.

17. Explore the Stunning Moray Firth Coast

If you want to visit somewhere off-the-beaten-path near Inverness, we would suggest touring around the stunning Moray Firth coast. The dramatic coastline runs east from Inverness to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. 

Not just awe-inspiring coastal views, lovely sandy beaches or charming little seaside villages, Moray Firth is also famous for its resident dolphins.

One of our favourite places in the Moray Firth is the picturesque town of Cullen, the birthplace of Cullen Skink – a traditional Scottish soup. The nearby Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie is a must-visit.

You can catch a train or bus from Inverness to explore this area. The spectacular Nairn Beach is only an 18-minute train ride from this city. Some of the other remarkable places on the Moray Coast are Elgin Cathedral, Lossiemouth, Crovie, Banff, Culbin Forest and Gardenstown.

18. Take a Wander Around Caledonian Canal

The Caledonian Canal stretches along the Great Glen for around 60 miles, connecting Inverness with Fort William on the West Coast. 

Opened in 1822, this remarkable waterway was designed by legendary Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. It was built to provide better connectivity and economic growth in this part of the Scottish Highlands.

Today, the Caledonian Canal is a popular spot for walking, cycling, and wildlife spotting. The Great Glen Way, a long-distance hiking trail, runs parallel to the canals.

You can hire a cycle from Inverness or walk on the towpath along the Caledonian Canal. Starting from Whin Park, make your way up to the Dochgarroch Locks. This peaceful nature walk will make you forget that you are so close to the city.

Alternatively, you can walk towards the Muirtown Basin, where the Caledonian Canal meets Beauly Firth. It is fun to watch the boats navigating through the locks. Apart from the beautiful panoramic view of the firth, you might even spot Moray Firth Dolphins here, if you are lucky.

19. Commune with Nature at Inverness Botanic Gardens

Just a short walk from the city centre, Inverness Botanical Gardens is a great place to relax and immerse yourself in nature. It is one of the best free tourist attractions in this city.

Established in 1993, this 2.5-acre garden is home to a diverse collection of plants around the world. Plus, they house various Scottish native plants. 

Meander around the beautiful Tropical House, Succulent House, wildflower meadow and the surrounding woodland area.

Inverness Botanical Garden host a variety of events throughout the year. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the garden in any season. There is a small café on site offering a great selection of cakes, sandwiches and hot and cold beverages.

20. Take a Distillery Tour

Scotland is home to over 150 whisky distilleries. Some of them are located at the doorstep of this city.

Founded in 1838, Glen Ord Distillery is one of the oldest distilleries in the Highlands. It is located on the Black Isle, around 15 miles from Inverness. They are known for producing the Singleton of Glen Ord, a rich and fruity single malt. Plus, they offer several guided tours and tastings.

If you don’t want to venture outside Inverness, then the Uilebheist Distillery & Brewery would be an excellent choice. Opened in 2023, visitors can enjoy a variety of tours and experiences here.

Whisky connoisseurs can’t miss a trip to the Glenmorangie Distillery. Established in 1843, this distillery is set on the shores of the Dornoch Firth and is famous for its single malt Scotch Whisky.

Additionally, you can also visit Tomatin Distillery and Balblair Distillery from Inverness.

21. Tuck into Delicious Food at The Mustard Seed

Located at the shore of River Ness, the Mustard Seed provides one of the best dining experiences in Inverness. You can pop here for lunch or dinner. 

Housed in a converted church, they offer delicious traditional French and Scottish dishes with modern twists and flairs using the finest local produce. Their menu changes every week. The service is prompt, and the staff are friendly. 

For lunch, they offer a two-course meal for a fixed price, and for dinner, you can choose from the a la carte menu. You will find the daily specials displayed on the board.

During our visit, we ordered halloumi cheese fry, which was delicious, followed by the chicken breast stuffed with haggis and wrapped in prosciutto ham. It gets busy during the weekends. So, advance booking is recommended.

22. Enjoy the Nightlife of Inverness

This city is home to several traditional Scottish pubs and bars, where visitors can enjoy local whiskies, craft beers, and live music. Compared to Glasgow, renowned for its legendary nightlife, Inverness has much cosier and relaxed mood.

Popular spots like Hootananny, Johnny Foxes, MacGregor’s and The Gellions are famous for their welcoming atmosphere and frequent live performances.

Located at the heart of Inverness city centre, Hootananny has earned a reputation for hosting traditional Scottish folk music performances. Over the years, several famous artists have performed here, including Mumford and Sons and Sam Fender.

Those wanting to dance the night away can participate in Ceilidh nights, offering an authentic Scottish experience.

For some traditional real ale, pop inside the Castle Tavern and Black Isle Bar. If you fancy more modern and chic vibe, visit Scotch & Rye, The Malt Room and The Snow Goose.

23. Enjoy an ice cream from Miele’s Gelateria

If you fancy some rich and creamy gelato, pop inside Miele’s Gelateria. It is the best place in Inverness to taste some delicious ice cream. Located at Church Street, this ice cream parlour has become a beloved spot for locals and tourists alike. They have an abundance of flavours to choose from.

Miele’s Gelateria is a family-owned business perfecting its recipes for generations. Their gelatos are made every day using high-quality ingredients sourced locally. They also serve gelato milkshakes, hot drinks, sandwiches, cakes and various Italian pastries. So, grab a scoop and enjoy a walk along the River Ness.

24. See a Show at the Eden Court Theatre and Cinema

Culture-loving travellers in Inverness can catch a live performance or a show at the Eden Court Theatre. Opened in 1976, it is now the largest art venue in the Scottish Highlands.

They host a mix of theatrical productions, including West End shows, local productions, and touring performances. In addition, you can enjoy dance, opera, ballet and music performances.

The cinema programme includes first-run films, art-house movies, documentaries, and special screenings. Eden Court also hosts various festivals and cultural events all year round.

Also, you can visit four gallery spaces showcasing artworks by local Scottish artists. Inside the premises, you will find a cafe, restaurant and bar.

Map of the Attractions in Inverness

Here is a map showing all the attractions mentioned in this article. Additionally, we have added a few restaurants, cafes and pubs in the city that we think you might like. Click on the link to open the Google Map. You can save the map onto your phone for later use.

When is the Best Time to Visit Inverness

June to September are perhaps the best time for visiting this city when the days are longer and the weather is relatively dry. It is also the peak tourist season. Though it’s summer, Scottish weather is notoriously unpredictable, and it can rain anytime. So, it is recommended to bring some rain jackets. Also, be aware of the midges in summer.

Late Spring and early autumn are also a good choice for visiting Inverness. During these shoulder seasons, accommodations are usually less expensive than in summer, and the weather is mild and pleasant. Though days are comparatively shorter and chances of rain increases, the colour of the landscape is stunning in the Scottish Highlands.

How Many Days to Spend in Inverness

We recommend staying for at least two to three days so that you can enjoy this lovely corner of Scotland. 

There are a wide variety of day trip choices from Inverness that are suitable for all travellers. From fairytale castles to wildlife spotting, you will want to explore all this region has to offer. 

Plus, the surrounding area of this city is a paradise for hikers. So, if you can add a few more days, that’s even better. You will be able to appreciate the area at a slower pace.

How to Reach Inverness

This Scottish city is well connected to other parts of Scotland and England. You can easily get here by public transport.

By Train: Inverness is well-connected by rail. There are direct trains from major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and London. ScotRail operates frequent services from Edinburgh and Glasgow, which take about 3.5 to 4 hours. Visitors from London can catch the overnight Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston.

By Bus: The Inverness bus station is located at Farraline Park in the city centre and is a short walking distance from various hotels and attractions. Direct bus services from Edinburgh and Glasgow take about 3.5 to 4.5 hours and are operated by Scottish Citylink and Megabus.

By Flight: Inverness Airport is located about 8 miles from the city centre, offering flights from several UK cities, including London, Manchester, and Birmingham, as well as a few European cities.

By Car: From Edinburgh and Glasgow, the journey through A9 takes about 3 to 3.5 hours. This route is very scenic and goes through the Cairngorms. Also, Inverness is connected with Aberdeen via A96 and Fort William via A82.

How to Get Around Inverness

Walking is the best way to explore this city. The city centre is compact, and most of the attractions are within walking distance from each other.

However, for some of the attractions outside Inverness City Centre, you will need to catch a local bus or train. The local bus services are mostly operated by Stagecoach. 

If you are completely relying on public transport, check the timetables and make your travel plans in advance. Over the years, we have visited Inverness and the surrounding area by public transport quite a few times.

Hiring a car is an excellent option for exploring the wider Highland area, as it will give you more freedom to visit remote locations and scenic spots at your own pace. There are several car rental companies in the city.

This travel guide highlights the best of Inverness and the surrounding regions of the Highlands. We hope it has given you some idea on how to plan your next holiday in this bustling city.

With Love, Moumita & Sankha.

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