Lovely Inverness in Scotland is the gateway city to the stunning Scottish Highlands. But it would be a huge mistake to only have a flying visit to Inverness.
As you will see in this article, there are loads of fantastic things to do in Inverness and around the city. It definitely warrants a couple of days of your visit to Scotland at least.
26 Things to do in Inverness
Table of Contents
- 26 Things to do in Inverness
- 1. See Inverness Castle
- 2. Visit St Andrews Cathedral
- 3. Take a stroll along Ness Walk
- 4. Enjoy a Specialty Coffee
- 5. Rent a Kilt
- 6. Go shopping at Victorian Market
- 7. Search for a treasure at Leakey’s Bookshop
- 8. Visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
- 9. Explore Ness Islands
- 10. Visit Inverness Botanical gardens
- 11. Go for a cruise on Loch Ness
- 12. Urquhart Castle
- 13. Get your photo taken with Nessie
- 14. Visit Fortrose Cathedral
- 15. Enjoy the view and dolphins at Chanonry Point Lighthouse
- 16. Marvel at pretty Fairy Glen Falls
- 17. Visit the town with the most heritage buildings in Scotland
- 18. Enjoy a Scottish Whisky Tasting
- 19. Visit Beauly Firth
- 20. Eat some serious Scottish treats at the Bad Girl cake shop
- 21. See some Highland Cows while you do some shopping
- 22. Walk along Loch Ness
- 23. See the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland.
- 24. See if you can travel through time at Clava Cairns
- 25. Learn the story of Culloden Battlefield
- 26. Afternoon Tea at Ness Walk
- How to Get to Inverness and how to get around
- Where to Stay in Inverness
1. See Inverness Castle
As it is Scotland there are of course many castles to visit. Inverness Castle unsurprisingly has an amazing location on top of Inverness with the views you would expect. The castle is currently undergoing major renovations and it isn’t possible to go inside.
However, it is possible to walk around Inverness Castle and to take in the beautiful views over Loch Ness.
2. Visit St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews Cathedral, or Inverness Cathedral as it is sometimes known, sits close to the River Ness. It was the first new Protestant cathedral to be completed in the United Kingdom since the Reformation. Work on Saint Andrew’s Cathedral began in 1866 and was completed in 1869.
Inverness Cathedral has 10 bells. Their claim to fame is that they are the most northerly change-ringing bells in a church in the world.
3. Take a stroll along Ness Walk
Ness Walk is the road that runs alongside Ness River in Inverness. It is a lovely walk particularly in summer. Start your walk from just below Inverness Castle and enjoy the beautiful houses, restaurants, churches and even Ness Islands (see later in this article) as you walk and wander.
4. Enjoy a Specialty Coffee
Velocity is both a cafe and a bicycle shop in Inverness. It is a very cute café and most importantly it has very good specialty coffee. I must confess based on previous trips to Scotland I wasn’t feeling confident about finding good coffee so I was delighted to find Velocity. They also have a tasty vegan menu and it is a very cosy cafe.
5. Rent a Kilt
You can rent a kilt in Inverness! And why wouldn’t you? Imagine how much more fun your photos would be if you were wearing a kilt? Check out the giant Scotsman later in this article who took me out on a wonderful tour while I was in town (who always wears a kilt) for photographic evidence.
6. Go shopping at Victorian Market
This covered market sits right in the centre of Inverness. The Victorian Market first opened in 1870. Today it is home to shops, cafes and restaurants and even two barbers.
The market is currently being refurbished and will be opening an exciting new food mall.
7. Search for a treasure at Leakey’s Bookshop
Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop feels like something out of Harry Potter. This family owned bookshop opened in 1979 in an old Gaelic church. Leakey’s Bookshop stocks over 100,000 books and has a wonderful wood burning fire in the middle of the store.
8. Visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
If you’re keen to learn more about Inverness and the Scottish Highlands then head to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. The permanent collection of the museum covers all elements of life in the Highlands and the heritage of the area.
The galleries are a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions. Where possible local artists are featured.
Learn about Bonnie Prince Charlie, Inverness silver, or check out the museum’s fantastic collection of over 10,000 negatives and prints from all areas of the Scottish Highlands.
9. Explore Ness Islands
This small collection of natural islands sits in the middle of the River Ness only a 15 minute walk from downtown Inverness. The first bridge to the islands was built in 1828.
The islands are a wonderful burst of nature so close to the city of Inverness. Head over the suspension bridge and enjoy the sounds of the babbling brooks and seek shade under the beautiful trees. You’ll be sure to see locals walking their dogs, going for a run or fishing.
10. Visit Inverness Botanical gardens
Only a 15 minute walk from Ness Islands is another way to explore nature in Inverness, the Inverness Botanical Gardens. This is the UK’s northern most botanic garden. The gardens are a mix of ponds, a tropical house, formal gardens, a cactus house, wild flower meadow and more.
All of the plants have been raised locally and at the back of the formal gardens is the GROW project. A group of adults with special needs has transformed what was a barren patch of land into a beautiful garden.
Inverness Botanical Gardens are a charity and entrance to the gardens is free.
11. Go for a cruise on Loch Ness
Taking a cruise on Loch Ness is an absolute must do when visiting Inverness. Several companies run cruises and there is a range of options around the length of the cruise, whether it is hop on/hop off for Urquhart Castle, combined with a bus tour etc etc etc.
I went on a Jacobite cruise. My hotel was good enough to take me to the Clansman and then it was a walk under the road to get to the harbour.
Once on board, the route is printed onto the tables inside and a commentary runs during the tour filling you in on what you are seeing in the background.
The cruises have coffee, tea and snacks facilities and are very comfortable. My cruise pulled up to Urquhart Castle (which was great for photos) and allowed passengers to get off or be picked up.
12. Urquhart Castle
The ruins of Urquhart Castle have a fantastic location on Loch Ness. The castle was founded in the 13th century and played a part in the Scottish Wars of Independence in the 14th century. It went on to become a royal castle but was abandoned in the 17th century.
Urquhart Castle is one of the largest castles in area in Scotland. It is possible to climb to the top of Grant Tower and gain some great views of Loch Ness as well as the ruins.
As mentioned, many of the cruises along Loch Ness pass Urquhart Castle and offer a hop on hop off option.
13. Get your photo taken with Nessie
We have of course all heard of the Loch Ness monster. So of course you can’t leave Inverness without getting a photo with Nessie himself. I got this shot at The Clansman before heading out on my Loch Ness cruise.
14. Visit Fortrose Cathedral
Fortrose Cathedral dates back to the 13th century. This red sandstone ruin is now a scheduled landmark in Scotland. Whilst it might not be holding mass anytime soon the ruins are quite stunning and worth a visit.
15. Enjoy the view and dolphins at Chanonry Point Lighthouse
The second thing that Fortrose is best known for is its very picturesque lighthouse Chanonry Point. There are some stunning views and best of all this is a popular spot for spotting dolphins.
16. Marvel at pretty Fairy Glen Falls
Lovely Fairy Glen falls are in Rosemarkie and a short walk from the main road. The location was once used for well-dressing ceremonies. The children of the village decorated a pool next to the spring with flowers. This was said to ensure that the local fairies kept the water clean.
Fairy Glen has two twin waterfalls. It is possible to swim in the falls but gosh it would have to be very very warm outside!
17. Visit the town with the most heritage buildings in Scotland
Cromarty is at the tip of the Black Isle and this little town has more heritage buildings than any other in Scotland. The town is a mix of small cottages and more substantial buildings. Head to Church Street to see some of the most significant buildings.
18. Enjoy a Scottish Whisky Tasting
One of the most popular things to do in Inverness is a Scottish Whisky tasting. The whisky tasting can take many forms from visiting distilleries to combining tasting with some local sight seeing. If you’re going to take a whisky tour in Inverness then I highly recommend booking with Inverness Whisky Tours.
The owner of Inverness Whisky Tours is Gavin, a 6 foot 7 inch proud highlander. He is the very tall man in some of my photos in this article. His passion for the Scottish Highlands and the area is infectious. He is great fun and he wears a kilt. Plus he is great at finding quirky and different whiskys. Just let Gavin know what you like and he will find the Scottish version!
19. Visit Beauly Firth
Beauly is a very cute little village about 5 miles from Inverness. Beauly Firth is a small estuary that is the outlet for the River Beauty and the River Ness. It make for some lovely photography particularly at sunset.
And if you ever wanted to own some tweed the town of Beauly is the place to go. Campbell’s tweed shop has been outfitting most of the Highland estates as well as royalty for many years.
20. Eat some serious Scottish treats at the Bad Girl cake shop
Scotland is famous for its intense sweet treats like deep fried mars bars. If you’re keen to try some insanely rich and delicious baked treats head to the super cute Bad Girl cake shop in Beauly and get ready for a major sugar rush.
21. See some Highland Cows while you do some shopping
Seeing Highland Cows is an essential part of any trip to the Highlands. Head to Robertsons Farm Shop in the village of Beauly. This lovely store features lots of tasty local delights as well as some very nice souvenirs.
The paddocks around the shop and across the road are home to quite a few Highland Cows and in summer there is a petting zoo.
22. Walk along Loch Ness
Another way to experience the beautiful Loch Ness is to stroll along its shores. Just north of Drumnadrochit pull the car over and you will be able to walk down to the edge of Loch Ness.
23. See the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland.
Culloden Viaduct Railway Bridge is longest masonry viaduct in Scotland. I appreciate that might not sound extremely exciting but it is a very picturesque bridge and worth a stop – make sure you have your wide angle lens ready to go.
24. See if you can travel through time at Clava Cairns
I had never heard of Clava Cairns before visiting Inverness. This pre-historic site has a circular chamber tomb cairn. Cairn comes from scottish gaelic and means a man made pile of stones put together for a purpose.
Clava Cairns is said to be 4,000 years old and was a cemetery. This made it a sacred place and many ceremonies and rites have been held here for many years.
Whatever you do don’t take any of the stones with you. Firstly and foremostly to do so is strictly forbidden. The second reason is that apparently someone once did take some stones from Clava Cairns home. She ended up mailing them back as she had experienced nothing but bad luck since taking some of the stones as a souvenir.
More recently, Clava Cairns has increased in popularity due to the tv series Outlander. Clava Cairns has appeared in the show albeit with the name Craigh na Dun. The site serves as the physical place where time travel takes place on the show.
25. Learn the story of Culloden Battlefield
The battlefield of Culloden was the location of the last, and one of the most bloody, battles of the Jacobite Rising in 1745. In less than one hour 1600 people were killed, most of them Jacobites. It was the last pitched battle on British soil.
The story of the battle is a harrowing tale best told by a guide or experienced in the 360 degree battle immersion theatre. The museum on site has some of the weapons from the battle, unique artefacts and letters written just after the battle by Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
26. Afternoon Tea at Ness Walk
Afternoon tea is always a good idea and if you’re looking for a fantastic afternoon tea option whilst in Inverness head to the lovely Ness Walk hotel on the banks of the river.
Afternoon tea began with a savoury selection including a smoked salmon tart, cauliflower veloute and a selection of sandwiches.
The sweet course consisted of a scone with jam and cream, a mini lemon tart, a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake in a tall shot glass and a chocolate torte. As you would expect there was a large selection of tea on offer and for a little extra a glass of chilled champagne.
How to Get to Inverness and how to get around
Inverness International Airport is only 20 minutes from the centre of the city. There are good connections with London, Dublin and Amsterdam.
The centre of Inverness is very walkable, particularly if you are staying at Ness Walk (see below). If you want to explore some of the places in this article that are outside Inverness a tour will be needed or hire a car.
Where to Stay in Inverness
The charming Ness Walk hotel sits on the banks of Loch Ness and a is just short walk from the city centre of Inverness. It is a gorgeous five star property but what really makes Ness Walk stand out is the genuine warmth of its staff and the attention to detail.
I was picked up at Inverness Airport by the lovely Tony in a very nice car. He was waiting for me next to the baggage carousel and insisted on looking after me from the moment he saw me.
I’m not a big car person so I can only tell you that it was a lovely comfortable vehicle. I did, however, notice the soft Ness Walk branded blankets in the seat pockets that were dying to go on my knees.
My arrival at Ness Walk was wonderfully relaxed. I was taken into the drawing room and served a generous pour of champagne (Tony again) before being joined by a staff member at one of the tables.
There are 47 rooms at Ness Walk which are divided into 3 room types or suites. I stayed in a lovely Oak room that had floor to ceiling windows facing the River Ness. The room was bathed in natural light.
The fixtures and fittings were all very high end and the design is a mix of soft colours with artwork from the area. The bed was fantastic – very large and comfortable with a suitably high thread count on the sheets.
My room contained a proper coffee machine and tea as well as fresh milk in the fridge which I love. I so hate grains of whitener.
The bathroom had a separate tub as well as a walk in shower plus a heated towel rack. It is decked out in shades of grey and featured Arran toiletries.
The wardrobe was home to plus bathrobes and slippers of which I made good use.
It was quite rainy while I was there but the windows still allowed in loads of natural light and made the room a lovely place to be at all times of day.
On to the food. Torrish is the restaurant at Ness Walk. It is named after the salmon fly commonly used by fishermen along the River Ness. The cuisine is modern european and heavy on local sourcing.
For dinner I enjoyed the Orkney hand dived scallops followed by the seared Scottish halibut accompanied with delicious big fat chips. Dessert was a deconstructued lemon meringue pie.
In addition to the more formal dining room, casual dining is also available in the bar with an offering of sandwiches and lighter fare. I had the tempura cod with chips which was perfect as a relatively light dinner
When I visited a pop up restaurant was open in the grounds of the hotel on weekends. Bruach focuses on cocktails and street food and looked great. I was visiting during the week so alas wasn’t able to try it for myself.
Unsurprisingly for a high end hotel in Scotland, breakfast was perhaps the best meal of the day. First up was an extensive high quality continental offer including pastries, local yoghurt, fruit etc.
There as a very impressive mix of hot disshes also available from the full Scottish breakfast of course (or a vegetarian version), grilled kippers, eggs benedict, french toast and more.
I decided to try the chargrilled sourdough with highland fruit pudding, spiced pear chutney, parma ham crumb with a soft fried egg. I had never seen this on a menu before so had to try it. It was tasty and different – not sure I would order it again but glad I tried it.
Morning two I enjoyed the vegetarian breakfast – although I did substitute the veggie sausage for a pork one – I can’t resist a Scottish sausage and I was well rewarded.
In addition to my wonderful room and eating, the staff at Ness Walk were just a delight. They manage to always check on you without it feeling intrusive. Staff are more than happy to organise activities for guests like cruises and happy to take care of drop off and pick ups.
I felt so well looked after at Ness Walk and it appeared genuine. I was quite sad to leave after my lovely two night stay and highly recommend you stay at Ness Walk when in Inverness.
Ness Walk were kind enough to cover the cost of my stay with them as well as breakfast, one dinner and afternoon tea – thanks! Inverness Whisky Tours gave me their amazing tour for free. I paid for my flight to Inverness and train ticket to Edinburgh and everything else I haven’t mentioned so far.
However, as always my opinions are my own. Also, this things to do in Inverness post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.