Inverness attracts visitors not only for what it has to offer but also because it serves as the perfect gateway to the Scottish Highlands.
It’s a region where you will find ancient castles, sparkling rivers and lochs and much more.
Often regarded as the ‘capital’ of the Scottish Highlands, the city sits astride a network of road and rail links and is very much the hub of the Highland region.
It lies around 160 miles from Edinburgh and a little more from Glasgow.
For those arriving from further afield, Inverness Airport allows easy access to all the regional attractions.
The city attracts visitors not only for what it has to offer but also because it’s an excellent starting point for some wonderful onward journeys.
Inverness serves as a gateway to the wider Highland region where you will find ancient castles, sparkling rivers and lochs, whisky distilleries, majestic scenery and much more.
What to see and do in Inverness and Nearby
This page gives an overview of Inverness and some of its best-known attractions. Also included are some places to visit outside the city but within easy travelling distance.
Find more information about Inverness from Visit Scotland.
In addition, there are in-page links to authoritative sites which also provide further information.
At the bottom of the page are links to further regional (Scottish Highlands) information from Truly Edinburgh.
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
For a general overview of the development of the city, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is a good place to start.
The museum has a range of galleries and exhibitions catering to various interests. Together they tell the story of the Inverness and the Scottish Highlands.
With guided tours, art classes, and a popular cafe and gift shop, the museum and art gallery promises an unforgettable experience for all ages.
- Visit the official Museum & Gallery website for more information.
Inverness Castle comprises two castellated buildings. It was built in the 1830s and dominates the city skyline.
It overlooks the River Ness but stands. not a defensive structure, as you might imagine. It was used more recently for civic purposes (County buildings.
Currently, the castle is undergoing a multi-million-pound transformation to convert it into a visitor centre, due to open in 2025.
The earlier history of the site is much more interesting.
However, there is considerable debate among scholars about the history of the castle. Was it King David I, son of Malcolm III and Queen Margaret (later St Margaret) who constructed the first castle on the site?
Records also show that Mary Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, to name only a few, were associated in some way, with the castle.
- Historic Environment Scotland (Canmore) has some notes on these characters.
- For historical sleuths keen to know more about the castle this excellent Preliminary Historical Account written by Dr Aonghus MacKechnie (Historic Scotland, 2014 is a good place to start
St Columba & Craig Phadrig
Turning the clock back to c.300 BC, an Iron Age hill fort was established on Craig Phadrig a wooded area on what is now the western edge of Inverness.
Later occupied by the Picts in the 6th century AD, legend tells us that it was the stronghold of Brude, king of the Picts.
This ancient place was where Brude met and was converted to Christianity by St Columba.
Columba had travelled to the Highlands from his monastery on the Island of Iona.
Historic Environment Scotland says ” The fort occupies the summit of a prominent wooded hill.
“It has two more or less concentric ramparts enclosing a grass-grown subrectangular area some 80m long.
“The fort and its ramparts are clear of trees, and there are glimpses of the originally extensive views over Inverness and the Beauly Firth.”
Citadel of Inverness
In 1652, during the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell built a fort which became known as the Citadel of Inverness.
Completed in 1658, it occupied land between what is now Shore Street and the river.
It was a fairly substantial building with accommodation for around 1,000 soldiers in two, four-storey buildings, and ample storage space for arms and ammunition. It was surrounded by ditches on three sides and the river on the fourth.
The citadel was demolished on the restoration of Charles II.
Eden Court: Inverness
Eden Court, a few minutes walk from the city centre, houses the largest theatre in the Highlands and Islands along with a cinema and other arts-related facilities.
Leakey’s Bookshop, definitely one of a kind, is a fantastic place to visit is housed in a former 17th-century Gaelic church, complete with stained glass windows and a pulpit.
This independent bookshop, possibly the largest secondhand bookshop in Scotland, has many thousands of used books, as well as a cafe. It is located on Church Street in the city centre.
Fort George, today is a Historic Environment Scotland (HES) property.
This formidable 18th-century fortress is situated in Ardersier, on the edge of the Moray Firth about 14 miles from Inverness.
Constructed in the wake of the Jacobite uprising of 1746, it stands as a stark testament to British military dominance in the aftermath of the rebellion.
Work continued on Fort George until 1769 but by that time the Highlands of Scotland were peaceful however the fort was maintained, ready for action which never came.
It is also still a fully functioning British army base. It is say Historic Environment Scotland, “The only ancient monument in Scotland still functioning as intended, a working army barracks, but still welcoming visitors.”
- More information about Fort George from Historic Environment Scotland.
- The Highlanders’ Museum located within the fort also tells the story of Fort George.
Culloden Battlefield: National Trust for Scotland
Visiting Culloden Battlefield, about 6 miles from Inverness, can be a powerful and thought-provoking experience. This windswept moor is the site of one of the most defining battles in Scottish history. It lies around 7 miles from Inverness.
In 1746, in the last pitched battle on British soil, the Jacobite army was defeated at the Battle of Culloden by government forces under the command of the Duke of Cumberland.
Today the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) manages the site. The onsite visitor centre tells the story of the Jacobite uprising and the battle.
North Coast 500 (NC500)
Bealach na ba, Applecross Peninsula
The North Coast 500, more commonly known as the NC500, is more than just a road trip; it’s an immersive journey through the Scottish Highlands.
This 516-mile circular route opened in 2015, continues to captivate travellers with its beautiful landscapes, rich history, and vibrant coastal communities.
The NC 500 route begins in Inverness, although there is no reason why you can’t join at any point along the route.
For all those malt whisky aficionados, both the Highland and Speyside Scotch Whisky Regions have lots of distilleries and drams to choose from. It makes Inverness the perfect starting point.
Inverness & the Caledonian Canal
Inverness’s location on the banks of the River Ness gives easy access to Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal.
The beautiful Caledonian Canal begins its journey north at Corpach near Fort William.
From end to end, the canal which measures around 60 miles in length winds its way through a series of lochs and man-made sections.
The city is also the starting or finishing point of the Great Glen Way one of Scotland’s Great Trails and the Great Glen Canoe Trail.
The beauty of Inverness city centre is its compact nature, ideal to explore on foot. There are plenty of hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts in Inverness but during the summer it’s wise to book ahead.
Also available are a wide range of pubs and restaurants. For the shopaholics, the Eastgate Centre has many of the High Street names but for the smaller more personal approach to shopping the Victorian Market is a great place to visit.
About the Scottish Highlands?
To explore the Highlands and islands of Scotland is an experience like no other. With a history that stretches over millennia, people who once called this part of Scotland home have left their mark for the modern traveller to wonder at.
It’s a region of rivers, lochs and walking trails, a region with castles, crannogs and long lonely glens.
It is, thank goodness, a region where tradition remains important and can be seen in all sorts of ways.
From the unique sound of the bagpipe, fiddle and accordion at a Scottish ceilidh to some of the ‘old ways’ still on show at Highland distilleries.
But it’s not all about days gone by, it’s about gastronomy and sport and festivals and having fun.
It’s also about Scotch whisky, without the e, of course.
Asked to describe the Scottish Highlands in geographical terms is not always an easy question to answer precisely.
However, it’s generally accepted that the term ‘Scottish Highlands’ refers to the large section of Scotland that is north-west of the Highland Boundary Fault.
The fault runs in a diagonal line from, approximately, the Clyde coast in the west to near Stonehaven in the north east of Scotland.
More Information about Inverness and beyond from Visit Scotland
- The Visit Scotland tourist information office, the InvernessICentre is located in the centre of the city. Go to the Visit Scotland, Inverness page for more information.