The 13 Most Interesting Things to do in Inverness, Scotland
Capital of the highlands and gateway to some of the most beautiful scenery in the Highland and Islands of Scotland, Inverness has so much to offer. A small but vibrant city, there are so many things to do in Inverness. Inverness is the Capital of the Scottish Highlands and is often used as a gateway to stunning destinations like the North Coast 500 which is considered one of the world’s most beautiful road trips.
Or perhaps you are planning a trip to the Isle of Skye with its rugged landscapes, medieval castles, picturesque fishing villages, history and outstanding scenery. But the city of Inverness itself is also worth a visit whether you want to go shopping, take a trip to a time gone by or perhaps venture a little further afield, there is something for everyone in Inverness.
- The Best Things to do in Inverness
- Shop with a difference at the Victorian Market
- Walk in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden
- Clava Cairns
- Stroll around at the Ness Islands
- Check out the views from Inverness Castle
- Listen to some live Scottish music at Hootananny
- Enjoy Inverness Cathedral
- Go hunting for the mysterious Loch Ness monster
- Stop by Dores Beach
- Leave some cloth at the Munlochy Clootie Well
- Cross the firth to the Black Isle
- Brave the cold at Nairn Beach
- Take a day trip to the Isle of Skye
- Where to stay in Inverness
The Best Things to do in Inverness
Shop with a difference at the Victorian Market
If you love to shop when visiting a new city, or perhaps the Scottish weather is leaving much to be desired then you might want to head for the Victorian Market.
Located in the heart of Inverness, you will find the covered market that dates back to the 19th century.
The Victorian Market is picturesque and filled with boutique shops selling handmade made goods and cafes offering local cuisine.
Stepping inside the market makes you feel as though you have turned back time. The traditional wooden roof and fairy lights create a cosy environment, especially on those cold snowy days.
Enjoy strolling around the gift shops, the wool shops and the traditional music shops – fancy picking up a set of bagpipes or a kilt? This is the place for you.
Walk in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden
In 1746 the Jacobite army of Prince Charlie was defeated during the Battle of Culloden by the British Army in Culloden, it was the place where the Jacobite Rising came to an end.
The Jacobites were fighting to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British throne and it was one of the most tragic battles in British history. In less than an hour 1,600 men were killed, 1,500 of them were Jacobites.
Today, you can visit the Battlefields and walk where the battle was fought, and explore the museum which provides you with an immersive experience thanks to the 360-degree theatre that puts you right in the middle of the action.
Check out the Leanach Cottage and keep your eyes peeled for some Highland Cows, find the different clans that fought at the battle and enjoy a bite to eat in the cafe or do a bit of light shopping in the gift store.
A few minutes’ drive from Culloden you can find these ancient cairns built to house the dead over 4000 years ago. A sacred place the Clava Cairns are a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery complex of passage graves; ring cairns, kerb cairns and standing stones in a beautiful setting.
Stroll around at the Ness Islands
A stroll around the gardens at Ness Islands feels as though you have left the city and stepped into a natural wonder.
The best thing to do at the Ness Islands is the three-mile circuit walk around the isles in the middle of the River Ness. On a sunny day, pack a picnic and enjoy the warm weather in peace and quiet.
If you would rather do a little more than just walking and picnicking head to Whin Park and jump in a row boat on the pond or enjoy the miniature railway.
Check out the views from Inverness Castle
Looks may be deceiving, but Inverness Castle is actually an ancient castle and has stood on top of the hill since 11AD. The castle has endured many turbulent times and as with many castles has been rebuilt over the years, once after the first Jacobite rebellion and again 10 years later, which gives us the castle we see today.
Up until 2020, the Castle was used as a courthouse but the courthouse has since closed and there are plans to open the Castle for tourism once more.
After climbing 94 steps up the North Tower you will get stunning 360-degree views over Inverness and on a clear day you will be able to see further afield into the highlands.
However, if you would prefer not to pay to ascend the North Tower you will still get beautiful views over Inverness and the River Ness from the forecourt of the Castle.
Along with the gorgeous views over Inverness, at the front of the Castle, you will also find a memorial statue of Flora MacDonald. Flora MacDonald is known for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie leave Scotland in 1746 after the Jacobites’ defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
At the moment, you are able to roam the grounds for free and for a fee you can climb the North Tower, you will need to book your tickets in advance.
Listen to some live Scottish music at Hootananny
Like most Scottish towns and cities, there are plenty of pubs in Inverness for you to choose from. However, one of the best pubs in Inverness is Hootananny – the ceilidh bar. Hootananny was voted as Scotland’s Best Live Music Venue in 2019.
If you are looking for a place to have a drink and enjoy some Celtic music or to join in the weekly ceilidh then the ground floor at Hootananny is the perfect pub for you.
Besides having a real Scottish feel and giving you the opportunity to participate in a ceilidh, one of the most unique things about Hootananny is that the pub is made up of different levels and each level has a different genre of music, from ska to hip hop there is a floor for everyone (well almost everyone).
From 6 pm each night you are able to order dinner from the menu and try some traditional Scottish food – are you brave enough to try Haggis?
Enjoy Inverness Cathedral
Across the River Ness, you will find the gothic Inverness Cathedral. The Castle is almost directly across from Inverness Castle. Interestingly, there are no cathedrals further north than the Inverness Cathedral. In 1869 construction of the Cathedral was completed and was officially the first cathedral to be built in Britain since the Reformation.
The Inverness Cathedral is still a place of worship and plays host to many wedding ceremonies and baptisms. However, visitors are more than welcome to visit the Cathedral, and it is highly recommended that you do make a visit during your trip to Inverness – there is even a cafe and a gift shop for you to peruse.
Please note: if there are weddings, mass, baptisms or other events happening the Cathedral will be closed to visitors.
Go hunting for the mysterious Loch Ness monster
One of the most popular things to do in Inverness is to take the chance to hunt down the world-famous Loch Ness Monster.
Loch Ness is the largest freshwater lake along the Great Glen at a depth of over 240 meters.
Now, if you haven’t heard of Loch Ness you are sure to have heard of Nessie, The Loch Ness Monster. The Loch Ness Monster is a creature from Scottish Folklore that came to worldwide fame in 1933. While the existence of the creature is yet to be confirmed there are many reported sightings on the Loch and on sonars.
If you want to find out the truth for yourself, take a boat tour out onto Loch Ness and keep your eyes peeled for creatures of the deep. The boats leave from either Clansman Harbour (9 miles from Inverness) or Dochgarroch Lock (5 miles from Inverness) and take you to Urquhart Castle. Urquhart Castle is a large ruin and one of the famous attractions in Inverness.
Stop by Dores Beach
You can visit Loch Ness (and maybe see Nessie) without taking a group or boat tour. Dores Beach is located 8 miles south of the city centre and provides one of the best viewpoints of Loch Ness.
On a hot summer’s day, you will find many beach goers (it is a pebble beach) lazing about on the beach and braving the freezing cold water.
If you’re not keen on dipping your toes into the freezing water you can enjoy a fantastic pub meal at Dores Inn or take a walk along the shoreline from Torr Point and Aldourie and back to the village of Dores.
Dores Beach is also home to Steve, the Nessie Hunter. Steve came to Dores beach when he was 28 and 25 years later he is still on the hunt for Nessie. If Steve is home when you visit Dores beach you can chat to him about Nessie or purchase a Nessie figurine to help keep Steve going.
Leave some cloth at the Munlochy Clootie Well
A Clootie Well is a holy well or a sacred spring that has (or usually has) a tree growing beside it. Cloth or ribbons are left by the visitor as part of a healing ritual.
There are many Clootie Wells around Scotland but the one nearest Inverness is the Munlochy Clootie Well.
Visitors to the Munlochy Clootie Well are encouraged to leave their own token but are asked to do so responsibly. Leaving something small made of pure cotton or wool is preferred as they are best for the environment.
The walk to the Well is a short and very colourful walk and will take around 15 minutes. The Woodland walk is slightly longer (30 minutes) and is a short loop that takes you around the Big Burn under the large Douglas Firs and Western hemlocks.
If you like participating in local traditions then this surely needs to be on your list of things to do in Inverness.
Cross the firth to the Black Isle
Despite the name, The Black Isle is actually a peninsula and not an island, no matter the name, the Black Isle is located just North of Inverness across The Moray Firth and is well worth a visit.
Chanory Point is the perfect place to spot a dolphin there are plenty of breweries, and distilleries (a must when you are in Scotland) and there are some beautiful waterfalls such as the Fairy Glen falls that provide the perfect place for an afternoon walk.
The Black Isle is easily reached by car or public bus, however, you can also do an organised day trip if you would prefer.
If you are visiting in August, pop on your wellies and enjoy a day at the Black Isle Show.
Brave the cold at Nairn Beach
If the rocky beach at Dores did not cure your beach needs, head out to Nairn and enjoy the soft sandy beach. From Nairn Beach, you will get stunning views across to the Black Isle.
Walk through the sand dunes or enjoy a picnic in the open grassy area. Nairn beach is popular with families and travellers, especially in the summer. On a warm summer’s day, it is the perfect place for a swim to help cool off. In the winter, it is still a lovely place to enjoy a walk or a sunset.
Occasionally along the coastline, you will be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins so make sure you keep your eyes peeled.
Take a day trip to the Isle of Skye
“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone say, could that lass be I? Merry of soul she sailed on a day over the sea to Skye” Outlander has certainly made the song almost as famous as the Isle of Skye itself.
The Isle of Skye is located one hundred miles from Inverness and if you choose to do this as a day trip, summer is the best time of year as you will have many more hours of daylight. It is possible to do this in the winter but you will have a little more time pressure.
You can also take a group tour to the Isle of Skye which ensures you see all of the things to do on the Isle of Skye.
The Isle of Skye is home to the famed Fairy Glen, and Fairy Pools at Kilt falls. Driving around the narrow roads, avoiding the heeland coos and sheep and eating haggis in a restaurant in Portree you will well and truly feel as though you are in the height of the Scottish Highlands.
If you are after some outstanding natural beauties in Scotland then this is the place for you. On your way to the Isle of Skye make sure you check out Eilean Donan Castle.
Where to stay in Inverness
Culloden House Hotel
After visiting the Culloden Battlefields it would only be right to visit the hotel where Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed the night before the Battle of Culloden.
Culloden House Hotel is one of the best hotels in Inverness with luxurious rooms and beautiful gardens for you to explore.
Even if you are not planning on staying at Culloden, it is a great place for lunch or dinner and they serve amazing afternoon teas in the lounge in front of the fireplace.
The front of the hotel is covered in Ivy and is beautiful in the summer but the changing colours make it a stunning sight in autumn.
If you are planning on visiting for a meal (or to stay) make sure you book ahead as in the summer months the hotel does book out and so does the restaurant.
Make sure to ask for the keys to the garden in the afternoon or ask if they can set you up a picnic. During the summer months before dinner listen out for the local piper playing a few tunes out the front of the hotel.
With beautiful garden views, River House features accommodation with a garden, a tennis court and barbecue facilities, around 800 m from Inverness Castle. This villa provides free private parking, a 24-hour front desk and free WiFi.
Caledonian Canal is 1.1 km from the villa, while the University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness is 4.2 km away. The nearest airport is Inverness Airport, 15 km from River House.
Featuring a bar, a shared lounge, and a garden, Lairds Lodge provides accommodation in Inverness with free WiFi and garden views. Boasting free private parking, the villa is in an area where guests can engage in activities such as hiking, cycling and darts.
The villa is equipped with 8 bedrooms, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 10 bathrooms with bathrobes and slippers. A flat-screen TV is provided. Lairds Lodge Inverness offers 4-star accommodation with a hot tub. A barbecue can be found at the accommodation, along with a terrace.
There are many things to do in Inverness and much to see and visit in the area so don’t miss it when you travel to Scotland.
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Fiona is an Australian Travel Blogger at Travelling Thirties. Fiona has volunteered in Thailand, lived in Scotland, jumped off cliffs in New Zealand, slept in treehouses and igloos in Finland and everything in between as she has spent the last ten years exploring the world she can’t wait to show you the world.