Throughout Inverness’ turbulent past, the city was burned and ravaged by the restive Highland clans competing for dominance, leaving only a decorative wall panel and a fragment of tower as relics of its ancient past.
The city is impeccably situated amid the many wonders of Scotland’s wild northern glens and lochs, and this urban hub has an ever-expanding range of restaurants, excellent pubs, and a well-equipped visitor centre to cope with its status as heart of the Highlands.
One of the best local attractions is the Moray Firth where you can spend a delightful day on the water seeking the famous bottlenose dolphins that frolic here. A visit to the pink, crenellated castle is a must, and if you’re lucky, you might catch the town hosting the famous Highland Games.
South-west of Inverness is one of Scotland’s most famous sights: Loch Ness, home of the world’s favourite lake leviathan, stretches for 37 kilometres between Inverness and Fort Augustus. If you don’t spot the real Nessie, you can always have your picture taken with her cardboard cut-out.
Inverness boasts some pretty amazing history, from a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery complex to the Jacobite battlefield of Culloden Battlefield. Here are a couple of must-see's when you're in this part of the country.
Standing high above Inverness is Inverness Castle. The striking red brick castle dates from 1836, although a castle has occupied this high strategic site since the 11th century. The Castle Viewpoint is a new attraction that opened in 2017, and offers fabulous 360-degree views of the city and the surrounding scenery.
Shakespeare's Macbeth was Thane of Cawdor, but the sense of history that exists within the turreted walls of Cawdor Castle is more than fictional. Dating from the 14th century, the ancient castle, which is home to the Cawdor family to this day, has evolved over 600 years and has been lovingly filled with beautiful furniture, fine portraits, intriguing objects and amazing tapestries. If you're feeling peckish, the Courtyard Cafe, located in the old servants quarters, can whip you up a batch of fresh scones served up with jam and cream ... mmmm.
Fort George is one of Europe’s most outstanding fortifications, and has served Britain’s army for almost 250 years, and still houses a British Army Infantry Battalion. The fort is also home to the Highlanders Museum, Scotland’s largest regimental museum outside of Edinburgh. Walk around the main rampart, more than 1km in length, and visit the historic barrack rooms to see a graphic recreation of soldiers’ living conditions in centuries gone by.
The Clava cairns are a group of three Bronze Age cairns, which are a cemetery complex of passage graves; ring cairns, kerb cairns and standing stones. This well-preserved site dates back about 4000 years.
From bloody battles to the first Loch Ness monster sighting, the history of Inverness, Loch Ness and the surrounding region is a fascinating and varied one.
Loch Ness is the largest body of fresh water by volume in Britain and it holds more water than all the lakes and reservoirs in England and Wales put together. Of course the loch is most famous for the Loch Ness Monster, or 'Nessie'. The first recorded sighting of Nessie was by Saint Columba in 565AD!
Since an article published in 1933 wrote of a ‘Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness’ – more specifically a creature that was ‘rolling and plunging for fully a minute, its body resembling that of a whale, and the water cascading and churning like a simmering cauldron’ – it’s been impossible to say the words Loch Ness’ without immediately thinking ‘monster’. Pay a visit to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition at Drumnadrochit, where you can travel through seven themed rooms, tracing the mystery as far back as 500 million years. Watch underwater films, see photos, hear eye-witness accounts of sightings and make your own mind up about whether there’s more to the loch than meets the eye.
While you're at Drumnadrochit, take some time to visit Urquhart Castle, located in a prime position right on the banks of Loch Ness. Though now in ruins, it is still an impressive sight. There is a visitor centre that brings the castle's past back to life through its exhibition, audio-visual display and showcase of medieval treasures that were found at the castle. There’s always time for a bit of Nessie-hunting too, so head to the Grant Tower for beautiful views over the Loch. More views can be enjoyed from the onsite cafe.
Culloden & Fort George
The battle of Culloden was the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite rising and the last battle to be held on British soil. The battle took place on 16 April 1746 but is still very fresh in the minds of the Scottish people as England pressed its dominance over them once and for all. It can be a spooky place when you know the history. The Jacobite army chose an extremely unfavourable place to engage the English and suffered 1500 killed or injured, while the British only had about 300 casualties. The battle still arouses strong feelings, and is an important part of the narrative for those supporting Scottish independence.
You can visit the moorland where the 68 minute battle took place and learn all about it at the impressive Visitor Centre, where you can take part in a Living History presentation that brings the battle to life.
Following on from Culloden, visit Fort George, the fortress that was built in the wake of the famed battle as a base for King George II’s army. By the time it was finished – 21 years after building began – the Jacobite threat had almost completely disappeared.
The Stunning Scenery of the Highlands
Inverness is the northernmost city in the British Isles and serves as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, and Inverness makes a great base to explore this area. The region is blessed with big open skies, vast lochs, a colourful history, welcoming inhabitants and some of the finest whisky in the land. The Highlands also is home to the largest national park in the UK, the Cairngorms, and the tallest peak in the isles, Ben Nevis. The best way to do discover the best of this region is by car, particularly if you have limited time.
The Glencoe route is a great drive, and you can do it in one day from Inverness. Drive through quaint villages and passed lovely lochs before arriving at the foot of the glen for some spectacular photo opportunities.
Drive to the seaside town of Dornoch, only an hour from Inverness, for great ocean views, and if you're lucky, bottlenose dolphins and seals playing in the sea. Spend some time in Dornoch town, with its medieval town centre and cathedral. You'll also find a good range of places to eat and shop here.
One of the best drives in Scotland is the Loch Ness Circuit, which starts and finishes in Inverness. Here, you can circumnavigate this spectacular loch which is just over 35km in length. Be on the lookout for the famous Loch Ness Monster. Also, it’s worth stopping off at one of the nearby local villages like Drumnadrochit, or visiting attractions such as Urquhart Castle.
The Infinity Experience
The Clava Cairns
The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition