15 Things to Do in Inverness, Scotland

things to do in inverness scotland

Scotland is a land rich in history, a paradise where abundant stories from the past accompany every corner of the landscape. It has hidden treasures packed into its territory – ancient and medieval architectures, interesting history, outstanding wildlife, exotic cuisines, and a friendly community.

The castles alone already demonstrate the progress of culture and civilization and will take you back thousands of years ago. Every destination is a new experience for travelers and tourists.

While Glasgow and Edinburgh do attract the greatest number of tourists a year, the city of Inverness has a certain vibe to it that makes its guests crave for more. Maybe it’s the fact that it shelters the ever-famous lake monster? Or maybe because the city offers a well-balanced mix of modern convenience and outdoor recreation? Or is it because of the flavorful history behind this small, but stunning city?

Either way, the city has so much more to offer. Here is a collated list of the best things to do in Inverness when you visit Scotland.

1. Hunt for the Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness River

Visiting Inverness without seeing Loch Ness is like going to London and missing Big Ben. The 22.5-mile long river not only boasts of its stunning beauty but also of the mysterious creature that is believed to be residing within its 240-meter deep murky waters.

Nessie, as the locals fondly call the Loch Ness Monster, was first sighted way back 565AD when images of an aquatic beast carved into rocks near the loch were seen. Ever since sightings of this large, serpent-like water creature have been reported, tons of monster hunters had tried their luck to get a glimpse of the big beast.

Up to this day, tourists are attracted to the loch brought by their curiosity on the mysterious monster lurking underneath.

There is no better chance to spot Nessie than by getting on the water. A boat trip is an exciting way of exploring the mysterious waters of Loch Ness. Loch Ness cruises are always a trendy day trip, and it operates all year-round. From the water, enjoy the landscape’s historical gems, from the majestic Urquhart Castle to the Caledonian Canal, some of the wonders of the industrial age that is still present up to this day.

Whether you believe the stories or not, it’s a fantastic experience. And if you’re not lucky enough to see Nessie, the views of Loch Ness are enough consolation.

2. Stroll through Ness Islands

Take a relaxing leisure stroll along River Ness and fancy at the various attractions that are strategically situated near the riverbank. This will give you a quick insight of which tourist spot to head to next.

Not all the walks around Inverness and Loch Ness involve hiking boots and heavy bags… there are numerous shorter and gentle trails suited for a cold, evening stroll or a bright, afternoon walk with the family. A real treasure only a short brisk walk from Inverness city center are the Ness Islands.

The Ness Islands stroll will take you past several other known Inverness attractions and places of interest. Examples are the Whin Park for the young ones, Inverness Ice Center, Inverness Botanic Gardens and the Inverness Cathedral.

If the weather permits, you can also explore the little forests in Ness Islands nestled amid the river. Robust suspension bridges built during the Victorian times connect the river bank to these islands so that tourists can enjoy the lush greenery at the middle of the river.

Ness Islands also happens to be a natural park which meant that it is teeming with unspoiled wildlife just waiting to be discovered.

3. Appreciate Nature at Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery

Inverness Botanic Gardens

Explore a variety of plants and flowers in Inverness Botanical Gardens or formerly known as the Floral Hall and Gardens. Opened in 1993 by Prince Edward, admire this paradise of calm and serenity within walking distance of the bustling city.

Every season, the gardens explode with different colors and textures planted to exhibit a wide diversity of plants and growing conditions. There are also remarkable glasshouses that house the plants and present their variety ranging from the tropical rainforest plants to dry, heat-scorched desert plants.

The glasshouses inside the Botanic Gardens, like the Tropical House and the Cactus House, mimic the ambiance of the plants’ natural habitat to maintain their growing conditions and at the same time add to the whole experience. A waterfall that cascades into a pond filled with Koi carps can also be spotted inside surrounded by water plants.

Some of the locally raised plants cultivated by their gardeners are available for you to buy at great prices. The Inverness Botanic Gardens make an excellent and unwinding year-round destination, so come and treat yourself in these beautiful and well-presented gardens.

4. Watch Live Performances at Eden Court

After walking around and admiring the stunning view of River Ness, sit back and relax at Eden Court. It is situated on the riverside adjacent to Inverness Cathedral, a stunning riverside location with a view of the River Ness.

Eden Court is the best entertainment venue in the Highlands with two theatres, two cinemas, two dance studios, an aesthetically pleasing café / bar, a restaurant serving the very best local produce and a 19th-century palace and chapel.

The building is a famous attraction with over 400 live theatre performances and over 2000 cinema screenings all in a year and over 60 classes and activities weekly – plus fully accessible state-of-the-art facilities.

With all the possible activities present in just one location, you will never run out of things to do, so make sure to add Eden Court to your must-travel list in Inverness!

5. Drop by Old High St. Stephen’s Church

st. stephens church inverness
Photo by Dave Conner via Flickr

Dubbed as the oldest church and perhaps the loveliest in Inverness, the Old High St. Stephen Church offers its guests with peace of mind and serene environment, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is located at the intersection of Old Edinburgh Road and Southside Road, opposite the Crown Court Hotel.

The structure dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century during Celtic times and is still used as a place of worship up until today. Its first foundation stone was placed at the end of August 1896 and was finally completed in the Autumn of 1897 and dedicated on October 1897. You can see a plaque in the vicinity, which gives you an insight into the history and features of the church.

William Glashan states in his book entitled “Old Buildings of Inverness” that he thinks that the quality of design of St. Stephen’s Church is the best of the Inverness Churches. An architect himself has said that this church has the best architectural design so I think you wouldn’t dare miss this location.

6. Appreciate the arts at Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

The flavorful history of Inverness is what makes it exciting and mysterious. If you’re either a history person who personally wants to indulge in history or a wandering tourist who wants to learn more about the city, then look no further than the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery.

Discover the historic city of Inverness with a visit to this infamous museum and art gallery. Found right in the historic center of the town and at the foot of the Castle hill, the museum is a collection of artifacts relating to the rich history of Highland Scotland.

As Inverness’ first museum, it was opened in 1826, and since then the museum has undergone many transformations, the most recent in 2007. The building was extensively renovated with a variety of new displays and more convenient visitor facilities.

The museum is home to age-old artifacts, interactive exhibits, and a wide array of collections that attracts both the old and young visitors. It also features the rich history of Scotland itself including the Neolithic settlers, the Vikings, and the Jacobites.

On the other hand, the gallery has various art pieces for art fanatics to enjoy. After about an hour-long tour around the museum, drop by the Cobbs Teahouse (situated inside the museum as well) for some excellent afternoon tea.

7. Enjoy the Surrounding Landscape at Inverness Castle

Inverness Castle proves to be one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. Perfectly settled atop a cliff, the castle provides its guests with a breathtaking panoramic view of the town and the River Ness, with the Moray Firth on a side and the Highland hills on the other.

The castle was constructed way back the 11th century and is well-known worldwide thanks to Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although the grounds are restricted to public access, visitors can still climb up to the highest tower for a quick photo op of the entire city.

As you ascend the tower, you will pass by two floors filled with facts and trivia about Inverness’ iconic characters, Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, and Brahan Seer.

8. Enjoy a Couple of Drinks at Hootananny

What’s a visit to Inverness without some booze and good music? Hootananny provides you with just that and more. This world-renowned pub features live music and authentic Scottish food and drinks that will surely get you hooked.

Over the years, Hootananny or “Hoots” as people like to call it has been recognized and received well-deserved awards for its food, music venue and more recently, it was included in the listing in 2017 GBG.

Located in the middle of Church Street, close to the River Ness, there is excellent entertainment and live sessions of traditional Scottish music waiting for you every night until midnight at “Hoots.”

The pub serves two regular beers namely as the Black Isle Red Kite and the Black Isle Yellowhammer that folks come back for. Not only that, among the must-try delicacies are the haggis or fish and chips and many more. You will surely be immersed in authentic Scotland culture while enjoying yourself in the pub. This is the perfect Friday night getaway for you and your friends.

9. Browse through Books at Leakey’s Bookshop

Leakeys Bookshop Inverness
Photo by Immanuel Giel via Wikimedia

If the weather isn’t good for outdoor activities, there is always a place to go where guests, especially bookworms, will not get bored — the Leakey’s Bookshop. This book paradise features a wide selection of second-hand books that radiates a rustic vibe that everyone loves.

The building itself is an age-old structure and was formerly used as a Gaelic Church way back the 18th century. The bookshop never fails to attract tourists with its natural magic.

10. Shop at Victorian Market

There is no better place to shop for authentic Scotland souvenirs than the Victorian Market. This local market is a one-stop shop for everything you need and more, from souvenir shirts and key chains to a beautiful teacup to bring home.

The Victorian Market is an enclosed market in the heart of Inverness. All of the shops, cafes, and services offer a wide range and variety of quality and excellent products.

The market has been used since 1890, and its red steel arches and lanterns are definitive proof of its age-old beauty. The site will surely give tourists an unforgettable, classic shopping experience that is like no other.

Why not pay it a visit to see and admire this magnificent Victorian style building and experience a warm Highland welcome at the heart of the city.

11. Travel to 1746 at Culloden Battlefield

Blast to the past when you visit Culloden Battlefield. The site has witnessed the Battle of Culloden that was known to be the final battle that has been fought on British soil. This dated back to April 16, 1746, and saw the last attempt to restore Stuart power to the British Throne.

There are interactive exhibits in the area showcasing the significant events leading up to the actual battle. Aside from its rich history, Culloden Battlefield became a famous site because it is home to the Clan Fraser Stone and some of the scenes in the Outlander series was filmed at the site.

Inverness is so much more than these attractions and iconic sites, and its unspeakable beauty is so much more appreciated with a personal tour around this stunning city.

12. Explore Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

Immerse yourself in 1,000 years of history, glimpse a taste of medieval life and enjoy amazing views overlooking Loch Ness from the ruins of the most magnificent castle in the Highlands, the Urquhart Castle.

Inside the castle is the Grant Tower that serves a comprehensive view over the iconic loch, medieval prison cells said to have held Domhnall Donn, a legendary Gaelic bard, and splendid banquets staged in the great hall to complete the whole experience.

After the historical tour, relax and sip beverages at the café while enjoying a more comfortable view of the iconic ruins, against a backdrop of Loch Ness and the hills of the Great Glen.

Apart from the beautifully-designed architecture, the castle has a distinctly Highland heritage, and the site was a witness to some of the most dramatic events in the nation’s history that will make your visit worthwhile.

Admission Fee

Adult: 12 GBP
Concession: 9.60 GBP (show proof that you’re aged 60+ or unemployed)
Child aged 5-15: 7.20 GBP
Child under 5: Free

Operation Hours

New Year’s Day (1 January): 11am to 4.30pm
April to May: Daily from 9.30am to 5.15pm (last entry)
June to August: Daily from 9.30am to 7.15pm (last entry)
September: Daily from 9.30am to 5.15pm (last entry)
October: Daily from 9.30am to 4.15pm (last entry)
November to March: Daily from 9.30am to 3.45pm (last entry)

Contact Information

Urquhart Castle
By Drumnadrochit
Near Inverness
IV63 6XJ
Telephone: 01456 450 551

Contact ticketing@hes.scot or call 0131 668 8095 to arrange your visit.

13. Admire the Remains of Beauly Priory

Explore this ruined church in a wooded, riverside location, the Beauly Priory. Beauly means a ‘beautiful place,’ making it the perfect location for previous monks to devote themselves to worship.

Beauly Priory is one of the three monasteries founded in Scotland by monks of the Valliscaulian order around the 1230s. These monks of the Valliscaulian order came from Val-des-Choux or’ Valley of the Cabbages’ near Dijon in France, and they adhered strictly to ideals of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Today the monks’ legacy lives on, in their ruined and roofless but otherwise intact priory, still capturing the beauty of its name, perfect for your travel list.

14. Shop at Falcon Square

Surrounded by shops and restaurants, Falcon Square is the perfect place for a day of relaxing and a treat of shopping therapy.

One of the buildings located around the square, the Falcon Foundry was one of the several operating in Inverness in the nineteenth century when the iron-founding industry was part of the industrial scene. Initially, beside Inverness Railway Station, the central section was dismantled and rebuilt there and now houses a shop and a restaurant.

Aside from the shops, the main attraction is located right in the middle of Falcon Square. A thirty-seven-foot high sandstone pillar topped by a bronze unicorn and surrounded by a swooping falcon in the different stages of its flight, seen catching its prey at its lowest point. The monument was designed by the artist and sculptor Gerald Laing, who had once set up a shop himself.

With all the foundry history and the infamous unicorn statue, you would not want to miss this iconic location.

15. Stroll Along the Caledonian Canal in the Inverness Marina

Caledonian Canal
Photo by Rojabro via Wikimedia

If you are a fan of the coast life and want to experience coasting along Inverness, add the Inverness Marina to your travel list. One of Scotland’s most protected natural harbors and located in a picturesque location, which is also a home of resident dolphins throughout the Moray Firth.

Inverness Marina recognized and awarded as NMU UK Small Coastal Marina of the Year 2018, is situated seven miles southwest of Chanonry Point in the Inverness Firth. The marina is located close to the eastern entrance of the Caledonian Canal, easy access to both the Scottish northeast coast and the Scottish west coast via the canal. Inverness Marina is also honored to be a part of THYA’s Gold Anchor Award Scheme and is graded at Four Gold Anchors.

All 150 berths of the marina have sustainable electricity, water, and free WiFi. Diesel is also available and ready on site and a 75-ton travel hoist and crane for masting. The service building is also established with an organized and welcoming marina office, toilets, showers, a spacious crew room, a training room for the crew, and laundry facilities, opened in 2013.

Inverness Marina is only one mile from the railway and bus stations and the city center of Inverness where many fine restaurants and shops are located and only 15 minutes away from the Inverness airport by taxi or bus. Inverness is known to be the hub of transport connecting to all parts of the Highlands and the rest of the UK.

16. Go Fishing at Dunlichity Trout Fishery

Come and try fishing at Dunlichity Trout Fishery, located within the grounds of Dunlichity House, 8 miles south of Inverness.

The fishery is open all year unless the occurrence of bad weather and is only closed on Christmas Day. Its operating hours are from 9 am to 10 pm or as soon as it gets dark. It contains two lochans or lakes, the larger is approximately 3 acres, while the smaller one is about one acre. Both lochans are thriving with abundant brown, blue, and rainbow trout varying in size from 2lb to 10lb+.

Only Fly Fishing is available on the lochans, but it is guaranteed that tourists will enjoy the experience as proven by previous clients. It is the activity of trying to catch fish using a hook made to look like a fly or other insect to attract the fish or using barbless hooks. Not only experienced fly fishers are welcome to try fly fishing in Dunclichity Trout Fishery but also beginners.

Catch and Release tickets are available daily, and beginners can apply for lessons from fly fishing instructors to master the basics. The tuition can be organized for beginners using one of their preferred external fly-fishing instructors.  The instructors need to be communicated directly before the visit to be able to talk and plan on costs, timings, availability, etc.

All fishing activities are from the bank, and the lochans are accessible from the central car park and cottages. The fishery is also open for business events and inter-Club competitions. If you are interested in fishing for a tournament or solely just for recreation, this is the perfect place for you.

Inverness isn’t just a typical city in Scotland. It is a place filled with rich history and culture expressed in every tourist attraction. From beautifully-designed churches to modern and advanced facilities, you will never have a reason to get bored while in Inverness.

Have you been to Inverness? Do share your tips!

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15 Things to Do in Inverness, Scotland

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