Inverness Tourism Information
The northern city of Inverness in Scotland is the last major city north of the UK and acts as the gateway to the Highlands, which is ideal for those wanting to make excursions into this attractive part of the country. The town sits on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Ness, and just a few miles from the beautiful and mysterious Loch Ness, home to the legendary monster but also one of the most scenic parts of the Highlands.
Just 32 km east of Inverness, you will also find the low-key holiday resort of Nairn, with its long white beaches and championship golf course. Nearby is the magnificent Cawdor Castle that was featured in Shakespeare's Macbeth, and Fort George, one of several Hanoverian bastions erected in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745.
Inverness town centre boasts a variety of historic stone buildings, not least of which is a castle on a low cliff overlooking the River Ness and affording a good view of the area and the suspension bridges spanning the river. To add to the atmosphere, a piper plays on Castle Hill every evening during the summer. There is also a museum and art gallery, and some good shopping malls. The indoor Victorian market on Academy Street is a great place for visitors to pick up souvenirs and gifts.
There are plenty of great dining, drinking and shopping options in Inverness, spread either side of the shallow River Ness, although not as many cultural attractions as you would perhaps expect.
The city of Inverness is, however, an excellent base for exploring the wonders of the Highlands like Loch Ness, the Black Isle and Cawdor Castle. Pick up your tourist information at the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board at Castle Wynd, just off the High Street, and you will be on your way to a many memorable adventures.
Despite its location on the coast of northern Scotland, Inverness has one of the coldest winter climates in the United Kingdom. Temperatures regularly drop down to around -5°C and may even hit as low as -12°C, but it is not all as bad as it sounds. In fact, the winter weather around the city can be somewhat mild. Factors like the wind chill certainly exacerbate the cold, but if conditions are right, you can get away with a sweatshirt on milder days.
It is this unpredictability of the weather in northern Scotland that makes it essential to bring a complete range of outdoor clothing. The climate is varied year round, with rain appearing suddenly and lasting for hours until the sun shines again. You'll certainly need to bring a good raincoat and umbrella, as well as several layers of warm outerwear if you are visiting in the winter.
Thanks to its northerly latitude, Inverness enjoys the longest summer days of any major city in the UK. Daytime temperatures are pleasant and warm between April and September, with occasional rises up to 25°C F at the peak of summer. July and August are very busy due to the traditional holiday season, so you will have to deal with crowds and high room rates. Late spring and mid autumn are the best times to visit, with the climate being mild to fresh.
Most visitors to Inverness travel by coach or use train transport from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Inverness boasts its own small domestic airport with regular flights from a few cities around the UK, like London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, suiting those wishing to travel to the city in a hurry. If you arrive by plane, bus 11 provides a good connection to the city centre.
The city is easily compact enough to walk around the downtown core, where most of the shopping, dining and a few tourist attractions are located. If you need transport around town, Stagecoach busses provide multiple routes to the surrounding towns and attractions.
Taking the bus visiting the major highlights for a day of unlimited travel costs £7.00 if bought online. (Zone 2 Day Rider).
With all the amazing scenery in this part of the Scottish Highlands, you will certainly want to get out and about if you have the time, so it's also highly recommended to hire a car if you want the flexibility and time.
For a city of such antiquity and historic significance, Inverness has fewer sightseeing attractions than tourists would expect. However, the sites that it does contain are very interesting, offering a glimpse at what this Highlands town was like centuries ago.
From the famous Culloden Battlefield to castles and Bronze Age archaeological sites, there are plenty of historic attractions for tourists to experience around the Inverness area. Guided walking tours, open-top bus trips, strolls around the Ness Islands and cruises on Loch Ness are all particular highlights in this area.
✔️Tip: Since most of the attractions are outside of Inverness city centre, it's recommended that you look out for tours that can cover as many highlights as possible. This will save time if you are only visiting for a short time.
Below you can find more detailed information about the highlights on what to see whilst in Inverness:
- Inverness Castle sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness in Inverness, Scotland. The red sandstone structure, displaying an early castellated style, is the work of a few nineteenth-century architects. Originally built as a prison, it is built on the site of an 11th-century defensive structure. In April 2017 the north tower of the castle was opened to the public as a viewpoint. River Ness in Inverness, Scotland. The red sandstone structure, displaying an early castellated style, is the work of a few nineteenth-century architects. Originally built as a prison, it is built on the site of an 11th-century defensive structure. In April 2017 the north tower of the castle was opened to the public as a viewpoint.
- Culloden Battlefield: Located 11 km to the east of the city, this famous battlefield is where Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army met their final defeat in 1746. Highlights include the Graves of the Clans, the Well of the Dead, the Memorial Cairn and the towering Cumberland Stone. The visitor centre features an audiovisual presentation about the history of the battle, which was the last major fight to be fought on British soil. The entry ticket for the exhibition is £11 per adult, but the actual fields are free entrance all day. To get there you can take bus 2 from Queensgate Stop B. (limited timetables).
- Clava Cairns: The Stones of Clava are one of the most precious prehistoric sites in northern Scotland. Located about 10 km away and directly east of the city, these three rings of stones are still in place from the time they were laid out in the Neolithic period as a burial site. Also in the vicinity in nearby Craig Phadrig are the ancient remains of a fortress dating all the way back to the 4th century BC. Admission: Free. To get there, ideally you need to drive or you can walk 25 minutes from Culloden Battlefield.
- Ness Islands: The prime outdoor attraction in Inverness, the Ness Islands draw thousands of visitors all through the year and are roughly a 20-minute walk away from the castle, lying to the south. Take the leisurely stroll along the banks of the Ness River on the Great Glen Way walking path, until you reach a series of elegant Victorian footbridges that connect the islands to the riverbank. The islands are particularly green, being filled with mature pine, sycamore and beech trees. Along the way you will pass attractions like St. Andrew's Cathedral and the Eden Court Theatre. To get there, take bus 7, 14A, 16 or 107 or a 15 min walk from the city centre.
Loch Ness is the highlight of any visit to Inverness, where you can discover the history of the ancient monster tale in various ways from museums to active tours trying to find 🦕Nessie! Folklore in the Highlands has long featured stories of creatures living in the Scottish lochs, but it was not until 1933 when the Inverness Courier newspaper published an article about an alleged sighting of the Loch Ness 'Monster' that Nessie fever began.
Many sightings soon followed and the next year saw an actual photograph of the monster's head and long neck, which brought Loch Ness to the attention of the world. However, it was not until 60 years later that this photo was revealed to have been an incredibly successful and highly convincing shotOver the years there have been many attempts to track the Loch Ness Monster and find some concrete evidence of its existence. Teams of scuba divers and boats using modern sonar equipment have all been unsuccessful so far, with some convinced that Nessie lives in a deep cave, out of reach of the sonar.
Various places of interest surround the shoreline of the loch, including both Fort Augustus and Urquhart Castle. There are also a series of small villages and hamlets, such as Abriachan, Dores, Foyers, Inverfarigaig, Invermoriston, Lochend and Whitebridge. However, it is Drumnadrochit where the monster madness has resulted in the key place to visit for the permanent exhibition and a huge number of gift shops, all selling their own version of Nessie souvenirs and an endless selection of cuddly monster toys.
Activities and places of interest around Loch Ness:
- Urquhart Castle: Once one of Scotland’s largest castles, Urquhart saw great conflict during its 500 years as a medieval fortress. Control of the castle passed back and forth between the Scots and English during the Wars of Independence. The last of the government troops garrisoned here during the Jacobite Risings blew up the castle when they left. Urquhart’s iconic ruins remain, offering glimpses into medieval times and the lives of its noble residents. To get there take bus 917/919 from Inverness bus station, taking 35 minutes. Alternatively, walk from Drumnadrochit town, for 45 minutes. Tickets cost £9.60 when bought online.
Buy your tickets at: Historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/urquhart-castle
- Loch Ness cruises: Tourists visiting Drumnadrochit may like to join one of the cruises and hunt for the monster itself, using state-of-the-art sonar detection and underwater cameras. One boat, known as the 'Nessie Hunter', offers one-hour cruises and departs from the Urquhart Bay Harbour on an hourly basis, being connected to the village by minibuses. Cruises cost from £16 per person. More info at Lochness-cruises.com
✔️Tip: For another cruise on Loch Ness, you can also take it from Fort Augustus. Check below on more details on this pretty town at the bottom of the lake. The cruise here is also one hour for £15 or you can also take a speedcraft for £25.
- The Loch Ness Monster Centre / Nessieland Castle Monster Centre: Also located in Drumnadrochit, this museum helps you understand the legends, history and natural wonders of the mysterious lake. There are 7 themed areas to the experience, each telling a different story. Whilst keeping the mystery centre stage, it is the special things about Loch Ness that you cannot see by looking at it that the museums shares with its visitors. Entry ticket costs £8.45. Get there by City Link coach or local bus 17.
- Drumnadrochit: Located at the head of Urquhart Bay on the northern shore of Loch Ness, the lovely village of Drumnadrochit is popular with Loch Ness monster hunters!
The village is surrounded by the glens, Glen Urquhart and Glenmoriston. The area is rich in things to see and do with activities ranging from exploring Urquhart Castle, horse riding, cycling, cruising the length of Loch Ness and fishing trips as well as an amusement park, Nessieland, watch the documentary about the sightings of the monster throughout the ages. The attraction is also home to an adventure playground and offers cruises on Loch Ness.
The town is very pretty to walk around, enjoy a Scottish meal or snack and browse the many souvenir shops around it.Getting there is easy bus local bus 17 from Inverness bus station or taking bus 919/917 from City Link.
- Invermoriston Falls: These aren't the highest waterfalls in the region by any means, but they're a pleasant place for a short wander. The place is nice for walks in the wilderness of the countryside, photography enthusiasts and trekkers. Getting here by bus is possible only by CityLink service 919 from Inverness / Fort William.
- Fort Augustus, although small, has a lot going on! This is perhaps due to its geography. It is situated on the shore at the extreme southwestern end of Loch Ness. The village is compact, beautiful and sometimes bustling with activity. This is especially so with tourists during the high summer period! However, it’s never congested.
Boats travel north and south along the Caledonian Canal. This cuts through the centre of the village as does the road from Fort William to Inverness via a swing bridge.
A lovely tourist (and local) pastime is to sit outside a bar or restaurant with a drink or meal. Spend a lazy hour or two watching the boats of all shapes and sizes passing through the series of locks on the canal. You can also take a cruise along the Loch Ness which costs £15 per person for one hour. Getting by yourself to Fort Augustus is easy by coach, CityLink service 919 from Inverness bus station.
- Falls of Foyers: This short but spectacular walk takes in the must see sight of South Loch Ness, the Falls of Foyers, set in a dramatic gorge. The walk then continues down to the shores of Loch Ness for a short, quiet loop before returning to the cafe. Getting here is possible by local bus 16 from Inverness, but check times beforehand.
- Dores beach: is a pebble beach that stretches across Loch Ness from the village of Dores and the Dores Inn to Torr Point and has some of the most iconic views of Loch ness. It's a popular walk all through the year, in fact there is a walk across the beach, around Torr point, along the River Ness and back through the pine forests to Dores. There is a stunning view down the whole length of Loch Ness from Dores beach. Getting here by bus, take local bus 16 or 14A. (limited timetables).
✔️Tip: Rearching all the above points of interest can be difficult if you do not drive. Therefore taking a tour is the best option to see as much as possible from the area, plus this gives you good value for money and time. For £42-45 per person you can find tours, which take you to all the above places. You need to pay extra however, if you wish to take the boat tour and the visit to Urquhart Castle.
If you only take public transport, Loch Ness can be reached from Inverness, you can take bus 17 to Drumnadrochit and join the cruises which depart from this town, as well as viewing the exhibitions and shops dedicated to the monster. The trip takes 30 minutes one way from the main bus station in Inverness. But note, timetables are limited.
If you want to see the other villages and highlights, then service 919 (CityLink Coaches) provides multiple trips during the day and stops at major points of interest along the Lake before continuing to either Glasgow or Fort William.
Fort William, is the largest town in the Highlands and situated at the southern end of the Great Glen, lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain. This area is a fine location to use as a base to discover the West Highlands. It's also the destination you must reach if you want to take the famous Jacobite Steam Tour train. (see below)
This trip is highly recommended to make from Inverness (or from Glasgow), the Jacobite Steam Tour/ Trip, is described as the greatest railway journey in the world, this 84 mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes. Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain's most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis.
The train stops en route to Mallaig at the village of Glenfinnan. Beyond Glenfinnan are the beautiful villages of Lochailort, Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig. You may alight at Arisaig by request to the guard. From here, on a clear summer's day, you can see the "Small Isles" of Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna and the southern tip of Skye. The train continues on from here passing Morar and the silvery beaches used in the films "Highlander" and "Local Hero". The highlight is also to travel along the scenes that appear in the Harry Potter movies when crossing the bridge.
The final stop is Mallig, this bustling and thriving port is situated on the north west coast along the famous Road to the Isles. The town is a fascinating place where visitors can soak up the atmosphere of a working fishing port but at the same time its remote location makes is a great place to relax. Due to its strategic location, Mallaig is a great base to explore the surrounding area and is a great gateway to the Isle of Skye. Scheduled services connecting Mallaig with the island are operated by the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry and operated throughout the year.
Getting to Fort Williamsfrom Inverness is via Bus only, Taking bus 919 by CItylink, which takes just over 2 hours. Alternatively you can go from Glasgow, by train.
Fort William Photos ▼
Jacobite Steam Tour Photos ▼
Mallaig Photos ▼
Thurso and Wick and the farthest Northern towns in the UK! They provide the ultimate itinerary for anyone who is eager to cover as much as possible of their trip in the Scottish Highlands and say you have reached the most northern towns in the UK! They are also the last northern destinations for the UK national rail lines, so if you are looking for beautiful scenery and a cost effective way to travel, getting there by train is the best idea!
You will need to depart from Inverness to take the direct train to either Wick or Thurso and the trip takes 4 hours one way! Take a morning train, so you are able to get the best views!
- Thurso: is the most northerly town in mainland Scotland, Thurso is a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside. The town is a hive of lovely traditional shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Some of the places you should visit are the impressive Janet Street overlooking the River Thurso close to Thurso Bridge, the remains of the Old St Peter's Church and Thurso Beach. Check also the Swanson Gallery which hosts year round exhibitions of fine artwork.
Thurso is also a major surfing area and a premier heavy cold surf destination which hosts surfing championships, including two World Championships for Kayak surfing. The plentiful reefs, points, river mouths and beaches, on top of the consistent year-round surfing opportunities, make the location a paradise for water sports lovers.
- Wick: The former Viking settlement of Wick is the principal town in the far north of the mainland. The fishing town sits either side of the River Wick, and holds the claim to fame of once being the busiest herring port in Europe in the mid 19th century. The remains of the Castle of Old Wick, sits atop the edge of the cliffs about half a mile south of Wick Bay and overlooks the sea.
Around 3 miles north from Wick the dramatic 15th to 17th century ruins of Sinclair and Girnigoe castles rise steeply from a needle-thin promontory. There is a good clifftop walk to the castle via Noss Head Lighthouse from the tiny fishing village of Staxigoe. Visitors will encounter a wide selection of wildlife along the way including various species of seabirds and puffins and a beautiful scenic beach.
The town’s story is told in the excellent Wick Heritage Centre in Bank Row, Pulteneytown (Wick is actually two towns - Wick proper, and Pulteneytown, immediately south across the river), which contains a fascinating array of artefacts from the old fishing days.
✔️Tip: For travelling between Thurso and Wick, take bus 82 or bus X99 by Stagecoach. Trips takes 30-45 minutes for £4.50
If you are a fan of Scottish kilts, then you've come to the right place for a spot of kilt shopping. Inverness has some of the country's finest kilt and tartan shops, along with lots of other wonderful local handicrafts. And of course, being so near to Loch Ness and its world-famous monster, many tourists choose to bring back the obligatory cuddly Nessie.
Boarstone Tartans at the indoor Victorian Market shopping arcade is one of the main kilt makers in Inverness, specialising in every kind of traditional Scottish garment, from tweed caps to shooting coats and woollen scarves. Duncan Chisholm and Sons on Castle Street is another family owned kilt-making icon.
Inverness has two excellent shopping venues right in the heart of the city. Offering something to do on a wet day, the Victorian Market on Academy Street is the traditional one, and absolutely worth a visit. This charming complex was built in 1890 and has a really great vibe that matches the full range of shops inside.
The modern face of shopping in Inverness is at the flashy Eastgate Shopping Centre. Here you will find all of the usual chain shops, along with a bunch of interesting independent stores. Eastgate stands right at the end of the fun High Street pedestrian strip, which itself is packed with uniquely Scottish shops. Other streets worth exploring if you really enjoy shopping are along Church Street, Castle Street, Academy Street, Union Street and Bridge Street.
There's a full range of lodging options to suit every taste and budget, all with that warm Scottish Highlands hospitality. On the cheap end of the accommodation scale you will find a number of backpacker guest houses and youth hostels scattered around the central area of the city. While they certainly provide a good deal, you will have to sacrifice privacy and comfort. Prices for these hostels can range from £12-25 per night.
A better accommodation option is to check out one of the many small hotels, B&B's or inns in Inverness. These operators are usually family run and offer an intimate experience that you just can't get from larger chain hotels. Wherever you choose to stay, do bear in mind that July and August are always busy months, so reserving in advance is always recommended. For B&B and private Guest Houses you can expect to pay around £25-40 for a private room, but prices go up in the Summer.
Other Hotels in the city will offer marge rooms and comfortable locations from £50-80 per night.
The actual city of Inverness is small, so visiting the city itself does not require more than a few hours or a day at most. However, it's the outskirts of Inverness that bring most of the visitors and taking tours to the many points of interest can require some time, especially if you don't drive.
For a full and complete visit, including seeing the castle, taking a boat ride on Loch Ness and visiting some towns, a 3 night would be ideal.
Also many travellers, come for hiking, making Inverness their base and travelling or trekking to the other villages.
If you are visiting in the high season, remember to book always in advance, as most activities and tours do get filled up quickly. (June-September).
Inverness Photo Slide 📷