There are only 8 cities in Scotland (Dunfermline has recently joined the list), but most people would be hard-pressed to name more than 4 of them. For this reason, many of the excellent cities in the country are often overlooked.
Inverness is a great example of a Scottish city which has so much to offer, but which is so often snubbed by people who aren't aware of how much there is to see and do there. We wanted to publish a guide about Inverness for anyone planning to visit in 2023. We'll be looking at the top things to see and do there, let's get into it:
Where is Inverness?
What is there to see and do in Inverness?
As we mentioned in our introduction, there is quite a bit to see and do in Inverness. Here are some highlights:
If you want to learn more about the local history and Scottish history as a whole, then a trip to Inverness Museum is highly recommended. This vibrant museum is the oldest museum in the Highlands, and showcases the history, art, and heritage of the Highlands region through a number of fascinating exhibitions. You'll find lots of interesting artefacts here, with more than 100,000 items in the collections, as well as contemporary artworks, and more. Highlights include textiles and weapons dating from the 17th century, and plenty of prehistoric items found in the Highlands too. It's based right in the centre of the city and is very easy to get to. Learn more here - highlifehighland.com
Fort George is one of the most impressive fortifications in the UK and is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in military history. Built in the 18th century, Fort George has so many amazing areas to explore. Visitors can get up close to the well-preserved fortifications, as well as walk along the ramparts, and learn about its rich history through exhibits and displays at the museum here. We think you'll be blown away by the size and scale of Fort George, as well as how well maintained it is. Even if you're not a military geek, the panoramic views of the surrounding coastline make the visit worthwhile. Learn more about Fort George here - historicenvironment.scot
Visit Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle
We think that part of the reason Inverness is so often overlooked is that many visitors to this part of Scotland will focus on Loch Ness, which is just 30 minutes drive from the city. That isn't to say that Loch Ness isn't worth visiting - it absolutely is. You can take a cruise across the loch for a couple of hours to really take it in, and we highly recommend you do. We also recommend visiting Urquhart castle, which sits on the North shore of the loch and was one of the largest castles in Scotland. It's ruinous now, but is still very impressive to see.
If you have the time, you could also visit the lovely village of Fort Augustus, a village we recently published a guide about. Learn more about the castle and Loch Ness here - historicenvironment.scot
Clava Cairns is a must-visit for history and nature enthusiasts. Estimated to be about 4,000 years old, these ancient burial cairns offer a glimpse into the Neolithic period. The site's mystical atmosphere, standing stones, and well-preserved passage graves make it a fascinating and serene place to explore and appreciate Scotland's ancient past. It's free to visit and it's open all year round, so if you have the time then there is no excuse not to visit. Learn more about Clava Cairns here - historicenvironment.scot
Culloden Battlefield is a special and haunting place which holds significant historical importance. It marks the site of the infamous Battle of Culloden in 1746, which was the final confrontation of the Jacobite Rising. Visitors can explore the battlefield, learn about the events that unfolded, and gain insights into this pivotal moment in Scottish history. The visitor center provides immersive exhibits, ensuring a meaningful and educational experience. Learn more here - nts.org.uk
Inverness Cathedral (St. Andrew's Cathedral)
We love to recommend visiting religious buildings in our guides as they're so often stunning, and Inverness Cathedral definitely fits that description. Often referred to as St. Andrew's Cathedral, this building is definitely worth visiting, especially for people who are interested in architecture. It's a Gothic-style building which has some really interesting features, including intricate stained glass windows, ornate carvings, and the striking red colour of the red Tarradale stone used to build the cathedral. The cathedral is also said to house the most northerly peal of change-ringing bells in a church in the world. It's free to visit, but please be aware that a service could be on during your visit. Learn more here - invernesscathedral.org
Old High St Stephen's Church
In the Crown area of the city you'll find St Stephen's Church, which is smaller than St Andrew's but is still well worth a visit. Most of the church dates from the 18th century, and the building has some lovely features including the "needle” style spire and the lovely stained glass windows. We definitely feel that it's worth a look, but be advised that services are held here and you should be respectful of that. Learn more here - oldhighststephens.com
Inverness Botanic Gardens
Inverness Botanic Gardens is a delightful destination for nature lovers and plant enthusiasts. These beautiful gardens feature a wide variety of plants, including tropical species, cacti, and orchids. Visitors can explore themed gardens, enjoy peaceful walks, and appreciate the vibrant colors and fragrances. The glasshouses provide a year-round haven, making it a tranquil and educational experience for all ages. Learn more about the gardens here - highlifehighland.com
Inverness Castle is based right in the heart of the city, and is well worth visiting for its historical significance and panoramic views of the surrounding area. While the castle itself is not open to the public, the grounds offer a picturesque setting for strolling and taking in the surrounding scenery, including the River Ness and the bustling cityscape of Inverness. It serves as a symbol of the city's heritage and is a popular spot for capturing memorable photographs. Learn more here - invernesscastle.scot
Inverness Castle Viewpoint
Visiting Inverness Castle to experience the history and majesty of the building is one thing, but if you're looking for amazing views of the city then we'd highly recommend visiting the viewpoint at Inverness Castle. Based in the North Tower of the castle, the viewpoint is a special viewing station which allows you to look across the city and beyond. On a sunny day you get a really spectacular view. Even if the weather is bad or if you can't get up the stairs to the viewpoint, there's pre-recorded drone footage of the surroundings that you can enjoy from the ground floor of the castle. It typically costs around £5 for an adult and £3 for a child to access the viewpoint.
Follow the North Coast 500
The North Coast 500 is one of the best driving routes you can follow anywhere in the UK, and the route typically starts and ends at Inverness Castle. We have an entire guide about the route for anyone who wants to follow it, which you can find here - https://you-well.co.uk/north-coast-500-route/
Follow the Pictish Trail
Another excellent route which starts from Inverness is the Pictish Trail, which is typically a route that people will cycle. This route takes you from the city to Easter Ross. We have an entire guide about this route also - https://you-well.co.uk/the-pictish-trail/
Things to be aware of before visiting Inverness
As we've mentioned, Inverness is a city and there is quite a bit to see and do there, but you'll also want to allow time to explore the surrounding Highlands area if you haven't done so before. So we recommend bringing some walking clothes with, and if you do plan on following any walking routes then plan accordingly.
Getting to Inverness
Inverness has a train station which makes a number of useful connections, including to and from Edinburgh. The city is also well-connected by bus to surrounding towns and villages. Here are some useful travel links: