Situated in the heart of an area of remarkable natural beauty, Inverness truly deserves its title, "Gateway to the Highlands". This friendly Scottish city is compact and easy to get around, making it the ideal choice for family vacations or city breaks.
The region is filled with fairytale castles and stately homes. Explore historic attractions like Inverness Castle or venture into the countryside to see Cawdor Castle, home to the main protagonist in 'that play' by William Shakespeare.
The city is just as appealing to sports enthusiasts, and thousands flock to the region for skiing and snowboarding on the CairnGorm Mountains at nearby Aviemore or mountain biking through majestic forests and demanding mountain trails.
Inverness is a must for foodies and there are more fine restaurants than you might expect in a city this size. Add friendly pubs and diners and the city's proximity to some of the most famous whisky distilleries in the world and you can see why more people than ever are heading to the north.
Loch Ness is just six miles south of the city and children of all ages are certain to love learning all about its legendary inhabitant at Nessieland and the Loch Ness Centre. The scenery is magnificent too and grown-ups have the added attraction of the Loch Ness Brewery nearby.
Scotch whisky is enjoyed all over the world and many of the most famous brands are made close to Inverness. The Glen Ord Distillery and Visitor Centre is the oldest in Scotland and the last on the Black Isle. It's 10 miles from Inverness and you can see distillers at work or pick up supplies of its famous 12-year-old malt. The Tomatin Distillery (13 miles), Dalmore Distillery (14 miles), and Glenmorangie Distillery (24 miles) are all within easy reach.
You're certain to be captivated by the city's dramatic outdoor spaces and there are plenty of activities available to help you make the most of them. Enjoy a round of golf at Torvean, Fairways, or Inverness Golf Club or rent a bicycle and explore the banks of the River Ness and the Ness Islands. Less energetic visitors may prefer a gentle stroll on the Caledonian Canal towpath or a drive over Moray Firth via the A9 and Kessock Bridge.
Inverness is an inspired choice at any time but the city is truly magical in winter. Pine cones, roaring log fires, and snow all add to the city's appeal and Loch Ness can be seen in all its glory. The Highlands is the home of Hogmanay; celebrate New Year with the locals at the Red Hot Highland Fling, a free open air party with pipe bands, traditional music, and dancing held at the Northern Meeting Park.
Learn all about the region's history at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery or explore some of the historic sites nearby. Visit Culloden Battlefield and Jacobite sites like Fort George where the adjacent Highlanders Museum offers a fascinating insight into the history of the Queen's Own Highlanders regiment. Explore Iron Age sites like the Clootie Well and Clava Cairns, visit Urquhart Castle, or spend the day at Cawdor Castle, home of the Thanes of Cawdor and the inspiration for Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth.
Looking over the river Ness, this iconic sandstone castle is regal and stoic. It stands on a hilltop that has been home to fortresses since the 11th century, this one having been built on top of ruins in the 19th century. Though the castle is not open to the public, it can be seen from all around Inverness, and a trip to the castle grounds offers unforgettable views over the rugged northern landscape. Nearby, visitors will find the local Museum and Art Gallery as well.
This lake is the stuff of legends, and one of the greatest points of interest in the Scottish Highlands. Years of mythology have built up around the supposed existence of the Loch Ness Monster due to the lake's staggering depth. Tourists flock from far and wide to see one of the largest lakes in Scotland for themselves. Monster or not, the landscape makes it worth the trip. Visit the Urquhart Castle for a bird's eye view.
The longish drive to Dunrobin is well worth it when you come upon the northernmost of Scotland's noble houses. This château-style construction sprawls over 189 majestic rooms in the blustery Highland terrain, terraformed into formal gardens à la française. Conical castle towers emerge crisply against the sky, making the thick-set walls look elegant, a movie-set scenery... Don't miss it!
Centuries ago, this was the bloody site of the final battle between the Jacobites and the British Government during a brutal religious civil war. Excavations of the site have revealed musket shells and pistol balls, indicating intense close-quarters fighting. Today, a visitor center near the battlefield tells the age-old story of the fighters who lost their lives here.
The true fame of Cawdor Castle comes from Shakespeare's masterpiece Macbeth. The expansive gardens, revered all throughout the nation, are ever-flourishing beside the aged 14th-century building, and a walk through the grounds brings the world-renowned plays back to life.
Inverness has two peak tourist seasons and each has its own highlights. Summer, from May to late August, is the ideal time for a Jacobite cruise of Loch Ness or a cycling and hiking vacation. The winter season runs from December to March and covers Christmas and New Year celebrations as well as the ski season at CairnGorm. If you prefer a quiet break, visit from March to April or September to November. The scenery is impressive in spring and fall and accommodation tends to be less expensive.
You can fly to Inverness Airport (INV) from several UK cities including London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. The airport is in Dalcross which is nine miles from the city center but is easily accessible by rental car or taxi. There is also a Jet Bus Service to the city center; a single ticket costs £4 and the journey takes 25 minutes.
Rail travelers will alight at Inverness railway station in the heart of the city. Direct daily trains arrive from London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow in the south and Aberdeen in the east. The famous Caledonian Sleeper service from London Euston is a popular overnight option. It's available every night except Saturday and can be booked in advance.
The A9 travels through Inverness from the north and south so it's easy to reach the city from most major cities. Take the A96 if you're coming from Aberdeen or the A82 from the southwest.
If you prefer to travel by bus, Citylink and Megabus offer services from Perth, Edinburgh, and Glasgow while Stagecoach Bluebird provides links from Aberdeen. Those coming from London and the south can travel with National Express or Megabus. Inverness Bus Station is just 10 minutes from the train station at Farraline Park and access is via Margaret Street or Academy Street.
The city attracts skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, and outdoor enthusiasts and cheap accommodation is available at Inverness Youth Hostel and Bazpackers Inverness. A dorm space in a hostel is £15 per night and a double room in a good mid-range hotel costs £45 per night. If you're planning a family vacation, try one of the city's many bed & breakfast establishments like Inverglen Guest House, Park Guest House, or Avalon Guest House. For special or romantic trips, try the Culloden House Hotel where Bonnie Prince Charlie spent the night before the Battle of Culloden in 1746, or other upmarket options like Bunchrew House Hotel or Kingsmills Hotel.
City Center - the city center lies mainly on the eastern bank of the River Ness. Highlights include the Eastgate Shopping Centre, Inverness Castle, and the Old Church to the east and St. Andrew's Cathedral, a majestic riverside building with square towers, on the west bank.
Dalneigh - Dalneigh lies between the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal. The word 'dalneigh' means 'horse field' in Gaelic and this pleasant residential district was once a farm.
Culloden - just three miles from the city, this village lies at the edge of Drumossie Moor where the famous battle took place in 1746.
Much of the older part of the city is pedestrianized and can be easily explored on foot. Local bus services operated by Stagecoach cover the city, the airport, and outlying villages. A Dayrider ticket costs £2.40 for Zone 1 (city center) or £3.80 for Zone 1 & 2 (entire city) and is valid on all Stagecoach buses in the region.
Taxis in Inverness tend to be minicabs and although they are available at the airport and station, they can't be hailed on the street. Since most local buses seem to stop at 7 pm, minicabs are a good way to get around. Fares are affordable and a typical 15-minute journey is £4 to £5.
The pedestrianized zone ends at Inverness Castle and although streets in the older part of the city tend to be short and winding, driving is straightforward in Inverness. Rental companies include Hertz, Thrifty, and Enterprise and prices start at around £14 per day. Parking is available in the city center at the Old Town Rose Street multi-storey car park as well as near the Cathedral on the opposite side of the river.
The Eastgate Shopping Centre is conveniently located in the center of the city and you'll find food, clothing, accessories, and electronics from popular UK high street brands. Independent stores and retailers are a feature of the Victorian Market and the Old Town and you can purchase everything from fishing rods and books to jewelry, Nessie soft toys, shortbread, and tartan souvenirs.
Chain supermarkets like Morrison's, Tesco, Co-op, Lidl, and Asda sell food and basics from early morning until early evening and you'll pay £0.91 for a quart of whole milk and £1.90 for 12 large eggs. Pick up cosmetics, baby care, prescriptions, and personal items from chains like Boots, Lloyds, and Superdrug or local pharmacies like Rowlands, Kinmylies, and Lochardil.
Like most Scottish cities, Inverness has its fair share of curry houses and some of the best include Rajah in Post Office Avenue and the Indian Ocean Restaurant & Takeaway on Academy Street. For contemporary dishes made with fresh, Scottish ingredients from the Highlands and Islands region, try Café 1 on Castle Street or the Riverside Restaurant on Bank Street. Expect to pay £10 for lunch in a basic cafe or £50 for dinner for two in an upscale restaurant.