Top Things to do in Inverness, Scotland.
The Best Inverness Attractions
Inverness or ‘Inbhir Nis’ (Gaelic) means ‘mouth of the River Ness.’ Inverness is regarded as the capital of the Highlands. The city is famed for its perfectly punchy flavours of history, romance and sensational scenery. Although a born and bred Highlander, I now take residence in Aberdeen. So unfortunately, I no longer fall into the ‘spectacular scenery’ bracket… We have done some serious digging to put together this ultimate guide on the top things to do in Inverness. There are plenty of fascinating attractions for kids and adults alike and indoor activities for when the unpredictable Scottish weather just isn’t playing ball. All of these attractions are in and around Inverness City Centre and do not require any hiking outwith this top-notch city.
So, you’re visiting Inverness? You could be hoping to meet a wild Scotsman (and there are many… trust me). Or maybe you’re hunting for Outlander vibes and need some rebellion inspiration. Or you just want the kids to give you as little grief as possible during the holidays. Well, lucky for you, we have ideas coming out of our eyeballs and this means you have a busy schedule ahead of you.
Check out these Inverness points of interest and let us know how you get on. If you are planning to visit Inverness, drop us an email and we would be happy to give you even more information about the best of the best that is Inverness. We may even be around for a dram!
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There are many castles in the Inverness area and each of them holds a wild, romantic (and sometimes bloody) Scottish past. Inverness Castle is in a perfect location for those visiting the area. The castle is unmissable and sits on a hill in the City Centre. It can be spotted from the River Ness, giving it a majestic and eye-catching exterior. There have been various successions of castle on this site.
The first Inverness castle was built of wood and was burnt down by King Robert 1, more commonly as Robert the Bruce. He was Scottish…
The second castle was built by the fourth Earl of Huntly and was taken over by the Clans Munro and Fraser, both keen supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots. A nod to the Outlander fans out there. This castle was destroyed by the Jacobite Army. They were also Scottish…
It turns out that us Scottish like to knock down our own houses to prevent other people from knocking them down. Guess it makes sense…
Unfortunately, the castle is home to the Sherriff court. This means that tourists can’t visit the castle and neither can the locals. However, if you are charged with drink driving or the like, then you are welcomed with open arms, which just seems criminal… *face palm*.
Not all is lost however, the castle still looks pretty snazzy and you can wander round the grounds. There is a big statue of Flora MacDonald and her dog at the front of the castle. Maybe one day there will be a statue of me and my dog there.
Inverness Castle Viewing Platform
September & October: Open 7 days: 11.00 – 18.00
The Inverness Castle Viewing Platform opened last year to offer tourists and Inverness enthusiasts a sweaty climb and some tidy viewing. The viewing platform celebrated it’s busiest month to date in August 2018, with 5,650 tackling the steps with a camera in hand.
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
Opening Times as follows;
Tues – Sat: 10am-5pm (April to October)
Tues – Thurs 12-4pm
Fri – Sat 11am – 4pm (November – End of March 2018)
I spent many a Saturday Afternoon in Inverness Museum as a child, partially due to the free admission and the way too many school holidays. Often, we would walk round the stuffed animals and I would secretly be bricking it in case they weren’t stuffed and tried to eat me. 26 and I’m still not convinced. This wasn’t helped by my dad jumping out on me when I was within two metres of one.
This is a lovely museum split over two floors and is an absolute delight to those interested in Scottish history, particularly the geographical formations of the Highland rock and the struggles faced during Pictish age. This is also one of the many indoor activities you can rely on when the weather is sh…owering.
There are many Pictish and Jacobite artefacts in the museum that are really old and in turn, really cool. Prepare to learn all about the Battle of Culloden, the Jacobite Risings and the questionable legend that is Bonnie Prince Charlie. You may find other Highland and Inverness points of interest in the museum. Outlander fans may as well set up camp, although I would advise against this as there are closing times in practice and you may get arrested. Hey, if you do get arrested, you might get to see the inside of Inverness Castle. Always a glass half full kinda gal.
Did I mention that they have a dress-up section? Never mind the kids, the adults absolutely must get involved. There has been many a time that I have inappropriately made the children wait in line while I dressed up in the tartan plaid and loved every second of it.
There are two galleries located on the first floor that run a serious of temporary exhibitions all year round, showcasing all kinds of local and yonder talent. A little bit of something for everyone. Who knows? You may see the next Mona Lisa.
Culloden Visitor Centre
Visiting times may vary, please check times in advance.
Dear Outlander, we would like to thank you personally for promoting our local history, tourism and things to do in Inverness, in such an outstanding way. Yours Sincerely, an Inverness enthusiast.
Culloden Battlefield is one of the most impressive Inverness points of interest. Take the opportunity to explore the marshy, atmospheric location where the Jacobites met their tragic demise at the hands of the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops.
Over 1200 of our finest men died that day in the short but deadly battle and Culloden Visitor Centre can tell you about it a number of different languages. Culloden visitor centre features a number of different tours, with an interactive exhibition featuring some of the characters involved in the battle (they are actors, the Scottish air isn’t that good). There is also a restaurant providing fine food and a shop for your to pick up a gift for granny.
For opening times and visitor information, including prices, please click here.
Culloden Moor Inn
We will be providing an insight into all the local eateries in Inverness in the coming months. However, this one had to be chucked in as it is in an excellent location for visiting Culloden Battlefield and the Clava Cairns.
Set against a fully fledged Scottish backdrop, Culloden Moor Inn (known locally as the Keppoch inn) provides hearty, big plates of homemade food. The perfect antidote to a hungry belly and the ideal energy boost for trekking onwards to Clava Cairns.
Clava Cairns are also known as the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava. The Cairns are underrated in every sense of the word and they do not get the recognition they deserve although, in fairness, visitation has increased since Outlander graced our screens. Clava Cairns is a bronze age cemetery consisting of a complex of graves, ring cairns, kerb cairns and standing stones. They are around 4000 years old, that is around 16 times older than America. This is some serious Highland History.
The best time to visit is during sunrise or sunset as the views can be absolutely breath-taking (and you can avoid tourists like Jan from Canada standing in the back of your photo or interrupting your attempted ‘stone journey.’
For the Outlander fans reading, if you are looking to meet your very own Jamie Fraser, these are the stones you want to be hanging around.
Culloden viaduct was constructed as part of the Inverness and Aviemore direct railway line. The 549 metre viaduct is the largest viaduct masonry in Scotland. It opened in 1898 and crosses the valley of the River Nairn. It can be found by walking a further 10 minutes from the Clava Cairns deeper into the country side and is bears similarities to the Harry Potter Hogwarts bridge in the Chamber of Secrets film, or Glenfinnan viaduct, as it is more commonly known.
If you haven’t skipped straight past this point then you have expressed a slight interest in exercise and for that, we applaud you. If you are visiting Inverness then you have most likely tucked in to some of the local eateries (if not, try Harry Gows – wow). We like our food and we like our portion sizes even more. This is why there are so many walks around Inverness, to help the locals keep in shape. Although in saying that, the walks are usually fairly quiet…
Culloden Woods is loaded with history as it is situated on the Battle of Culloden site. Sometimes, as the sun starts to go down in Culloden Woods, people have said they have heard the cries of Jacobite soldiers shouting ‘voooooooote SNP’…
On a more serious note, make sure you take some change with you for a wish at St. Marys Well. We are not superstitious but we aren’t willing to take any chances.
The Caledonian Canal is 60 miles long and cuts right through the famous Great Glen. It was constructed by Thomas Telford. Seeing as Inverness was such a fan of Telford’s work, they named a street after him. Telford Street, which features a Co-op Shop. In that shop, they have what is known locally, as the best bakers in the world, Harry Gows. You will order a ‘marzipan apple’ and you will not regret a second of it.
The Caledonian Canal can be explored in various ways. You can tackle it by boat (like a god), paddle boat, cycling, walking or running. If you can run the full length of the canal, the marzipan apples are on me. We would advise against swimming in the canal as it can be quite dangerous. Also, there are cousins of the Loch Ness Monster which reside there known as the Caledonian Creepers. You don’t want to be at the mercy of those bad boys.
There are areas of the Caledonian Canal that are quite popular for fishing. If you are looking for a cheap and easy way to entertain the kids, I have the perfect solution. Buy a fishing net and hold on to your child while they catch teeny little fishies at the side of the canal. This involves no scary worm hooking and kept me entertained as a child for around 25 years…
Further details for exploring the Canal can be found here.
Caledonian Canal to Dochgarroch Walk
This is a great walk for a sunny day, it is 12km long and stretches from the canal locks at Torvean in Inverness to Dochgarroch and back. The whole walk is flat and great for letting the dog off the lead. Take a picnic and stop at Dochgarroch for a munch and a photo opportunity.
There have been a few occasions where I have braved the walk out to Dochgarroch and then the blisters and laziness have kicked in and I have phoned someone to pick me up and take me home. So keep the Inverness Taxis number handy in case you have a change of heart. 01463 222222, save that number.
The Jacobite Cruise
I couldn’t resist but to share this photo. We took our dog on a Jacobite Cruise and she did everything in her power to prevent me from getting the typical Scottish travelling ‘loch in the background’ selfie. Jacobite Cruises are renowned for their Loch Ness travels. They have a number of different, comfortable boats with various tour guides and they travel over Loch Ness, stopping at Urquhart Castle for tablet, whisky and history. Ace day out!
Whin Park is the largest outdoor park in Inverness and is open 365 days a year (although in saying that, it doesn’t actually have a door to close so I guess it doesn’t really have a choice). Parking is free but limited so arrive early during weekends and holidays to avoid disappointment.
Whin Park is only a 20 minute walk from the city centre along the banks of the River Ness or through the Inverness Islands. The park has various play areas for all ages, so the big kids reading won’t be disappointed. I would advise letting the kids go before you in the queue though or you will get looks from other adults. We live in a judgemental society.
Whin Park boasts an epic boating pond slap which is located slap-bang in the middle of the park. This is a great thing to do with the kids. It has 27 boating and Paddle Boats for hire. The paddle boats are great for a quad workout, although it isn’t as easy as it looks! If you choose to hire a boating boat (ha-ha) then make sure you keep a firm grip on those oars because if you lose one then you will be stranded, kids will laugh at you and and you will be embarrassed when the boat man comes to save you in front of everyone. I am unfortunately, speaking from experience.
My granny has given me many pound coins over the year so I could relive the epic experience that is the Whin Park Miniature Railway. The trip takes a few minutes and travels over half a mile through a designated woodland area and over an iron bridge. The railway is open air so other adults will likely see you if they aren’t cool enough to hop on themselves. Give them a wave! This is a cheap, cheerful and frankly, pretty cool way to keep the kids entertained.
Inverness Aquadome and Leisure Centre
If you are looking for indoor activities or things to do with in Inverness with kids, The Aquadome is a safe bet. Inverness Leisure Centre, known locally as ‘The Aquadome’ is a superb place to visit for all ages. The combination of the wave machine, the lazy rizer and the outdoor pool along with the adrenaline-boosting flumes are sure enough to bring out the big kid you. My partner often makes it clear that we have to go to The Aquadome whilst visiting Inverness. He insists on going on the flumes about 17 times in a row and this is all fine and well but walking up all those flights is hard going on the thighs.
Top Tip – We would advise on wearing secure swimwear as some of the flumes can cause everything to go North when arriving at the bottom. Usually there are a crowd of onlookers and having to adjust your costume in front of them all, is not a laughing matter.
Inverness Ice Centre
The Ice Centre is brilliantly located beside the Aquadome and Ness Islands and has a bar which means you can send the kids down to keep themselves amused while you point and laugh. Don’t let them see you though, I still haven’t gotten over many a fall as a child.
Top Tip – Avoid trying to replicate anything you have seen on Dancing On Ice, this only ever ends in tears.
On a sunny day, Inverness comes alive. In Scotland, we like to make the most of even the slightest bit of sunshine as it doesn’t come round often. Bught Park is a large outdoor area which provides the backdrop to the Inverness Highland Games. It is situated directly beside the Ness Islands, Whin Park and The Aquadome along with Inverness Ice Centre. Why not have a kick about or bring a picnic and watch others do the hard work?
Inverness Botanic Gardens / The Floral Hall
The Botanic Gardens were opened in 1993 by Prince Edward and have been a bonnie little asset to Inverness ever since. Follow the trail around the beautiful sub-tropical gardens and green houses and take in the calm and relaxing ambience while you admire the splendid plant life and attractive waterfall. I had a summer job here when I was 14, serving up the best cheese toasties, although I think I probably I ate more toasties than I actually served. So if you are visiting, pop into the cafe. This will help me feel less guilty about the Summer where my appetite caused a loss in earnings.
Floral Hall Fishies
There is an enchanting little pond within the gardens that is home to some very touchy feely koi carp. Make sure you stick your hand in the water as they are very friendly and will give you little kisses. This is great for some comfort when you have not yet found your wild Scotsman. The Floral Hall is also one of the best indoor activities for when the weather isn’t great.
River Ness, a nearly 20 kilometre river which flows from the northern end of Loch Ness, through Loch Dochfour, through Inverness and ending in the Beauly Firth. It is the winning sight to be seen in Inverness (you can’t really miss it) and is home to both the seal and the really big fish.
In October 2007, a local fisherman caught what he thought was the Loch Ness Monster however it turned out to be a really big salmon. The weight was never recorded however and the fisherman never achieved the official record.
One of my favourite things to do in Inverness is to walk through Ness Islands before stopping at Bellfield park for a seat at the bandstand and a look out at the gorgeous greenery. Bellfield is an amazing place to relax, have a picnic or read a book on a sunny day. It is only a ten minute walk from Inverness City Centre and has a wealth of things to do. Along with a paddling pool for the kids, there are also various play areas and the most beautiful bandstand. There is also a tennis court at the back of the park which is a perfect spot to practice your backhand. Andy Murray won’t be the only tennis legend to come out of Scotland.
Ness Islands, known locally as ‘the islands’ is just across the road from Bellfield Park and within walking distance from Whin Park. The Ness Islands are a collection of small islands surrounded by acorn trees and beautiful views on to the River Ness. Access to the Ness Islands is available on either side of the river and both entrances are by suspension bridges. Bouncy bridges people! So, why not bounce on down to the Islands for an ice cream and a relaxing walk?
Craig Phadrig Forest to Clachnaharry
This is an excellent undiscovered and underrated walk and is perfect for all abilities and ages.
My parents told me when I was a kid that the woods are enchanted and home to dwarves and fairies. I choose to continue believing this as an adult because magic is real. There are lots of really pretty red and white mushrooms like the kind you see in Fairytales. These are also poisonous so look but don’t touch. If you are reading this, please share this story with your children and help me keep the magic alive.
Also, if your kids are acting up, you can tell them that the big bad wolf is going to come and get them if they don’t behave. Worked for me.
Through the trees are some amazing views over the Beauly Firth and there are remains of a 4th century vitrified fort believed to have been occupied by King Brude, Leader of the Pictish Nation. The walk begins in Scorguie (pronounced as ‘scor-gooey’) and finishes at Clachnaharry.
Inverness Cathedral / Saint Andrews Cathedral
Saint Andrews Cathedral is one of the spectacular, historic buildings situated on the banks of the River Ness. Both the exterior and the interior are tastefully designed and truly breathtaking. Even for those who are not religious, this really is a wonder to behold. The foundations were put down by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1866 and the cathedral was finished in 1869. It is the most northern cathedral in mainland Britain. For the keen photographers out there, this is a great photo opportunity. There are quite often Highland weddings held here, so keep the camera handy as we love posing for a tourist shot.
Bogbain Farm is a quirky and in turn, pretty funky venue for events on the outskirts of Inverness-shire near Inshes Retail Park. They are infamous locally for providing a whole new and unique take on the traditional wedding venue.
If weddings aren’t your thing and because turning up at a strangers wedding is just plain creepy, Bogbain Farm also host various music events as well as a whole host of activities. If you are visiting Inverness during the summer months, it is worth checking the Bogbain Farm schedule which is available here.
The Ironworks is a live music venue and conference centre in Inverness city centre. It has played homage to acts such as Kasabian, Runrig and Biffy Clyro amongst many others. There is usually at least one event on in the Ironworks at the weekend, check out the upcoming events here. I have spent many a good night in the Ironworks and if you happen to be in Inverness over New Year then the Ironworks is the place to be on Hogmanay.
Please do watch this space as we will be going into this in some serious depth over the next few months (which will involve getting drunk and writing about it, if I remember). For now, check out our Inverness Pubs post.
As a kid, I spent many a good afternoon at Rollerbowl and I don’t think I have ever won. My other-half doesn’t understand why I call all bowling ‘rollerbowl,’ regardless of location. Rollerbowl is the indoor bowling centre in Inverness with various arcade games, pool/snooker and a bar. Scottish weather can be spontaneous to say the least so this is a good option to have on hand in case the rain ruins your plans.
Hopefully you have better ball tactics than me, even pigeons have better ball tactics than I do.
Top Tip -The bar makes the bowling part even better…
Ship Space (Titanic Museum)
We are not very sure how the Titanic has ended up contributing to the Inverness tourist industry but we like random and this a great place to take the kids for an afternoon of climbing about boats, dressing up and viewing lots of different equipment and well constructed replicas.
The owner of the museum proudly presents his 1:10 scale model of the Titanic itself which took him 11 years to build. That is dedication and we love what he is doing for both children and adults alike.
Hop on Hop off City Tours
What better way to find your bearings and enjoy the Inverness breeze than on the top deck of an Inverness Sightseeing bus? Providing the weather isn’t sh…owering. With all of the activities and attractions that Inverness has to offer, you are going to want to cram in as much as possible. The famous ‘hop on hop off’ bus is the best way to get around as many sights as possible whilst not having to spent a minute worrying about travel.
Dolphin Spirit Tours
The Moray Firth is renowned for its local dolphins and if you get a warm day in Inverness then you will want to get out and see them. The only problem with dolphin tours is that dolphins don’t give you a time to meet up so you cannot guarantee that you will see them. However, boats are great fun and you will get a nice view of the coastline that many don’t. There are an abundance of bottle nosed pals in the Firth so keep your eyes peeled. You can also spot otters and herons amongst other wildlife. The Moray Firth is one of the Inverness points of interest that provides a platform for studying local wildlife.
The dolphin tours leave from the Inverness marina, therefore, you will get some great views of the 1000 metre long Kessock Bridge.
Eden Court sits on the banks of the River Ness and both an asset to Inverness and an excellent indoor activity for when the weather is Scottish. The theatre has gone through some huge renovations over recent years and looks beautiful inside and out. Along with attracting visitors from far and wide, there are also various classes and theatre groups which take to the venue to produce Invernessian Johnny Depps etc.
Musicians and shows often take to the stage to provide the audience with a first class experience. If you happen to be visiting Inverness during the winter months, be sure to catch a pantomime showing. If not for the songs then for the brilliant Invernessian banter.
Rainy-day indoor activity anyone? This is an option for when the weather is not working well with your plans. The VUE cinema is located in the Inverness Retail Park and you can check out times and listings here.
The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre
Located centrally on the banks of the River Ness, The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre is the only visitor attraction in Scotland that celebrates the world famous Highland get-up, the kilt. The history behind the Scottish dress is explored and celebrated by those who are dedicated to creating and exporting the kilt. You will not only have the opportunity to dive into the origin of the kilt but you will be able to ask the experts any questions that may come to mind. What does the Scotsman wear beneath the kilt?
The Best of Inverness
We have put serious blood, sweat and beers (literally) into this guide. We really hope that you enjoyed reading our Ultimate Guide about the top things to do in Inverness. Please feel free to share it with others. Inverness is a beautiful city with attractions for tourists and locals alike. Please feel free to leave us comments and get in contact with us if you are visiting Inverness and are looking for further information.