Inverness is a city located in the Scottish Highlands, situated at the northeastern end of the Great Glen, where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth. Known as the “Capital of the Highlands,” Inverness is a popular tourist destination, offering visitors a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
In this travel guide, we will cover everything you need to know about Inverness, from its history and culture to its top attractions, accommodation options, and local cuisine. So, let’s get started!
History of Inverness
Inverness has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The area around Inverness was first settled by the Picts, a Celtic people who lived in Scotland from the late Iron Age to the Early Middle Ages. The Picts left behind many artifacts and standing stones, some of which can still be seen today.
In the 11th century, the area around Inverness was ruled by the Gaelic-speaking Kingdom of Moray. In 1187, King William the Lion of Scotland granted a royal charter to Inverness, making it a burgh (a type of medieval town). The charter gave the people of Inverness the right to hold markets and trade with other towns, which helped to establish the city as an important center of commerce.
In the 17th century, Inverness became a stronghold of the Jacobites, a group of Scottish rebels who supported the restoration of the Stuart dynasty to the throne of Scotland and England. In 1746, the Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Culloden, which took place just outside of Inverness. The battle marked the end of the Jacobite rebellion and the beginning of a period of repression for the Scottish Highlands.
In the 19th century, Inverness underwent a period of rapid growth, as the Industrial Revolution brought new industries and technologies to the city. Today, Inverness is a thriving city with a rich cultural heritage and a strong sense of community.
The city of Inverness has played a key role throughout Scottish history. It was the capital of the Picts in the Middle Ages, during which time St. Columba visited in 565, converting the king of the Picts to Christianity. The kingdom of Alba would later be created when the kingdoms of the Scots and Picts were united in 843. This developed into the Scotland we know today.
Two hundred years later, Macbeth is said to have murdered King Duncan in his castle in Inverness. During this era, the town was the site of many battles and skirmishes. One of the most destructive occurred when the Abbot of Arbroath had his men burn down large parts of the town. The town was burnt down a second time in 1411 by Donald, Lord of the Isles.
During the Early Modern Age, there was substantial tension between the Highlands and the Scottish crown. This was shown in 1562 when the governor refused Mary, Queen of Scots entry – an act he would go on to be hanged for. In 1746 Inverness Castle was captured by Jacobites. When they were defeated at Culloden in April, the rebels were sacked from the castle. A large fortification was built to prevent such uprisings from occurring again.
The industry of Inverness was largely related to shipbuilding from the Middle Ages, however other industries grew such as whisky distilling. By the late 20th century, industry in Inverness had been transformed. Although it was still a busy port, tourism had become a major industry in the region, in large part due to the myth of the Loch Ness monster.
Culture of Inverness
Inverness has a vibrant culture that reflects the city’s unique blend of history, tradition, and modernity. The city is known for its music, dance, and literature, as well as its warm hospitality and friendly people.
One of the most popular cultural events in Inverness is the annual Highland Games, which take place every summer. The Highland Games feature traditional Scottish sports such as caber tossing, hammer throwing, and tug-of-war, as well as music, dance, and food.
Inverness is also home to many talented musicians, who perform in the city’s pubs and clubs. The traditional music of Scotland, which includes bagpipes, fiddles, and drums, is particularly popular in Inverness.
Literature is also an important part of Inverness’s cultural heritage. The city is home to the Inverness Book Festival, which takes place every year and features readings, workshops, and talks by local and international authors.
Attractions in Inverness
Inverness is a city with a wide range of attractions, from historical landmarks to natural wonders. Here are some of the top things to see and do in Inverness:
Inverness Castle: Built in 1836, Inverness Castle is an imposing fortress that sits on a hill overlooking the city. Today, the castle serves as a courthouse and is not open to the public, but the views from the castle hill are spectacular.
Culloden Battlefield: Just outside of Inverness is the site of the Battle of Culloden, where the Jacobites were defeated in 1746. The battlefield is now a national monument, with a visitor center and a museum that tells the story of the battle.
Ness Islands: A series of small islands in the River Ness, connected by footbridges, the Ness Islands offer a peaceful escape from the bustle of the city. There are walking trails, picnic spots, and plenty of wildlife to see.
St. Andrews Cathedral: The ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral are located in the heart of Inverness, and they are a testament to the city’s medieval past. The cathedral was built in the 13th century and was once one of the most important churches in Scotland.
Loch Ness: Perhaps the most famous attraction in Inverness is Loch Ness, the largest and deepest loch in Scotland. Visitors come from all over the world to try and catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, but even if you don’t spot Nessie, the scenery around the loch is breathtaking.
Urquhart Castle: Located on the shore of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle is a ruined medieval fortress that offers stunning views of the loch and the surrounding countryside.
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery: The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery offers a fascinating look at the history and culture of the Highlands, with exhibits on everything from the Picts to the Jacobites to the modern-day city.
Eden Court Theatre: For those looking for some culture, Eden Court Theatre is the place to go. The theater hosts a variety of performances, from plays to concerts to ballets.
Whisky Distilleries: Inverness is located in the heart of whisky country, and there are several distilleries in the area that offer tours and tastings. Some of the most popular distilleries include Glen Ord, Tomatin, and Dalmore.
Accommodation in Inverness
Inverness has a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences, from luxurious hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Here are some of the best places to stay in Inverness:
Kingsmills Hotel: Located just outside of the city center, the Kingsmills Hotel is a luxurious hotel that offers comfortable rooms, a spa, and a restaurant serving delicious Scottish cuisine.
Rocpool Reserve Hotel & Chez Roux: This boutique hotel in the heart of Inverness offers stylish rooms, a restaurant overseen by renowned chef Albert Roux, and a bar with a wide selection of whiskies and cocktails.
Bunchrew House Hotel: This elegant country house hotel is located just a few miles outside of Inverness and offers luxurious rooms, beautiful gardens, and a restaurant serving locally sourced cuisine.
Black Isle Hostel: For budget-conscious travelers, the Black Isle Hostel offers affordable dormitory-style rooms and private rooms, as well as a communal kitchen and lounge.
Inverness Youth Hostel: Another great option for budget travelers, the Inverness Youth Hostel offers clean and comfortable dormitory-style rooms, as well as private rooms, a communal kitchen, and a lounge.
Food and Drink in Inverness
Inverness is a great place to sample some of the best food and drink that Scotland has to offer. Here are some of the top dishes and drinks to try in Inverness:
Haggis: Scotland’s national dish, haggis is a savory pudding made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with onions, oatmeal, and spices. It is traditionally served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes).
Cullen Skink: A creamy soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions, cullen skink is a popular dish in the Scottish Highlands.
Scotch Whisky: Inverness is located in the heart of whisky country, and there are many distilleries in the area that produce some of Scotland’s finest whiskies. Some of the most popular distilleries include Glen Ord, Tomatin, and Dalmore.
Scottish Salmon: Scotland is known for its high-quality salmon, and Inverness is no exception. Fresh salmon can be found on many restaurant menus in the city, often served with potatoes and vegetables.
Cranachan: A traditional Scottish dessert made with whipped cream, toasted oats, raspberries, and honey, cranachan is a delicious and indulgent treat that is not to be missed.
Ale and Beer: Inverness has a thriving craft beer scene, with several local breweries producing a range of ales and beers. Some of the best places to try local beer include the Black Isle Brewery and the Cromarty Brewing Company.
Highland Gin: Scotland is known for its high-quality gin, and there are several distilleries in the Inverness area that produce their own unique blends. Some of the best Highland gins include Rock Rose Gin and Loch Ness Gin.
Shopping in Inverness
Inverness has a range of shopping options to suit all tastes and budgets, from high-end boutiques to independent stores selling local crafts and souvenirs. Here are some of the best places to shop in Inverness:
Eastgate Shopping Centre: Located in the heart of the city, the Eastgate Shopping Centre is the largest shopping mall in the Highlands, with over 60 stores selling everything from fashion and beauty products to electronics and homewares.
Victorian Market: A charming covered market located in the heart of Inverness, the Victorian Market is home to a range of independent stores selling everything from handmade crafts to vintage clothing.
Inverness Farmers’ Market: Held on the first Saturday of every month, the Inverness Farmers’ Market is a great place to pick up fresh local produce, including meat, fish, cheese, and baked goods.
Castle Gallery: A contemporary art gallery located in the city centre, the Castle Gallery showcases work from local and international artists, with a particular focus on Scottish landscapes.
Leakey’s Bookshop: Housed in a former Gaelic church, Leakey’s Bookshop is one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Scotland, with over 100,000 books to choose from.
Transportation in Inverness
Inverness is well-connected to the rest of Scotland and the UK, with a range of transportation options available. Here are some of the best ways to get around Inverness:
Bus: Inverness has a good local bus network, with services operated by Stagecoach and Citylink. Buses run regularly throughout the day and can be an affordable way to get around the city.
Train: Inverness has its own train station, with regular services to destinations throughout Scotland and the UK. Trains run to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, among other destinations.
Car: Inverness is easily accessible by car, with the A9 and A82 providing direct links to the rest of Scotland. There are several car rental companies in the city, including Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis.
Taxi: Taxis are readily available in Inverness, with several local companies providing services throughout the city.
Inverness is a vibrant and historic city that offers visitors a range of attractions and activities to suit all interests and budgets. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s medieval past, sampling some of Scotland’s finest whiskies, or simply enjoying the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness has something for everyone. With a range of accommodation options, dining options.