15 Things to Do in Inverness & Beyond
I was challenged to discover the best things to do in Inverness and the surrounding area by Inverness Taxis, who provided me with local recommendations and transport between the locations.
Inverness is a small city with a lot to offer. Known worldwide thanks to its proximity to the famous Loch Ness, there’s so much more to Inverness than legendary monsters. Nestled in the heart of the highlands on the banks of the River Ness, Inverness boasts the best of both worlds; a compact city and a huge highland playground. Together they provide a superabundance of cultural sights, outdoor attractions, and historic gems.
So, where do I come in? I’ve collated a lovely list for you, filled with recommendations for things to do in Inverness, and places to stay. My suggestions were gathered during my mini-mission with Inverness Taxis, and from various visits to the area over the years. Prepare for an influx of inspiration featuring; bottlenose dolphins, a magical bookshop, a weird and wonderful woodland, and a luxury lodge. LET’S GO!
Things to do Inverness.
1. Victorian Market – Queensgate, Inverness IV1 1PJ
Retail therapy becomes that bit more interesting when you veer off the high street path, in search of something a bit different. Inverness has exactly that, with its Victorian Market which dates back to 1890. Dozens of unique, independent businesses are cloistered within, offering visitors a classic and alternative shopping experience. Red steel arches and lanterns line the main thoroughfare, while the old clock leads into a circuit of brightly coloured facades. You’ll find gift shops, tea rooms, beauty buys, a florist and a joke shop.
- Open Mon – Fri 06.00 – 18.30, Sat & Sun 06.00 – 17.30
2. Leakey’s Bookshop – Church Street, Inverness IV1 1EY
This beautiful bookshop is a wonderland for bookworms. Step inside to discover an enchanting escape, which exudes charm from every book and nook. The signature scent of old book pages stimulates the senses immediately upon entry, before your eyes have had a chance to marvel the surroundings. Hundreds of second hand books flood the interior with colour, while the stained-glass windows flashback to the building’s former existence as an 18thcentury Gaelic church.
Owner Charles Leakey has created a spellbinding place, which feels far removed from the modern world as we know it. The bookshop is so magical, I was convinced I’d see Harry Potter and his pals playing on the spiral staircas.
- Open Mon – Sat 10.30 – 17.00
3. Ness Islands – Great Glen Way, Inverness IV2 4RT
If you fancy a splendid scenic stroll through the forest, you don’t even need to leave the city. Inverness has a collection of mini-isles in the middle of the River Ness, which are connected to the embankment by pretty suspension bridges. Walking around Ness Islands, you’ll forget you’re even in the city. Look out for the crazy-tall trees, a Nessie-carved log, and local fisherman trying to catch salmon and sea trout in the river.
4. Caledonian Canal
The Great Glen is a major fault line which slices through Scotland from Fort William to Inverness, with four lochs in between: Loch Linnhe, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness. In the 19thcentury, the Caledonian Canal was constructed to connect the lochs and allow safe passage for ships travelling from east to west, or vice versa. Designed by Thomas Telford, one of Scotland’s greatest engineers, the canal is as beautiful as it is practical.
Watching boats and barges come through the system of locks makes for excellent viewing, and this can be witnessed just a short walk from the centre of Inverness. Alternatively, you can venture to the opposite tip of Loch Ness, to see the impressive ladder of locks in Fort Augustus.
- Find out more about activities on the Caledonian Canal on the Scottish Canals website
5. Castle Viewpoint – Castle St, Inverness IV2 3EG
Admire the city from above, at the highest vantage point on Inverness Castle. Overlooking the bendy River Ness, the castle’s thin tower has been transformed into a new tourist attraction. The experience begins with an educational video about Inverness, before the ascent to the viewing platform reveals two floors with information about a couple of the area’s quirkiest characters: the Brahan Seer and the Loch Ness Monster. The views at the top showcase Inverness from a whole new perspective, the Highland hills on one side, and the Moray Firth on the other.
- Entry to the Castle Viewpoint is £5 per adult, £3 per child
- For more information visit the Highlife Highland website
6. Inverness Museum & Art Gallery – Castle Wynd, Inverness IV2 3EB
The Scottish Highlands are one of the world’s most unique landscapes, and the history is no less interesting. Inverness Museum explains the mind-boggling geology of the Highlands, and does a sterling job of summarising the significant periods in Scotland’s history; from Neolithic settlers and the Picts, to the Vikings and Jacobites. The exhibits feature easy-to-digest information, and excellent artifacts which make the past somewhat tangible. Thanks to places like this, I feel like I get to know my country better with every trip I go on. This museum is well worth a meander.
- Entry to the museum is free
- The opening hours are Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00 – 17.00
- For more information visit the Highlife Highland website
7. IT Tours, Drinks & Gifts – 55 Church St, Inverness IV1 1DR
If you fancy a single-malt-shaped souvenir from your trip, pop into this one-stop-shop in the centre of Inverness. Inside you’ll find local artwork and gifts, as well as very competitively priced bottles of whisky. If you can’t find your favourite tipple in stock, or you’re looking for a special bottling, Dougie, AKA ‘The Whisky Hunter’ will make it his mission to source it. The shop will shortly be offering a delivery service within the UK, for those who don’t wish to carry their purchases home – or who don’t trust themselves not to drink it before they get there!
8. Inverness Walking Tour – outside Visit Scotland on High Street
Cath Findlay is the lovely lady behind the newly launched Inverness Walking Tour. With a background in adult education, coaching and public speaking, Cath is a great guide, and excellent ambassador for Inverness. The walking tour takes in the city’s main sites and statues, as well as an obligatory walk along the River Ness. Being an Inverness local, Cath knows her stuff, and personalises the commentary with stories about her childhood and ancestors. Cath wears a red tartan hat with feathers poking out the top, so you’ll have no trouble finding her!
- Check the latest tour dates and times on the Walk Inverness Facebook page
- The Inverness Walking Tour is free; however, you are encouraged to tip if you enjoy the experience (which you will!)
Things to do outside Inverness.
9. Clootie Well – Munlochy, IV8 8PE
If you like a bit of the weird and wonderful, this superstitious site is for you. The well itself is a spring of water with a tree growing alongside, and a ‘clootie’ is a piece of cloth, a rag from an item of clothing. Together they form an ancient tradition for healing, whereby a cloth or rag is dipped in the well and tied to a nearby tree; the item of clothing may correspond to the body part where the person is suffering. As the clootie disintegrates, the person is relieved of their ailment, or so the story goes. Still used today, there’s an eerie allure about the place. Clothes, personal belongings and heartfelt messages are worn by the trees like leaves; it is quite a spooky spectacle.
- For directions, visit the Forestry Commission website
10. Boleksine House & Graveyard – General Wade’s Military Rd, IV2 6XT
Boleskine Graveyard is a historic burial ground, where many members of Clan Fraser are laid to rest. Musket ball holes can be found on one of the graves, following an altercation between a Fraser funeral party and some passing government troops, in the aftermath of Culloden. The old mort-house still stands; it was used to guard the dead from body snatchers. Perhaps more famously than the burial site, is the overlooking Boleskine House.
Notorious occultist Aleister Crowley set up home at Boleskine in 1899, using the property as a site for his rituals and meditations. Once declared the ‘the wickedest man in the world’, Crowley was linked to stories of sex magic, human sacrifice and drugs. Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Paige purchased Boleskine House in 1971, hosting parties and rituals of an occult nature. The house was later renovated as a private residence, until it was severely damaged by a fire in 2015. It is now unoccupied and inaccessible. The residence is still feared by some locals.
11. Loch Ness
A trip to Inverness would not be complete without a visit to the famous loch, which I’m sure needs no introduction. Loch Ness is one of the most famous bodies of water in the world, and for this we can thank the Loch Ness Monster – affectionately known as Nessie. There is plenty space in the loch for a monster to take up residence; it is 22.5 miles long, 788 feet (240 meters) deep, and spans a mile at its widest point.
The first sighting of the big beastie was in 565AD, by none other than St Columba. Now visitors flock from far and wide in the hope of catching a glimpse. Monster or no monster, Loch Ness is an absolute stunner, enclosed within a corridor of hills.
- For the best views of Loch Ness, visit Dores on the south side of the loch. Take a walk along the beach, read about the ‘Nessie Hunter’ who lives there, and pop into the Dores Inn for a drink
12. Chanonry Point – Fortrose IV10 8SD
Chanonry Point is a finger of land on the Black Isle, which extents out into the Moray Firth. Not only does it provide a bonnie vista out over the water, it is also a prime position for dolphin watching. What’s unique about the experience, is the proximity with which you can see these super-cute creatures. In fact, there is no better place in the country to see bottlenose dolphins. I was skeptical about spotting any at all, but the rumours are true! I was mesmerised watching a pod of them playing around so close to where I was standing.
13. Falls of Foyers – Foyers IV2 6XX
Tucked away under the south road of Loch Ness, the Falls of Foyers can be reached following a leafy woodland descent. Once frequented by leisure-loving Victorians, the waterfall cascades over the gorge from 140 feet up, plunging into a peaty pool below. The falls are such a beautiful sight, our national bard Robert Burns was inspired to write a poem about it. Keep an eye out for quotes from the poem carved into stones along the trail.
14. Invermoriston Falls – Invermoriston IV63 7YA
On the north side of Loch Ness, between Inverness and Fort Augustus, sits a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village called Invermoriston. Beyond the village car park is a short forest walk which leads down to an old folly called the Summer House. Venture inside and look out the wee window for a picture-postcard view of Invermoriston falls and bridge. Some say J.M. Barrie used to holiday in the area as a child, and that he admired the same view from the Summer House. It’s one of my favourite wee spots in Scotland, I quite believe that this scenery could inspire Neverland.
15. Outlander Locations
Inverness is bang in the middle of Outlander territory. In the TV series, the Inverness scenes were actually filmed in the village of Falkland in Fife, however Inverness has many links to the history which inspired the books/series. The area surrounding Inverness was home to Clan Fraser of Lovat, and Culloden Moor is just a few miles outside of the city. If you’d like to know more, keep an eye out for my full blog post about Outlander connections to Inverness. Coming very soon!
Where to stay in Inverness.
Achnagairn Estate – best for a treat.
If you’re looking for somewhere remote and romantic to stay, the Achnagairn Estate has got you covered. Located just outside Beauly, it is conveniently close to Inverness, yet feels a far cry from the bustle of the city. Achnagairn Castle has 24 elegant rooms, each with their own unique identity. Rooms can be booked individually or the whole castle can be hired for exclusive use; a popular choice for weddings.
As well as the castle, the estate also features a secret suburbia with seven luxury lodges. Each of the properties has five or six bedrooms, which again can be booked individually, or as a whole lodge for groups. My rather grand abode was Stag Lodge, in a room so big I could’ve easily hosted a party, or a fitness class. I sprawled across the super-sized bed, in the shape of a star-fish, windows open, listening to the rain outside. Speaking of rain, the huge showerhead and powerful pressure, was like standing in a hot downpour. I didn’t want to get out!
To top it off, the estate is also home to an amazing on-site restaurant which has recently been awarded Two Rosettes. If you want to read more about my dining experience at Table Manors in my guide to eating out in Inverness which I will be sharing shortly.
- For more information and to check prices visit the Achnagairn Estate website
Black Isle Hostel – best for a budget.
There’s a new hostel in town, and they know exactly what they’re doing. Expanding on from the Black Isle Bar with rooms on the adjacent street corner, the Black Isle Hostel has taken up residence in an old office building. The team have transformed it into a bright and welcoming backpacker haven. Everything about the hostel is fresh: the smells, the newly painted walls, and the soft carpets.
The lounge area is kitted out with comfy couches, picnic-style dining tables, second hand furniture, and enviable views of Academy Street and East Church. The dorm rooms are surprisingly spacious, as are the communal bathrooms which were squeaky clean. To top it off, the staff are lovely, chatty folk who are passionate about tourism, and giving guests the best experience. You won’t find a better budget accommodation in Inverness!
My private double room, in the separate Black Isle Bar, totally surpassed my expectations. It was spotlessly clean, with a great double bed, and a modern, en suite bathroom with shower. Downstairs, the Black Isle Bar is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. The local Black Isle Beer on draft is reason enough to visit, and that’s before I’ve even mentioned the roof terrace bar.
- For more information visit the Black Isle Hostel website
How to get to Inverness.
My favourite way to travel to Inverness is by train. The quickest direct route from Edinburgh takes just under 3.5 hours. A standard off-peak return from Edinburgh is £54, but advanced fares are often much cheaper. I recently picked up a one-way in First Class for just £10.
My trip to Inverness was sponsored by Inverness Taxis and Achnagairn Estate. I also received my overnight stay at the Black Isle Hostel on a complimentary basis. As always, all content, opinions & chaotic behaviour are my own.
What would you like to do on your visit to Inverness?