When you combine an ancient mystery with outstanding natural beauty and men in kilts, you have Inverness, one of the most beautiful cities in the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is the super-cool gateway to the Highlands and a place I thoroughly enjoy visiting!
Originally inhabited by the Picts during the Iron Age, Inverness holds a strategic location on the River Ness at the entrance to the Loch. During ancient times, waterways were the most convenient mode of travel and transport so Inverness was particularly well-sited between the North Sea and the interior of Scotland via the Loch.
The most famous local resident!
There are a few ways you can reach Inverness. The first is by flying into Inverness Airport. There are daily flights from London. The airport is about twenty minutes from downtown and can be reached via bus or taxi. Glasgow is the nearest large airport and there is a frequent train from Glasgow to Inverness that takes four hours travelling through some of the most scenic countryside anywhere in the world!
Here’s a pro-tip: Renting a car in the Highlands is the perfect way to explore the countryside and everything that Inverness and the surrounding area has to offer. It is also considered one of the most beautiful road trips in the world. You can easily rent a car from one of the many agents in Glasgow, Edinburgh or even Inverness.
Inverness and the Scottish Highlands are a magical landscape that begs to be explored. These are the spots I recommend you do not miss:
- Loch Ness– needing little introduction; this is the most famous loch in the world due to a certain, possibly-mythical monster. Fondly known as “Nessie” to locals, it’s a creature deeply rooted in folklore of the region. The first report of the monster was in the 6th Century CE in the annals of St. Columba. Even if you don’t believe in Nessie, Loch Ness, close to Inverness, is an area of outstanding beauty.
- Inverness Castle – On a cliff, overlooking the River Ness you’ll find this beautiful, nineteenth century, sandstone castle which is on the site of the earlier castle of Malcolm III. The Castle Viewpoint is an excellent addition to this site. Climb the tower to see 360-degree views of the city and surrounding scenery.
Rook takes Macbeth’s Queen!
- Cawdor Castle and Gardens– was built around the 15th century and was home to the Thane of Cawdor, who was famously mentioned in William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth. It has been wonderfully preserved, with its façade intact, and period rooms ready for exploring.
- Craig Phadraig and Ord Hill –These are two examples of Scottish vitrified forts. These Iron Age strongholds, built between 700 and 300 BCE, had walls made without mortar with the raw rock burnt until it melted into a glass-like substance. No one knows why the ancients used this method of construction but it may have been just for beauty: the walls of such forts would have sparkled in the sunlight.
- RZSS Highland Wildlife Park– This wonderful conservation park focuses on native Scottish wildlife as well as other cold weather animals like polar bears. You can see beautiful native grey wolves and witness an amazing wildcat breeding program which has received worldwide praise for saving the Highland cats from extinction.
- Fairy Glen– Most of the Highlands feels magical but one spot always seems like it was home to fairies, with its picturesque waterfalls and gorgeous woodland. The children of the village even used to decorate the pond with flowers for the resident fairies.
- Glenmorangie Distillery– This is the most famous whisky distillery in the area, founded in 1843. The copper stills in which their whisky is distilled are the tallest in Scotland. The resulting liquor is fruity and there’s no better place for a taste than the visitor’s centre.
- Eden Court Highlands– If your lucky you can catch one of the several shows at this amazing arts venue. It has two theatres, two cinema screens, and three galleries with shows ranging from comedy to ballet and live music to lectures.
- Leakey’s bookshop– this is one of the largest bookshops in Scotland. If, like me, you love losing yourself in a good book then you need to add Leakey’s to your itinerary. It’s built inside a former church and the shop stocks everything from rare prints and classic editions to modern paperbacks.
- Dolphin Cruise– Visit the resident pod of dolphins on a day out on the water. You could even see seals, otters, seabirds and if you’re very lucky, a whale! Make sure to wrap up warm and have your camera ready.
Potter around the Highlands!
- Hogwarts Express and the Scenic Highlands Tour– This is a bucket list experience for Harry Potter fans! Hop aboard the real-life Hogwarts Express that will take you on a tour of the Highlands and some of the most breath-taking landscapes in the country. The train leaves from Inverness and is an 8 1/2-hour tour of beautiful scenery and Highlands villages.
Here’s another pro-tip: Summer is considered to be the best time of the year to visit the area because Scotland can be bitterly cold during the winter. During summer days you can expect very pleasant temperatures with lots of sunshine. You might even catch one of the many Highland Games.
Dining in the Scottish Highlands is a real treat! There is an abundance of locally grown and raised produce. These are my favourite spots for fabulous food:
- The Mustard Seed– This restaurant, in a former church, has a lovely atmosphere with its high ceilings and open fire. The restaurant offers a modern menu with strong links to local Highland suppliers. You should try the seared 21-day aged Rump Steak from Munro’s of Dingwall.
- Rocpool– This excellent restaurant is constructed from glass, due to its amazing location, because it offers beautiful views of Inverness Castle. Its menu is Scottish and European with a focus on local produce and ingredients from nearby suppliers. Try their Speyside venison with classic haggis for a tasty treat!
Don’t be sheepish about trying the Haggis!
- River House Restaurant– this restaurant focuses on classic Scottish dishes with the highest standard of ingredients from local fishermen and farmers. They serve amazingly fresh seafood such as oysters, crab, mussels, and langoustines. My favourite is their pan-seared Shetland scallops; what a treat!
The Highlands have an amazing whisky and pub scene with beautiful venues and friendly residents. Here’s where I recommend you stop for a drink:
- Macgregor’s Bar– This gastropub offers everything you could want and more. Serving local Inverness whiskeys with live local music, it’s one of my favourite bars in Scotland. There are regular nights with singers, pianists, and even poets in this romantic venue.
- Hootananny– this is the best place for Highland hospitality and Scottish music. It’s a great spot to learn some ceilidh dancing on Friday and Saturday nights among friendly local experts.
- Bar One Inverness– this is the home of cocktails in the Highlands. The bar’s mixologists create amazing concoctions to tingle your taste buds. It’s the perfect venue for a romantic night out or to catch-up with friends.
There’s no shortage of excellent accommodation in Inverness. Here’s where I recommend you stay:
- Highland Lassie– Stay in this beautiful floating hotel that’s docked just outside the city on the Caledonian Canal. Their cabins are cosy, with stunning panoramic views of the countryside while being surrounded by the peace of the waterway.
- Culloden House Hotel– This hospitable property sits in 40 acres of beautiful grounds and has an excellent fine-dining restaurant. This romantic, ivy-covered, Georgian country house, offers elegant rooms with luxurious bedding. If you’re lucky your room will even feature a marble fireplace.
- Blackfriars– this welcoming hotel and restaurant is beautifully designed in a chic and cosy style. Their rooms offer all the amenities you could need as well as being spacious and comfortable. Leakey’s Bookshop is just 67 meters away if you need a good book to aid sleep.
Inverness is just beautiful!
Inverness has much to offer for visitors combining ancient mysteries with stunning scenery and welcoming hospitality. I love the Scottish Highlands and Inverness is always my base for exploration. Visit for yourself and tell them that the “wee lassie from the Cloud” sent you!