- For the city in Florida, see Inverness (Florida).
Inverness (Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Nis, "Mouth of the River Ness") is a city in The Great Glen and Strathspey area of the Scottish Highlands, at the point where the River Ness flows out into the Moray Firth. It's the only town of any size in the Highlands, and is the region's commercial and administrative centre. It's an agreeable Victorian town that has no stand-out tourist attractions of its own, but has good transport and choice of lodging and eating places. So it's a good base for exploring nearby Loch Ness, Black Isle, Culloden, Spey valley and Cairngorm National Park.
Inverness is at the north end of the great fault line and valley through the Highlands, so it controls trade and transport routes. There was a Pictish and early Christian settlement by the 6th century, and it was the abode of that much-maligned 11th century ruler Macbeth. Town and castle were wrecked by conflicts on many occasions, the last incursion being the Jacobites in 1746. The present castle is from 1835.
Inverness is nominally a city but feels like a provincial market town. The hinterland is thinly populated, lacks mineral resources and is a long way from major conurbations, so local industry has always been on a small scale. What you see now is mostly Victorian, with an encrustation of modern shop fronts. In 2020 Inverness had a population of 47,790.
VisitScotland iCentre is the tourist office, at 36 High Street (☏ ), open daily 09:00-17:00.
They'll point you towards Loch Ness a few miles north, but the River Ness through town had the first recorded sighting of the monster, in the 5th century AD. St Columba was in the area to meet the local Pictish king when it raised its slimy head, but he made the Sign of the Cross, which shooed it away.
1 Inverness Airport (INV IATA), Ardersier IV2 7JB (5 miles east of city off A96 to Nairn). Regular direct flights are by KLM from Amsterdam, British Airways from London LHR, Aurigny from Guernsey, BH Air from Burgas, Eastern Airways from Southampton, Jet2.com and Ryanair from European hubs and the Mediterranean, and by TUI from the Mediterranean. The airport is small but modern, with cafes, car hire, and ATMs. Stagecoach Bus 11 / 11A ("Jet Bus") runs to Inverness every 30 min taking 25 min, fare £4.40, and to Nairn hourly taking 20 min, fare £5. A taxi between the airport and the city costs around £25.
Take your time, the roads north of Perth are in good repair but mostly undivided, with few safe overtaking stretches and plenty of speed cameras.
From the south travel up A9 via Perth and Aviemore. Starting from Edinburgh follow M90 over the Forth road bridge to Perth; from Glasgow follow M80 / A9 past Stirling. From the London area you could go either way: via M1 / A1 to Newcastle and Edinburgh, or M1 / M6 / M74 past Carlisle onto M73 then M80. Bleak Drumochter Pass approaching Aviemore is the only stretch that might be blocked by snow, but it's seldom.
From Aberdeen via the A96 is 110 miles / 176 km. The A82 tracks through the Great Glen from the south-west, from Fort William and Loch Ness.
- See also: Rail travel in Great Britain
Inverness has trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow (direct every couple of hours or change at Perth, 4 hours), from Aberdeen (every two hours, 2 hours 15 min), from Kyle of Lochalsh for Skye (four per day, 2 hr 40 min) and from Wick and Thurso for Orkney (four per day, 4 hours). Travelling from England usually involves changing in Edinburgh, but there is one direct daytime train from London King's Cross via York and Newcastle, taking 8 hours.
The Caledonian Highland Sleeper runs Su-F from London Euston, departing around 21:30 to arrive by 09:00. (Other portions for Aberdeen and Fort William divide at Edinburgh.) The southbound train leaves Inverness around 19:00 to reach Euston towards 08:00. No trains on Saturday night. New rolling stock was introduced on all the sleeper routes in 2019. Compartments have two berths and are sold like hotel rooms: you pay extra for single occupancy, and you won't be sharing with a stranger. Tickets can be booked at any UK mainline railway station or online: in 2022 a single sleeper fare is around £200 for one or £250 for two people. You can also just use the sitting saloon, single £75. If you have an existing ticket or rail pass for a daytime train you need to buy a sleeper supplement. Pricing is dynamic: weekends cost more, if indeed there are berths available. Booking is open 12 months ahead and you need to print out your e-ticket to present on boarding.
2 Inverness railway station is in city centre on Academy Street. It has a staffed ticket office and machines, toilets and a news shop; no cafe but plenty of pubs and eateries on the street outside. There is step-free access to all platforms. Lockers for luggage charge £5 for a small locker, which fits a backpack. Plusbus tickets are available.
Buses run every hour or so from Edinburgh and Glasgow via Perth and Aviemore. The main operators are Citylink, Parks of Hamilton and Megabus.
Stagecoach Bus 10 runs from Aberdeen via Huntly, Elgin, Forres and Nairn, taking four hours to Inverness. It runs every two hours M-Sa and every three hours on Sunday.
Citylink / Stagecoach Bus 919 runs from Fort William along the A82 via Spean Bridge, Laggan, Fort Augustus, Urquhart Castle and Drumnadrochit. There are four M-Sa and two on Sunday.
Stagecoach Bus 917 runs twice daily from Portree on Skye along the A82 and A87 via Broadford, Kyle of Lochalsh, Dornie, Invermoriston, Castle Urquhart and Drumnadrochit. Change at Portree for ferries from the Western Isles via Uig.
Citylink Bus 961 runs from Ullapool, ferry port for Stornoway on Lewis, twice M-Sa and once on Sunday.
There are buses at least hourly to the Black Isle: from Inverness to Invergordon and Tain (with a few continuing to Brora and Helmsdale), to Fortrose and Cromarty, and to Dingwall and Strathpeffer.
Stagecoach Highlands X99 runs twice M-Sa from Thurso and Wick via Tain to Inverness, 4 hours.
3 Inverness bus station is in Farraline Park, a couple of blocks northwest of the railway station. The bus station has a ticket office with luggage storage, cafe and toilets.
Inverness port has freight but no passenger vessels. Cruise ships often dock at Invergordon, 20 miles north. Most visitors will be on package coach trips of the area, but you could also ride into town independently on the train in less than an hour. But with only four trains per day you need to be sure of your connections.
Caledonian Canal links the Beauly Firth through Loch Ness to Fort William and the sea at Loch Linnhe. The latter is usually well-sheltered, so small craft can easily continue to Glencoe, Oban and Mull.
Inverness is fairly small and you're unlikely to use the bus. Bus 3 runs to Culloden, and Bus 11 to the airport and the seaside town of Nairn. Bus 16 runs along the east bank of Loch Ness from Inverness to Dores, Inverfarigaig and Foyers, four times M-F and twice on Saturday.
They can usually offer minibuses suitable for groups, and pick up from the airport or Invergordon cruiser terminal for day tours. They'll be fully booked when there's a major golf tournament in town.
You don't need one in town, but bike is a good way to reach Loch Ness, and the sights around Culloden. Inverness Bike Hire are based at 12A Church Street. Open daily 09:00-23:00.
- 1 Inverness Castle, IV2 3EG. Closed. A great defensive position it's not: castles on this site have been serially destroyed, most recently in 1746 when its Jacobite occupiers wrecked the medieval bastion to prevent its use by government forces. The elegant pink sandstone edifice that now stands here was built in 1847. Until 2020 It housed the law courts - they've moved to a modern building on Longman Rd, and the castle is being redeveloped as a visitor attraction. So meanwhile you just admire the exterior.
- Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Castle Wynd IV2 3EB (south flank of castle), ☏ , email@example.com. Apr-Oct: Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00; Nov-Mar: Tu-Th 12:00-16:00, F Sa 11:00-16:00. The museum has a collection of Pictish stones and wildlife dioramas, as well as historic weapons. The gallery has art exhibitions on two floors, no permanent collection. Donation.
- Victorian Market, in an arcade opposite the railway station, is open M-Sa 06:00-18:00.
- 2 Abertarff House, 71 Church St IV1 1ES. Jun-Oct: F-M 10:30-17:30. Built in 1593, the oldest house in Inverness, now run by the National Trust for Scotland, with a small exhibition and garden. Free.
- 3 Old High Church, Church Street IV1 1EY. F 14:00-16:00, Su 11:00=12:30. The oldest in Inverness, this Gothic Church of Scotland parish church was mostly built in the 18th century, and there's probably been a church on this site since St Columba's time. The congregation is referred to as "Old High St Stephens" reflecting a merger in 2003 between this and St Stephens, a 19th-century church half a mile south. Both churches remain active but from 2022 all services are in St Stphens.
- Chapel Yard Cemetery is just off Chapel Street. Its denizens are mostly 19th-century, but the original Chapel of St Mary, part of a monastery, was 14th-century. Chapel and monastery are long gone as Cromwell carried off the masonry to build a bastion.
- 4 Inverness Cathedral (St Andrew’s), Ardross St IV3 5NN (west riverbank upstream of Ness Bridge). Daily 09:00-16:00. Scottish Episcopal (Anglican) cathedral, built in 1869 in a mix of red sandstone and granite. Look up to the two giant spires... which aren't there, because the money for building ran out.
- St Mary's 200 yards downstream from St Andrews is the main Roman Catholic church, built in 1837, with fine stained glass windows and altar. It's not a cathedral as the RC diocese is based in Aberdeen.
- Balnain House just downstream from Greig St Bridge is a fine mansion of 1726 but only occasionally open.
- Knocknagael Boar Stone is Pictish, carved around 600 AD, showing a wild boar amidst spirals and bristles. It's been moved from the farm where it was found to the south side of the Highland Council offices on Glenurquhart Rd.
- 5 Inverness Botanic Gardens, Bught Lane IV3 5SS (1 mile S of centre off A82), ☏ . Daily 10:00-16:00. Glasshouse and gardens, with a range of exotic plants, plus a cafe. Assistance dogs only. Free.
- 6 Craig Phadrig is a forested hill of 564 ft (172 m) topped by a vitrified fort, It was built around 4th century AD and occupied to the 7th, and is probably the place where St Columba met King Bridei mac Maelchon. But at some point the fort burned so furiously that its stone was fused into glass. It's an active forestry site so you may have to work around logging.
- 7 Dochgarroch Locks are where Loch Ness drains into the Caledonian Canal towards town. This north tip of Loch Ness is called Loch Dochfour but it's the same body of water.
- 8 Druid Temple is more accurately a neolithic burial cairn and stone circle, rather overgrown. You may be able to access it via Druid Farm and Shop just east. A similar cairn and circle was found at Raigmore when the A9 was re-routed towards Kessock Bridge - it was moved to a nearby site which is now difficult to access amidst hospital and industrial buildings.
- Culloden, five miles east, is best known for the 1746 battlefield where Bonny Prince Charlie's Jacobite army was finally shattered. It also has the Bronze Age "Clava Cairns", and Cawdor Castle associated with Shakespeare's Macbeth.
- River Ness and Caledonian Canal stretch for eight miles between Loch Dochfour (the pool at the north end of Loch Ness) and Beauly Firth, the reach of sea just below Inverness. It's a pleasant picturesque stroll, or bike-ride if you're trying to reach the loch. Going upstream from town centre, follow either river bank up to the wooded Ness Islands. Above here, be on the west bank (passing the Botanic Gardens) to come onto the canal towpath, which is the best route upstream.
- 1 Eden Court Theatre, Bishops Road, IV3 5SA, ☏ (box office). A theatre, arts and cinema venue.
- Vue Cinema is on the big retail park east of town.
- Football: 2 Inverness Caledonian Thistle play soccer in the Scottish Championship, the game's second tier. Their home ground Caledonian Stadium is off the last A9 exit before Kessock Bridge. In Feb 2000 Caley's shock 3-1 away cup victory over Celtic inspired a legendary headline in The Sun: "Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious".
- Rugby : Highland RFC play rugby union in National League One, the amateur game's second tier in Scotland. They play at Canal Park, two miles upriver.
- Dolphin-spotting: boat trips run Apr-Oct from Inverness Marina. The main operator is Dolphin Spirit. They run trips in conventional motor boats, and Rib-rides that are wet and bouncy but cover more of the area. To see dolphins from shore, best cross to the Black Isle and stand at Chanonry Point as the tide starts to come in.
- Boat-trips on Loch Ness: Jacobite Cruises are based in Inverness and sail the north end of the loch. Others sail from Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus.
- Look up your ancestors: Highland Archive Centre is in Bught Park near the Botanic Garden, open M Tu Th 10:00-12:30, 14:00-16:30.
- Golf: nearby courses are Inverness GC near Raigmore Hospital, Kings or Torvean south along the river, and Loch Ness or Fairways south edge of town.
- Great Glen Way is a long-distance hiking trail to Fort William, 73 miles / 116 km.
- Inverness Music Festival is held over a week at the end of Feb. The next is probably 23 Feb - 5 March 2023, tbc.
- European Pipe Band Championships are held in Inverness, with the next probably on 24 June 2023, tbc.
- Inverness Highland Games are held in July on Bught Park. The next are on Sa 16 July 2022.
The town's main shopping area runs from the Eastgate Centre, a mall next to the station, through a pedestrian precinct down to the River Ness bridge. There's no limit to the number of tartan and Scottish souvenir shops you can find along the strip, plus the usual department stores and services.
The Inverness Centre is a retail park off A96 two miles east of town. It has a Vue cinema, a Pizza Express and Nando's, a Holiday Inn, and Tesco - fill up on fuel here if you're going further into the Highlands.
- 1 The Bakery, 72 Tomnahurich Street IV3 5DT, ☏ . M-Sa 06:00-15:00. Popular local bakery with loaves, pies, sweet pastries, croissants and more. It's at the corner of Glenurquhart Rd, handy for the council offices, and for the B&B strip in case Mrs Macbeth's catering is parsimonious.
- Indian cuisine includes Cinnamon near Eastgate Centre, Sam's on Church St, Rajah on Post Office Lane just off Church St, Ness Majal on Academy St by the railway station, Mangrove further down that street, and Shapla by Ness Bridge.
- Heathmount Hotel half a mile east of the centre has good dining, see Sleep.
- Fig & Thistle is a bistro south side of Eastgate Centre, open W-Sa 12:00-15:00, 17:30-22:00.
- 2 Mustard Seed, 16 Fraser Street IV1 1DW, ☏ . Daily 12:00-14:30, 17:00-21:00. This sounds Indian but it's modern European fare in a former church on the riverbank.
- 3 Rocpool, 1 Ness Walk IV3 5NE, ☏ . Tu-Sa 12:00-14:30, 18:00-22:00. Quality Scottish food in a contemporary setting.
- Contrast Brasserie (within Glenmoriston Town House; see § Sleep). Daily.
- Number 27 is a small friendly restaurant at 27 Castle St serving trad Scots fare, open daily to 23:00.
- Cafe 1, 75 Castle Street IV2 3EA, ☏ . M Tu 15:00-21:00, W Th 12:00-14:30, 17:00-21:00, F Sa 12:30-21:00. Good place for an early evening meal, gets great reviews.
- JP at the Castle, 41 Castle St IV2 3DU, ☏ . Su-Th 10:00-20:00, F Sa 10:00-21:00. Cheap, cheerful and popular.
- La Tortilla Asesina, 99 Castle Street IV2 3EA, ☏ . Daily 12:00-23:00. Tapas bar with rustic decor.
- 4 Little Italy, 8 Stephen Brae, Stephen's St, IV2 3JN, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 11:00-22:00. Cosy family-run restaurant, mainly serving pasta and pizza, alongside antipasti sharing platters. Daily lunch specials on blackboard. Lunch mains £8-10, dinner mains £11-15, antipasti for two £29.
- 1 Hootananny, 67 Church Street IV1 1ES, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-01:00, F Sa 12:00-03:00, Su 16:00-00:00. Live Celtic-style music most nights. Good Thai food (in a Scottish-themed pub) and relatively cheap.
- Black Isle Bar & Rooms, 68 Church Street IV1 1EN, ☏ . Daily 11:00-01:00. A bar with accommodation run by the Black Isle Brewery. They have around 10-15 beers on tap from their own organic brewery and some other breweries, and serve good pizza from a wood-fired oven.
- 2 Dores Inn, Dores, IV2 6TR (8 miles south of Inverness on B862), ☏ . M-Sa 11:00-22:45, Su 12:00-22:45. On a warm summer's evening, this inn on the northeast shore of Loch Ness is a particularly pleasant place to linger over a beer. Good, traditional pub food. For customers they offer a free shuttle bus within a 10 mile radius from the pub which has to be booked at least 24h in advance.
- 3 Black Isle Brewery, Munlochy IV8 8NZ (take A9 north to Black Isle), ☏ . Independent brewery that produces a range of organic beers. Tours all year M-Sa 10:00-16:00, plus Apr-Sep: Su 11:00-16:00.
- See Dingwall for the Singleton Distillery at Muir of Ord 15 miles west.
- Bairds Malt produce malt for the brewing industry but aren't themselves brewers. Dolphin Spirit is a disappointment if you were expecting craft gin, they go out on boats to see some overgrown fish.
The town is a commercial and local government hub so it has lots of mid-range chain hotels for business travellers, mostly round the outskirts. Glenurquhart Road, which is the A82 south towards Loch Ness, is lined with small B&Bs and guesthouses. The Inverness Guest House Association has a selection of 24 properties, all of which have been graded 3, 4 or 5 stars by Visit Scotland or the AA.
- 1 Inverness Youth Hostel, Victoria Drive IV2 3QB (half a mile east of rwy station), ☏ . Large modern hostel open all year. Excellent facilities: internet, laundry, some small rooms en-suite. Dorm £27 ppn.
- 2 Bazpackers, 4 Culduthel Road IV2 4AB (foot of lane to castle), ☏ . Clean informal hostel in a Victorian house, open all year. There's also a self-catering apartment. Dorm £44 ppn.
- Inverness Student Hotel is just south of Bazpackers.
- 3 Bught Park, Bught Lane IV3 5SR (just off A82), ☏ . Camping and caravan site open Easter to mid-Sept. It is a pleasant 20-min walk along the river to town centre. Camping £20 ppn, caravan pitch £22.
- Bunchrew Caravan Park is open March-Sept, double tent £13, caravan £25. It's 3 miles west of town on A862, next to upmarket Bunchrew House Hotel.
- Royal Highland Hotel, 18 Station Square IV1 1LG (At railway station), ☏ , email@example.com. Mid-range hotel opened in 1856 and still feels like a trad Highland railway hotel. Some street noise, but decent dining and service. B&B double £90.
- 4 Dunhallin House, 164 Culduthel Road IV2 4BH (1½ miles S of centre), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Comfortable accommodation in a quiet setting, no children. The owners are friendly and helpful. B&B double £90.
- Moyness House is a restful small B&B in Bruce Gardens off A82, open Feb-Dec.
- Park Guest House, 51 Glenurquhart Road IV3 5PB (A82, 100 yards north of Avalon), ☏ . Hospitable trad B&B in a substantial ivy-clad Victorian villa. B&B double £80.
- 5 Avalon Guest House, 79 Glenurquhart Road IV3 5PB (a mile south of centre on A82), ☏ . The rooms are beautiful and the owners are friendly and helpful. B&B double £110.
- 6 Mercure Inverness Hotel, Church Street IV1 1DX, ☏ , email@example.com. Reliable mid-range chain hotel, very central, pricy for what you get. Doubles (room only) from £150.
- 7 Heathmount Hotel, Kingsmills Road IV2 3JU, ☏ . Pleasant hotel with restaurant and bar half a mile east of town centre. B&B double £120.
- Mid-price chains: Premier Inn is on Huntly St on the west bank of the river and another just west of the canal bridge on A82. Best Western is on Ardross Terrace just south of Ness Bridge, Travelodge is by Fairways Golf Course on the south edge of town, Jury's Inn is at the junction of A9 and A96 on the northeast edge of town, and Holiday Inn Express is by the retail park on A96 two miles east of town.
- 8 Glenmoriston Town House, 20 Ness Bank IV2 4SF, ☏ . Smart riverside hotel with brasserie. B&B double £130.
- 9 Bunchrew House, Bunchrew IV3 8TA (3 miles west of city off A862), ☏ . Wonderful country house hotel: bun craobh means "near the tree", which doesn't much assist motorists. The original house of 1505 was tiny, then the present mansion was built in 1621 in baronial style. In 1745 its owners the Forbes backed the government against Bonnie Prince Charlie but received scant thanks and went bust. A happier development in the 19th century was that the bone manure factory closed down. The house passed to politician Sir Malcolm Rifkin (b 1946) who converted it into a hotel in 1986. It earns top scores from guests and is often a wedding venue. B&B double £200.
- 10 Kingsmills Hotel, Culcabock Rd IV2 3LP (a mile east of centre), ☏ . Upscale hotel by the golf course, great reviews for comfort and service. B&B double £150.
As of July 2022, the town has 5G from EE and Three, and 4G from O2 and Vodafone. There's good mobile coverage on the approach roads.
- Inverness Library, Farraline Park IV1 1NH (behind bus station), ☏ . M-Tu & F 09:00-18:30, Wed 10:00-18:30, Th 09:00-20:00, Sa 09:00-17:00. Offers Internet access.
- Culloden is best known for the battlefield where Bonny Prince Charlie's forces were shattered in 1746. It also has the Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age burial site.
- Nairn is the closest beach resort. Nearby is the extensive, well-preserved Fort George.
- Loch Ness starts 8 miles south, and stretches for 23 miles. The main road and facilities are along the west bank, with Drumnadrochit the largest centre.
- Cairngorms National Park covers a wide tract of highland country. The most accessible part from Inverness is Cairngorm mountain itself above Aviemore, a ski resort with a funicular railway.
- Fort William is close to Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain, and to Nevis Range ski and mountain resort.
- North are the wilds of Ross and Cromarty and Caithness and Sutherland. If you get all the way to Thurso you can take a ferry to the Orkneys, and from there to Shetland.
- North Coast 500 is a 500 mile road circuit of those regions, and Inverness is the usual start and finish point.
|Routes through Inverness|
|Thurso ← Tain ←||N S||→ Aviemore → Perth|
|Fort William ← Drumnadrochit ←||SW NE||→ END|
|END ←||W E||→ Culloden → Aberdeen|