Inverness (Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Nis, "Mouth of the River Ness") is a city in the Scottish Highlands, situated 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.
1 Inverness Airport (INV IATA), Ardersier IV2 7JB (5 miles west of city off A96 to Nairn). Regular direct flights are by KLM to Amsterdam, BA to London LHR, Easyjet to London LGW and LTN plus Bristol, by Flybe to Birmingham, and by Loganair to Manchester, Kirkwall (Orkney), Sumburgh (Shetland), Benbecula (for N & S Uist) and Stornoway (Lewis). The airport is small but modern, with cafes, car hire and ATMs. Stagecoach Bus 11 / 11A ("Jet Bus") runs to Inverness every 30 mins taking 25 mins, fare £4.40, and to Nairn hourly taking 20 mins, fare £5. A taxi between airport and city costs around £15.
Inverness can be reached from the south by the A9 from the south (Perth & M90 from Edinburgh, Glasgow) and from Aberdeen, 110 miles (176 km) by the A96 road. The A82 reaches Inverness from the south-west, Loch Ness, Fort William and eventually to Skye. None of the roads to Inverness are entirely dual-carriageway. The A9 continues to Thurso on the extreme north coast of the Scottish mainland.
- See also: Rail travel in the United Kingdom
Inverness has trains to Edinburgh and Glasgow (direct every couple of hours or change at Perth, 4 hours), to Aberdeen (every two hours, taking 2 hours 15), to Kyle of Lochalsh for Skye (four per day, 2 hours 40) and to Thurso and Wick for John O'Groats (four per day, 4 hours). Travelling from England usually involves changing in Edinburgh, but there is one direct daytime train from London Kings Cross via York and Newcastle, taking 8 hours.
The Caledonian Sleeper runs overnight (not Sat) from London Euston, leaving around 21:00 to arrive in Inverness by 09:00; return times are similar. A one-way sleeper berth costs from £140, a seat-only from £50. The online booking system should generate a reservation for a particular berth or seat: if it doesn't, phone up Caledonian Sleeper and ensure one, else you might be bumped off the train even if you're holding a ticket for that specific date. New sleeping coaches are expected to come into service by May 2019.
2 Inverness railway station is located at Station Square on Academy street right in the city centre. It's a small station with toilets, a news shop and not much else, but there are plenty of pubs and eateries just outside.
Buses run every hour or so from Edinburgh and Glasgow via Perth and Aviemore. The main operators are Citylink, Parks of Hamilton and Megabus.
Citylink / Stagecoach Bus 919 runs between Fort William and Inverness along the A82 via Spean Bridge, Laggan, Fort Augustus, Urquhart Castle and Drumnadrochit. It runs four times a day Mon-Sat and twice on Sunday.
You can reach the Hebrides from Inverness without doubling back via Glasgow. Stagecoach Bus 917 runs to Portree on Skye along the A82 and A87 via Drumnadrochit, Castle Urquhart, Invermoriston, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Broadford and Sconser. It runs twice daily. Citylink Bus 961 runs to Ullapool, for ferries to Stornoway on Lewis, twice a day Mon-Sat 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.
3 Inverness bus station is in Farraline Park, a couple of blocks west of the railway station. The bus station has a ticket office which offers luggage storage (from £2), cafe and toilets.
Cruise ships often dock at Invergordon, 20 miles north. Most visitors will be on package coach trips of the area. You can also ride into town on the train in less than an hour, but with only four trains per day you need to be sure of your connections.
The 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.
See "Get in" for routes to other cities and towns. Inverness itself 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.
This is probably the most efficient form of transport after hours, as most bus services cease or become less frequent at about 7PM. You will not pay a great deal for a taxi by UK standards as Inverness is rather small, and routes are very direct. Some black cabs exist, though the majority of taxis are minicabs. These are all fairly trustworthy.
Chauffeur-driven limos are available for hire, eg from Highland Excursions. A day tour (up to 8 hours) with up to 4 passengers starts from £330. They'll be all booked up if there's a cruise ship 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. 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. It houses the Sheriff Court, and the only parts accessible to visitors are the surrounding gardens (Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00), and the viewpoint from the North Tower (F-M 11:30-17:00). Free.
- 2 Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Castle Wynd IV2 3EB (base of Inverness Castle), ☎ . Apr-Oct Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar Tu-Th 12:00-16:00, F Sa 11:00-16:00. Refurbished in 2006, 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. Donations welcome.
- The Victorian Market, in an arcade opposite the railway station, is open M-Sa 06:00-18:00.
- 3 Old High Church, Church Street IV1 1EY. The oldest church in Inverness, this C of S parish church was mostly built in the 18th C, 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 church and St Stephens, a 19th C church half a mile south. Though merged, both churches remain in use.
- Nearby off Chapel Street, stroll round the walled Chapel Yard Cemetery. Its denizens are mostly 19th C, but the original Chapel of St Mary, part of a monastery, was 14th C. Chapel and monastery are long gone as Cromwell carried off the masonry to build a bastion.
- 4 Inverness Cathedral (St Andrew’s Cathedral), Ardross St IV3 5NN (on west bank of river upstream of Ness Bridge). Scottish Episcopal (Anglican) cathedral, built in 1869 in a blend of red sandstone and granite. Look up to the two giant spires . . . which aren't there, because the money for building ran out.
- 5 Inverness Botanic Gardens (formerly: Floral Hall and Gardens), Bught Lane IV3 5SS (1 mile S of centre off A82), ☎ . Daily 10:00-17:00. Glasshouse and gardens, with a range of exotic plants, plus a cafe. No dogs except guide dogs. Free.
- Culloden, five miles east, is best known for the 1746 battlefield where "Bonny Prince Charlie's" Jacobite army was finally shattered. It's also notable for its Bronze Age "Clava Cairns", and Cawdor Castle associated with Shakespeare's Macbeth.
- The 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.
- Inverness has a busy music & theatre scene. Inverness also has regular ceilidh nights and new indie nights in various venues across the city.
- 1 Eden Court Theatre, Bishops Road, IV3 5SA, ☎ (box office). A theatre, arts and cinema venue.
- 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 sail from Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit, and Jacobite Cruises based in Inverness sail around the north end of the loch.
- 2 Glen Ord Distillery, Muir of Ord, Ross-shire, IV6 7UJ (15 miles west of city, take A9 north then A832 from Tore), ☎ . Daily Mar-Sept 10:00-17:00, Oct-Feb 10:00-16:00. A Diageo-owned distillery, producing "The Singleton of Glen Ord" which all goes to the Asian market. Produced elsewhere are "The Singleton of Dufftown" for the UK & Europe, and "The Singleton of Glendullan" for North America. Standard tour £8.
- 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-Sept Su 11:00-16:00.
- (Inverness has its own brewery, Bairds Malt, but it's not open to the public.)
- Inverness Highland Games are held in late July. The next event is on Sat 20 July 2019, with a Gala Night the Friday evening.
The main shopping area of Inverness runs from the Eastgate centre through a pedestrian precinct down to the River Ness - adjacent to the train station. You'll have no limit to the number of tartan and Scottish souvenir shops you can find along the strip. As well there are the usually range of department stores and services along here.
- Eastgate Centre. Inside modern shopping mall - connected to the station. Contains a Marks and Spencer and Debenhams, and a normal range of chain stores.
- The Inverness Centre is a retail park off the 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.
Inverness has a wide selection of restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. There are a number of high quality restaurants serving a mixture of traditional Scottish food and modern cuisine using locally sourced produce. Worthy of a mention are:
- 1 The Heathmount Hotel, Kingsmills Road, IV2 3JU, ☎ . A boutique hotel with informal restaurant and a lively bar at Crown just minutes walk from city centre. Mains around £11-15.
- 2 The Mustard Seed, 16 Fraser Street, IV1 1DW, ☎ . Daily. An independently owned restaurant in a former church. Dinner main £16.
- 3 Rocpool, 1 Ness Walk, IV3 5NE, ☎ . Dinner mains around £20-25.
- 4 Glenmoriston Town House, 20 Ness Bank, IV2 4SF, ☎ . Hotel and restaurant. Dinner mains around £20.
- 5 Cafe 1, 75 Castle Street, IV2 3EA, ☎ . Beside Rileys and simply a bit of an institution. Mains £14-20.
- The Old Town Deli, Strother Lane (Beside Bus Stop). Great bagels and coffee.
- Castle Restaurant. Cheap, cheerful and popular. Also very convenient for the High Street.
- 6 La Tortilla Asesina, 99 Castle Street, IV2 3EA (opposite the road entrance to the castle), ☎ . The tapas bar where lovers of all things Spanish meet. Tapas between £4.50-6.
- Numerous Curry Houses, including Cinnamon near the Eastgate Shopping Centre and Rajah in Post Office Lane.
- 7 The Bakery, 72 Tomnahurich Street, ☎ . M-Sa 6AM-3PM, Su closed. A local bakery offering a wide range of loafs, pies, sweet pastries and more.
There's plenty of live music and good lively atmospheres around so have fun exploring.
As in all Scotland, all enclosed public places - which includes all eating places and bars - are non-smoking. A few have outside seating areas.
- 1 Hootananny, 67 Church Street, IV1 1ES, ☎ . Is the chief of live music (almost every night), offering (predominantly) Celtic entertainment. The offer good Thai food (in a Scottish-themed pub) relatively cheaply.
- 2 Dores Inn, Dores, IV2 6TR (8 miles south of Inverness on the B862), ☎ . On a warm summer's evening, the Dores Inn on the northern shore of Loch Ness (east side) is a particularly pleasant place to linger over a beer. They do good, traditional pub food, too. 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 Bar & Rooms, 68 Church Street, IV1 1EN, ☎ . Daily 11AM-1AM. A bar and 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 offer very good pizza from a wood-fired oven.
See also accommodation options in Culloden.
- 1 Inverness Youth Hostel (SYHA), Victoria Drive IV2 3QB (Half a mile east of rwy station), ☎ . Large modern 4-star hostel with excellent facilities. Some small rooms en-suite, internet, laundry. Open all year. Dorms: adults £15, children £13.50; rooms: from £30.
- 2 Bazpackers, 4 Culduthel Road, IV2 4AB (Foot of lane to castle), ☎ . Clean and informal, set in Victorian house. This hostel is quite small so booking in advance is advised. There's also a self-catering apartment. They have a resident cat called Polly. Dorm £18, twin room £40.
- 3 Bught caravan and camping site, Bught Lane IV3 5SR (just off A82 to Loch Ness and Fort William), ☎ . Open March to November, it is a very pleasant 20-minute walk along the river into the city centre. Camping £10 ppn, caravan pitch £20.
- Bunchrew caravan park is 3 miles west of city on A862.
Inverness' role as a commercial and local government hub means that it has lots of mid-range chain hotels aimed at business travellers, mostly round the outskirts. Glenurquhart Road, which is the A82 south out of town towards Loch Ness, is lined with small B&Bs and guesthouses.
- Inverness Guest House Association, Glenurquhart Road IV3 5PB. Have a selection of 24 properties to choose from all of which have been graded 3, 4 or 5 stars by Visit Scotland or the AA.
- 4 Dunhallin House, 164 Culduthel Road IV2 4BH (1.5 miles S of centre), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Comfortable accommodation in a quiet setting. The owners are friendly and helpful. B&B double from £60.
- Pottery House, Dores IV2 6TR (on B852 NE end of Loch Ness, 10 miles S of city), ☎ . Hidden gem of a B&B in the village of Dores. Rooms look onto Loch Ness. B&B double from £90.
- Park Guest House, 51 Glenurquhart Road IV3 5PB, ☎ . Hospitable B&B in a substantial ivy-clad Victorian Villa.
- Avalon Guest House, 79 Glenurquhart Road IV3 5PB (a mile south of centre on A82 to Loch Ness), ☎ . The rooms are beautiful, having had a full refurbishment, and the owners are friendly and helpful. B&B double from £90.
- 5 Mercure Inverness Hotel, Church Street IV1 1DX, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Reliable mid-range chain hotel, very central. Doubles (room only) from £60.
- There's a Premier Inn on Huntly St on the west bank of the river and another just west of the canal bridge on A82, a Best Western on Ardross Terrace just south of Ness Bridge, a Travelodge by Fairways Golf Course on the south edge of town, a Jury's Inn at the junction of A9 and A96 on the northeast edge of town, and a Holiday Inn Express by the retail park on A96 two miles east of town.
- 6 Bunchrew House Hotel, Bunchrew IV3 8TA (3 miles west of city off A862), ☎ . Country house hotel in 17th C mansion on the waters edge of Beauly Firth. B&B double from £70.
- 7 Kingsmills Hotel, Culcabock Rd IV2 3LP (a mile east of centre, by golf course), ☎ . Four star hotel, clean & comfy. B&B double from £70.
- 8 Royal Highland Hotel, 18 Station Square IV1 1LG (Next to the railway station), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Refurbished 3-star hotel. Opened in 1856 and offers a true Victorian Highland ambience. The Ash Restaurant and Lounge Bar offers an extensive à la carte menu and free WiFi. B&B double from £70.
- Culloden — Site of the evocative Culloden Battlefied, scene of Bonny Prince Charlie's final defeat in 1746, and the Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age burial site.
- Loch Ness — not as close as many people think. Jacobite have buses travelling to Loch Ness from Inverness to link up with their cruise boats. Cruises may be joined at Tomnahurich, at the southern edge of the city. For the first 3/4 miles, these sail down the famous and scenic Caledonian Canal and then down Loch Ness itself. Alternatively you may board at Drumnadrochit for the return sail, having visited nearby Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness Visitor Centre which carries the story of Nessie. For information with a more scientific slant see The Loch Ness Information Site.
There are two mountain resorts within easy reach of Inverness. Both started life as ski facilities but now cater for a wide range of year-round activities and have mountain-top restaurants and shops.
- Cairngorms National Park — Cairngorm Mountain is approx. 30 miles away near Aviemore and has Scotland's only funicular railway.
- Fort William — If you have a car you can also easily reach the Nevis Range in Fort William, some 63 miles away along the winding A82. At Nevis Range the mountain (which is called Aonach Mor and is 'next door' to Ben Nevis) is ascended by a cable-car gondola system.
|Routes through Inverness|
|Thurso/Wick ← Dingwall ←||N S||→ Carrbridge → Perth|
|ENDS ←||N S||→ Drumnadrochit → Fort William|
|ENDS ←||W E||→ Culloden → Aberdeen|