The magical Scottish Highlands are a treat to visit, and Inverness is the city that will tell you the complete story of this enchanting region. Not only will you be able to enjoy some breathtaking nature, but you will also be able to learn a lot about the history of Scotland and explore many fascinating places. Being so far up north, the city is, in a sense, tucked away and just waiting to be discovered. So, come and spend (at least) one day in Inverness and prepare to fall in love with the place. With this itinerary, you’ll quickly discover what makes this whole region so very special.
Given that Inverness is located so far north, you should definitely consider visiting it during summer, when the temperatures are relatively high compared to the rest of the year. Still, do not expect scorching days here – there’s a lot of rain all year round and it doesn’t get a lot warmer than 20 degrees Celsius. However, if you don’t mind a bit colder weather, spring can also be a great time to visit Inverness because this is when the skies are the sunniest.
As for events and festivals, Inverness has plenty of those! For example, Inverness Highland Games are held every year and feature an array of traditional competitions, and there are plenty of farmers’ markets, events near and around Loch Ness (oh, yes – it’s very close by!), whiskey-related events, historical reenactments and so much more. You definitely won’t be bored here!
First of all, Inverness is not a very big city – it only has about 50,000 people and less than 70,000 in the greater city area.
Interestingly, the place only received city status in the year 2000, which made it only the fifth city in Scotland. Today, there are eight cities in Scotland in total, with the last one, Dunfermline, only being added to the list in 2022.
Thanks to its position, Inverness is the northernmost city in Scotland and, consequently, in the United Kingdom.
The name of the city actually means “the mouth of the Ness”. This river flows straight through Inverness and ends up in Beauly Firth.
And if the Ness sounded familiar to you, you will probably be excited to know that Loch Ness is just half an hour away and can be reached very easily! In fact, as mentioned before, Loch Ness is actually a venue for numerous events.
Inverness Castle, which we will cover in just a moment, plays a prominent role in Shakespeare’s Macbeth!
Apparently, in 1668, a huge battle erupted when a local gentleman refused to pay for the cheese he’d dropped in the Ness. The whole town became involved, with people even losing their lives in the fray!
According to a law from the 18th century, every child in Inverness has the right to get free bagpipes on their 10th birthday.
Welcome to Inverness, a lovely little town that epitomizes the Scottish Highlands. Spending one day here is an opportunity that should not be missed because you can see and explore some truly amazing places. To get a good sense and enjoy them all, it’s important to plan ahead, which is what this itinerary will help you with. See what the best things to see here are!
Before you start sightseeing, take a few moments to just appreciate Inverness and the vibe you can sense here. There is something quite profoundly magical in being in this part of Scotland. So, find a place where you can sit down for breakfast and a cup of coffee and maybe do a bit of people-watching.
Girvans, Wild Pancakes, Cafe Artysans, Comfort Foods… all these places offer fantastic food with which you can start your day the right way, but feel free to explore and what else can be found. However, this area is a great starting point for visiting all the main attractions in Inverness.
Once you’re done with your breakfast, your first stop is right there. The magnificent Inverness Castle overlooks the city and you really should get up there for a closer look. The whole complex is beautifully designed, and the red sandstone gives it a distinct color. The current iteration of the castle was built in the 19th century, although other castles have stood on this site in the past.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to enter and explore the castle fully at the time this text is being written due to renovation, but still coming here really should be high on your list of things to do in Inverness. This is, after all, one of the city’s symbols.
Inverness Cathedral is a beautiful piece of architecture that can tell you a great deal about the church in Scotland. Beautiful stained glass windows and intricate carvings show the level of craftsmanship that went into constructing this edifice, and the whole construction was completed in 1869. It was actually the first Protestant cathedral built in the country after the Reformation.
The location along the Ness makes this a wonderful stop on a leisurely stroll, and there’s even a cafe and shop here for you to check out. Numerous concerts and exhibitions are held here regularly, so with a bit of luck, you’ll get to enjoy an event like that, too.
Time to hop on a bus and visit Culloden Battlefield. Don’t worry, it’s not very far – at most, you’ll be there in 20 minutes. And you really should come here because Culloden Battlefield is one of Inverness’ most famous attractions.
It was here that the Jacobite Rising came to its bloody conclusion with about 1500 Jacobites falling in battle against the Duke of Cumberland. Today, there’s a wonderful visitors center here where you can pick up some awesome souvenirs and enjoy a splendid view from the roof gardens. But the highlight of the visit has to be the 360-degree immersion theater, the closest thing to experiencing the battle yourself.
After visiting the battlefield, you should hop on over to Clava Cairns, a burial ground from 4000 years ago, i.e. from the Bronze Age. It’s free to enter and open throughout the year, so it’s just an added bonus to your one day in Inverness.
Now, just to be clear, a cairn is a mound made of stones, and you can see three of them here today. In other words, this was a cemetery for the people who lived here all those millennia ago. It’s quite a fascinating place to visit, especially when you know that archaeologists think that there was a settlement here even before the cairns were built!
By now, it will be time for lunch, and you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of great restaurants in the wider city center area. So, just decide what kind of food you feel like eating, and start looking. However, there are a few places that are very much worth considering.
Urquhart’s Restaurant, for example, is a family-owned restaurant that serves home-cooked Scottish dishes and offers a very comfortable and enjoyable setting. Rocpool is another great place for Scottish food, while McBain’s by the River offers a great view and delicious seafood. The Kitchen Restaurant and River House also deserve to be mentioned, although the latter is a bit on the expensive side.
Once you’ve had your lunch, it’s time to head to what will most likely be the highlight of your one day in Inverness – Loch Ness. Yes, we’ve all heard the stories about the monster that allegedly resides in the lake’s depths, but apart from going monster hunting, there is a whole lot else you can do here. The Loch is just about half an hour away from the city, and there are buses running there regularly, so it shouldn’t be too hard to reach.
Upon reaching the Loch, plenty of options will present themselves to you. You can choose to go hiking and cycling by following one of the numerous trails here and maybe checking out some of the mesmerizing waterfalls that surround Loch Ness. However, that’s just the beginning.
Another thing you can do when visiting Loch Ness is to hop on a boat trip and explore the lake that way. Who knows, maybe you get to see some signs of Nessie! But even if you don’t, the amazing scenery around you will make the ride pretty unforgettable.
Then there’s also Urquhart Castle and the ruins you can explore there. The tower that’s still standing can be climbed and it provides a spectacular view of the Loch. There’s a cafe nearby too, so you can rest and relax while enjoying the incredible sight of the castle in front of you.
And this is all just the tip of the iceberg of the things you can do here. Loch Ness really deserves a large chunk of your day in Inverness, so dedicating the whole afternoon to it certainly seems like the right thing to do.
After an afternoon like this, the evening is best spent collecting your thoughts and discussing what you’ve seen over a drink. Gellions Bar is considered by many to be the best pub in town, but if you’re looking for some live music to up the mood, Hootananny is the place to visit. The Castle Tavern has its own beer garden, and Johnny Foxes offers an interesting interior of wood and stone to go with your drinks and live music.
So, there will definitely be enough bars and pubs in Inverness for you to find the perfect place to sit down and unwind after a long day. This is Scotland, after all.
12 Ness Walk, Inverness, IV3 5SQ
For the ultimate comfort and probably the most luxurious stay in Inverness, Ness Walk is the place where you should book a room. The place looks incredible, both from within and without, and the rooms are very well equipped. The location is also excellent, close to Inverness Castle, but the people working here are what really elevates the hotel to another level. Such service and kindness are rarely seen in the industry. In short, you’ll have a really hard time finding anything to complain about here.
Inverness Lochardil House
Stratherrick Road, Inverness, IV2 4LF
If you don’t mind being a mile or so from the city center, Inverness Lochardil House is a place where you absolutely must book a room. The hotel is nothing short of beautiful with magnificent gardens surrounding it and an incredibly charming interior. This is all supplemented with a fantastic breakfast, and the service you get is absolutely impeccable. It’s like entering a fairy-tale or something, and having a cup of coffee or tea on the patio is something you won’t soon forget. Prepare to enjoy!
Kingsmills Road, Inverness, IV2 3JU
Heathmount Hotel boasts a great location and is run by its owner, so you will get a slightly different feel here than if you stay in a hotel that belongs to a big chain. This is by no means a bad thing because the rooms are very comfortable and you can enjoy some real Scottish whiskey in one of the bars. Moreover, the place looks very charming from the outside, plus you get a traditional Scottish breakfast cooked to order every morning. Great experience and exceptional value for your money!
4 culduthel road, Inverness, IV2 4AB
Inverness has a surprisingly large selection of hostels, but Bazpackers is definitely at the top and has to be recommended. It has a wonderful interior, and a garden, and it allows you to enjoy a wonderful view of the Ness River. Even a barbecue is there! On top of that, some rooms here have a microwave, a fridge and an oven for your complete comfort. So, if you’re backpacking through Inverness or just looking for affordable accommodation, this is where you should go.
If you’re in Inverness, you are in a perfect position to explore the Scottish Highlands. And this is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss if you’re a nature lover! However, there are many other different destinations to consider when planning a day trip, so allow us to help you out with a few suggestions. You can’t go wrong with these places!
When it comes to day trips from Inverness, Dornoch really has it all: incredible nature, the magnificent Dunrobin Castle with its gardens, wonderful beaches and plenty of activities you can take up like cycling, hiking and so on. There’s something for everybody here, a true testament to the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, just an hour away.
This incredibly charming fishing village is about an hour and 15 minutes from Inverness and it’s really the perfect place if you want to enjoy the Scottish seaside. The surrounding mountains are an incredible treat for hikers, and the view you get from up there is nothing short of breathtaking. No wonder Ullapool was declared one of the most beautiful villages in the whole UK. Oh, and you can visit the National Nature Reserve while here if you want to see some fascinating wildlife, too.
Isle of Skye
Getting to the Island of Skye may prove a bit more challenging, but the journey itself is quite fascinating. The Isle is worth the effort, though, as its incredible cliffs and Dunvegan Castle will make this day trip from Inverness a trip to remember. You won’t be surprised that this place, home of the famous Clan MacLeod, was featured in many films and inspired even more works of literature.
Applecross is a stunningly beautiful, albeit sparsely populated peninsula. The charming little village called Shore Street is the biggest settlement here, so this place is really perfect for getting away from it all. Long roads through incredible sceneries make for a fantastic drive, and there’s a monastery dating back to the 7th century that you can find here. A wonderful tranquil destination!
- The weather can be quite cold, especially if you’re not visiting during summer, and there’s a fair amount of rain throughout the year. Pack accordingly!
- Inverness has an airport, but it’s fairly small and only connected to the rest of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Amsterdam. If you’re coming from somewhere else, you can get a train, a bus, or rent a car in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
- You may come across signs in or hear a strange language around here. That’s Gaelic, and some Scots actually speak it! Don’t worry, your English will still serve you well!
- “Slainte!” means “Cheers!” in Gaelic, and you’re going to need this word if you fancy yourself a bit of Scottish whiskey.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.