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.
phone: +44 1463 252401address: 36 High Street, IV1 1JQ
By carInverness 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.
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 Highland Sleeper runs Su-F from London Euston, departing around 21:30 to arrive by 09:00. (Other portions run to Aberdeen and Fort William; they divide / join at Edinburgh.) The southbound train leaves 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: a single sleeper fare is around £160 for one or £200 for two people. You can also just use the sitting saloon, single £50. 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 nominally open 12 months ahead, but (as of Oct 2019) the website hasn't grasped this. If you buy online, you need to print out your e-ticket to present on boarding.
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.
Travel from England usually involves changing in Edinburgh, but National Express and Megabus have a few through-services.
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.
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.
On footWalk the Great Glen Way from Fort William (73 miles, 116 km).
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.
By taxiThis 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.
Inverness CastleA 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).
phone: +44 1463 237114address: Castle Wynd IV2 3EBRefurbished 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.
- The Victorian Market, in an arcade opposite the railway station, is open M-Sa 06:00-18:00.
address: Church Street IV1 1EYThe 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.
address: Ardross St IV3 5NNScottish 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.
phone: +44 1463 713553address: Bught Lane IV3 5SSGlasshouse and gardens, with a range of exotic plants, plus a cafe. No dogs except guide dogs.
- 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.
phone: +44 1463 234 234 (box office)address: Bishops Road, IV3 5SAA 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.
phone: +44 1463 872004address: Muir of Ord, Ross-shire, IV6 7UJA 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.
phone: +44 1463 811 871address: Munlochy IV8 8NZIndependent brewery that produces a range of organic beers.
- Inverness Music Festival is held over a week at the end of Feb. The next event is probably 27 Feb - 4 March 2020, but tbc.
- Inverness Highland Games are held in late July on Bught Park. The next event is Fri 17 - Sat 18 July 2020.
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.
phone: +44 1463 418918address: 72 Tomnahurich StreetA local bakery offering a wide range of loaves, pies, sweet pastries and more.
- Numerous curry houses, including Cinnamon near the Eastgate Centre and Rajah in Post Office Lane.
phone: +44 1463 235877address: Kingsmills Road IV2 3JUA boutique hotel with informal restaurant and a lively bar at Crown just minutes walk from city centre.
phone: +44 1463 220220address: 16 Fraser Street IV1 1DWAn independently owned restaurant in a former church.
phone: +44 1463 717274address: 1 Ness Walk IV3 5NEModern Scottish food in contemporary setting.
phone: +44 1463 223777address: 20 Ness Bank IV2 4SFHotel and restaurant.
phone: +44 1463 226200address: 75 Castle Street IV2 3EAGood place for an early evening meal.
Castle Restaurantaddress: 41 Castle StCheap, cheerful and popular. Also very convenient for the High Street.
phone: +44 1463 709809address: 99 Castle Street IV2 3EATapas bar with rustic decor.
There's plenty of live music and good lively atmospheres around so have fun exploring. All enclosed eating places and bars are non-smoking, a few places have outside seating.
phone: +44 1463 233 651address: 67 Church Street IV1 1ESLive Celtic-style music most nights. Good Thai food (in a Scottish-themed pub) and relatively cheap.
phone: +44 1463 229920address: 68 Church Street IV1 1ENA 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.
phone: +44 1463 751203address: Dores, IV2 6TROn a warm summer's evening, this inn on the northeast shore of Loch Ness 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.
See also accommodation options in Culloden.
phone: +44 1463 231771address: Victoria Drive IV2 3QBLarge modern 4-star hostel with excellent facilities. Some small rooms en-suite, internet, laundry. Open all year.
phone: +44 1463 717663address: 4 Culduthel Road, IV2 4ABClean 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.
address: Bught Lane IV3 5SROpen March to November, it is a very pleasant 20-minute walk along the river into the city centre.
- Bunchrew caravan park is 3 miles west of city on A862.
The town's role as a commercial and local government hub means that 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.
phone: +44 1463 220824address: 164 Culduthel Road IV2 4BHComfortable accommodation in a quiet setting. The owners are friendly and helpful.
phone: +44 1463 751267address: Dores IV2 6TRHidden gem of a B&B in the village of Dores. Rooms look onto Loch Ness.
address: 51 Glenurquhart Road IV3 5PBHospitable B&B in a substantial ivy-clad Victorian Villa.
phone: +44 1463 239075address: 79 Glenurquhart Road IV3 5PBThe rooms are beautiful, having had a full refurbishment, and the owners are friendly and helpful.
phone: +44 844 815 9006address: Church Street IV1 1DXReliable mid-range chain hotel, very central.
- 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.
phone: +44 1463 234917address: Bunchrew IV3 8TACountry house hotel in 17th C mansion on the waters edge of Beauly Firth.
phone: +44 1463 237166address: Culcabock Rd IV2 3LPFour star hotel, clean & comfy.
phone: +44 1463 231926address: 18 Station Square IV1 1LGRefurbished 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.
phone: +44 1463 236463address: Farraline Park IV1 1NHOffers Internet access.
- 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.