Nestled amidst dramatic landscapes and steeped in centuries of rich history, Inverness is a gateway destination in northern Scotland. This relatively small city is a pleasant stopover for anyone on a road trip through Scotland. In and of itself, Inverness might not have a ton to offer. But Inverness is the cultural and historical heart of the Scottish Highlands, making it a perfect stepping stone for discovering the breathtaking region.
Whether you're an intrepid traveler, a history enthusiast , or a foodie eager to savor authentic Highland cuisine, Inverness has something to offer every visitor. In this comprehensive guide, I will help you uncover the very best of what Inverness has to offer, from must-see landmarks to culinary delights.
Ultimate Guide of What to See, Eat & Do in Inverness Scotland
What to Do in Inverness
Originally built in the 1800s, Victorian Market is an architectural gem that also happens to have some of the best local shops in Inverness. Plus, it is a bit of a hidden gem in the heart of the city! The market showcases stunning Victorian architecture with ornate red iron arches and intricate whitewashed stonework. The market sells everything from jewelry and souvenirs to bagpipes and antiques. Plus, there is a food hall in the back if you’re in need of a lunch spot.
Wander Along River Ness
Inverness is quite picturesque, especially along the shores of the River Ness. The city spreads along both sides of the banks with a lovely walking path. I think it is best enjoyed around sunset, especially if the weather is good. We got gorgeous sunset light, beautifully illuminating iconic city structures like the Greig Street Bridge and Old High Church.
Culloden Battlefield Memorial
Located just outside of Inverness, the Culloden Battlefield Memorial stands as a poignant tribute to the Battle of Culloden, the final battle of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. In a few short hours, over 1,500 Jacobite highlander soldiers lost their lives, forever changing the landscape of Scottish history. Stepping onto the Culloden Battlefield Memorial grounds is like stepping back in time, offering you a profound connection to the past and a somber reminder of the sacrifices made.
I (shamefully) only knew about this corner of history from the show Outlander. After visiting, I learned a lot from the informative and nicely designed Culloden Visitor Center, which follows the battle from the British side and the Scottish side simultaneously. It ends with an entrance out onto the battlefield, where you can walk in the steps of the courageous men who fought that day. The memorial features a solemn cairn (or grave), constructed from stones gathered from the battlefield.
Search for the mythical Loch Ness Monster on the shores of one of Scotland’s largest and deepest freshwater lakes. Fondly nick-named Nessie, the well-known tales of this prehistoric, aquatic creature lurking in the depths have fueled fascination and expeditions throughout history. It also happens to be a gorgeous area, where you can savor the serenity of the highland’s iconic nature! The villages of Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus, situated along the loch's banks, offer quaint accommodations, delightful local cuisine, and museums dedicated to the lore of the Loch Ness Monster.
Day Trip to Speyside
Nestled in the northeast part of Scotland, Speyside is renowned worldwide for its whisky production. This was the part of Scotland that my husband Sam most wanted to visit -- he loves the whiskys from Speyside! Given its close proximity, Speyside makes a great day trip from Inverness! Go behind-the-scenes of our day trip in Speyside on my Instagram Reel to discover the hidden gems we loved.
Speyside is home to more than half of Scotland's distilleries, and it is often referred to as the "Whisky Capital of the World." It's characterized by rolling hills, lush green valleys, and the meandering River Spey, which gives the region its name. Celebrated for its unique microclimate, which is ideal for whisky production, Speyside is the epitome of pastoral beauty!
Travel Logistics for Inverness
How Long to Visit Inverness
Honestly, you don’t need more than a day or two to explore the key highlights of Inverness. One of Inverness’s biggest advantages is its location. Inverness is an ideal jumping off point for a longer trip through northern Scotland. You can easily explore major highlights like the Isle of Skye or Speyside. Plus, the North Coast 500 begins in Inverness and follows a circular route through some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery.
Arrival & Departure
You can get to Inverness by plane, car, or train— it’s rather well-connected for a city of its size. We had a rental car for our week-long trip through Scotland, but there are daily train connections from Edinburgh for as little as £25.
How to Get Around Inverness
Inverness is SUCH a walkable city. We didn’t use our car once in the city center. There isn’t much parking either, so use your two feet to explore.
Eating & Drinking in Inverness
Best Restaurants in Inverness
- Original Milk Bar: ideal spot for coffee and treats. Menu is small, but super high quality. It has a great location on the river with a nice view and a great patio
- Perk Coffee + Doughnuts: Truly amazing donuts which all have cute names. They are big and rich, but totally worth the calories. Toasties were also really nice. Coffee was excellent.
- Mustard Seed: Great option for groups, especially foodies. It has a slightly upscale vibe with colorful decor. But not at all pretentious. Amazing mussels with cream sauce and a full gin menu.
- Fig & Thistle: Cozy neighborhood bistro with a pan-European menu. The cocktails are surprisingly good and the vibe is relaxed.
- Cafe 1: This spot is slightly out of the way, but the food was great. The aesthetic is random and quirky.
Best Bars & Breweries in Inverness
- Malt Room: This is the best place in town to sample Scotland’s best whisky. There is an amazing selection, speakeasy aesthetic, and seasonal options. You can even order a whisk flight curated by their expert bartenders. Great place to try and learn about whisky for the first time.
- Black Isle Brewing: One of the only micro-breweries in the region. Offers a great selection and wide variety. I recommend sitting in the rooftop Secret Garden. It's so cute and felt like a little hobbit spot. They also have pizzas which smelled really good.
- Walrus & Corkscrew: Super cute and cozy wine bar. I am obsessed with their logo and branding. Plus, the wine selection and quality is awesome! You can also order paired cheese plates.
Where to Stay in Inverness
Because Inverness is so walkable, I would recommend booking a hotel or AirBnb near the city center. There are plenty of beautiful Bed and Breakfasts that are locally-owned. BlueNess is a self-catered vacation rental that’s reasonably affordable. We stayed at AC Hotel by Marriott which had large rooms and great amenities, plus river view rooms. For a stylish boutique option, the Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel has highland decor that sets the tone for a truly Scottish experience.
Do you have thoughts or questions about this Inverness travel guide? Tell me in the comments below!
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