Inverness and the River Ness

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Covid update: see our Latest News page for what's open (October 2020)

History of Inverness

Capital of the Highlands, Inverness was designated a city in the millennium year 2000. However, settlements in the area date back several thousand years and can be seen at sites such as Clava Cairns a few miles from Inverness and Craig Phadrig, an Iron Age hill fort with woodland walks from which there are splendid views of Inverness.

Thought to be the Pictish capital in the 6th century, Inverness became a trade centre for fish, wool and furs. There have been finds of Pictish artefacts and jewellery in the area around Inverness and some carved stones featuring animal designs. Visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery to view some of these.

View of Ben Wyvis and Inverness seen from the castle

Inverness Castle

With its pink sandstone and statue of Flora Macdonald, Inverness Castle dominates the riverside. Inverness was made a royal burgh in 1050. The first castle in Inverness, on the site of the present Victorian castle, was in the 12th century and over the centuries was replaced by newer versions. From 2020, the castle will be undergoing works so that it can be turned into a major tourist attraction. From here you can have panoramic views of the city, River Ness and surrounding hills stretch all the way north to Ben Wyvis (3,400 ft). The Inverness Castle viewpoint is where you can climb to the top of the tower.

Inverness Castle

Historic Buildings

The oldest secular building in Inverness is Abertarff House which was built in 1593. At the end of the street on the same side is the Old Gaelic Church, built in 1649 and then rebuilt in 1792 when it became Greyfriars Free Church (it now houses a second hand bookshop where you can browse for hours). Nearby is Old High St Stephen's Church which is the oldest congregation in Inverness. On the other side of Church Street is Dunbar’s Hospital, built in 1668 as a hospital for the poor before becoming the Grammar School until 1792. The opulent Town House has been recently refurbished.
Completed in 1869 (but without the two spires in the original design), St Andrews Cathedral on the riverside is an oasis of tranquility. You can now visit the cathedral from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and Sundays from 11am to 4pm. Free admission. Donations welcome. The cafe in the adjacent old schoolhouse is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm (light snacks, cakes, drinks, gifts).

You can learn more about the history of Inverness on a guided walk - click here for details.

Inverness
Inverness
Inverness
Inverness

Visiting Inverness

Inverness has a wide choice of restaurants and eateries featuring Scottish produce, Italian cuisine, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean, etc. There are also many pubs where you can sample real ales from local breweries, not to mention tasting wee drams from distilleries in the area. Some of the pubs can also keep you entertained with live music.

While the Eastgate shopping centre houses many well known brands and stores, the older part of the town around Church Street and the Victorian Market is where the smaller, individually owned shops are to be found.

Historical walking tours of Inverness with a guide operate in the summer months. You can also get guided bicycle tours around the city. See our what's open page for details of places to visit including the Botanic Gardens and Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.

Eastgate shopping centre, Inverness

Covid update: see our Latest News page for what's open (November 2020)