Inverness and the River Ness

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Update Autumn 2021:
Tourist accommodation and visitor attractions re-opened across Scotland in late April.
Here's some suggestions of what you can see and do around Inverness.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Highlands

Visiting Inverness & area

There's lots of things to see and do in and around Inverness including free attractions such as the city's Botanic Gardens, Cathedral and Museum & Art Gallery, as well as picturesque riverside walks and trips to see the local dolphins.
You can explore the shops in the city centre and stay under cover in the Victorian Market and Eastgate shopping centre.

Within a short drive you can visit historic sites such as the Clava Cairns (which inspired Outlander), Culloden Battlefield, and castles such as Cawdor, Brodie and Urquhart.

Loch Ness is always popular, but you can try the quieter south side, or head off the beaten track into scenic Glen Affric.

Here's out Top Picks of things to see and do in the Inverness area.

Inverness Castle in springtime

In Inverness city centre

Inverness Botanic Gardens - FREE admission (donations welcome). Explore these colourful outdoor gardens and greenhouses. Open daily from 10am - 4pm. Cafe with outdoor decking. Plant sales. This hidden gem is easy to reach from the city centre by walking along the riverside.

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery - FREE admission (donations welcome). Discover the history of the area and enjoy ever-changing exhibitions in the gallery space upstairs. Easy to find next to the Castle in the city centre. Open daily from Tuesday to Saturday. Limited capacity so there may be a queue to enter. Small cafe.

The VisitScotland information centre in Inverness High Street has leaflets, maps and details of what's open.

Inverness Farmers' Market - on the first Saturday of every month in Inverness city centre - fresh local produce, plus crafts and plants.

Inverness Botanic Gardens

Inverness Cathedral - FREE admission (donations welcome). Open daily.
The cathedral's Cafe Ness in the adjacent old schoolhouse offers light snacks, homemade cakes, drinks and gifts. (Open daily from 10am to 4pm).

Riverside walks - stroll along the River Ness to the pretty Ness Islands. You can continue along to Whin Park (miniature railway, boating lake, children's play areas) and walk beside the Caledonian Canal which leads to Loch Ness.

If you're looking for an indoor activity for the family, why not try one of the Inverness Breakout Games? Your team of 2-6 players will be locked in a room filled with puzzles and hidden clues. You have 60 minutes to escape! Choose from the Riddle of Nessie, Frankenstein or The Vault. Based in Inverness city centre.

Abertarff House (built in 1593) in Church Street is known as the oldest secular building in Inverness. It is open in July and August (Friday - Sunday from 11am to 3pm). Free admission. National Trust for Scotland.

Inverness Cathedral

Inverness Castle Tours

Inverness Castle Tours - new for Autumn 2021.
Find out more about the history of Castlehill and the Castle building itself behind the hoardings as it is transformed during the Spirit of the Highlands project. Tours lasting 45 minutes start at 11am and 1pm daily from 1 October 2021. Advance booking is required.

Inverness Castle

Wild About Inverness

Wild About Inverness City Centre Outdoor Trail by Ablekids Press is suitable for children and grown ups of all ages! Explore the historic heart of Inverness and discover wild, mythical and domestic creatures on the city centre's buildings and monuments. Covering less than a kilometre, it takes around 45-60 minutes to complete the trail. Starting at the Millennium Circle at the foot of the Market Brae Steps, you will finish on Castle Hill. The trail is suitable for those on foot, pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. A map/guide is available as a free PDF download and you can buy a Sticker Activity Book of the trail from Ablekids Press on Market Brae Steps.

Inverness City Historic Walk app

You can download a free app from your Apple or Android store - just search for 'Inverness City Historic Walk' or use the QR codes below.
Starting from Inverness Castle, simply follow the app to explore 32 historic locations around Inverness city centre. You can listen in English and in Gaelic. A booklet is available from the tourist information centre in Inverness High Street.

Inverness City Historic Walk QR codes

Wild About Inverness Trail

Moray Firth Dolphins

Take a trip to Chanonry Point on the Black Isle (just 15 miles north of Inverness). From the stony beach you can often spot dolphins just offshore in Rosemarkie Bay. The best time to go is about 1 to 2 hours after low tide when the tide is rising and the dolphins are chasing the fish. Check the local tide timetable before you go so you can maximise your chances.

You can take a cruise from Inverness marina on the Dolphin Spirit boat or RIB to see the Moray Firth dolphins. Daily sailings (weather permitting) from mid March to end October. Online booking essential.
From Cromarty on the Black Isle, you can also go out in a high speed 12-seater RIB with EcoVentures in the Cromarty Firth. Online booking recommended.

Dolphin seen from the Black Isle

Historic sites around Inverness

Clava Cairns (near Culloden Battlefield) - these ancient stone monuments are open at all times - free of charge.

Culloden Battlefield - you can walk around the battlefield any time for free. 2021 is the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden which is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Visitor centre with exhibition (admission charge) - open daily in summer and open Wednesday - Sunday in winter. Cafe and gift shop.
Led by an expert guide, Battlefield tours are run at 11am and 2pm booking required.

Brodie Castle - the grounds are open daily for free. The castle is open on a seasonal basis. The Playful Garden for children (admission charge) includes Scotlandís biggest bunny sculpture. Cafe, gift shop and toilets. National Trust for Scotland.

Fort George and The Highlanders' Museum at Ardesier. Pre-booking tickets is essential. This garrison fortress (12 miles from Inverness) overlooks the Moray Firth and was built for the English army after the Battle of Culloden. Historic Scotland. Open daily. .

Cawdor Castle and Gardens are open daily from 30 April to 3 October 2021. Pre-booking is currently essential. Cafe and gift shop.

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Cawdor Castle

Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle (open daily with pre-booking required). Historic Scotland.

The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition at Drumnadrochit.

Jacobite Cruises - boat trips on Loch Ness (online booking recommended). Departures from Dochgarroch Loch (5 miles from Inverness) and the Clansman harbour (9 miles from Inverness).

Cruise Loch Ness - boat trips on Loch Ness from Fort Augustus at the southern tip of the loch (online booking recommended).

Loch Ness Cruises on the Nessie Hunter from Drumnadrochit.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness near Inverness

Guided Tours of Inverness

Inverness Bike Tours offers a 2-hour cycling tour around Inverness with a friendly guide. The 10-km route will take you along the River Ness to the Ness Islands and Botanic Gardens, then along the Caledonian Canal and into the Merkinch Nature Reserve. Three tours usually operate daily (10am, 1pm and 3.45pm) from spring to October. Bikes and helmets are provided. Adults only (sorry no children). Booking essential. Maximum 10 people per tour.

Guided Walking Tours:

  • WOW Scotland offers entertaining, family-friendly walking tours of Inverness. Tours are scheduled on request. Advance booking is essential. They can also provide Outlander walking tours. WOW Scotland are 5 star rated by VisitScotland and are the number one tour operator in Inverness on TripAdvisor.
  • Walk Inverness with Cath Findlay is a 2-hour guided walking tour. Advance booking essential.
  • Walking Tours in Inverness offer 90-minute guided walks (advance booking is essential). These operate every day this summer at 11.30am. There is also a tour at 5.30pm from May to September 2021.
Ness Islands

Outdoor Attractions

Set in the Cairngorms National Park, the Highland Wildlife Park has a wide range of animals from native species like the Scottish Wildcat to more exotic creatures such as Amur Tigers, Japanese macaques, polar bear, Red pandas and Snow Leopards, plus bison, wolves, reindeer, camels, wolverines, yaks and many more. You can drive around the main reserve and explore the rest on foot. The park is about 40 miles south of Inverness, just off the main A9 road. (Usually open daily from 10am to 5pm but you must pre-book your tickets in advance.)

If you've got kids, then Landmark Forest Adventure Park is the place for you. You can easily spend a day here exploring the Pinewood Nature Trail with its red squirrels feeding area, Tree Top Trail, adventure play areas, Skydive 'parachute' jump, Tarzan Trail aerial challenge course, Tropical Hot-House (butterflies, birds and exotic flowers), Pinnacle climbing wall, Dinosaur Kingdom with lifesize moving dinostars, Forest Tower, etc. (Usually open daily 10am-6pm. Pre-booking is essential.)
Situated 23 miles south of Inverness just off the A9 (near Carrbridge, which is 7 miles north of Aviemore).

The Zip Park on Alvie Estate near Kingussie in the Cairngorms offers exhilarating aerial rides on their zip wires through the Scottish Pine Forest. Over the winter you can also experience the forest at night-time with a floodlit zip course. Suitable for ages 10 and upwards.

Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore was Britain's first ever open air museum. It shows how life was in the 18th century. Open daily from 5 May 2021 to the end of October. Pre-booking a time slot is required, but you can stay as long as you like. Free entry (donations welcome). Cafe and gift shop.

Tiger at the Highland Wildlife Park

The Great Outdoors

Inverness is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands so there's lots to discover on our doorstep.

Beaches at Nairn along the Moray Coast, and also on the Black Isle - enjoy the unspoilt sands!

Rogie Falls - a series of cascading waterfalls with forest walks.

Glen Affric National Nature Reserve - explore Loch Affric and the ancient pine forest

Falls of Foyers - dramatic gorge on the less visited south side of Loch Ness

Nairn beach near Inverness

Forestry Trails

There are some lovely forestry walks around Inverness including Craig Dunain, Craig Phadrig and Ord Hill. Just pick up a trails leaflet at Inverness Tourist Information Centre.
Inverness is also the start of the Great Glen Way - a long distance walking path which runs all the way to Fort William on the west coast. There are accessible stretches of the walk from Inverness starting along the Canal.

Inverness paths to walk

Canal Walks

You can also find some flat walks on the towpaths either side of the Caledonian Canal which can be accessed near the Ness Islands or at Clachnaharry where the canal enters the Firth. Look out for otters here! At the Muirtown Basin at the bottom of the canal locks, you can walk round in a loop and spot the yachts.
You can also explore the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve with views over the Firth and the Kessock Bridge.

Caledonian Canal
Caledonian Canal

Steam Trains

The Strathspey Railway operates steam trains from Aviemore on a restored section of the original Highland Railway Line which takes you back to the golden age of rail. You can even enjoy a light lunch, afternoon tea or evening meal as you travel back in time.

You can also take the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig on the west coast along the famous West Highland Line.

Strathspey Railway steam train at Aviemore