Inverness and the River Ness

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Covid update November 2020: here's the latest on what's open in and around Inverness and Loch Ness

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 for winter 2020.

Inverness Castle in springtime

In Inverness

Inverness Botanic Gardens - open daily all year round. Winter opening times: Monday - Friday from 9am to 4pm (cafe open until 5.45pm), Saturday-Sunday gardens and cafe open 10am to 4pm. FREE admission. Explore these colourful outdoor gardens and see the cactus which has flowered for the first time in 25 years. Cafe offers soups, sandwiches, cakes and drinks.

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery - open Tuesday to Saturday from 10.30am with last admission at 3pm (closed between 1pm and 1.45pm for enhanced cleaning). 6 places are offered every 15 minutes. FREE but pre-booking required.

The VisitScotland information centre in Inverness High Street is open daily 10am - 3pm with leaflets, maps and details of what's open.

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

Eden Court Cinema with cafe/bar is now open once more.

Inverness Botanic Gardens

Inverness Cathedral is open 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).

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. Re-opening from 1st September with Covid protocols in place.

Inverness Cathedral

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.

Boat trips to see the dolphins departing from Inverness (Dolphin Spirit) and Cromarty (EcoVentures) will start again in March/April 2021. Advance 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. Pre-booking is required to access the visitor centre and exhibition (open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm). Guided walking tours also available. Takeaway drinks and snacks available with picnic tables outside. National Trust for Scotland.

Brodie Castle - the grounds are open daily for free (but the castle itself is still closed). The Playful Garden for children (admission charge) including Scotlandís biggest bunny sculpture is open Wednesday to Sunday (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Cafe, gift shop and toilets. National Trust for Scotland.

Fort George and The Highlanders' Museum re-opened on 11 September 2020. It will be open daily (10am to 4pm) until the end of November, with winter opening times to be confirmed. 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.

Cawdor Castle and Gardens has now closed until spring 2021.

Cawdor Castle

Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle - open daily 9.30am - 5.30pm (pre-booking required). Historic Scotland.

The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition at Drumnadrochit. Due to re-open after refurbishment 20th December 2020.

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). Reduced winter timetable.

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 - booking from April 2021.

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 operate daily (10am, 1pm and 3.45pm) from March 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 (only for one group of people who are together). Advance booking essential.
  • Walking Tours in Inverness offer 90-minute guided walks every day at 11.30am. There is also a tour at 6pm in the summer. Advance booking is essential.
Ness Islands

Outdoor Attractions

The Highland Wildlife Park is open daily from 10am to 5pm but you must pre-book your tickets in advance. 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.

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. A few of the attractions can't open due to Covid restrictions but the majority of the park is open.
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.

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