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 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. 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 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.
The Highland Food & Drink Trail has a variety of street food vendors by the river at weekends (near the Cathedral).
Abertarff House (built in 1593) in Church Street is known as the oldest secular building in Inverness. Free admission. Open daily in 2023 from 1 August to 31 October (from 10am to 6pm). Small cafe. National Trust for Scotland.
Guided tours of Inverness Town House are available on Thursdays at 2pm and 3.30pm (April – October) and also 2pm on Thursdays (November – March). Advance booking essential either via the reception desk at the nearby Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, or online.
The Uile-bheist brewery and distillery on the banks of the River Ness is just 5 minutes walk from the city centre. This brand new building is the first new distillery to be built in Inverness for 130 years and aims to create artisan whisky and beer from the river water and local barley. A variety of guided tours and tastings are available to book including chocolate and cheese tasting.
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.
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.
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 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.
The Inverness City Sightseeing open top red bus service is a hop-on hop-off service which runs hourly from the bus station (tickets are valid for 24 hours). The Red Route operates from 2 April to 22 October 2023 around the city and to Dochgarroch Lock on the Caledonian Canal (starting point for boat trips on Loch Ness).
Guided Walking Tours:
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 April to October. Online booking recommended.
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.
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 was the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. The battlefield is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Visitor centre with exhibition (admission charge) - open daily from March to November, and open Wednesday - Sunday the rest of the year (but closed Christmas to mid January). Cafe and gift shop. Led by an expert guide, Battlefield tours are run in the summer months.
Brodie Castle - the grounds are open daily for free. The castle is open daily from May to August 2023, and open weekends in March, and from Wednesday to Sunday in April, September and October. The Playful Garden for children (separate admission charge) includes Scotland's biggest bunny sculpture. Cafe, gift shop and toilets. National Trust for Scotland.
Fort George and The Highlanders' Museum at Ardesier. Pre-booking tickets is recommended. 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 will be open from 29 April to 1 October 2023. Cafe and gift shop.
Urquhart Castle (open daily with pre-booking recommended). 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.
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. Open daily (except Christmas).
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.
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 May to the end of October. Free entry (donations welcome). Cafe and gift shop.
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
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.
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.
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.