Inverness and the River Ness

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Covid update September 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 summer and autumn 2020.

Inverness Castle in springtime

In Inverness

Inverness Botanic Gardens - open daily from 10am to 4pm (last admission 3pm). FREE admission. Explore these colourful outdoor gardens and see the cactus which has flowered for the first time in 25 years. Cafe (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.

Inverness Castle Viewpoint - climb the 95 steps to the top of the tower and take in the panoramic views of the river and city. Online booking is now essential. Open from Thursday to Monday from 10.30am to 4pm (last booking at 3.30pm). Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Opening hours valid until 31 October 2020. It costs £6 for adults and £4 for children under 12.

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.

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.

Alternatively you can take a boat trip from Inverness marina on the Dolphin Spirit with daily sailings to see the Moray Firth dolphins (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. 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). Takeaway drinks and snacks available with picnic tables outside. National Trust for Scotland.

Cawdor Castle - the gardens are open daily until October (admission charge) but the castle itself is still closed. Cafe, gift shop, toilets.

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.

Castle Leod at Strathpeffer (seat of the Clan Mackenzie and probably the inspiration for Outlander's Castle Leoch). The grounds are open from 2pm to 5pm (admission charge) on the following dates: Thursday-Sunday 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th August, plus 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th September 2020.

Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore was Britain's first ever open museum. It shows how life was in the 18th century and is now open daily from Wednesday to Sunday (10.30am - 4pm). Pre-booking a time slot is required, but you can stay as long as you like. Free entry (donations welcome).

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

Loch Ness

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

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

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

The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition at Drumnadrochit (open daily, no need to pre-book tickets).

Loch Ness Cruises on the Nessie Hunter from Drumnadrochit - from 1st August. Pre-booking recommended.

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.
  • The National Trust for Scotland offers a choice of 2 guided walking tours which will tell you about the history of Inverness. These 90-minute walks start from Abertarff House in Church Street. Children under 12: no charge.
    Time Travel Tour - every day at 1.30pm from Monday to Friday in August, September and October 2020.
    Bloody Inverness - only on Saturdays and Sundays at 6pm (July - September).
  • Walking Tours in Inverness offer 90-minute guided walks every day at 11.30am. There is also a tour at 6pm until 13 September 2020. Maximum 14 people from 3 households. 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, Red pandas and Snow Leopards, plus bison, wolves, reindeer, camels, wolverines, yaks and many more. Be sure to check out the Polar Bears! Hamish the young polar bear will be leaving at the end of October. You can drive around the main reserve and explore the rest on foot.

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).

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