It’s not just the call of Nessie that has visitors flocking to Inverness.
Often referred to as the Capital of the Highlands, this beautiful riverside city is the perfect place for a getaway that will leave you with the fondest of memories. Discover its history, marvel at its beauty and fall in love with the friendliness and charm of its people.
Taking the train to Inverness is one of the best ways to appreciate the city’s beautiful surroundings. Whichever direction you’re travelling from, you’ll be able to enjoy a journey through some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery. Whether that’s travelling up the Highland mainline from Perth through the striking Cairngorms, taking a journey through Speyside whisky country from the east, or travelling through some of the most remote landscapes from the north, getting to Inverness is part of the experience.
And once you’re based in Inverness, there’s the beautiful Black Isle, the famous Loch Ness, and the Beauly Firth to explore. The city itself isn’t short on things to do either: take a look at the castle and learn about its past and exciting future, discover the history of the area at the museum and art gallery and enjoy a stroll along the river to seek out the Ness Islands.
Getting to Inverness by train
- Aberdeen to Inverness – approx 2 hours 15 minutes
- Edinburgh to Inverness – approx 3 hours 30 minutes
- Glasgow to Inverness – approx 3 hours 20 minutes
- Perth to Inverness – approx 2 hours
Why choose Inverness?
You’ll always receive a warm Highland welcome anywhere you go in Inverness. And it’s that warmth and friendliness that makes it such a special city to visit and leaves you with lasting memories. The city itself is wonderfully compact making it really easy to see everything in a short space of time. Plus, because there’s an abundance of hotels within the city centre to suit all budgets, you can always nip back to the hotel to rest your legs if needs be.
If you’re unsure what to do with your time in the city or would like to venture further afield too - perhaps in pursuit of the famous Loch Ness Monster - the VisitScotland iCentre on the High Street is a great place to start. Their friendly, expert advisors know the city inside out and can help to make your visit the best it can be.
Shopping in Inverness
Being situated in the highlands and within easy reach of outdoor pursuits, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of shops selling outdoor essentials for skiing and hiking. It does get pretty chilly here in the winter months so if you’re searching for the perfect coat or boots, you’re in the right place.
The Victorian Market, across the road from the station, is a pretty 19th Century shopping arcade filled with independent shops selling everything from artisan chocolates to jewellery, and is also home to the best coffee shop in Inverness according to TripAdvisor.
For all book lovers, a visit to Leakey’s second-hand bookshop is a must! Put aside a couple of hours to get lost amongst Scotland’s largest collection of second-hand books and maps in this former church. There are thousands of books on every subject you could possibly imagine! If travel and trains are your thing, you’re in for a real treat. Plus, the log burning fire inside makes it the perfect place to warm up in the colder months. It’s a book lovers haven!
For all your usual high street shops, the Eastgate Shopping Centre has them all. And staying on the theme of books there’s a brilliant Waterstones in here with a fantastic children’s section. See if your little ones can spot the two giant Nessie’s that live there. You’ll also want to stop by the famous Noah’s Ark clock too - when the clock strikes the hour, the animals come alive, particularly at midday!
Eating out in Inverness
When walking around Inverness you’ll notice that there are a lot of places to eat. Whether you’re looking for some great coffee, melt-in-the-mouth pastries or a cosy spot for dinner, there’s a lot of choice. We’ve picked out a few that we’ve really enjoyed on past visits to the city.
Milk Bar, inside the Victorian Market
Everything about this lovely wee place is perfect. From the friendly welcome when you step inside, to the wonderfully smooth coffee and the incredible traybakes and cakes, it’s simply a great experience. Honestly, trying to choose which cake to enjoy could very well be the most difficult decision you’ll make during your time in Inverness. It’s open Monday – Saturday and it’s best to check their Facebook page for up-to-date opening hours.
As you would expect given the tradition of Highland hospitality, Inverness isn’t short of a pub or two. Some favourites are MacGregor’s award-winning bar and The Black Isle Bar. Both are great for a bit of a blether and a refreshing craft beer – perfect after a day of walking.
If you’re in the city on a Sunday, it’s worth stopping by MacGregors around 4pm when their legendary Sunday Sessions of live music takes place. It’s a brilliant place to relax with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Take a look at their website to see what other live music is taking place during your visit. The food is also spectacular so it’s well worth stopping by.
The Black Isle
For a cosy evening, The Black Isle always has a brilliant atmosphere and offers a wide range of craft beers, whiskies and wood-fired pizzas. Many of the beers are from their own brewery and organic farm just over the water.
For a fancier evening out, there are some fantastic restaurants located close to the river. Rocpool, The Mustard Seed and The Kitchen are a few that come highly recommended by members of the ScotRail team.
Things to do in Inverness
Inverness Castle and Viewpoint
Both the castle and viewpoint are closed for the foreseeable future while extensive renovation works take place to transform it into a visitor attraction which is expected to open in 2025. However, it’s still worth walking up to the castle because the views are fantastic, and you can still learn a lot about the castle’s history and the plans for the future. The boards that currently surround the castle are filled with interesting facts and fascinating stories, told through the eyes of Flora MacDonald.
Image credit Visit Scotland and Kenny Lam
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
At the foot of the castle sits the museum and art gallery which celebrates Highland life. The galleries of both permanent and temporary exhibitions are filled with work from local artists and crafters. It’s a fascinating place to learn about the history and heritage of the area. The museum and art gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday but please check their website to plan your visit:
Inverness Botanic Garden
The city’s Botanic Garden can be found around a twenty-minute walk along the River Ness from the city centre. Filled with a vibrant array of flora and fauna from all over the world, the Gardens are a wonderfully relaxing place to spend a couple of hours. Plus, the Tropical House is a great place to warm up! The gardens are open seven days a week, usually between 10am and 4pm.
The Ness Islands
Not many cities can boast having their own islands! The Ness Islands are a twenty-minute walk away from the city centre, reached by a lovely walk along the river. To access them you cross a lovely ornate bridge – perfect for a game of Pooh sticks! The islands are a really relaxing place to take a walk with lots of paths that are accessible for everyone and seats in idyllic spots with gorgeous views over the water. Keep your eyes peeled for wooden sculptures and a familiar face too. Nessie has been known to pop out of the water to say hello around here!
Located just past the Ness Islands, you’ll find Whin Park. It’s got a couple of brilliant play parks that kids will love plus a large boating pond. The highlight of a visit to the park has to be the miniature railway though. Owned and run by Highland Hospice, the little trains take passengers on an exciting half-mile journey through the woods. It operates each year between Easter and the end of October.
Days out from Inverness
After enjoying a day or so in the city, there is plenty to see in the beautiful surrounding areas. Of course, the most famous being a trip to Loch Ness to see if you can spot the elusive Nessie.
Loch Ness, the Highlands – even Skye
There are plenty of tour operators who will take you deep into the Highlands – as far as Skye, if you like. Almost all of them stop at Loch Ness, home of the world-famous Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. It’s the deepest body of water in the UK, so there’s plenty of space in there for beasties to hide. Find out more on VisitScotland or visit the iCentre when you arrive in the city to book a trip.
The brilliant visitor centre at the Culloden Battlefield brings the history of the Jacobite rising to life. It was the last hand-to-hand battle on British soil and proved to be pivotal in Scotland’s history. The museum gives full context not just to the combat, but also the events leading up to it:
Elgin - Speyside whisky
Hop on the train to Elgin, and forty minutes later you’ll be right at the heart of whisky country. Book on a distillery tour at Glen Moray Distillery for the full experience – and getting the train back to Inverness means everyone can have a dram.
Dolphin watching on the Black Isle
Catch the bus from Inverness towards Cromarty for a day of dolphin spotting. You can stop off at Chanonry point to watch them from the beach – but even better, book a guided boat trip from Cromarty to get up close these beautiful animals.
Staying in Inverness
There are a lot of hotels in the centre of Inverness with many of them offering lovely views over the River Ness. The great thing about there being so much choice is that there is accommodation to suit every need and budget. From well-known budget chain hotels to boutique bed and breakfasts and luxury hotels, you can find something to fit perfectly in with your plans.
Find out more about visiting Inverness
Ways to save...
- Spirit of Scotland travel pass : 1-2 weeks of train, bus and coach travel covering the whole country
- Rail & Sail : combine train and ferry travel
- Kids for a Quid: for every paying adult, up to four children aged 5-15 can travel for £1 each
- Railcards : see if you could save with a national or regional Railcard