The Top 12 Things to Do Inverness, Scotland

Inverness, Scotland on the River Ness

Westend61 / Getty Images

Inverness, situated on Scotland's northwest coast where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth, is the largest city in the Scottish Highlands and the nearest city to Loch Ness. It has a quaint old town with numerous historical attractions in the city center and the surrounding area. Inverness is popular with travelers who want to explore Loch Ness, the Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, and those looking for outdoor excursions. Whether you're planning a trip specifically to Inverness or stopping through on a visit to the Highlands, there's a lot to see and do. Here are the 12 best things to do when exploring Inverness.

01 of 12

Tour Inverness Castle

Inverness Castle in Inverness, Scotland

northlightimages / Getty Images

Inverness Castle, built in the 19th century, overlooks the River Ness. The current structure was originally a prison, although there have been several past castles on the site through the centuries. Today, the castle grounds and the north tower are open to the public, with a scenic viewpoint located in the upper part of the tower. It's a great way to learn about the castle's history and get a 360-degree view of Inverness and its surrounding area. Hours can be limited, so check online in advance of your visit.

Castle, Inverness IV2 3EG, UK
02 of 12

Explore Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

Exterior shot of the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, lightly dusted with snow

John Allan / CC BY-SA 2.0 / WikiMedia Commons

The history and culture of the Scottish Highlands are on view at the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, which offers free admission to visitors. The museum, located in the city center at the foot of Castle Hill, features exhibitions on geology, natural history, archaeological heritage, and culture, focusing on Inverness and the Highlands. See everything from Jacobite memorabilia to Inverness silverware to Highland weapons and bagpipes. There are frequent special events and activities, including those tailored to families and kids. Don't forget to stop by the IMAG Café for coffee or a snack.

Castle Wynd, Inverness IV2 3EB, UK
Phone +44 1349 781730
03 of 12

Visit Loch Ness and Urqhart Castle

Urqhart Castle and Loch Ness in Scotland

Izzet Keribar / Getty Images

Loch Ness is about 30 minutes by car or bus from Inverness, and it's easily accessible even if you don't want to rent a car. The famed lake, supposedly home to the mysterious Loch Ness Monster, is also the site of the ruins of Urqhart Castle. At Loch Ness, enjoy walking or biking on the Loch Ness 360 Trail or embark on a boat tour. Urqhart Castle dates back over 1,000 years, and visitors can tour the grounds and ruins for a ticketed fee. From Inverness' city center, hop on the 919 bus for a direct route to Loch Ness.

Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6XJ, UK
Phone +44 1456 450551
04 of 12

Walk the Culloden Battlefield

Taken on the battlefield of Culloden in Inverness Scotland.

Cablach / Getty Images

The site of the Jacobite Rising is now a historical attraction where curious visitors can learn about the history of the Battle of Culloden. The visitor center has an exhibition of the legacy of the battle, and there are a lot of details to spot on the battlefield itself. Don't miss Leanach Cottage, a traditional thatched cottage from the early 18th century, and the shop where you can score a bottle of Culloden Battlefield Highland Malt. Culloden is about 10 minutes outside Inverness and is accessible by car, taxi, or public bus.

Culloden Moor, Inverness IV2 5EU, UK
Phone +44 1463 796090
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05 of 12

Discover Clava Cairns

Photo of the Clava Cairns, rocky ruins against green trees

Vipersniper / Getty Images

The Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava, known as the Clava Cairns, make a great day trip from Inverness. Located near the Culloden battlefield, the Clava Cairns is a Bronze Age cemetery complex of passage graves and standing stones (yes, like in "Outlander"). The site is open year-round and free for visitors who can explore the preserved ruins. The Clava Cairns, which are well paired with a trip to Culloden, can be reached by car, bike, or public bus from Inverness.

Inverness IV2 5EU, UK
Phone +44 1667 460232
06 of 12

Visit Fort George

Entrance to Fort George, Scotland

Gannet77 / Getty Images

Head northeast of Inverness to explore Fort George, an 18th-century fortress built to control the Scottish Highlands after the Jacobite uprising. Since its construction, It has remained in use, and parts are currently open to the public for tours. Walk along the rampart, which extends over half a mile, and visit the Highlanders' Museum to learn more about the region's military history. Tours are self-guided, with an audio guide available to access on your phone. The fort is open most of the year, but the hours change depending on the season. Fort George is best accessed by car or taxi.

Near, Ardersier, Inverness IV2 7TD, UK
Phone +44 1667 460232
07 of 12

Stroll Along the River Ness

Islands walk, River Ness, Inverness

Dennis Barnes / Getty Images

Enjoy a two-hour circular walk from the Inverness city center along the banks of the scenic River Ness. The path takes visitors past the Ness Islands, the Inverness War Memorial, and Inverness Cathedral. Those who want to continue can extend the trek to the Great Glen Way or along the Caledonian Canal, both iconic trails. The path is generally flat, making it a good option for people of all ages and abilities. In the colder months, bring along layers, warm shoes, and an umbrella.

River Ness, United Kingdom
08 of 12

Explore Inverness Botanic Gardens

Inverness Botanic Gardens in Inverness, Scotland

Courtesy of Inverness Botanic Gardens

Wander the Inverness Botanic Gardens, which is free to all visitors. The colorful gardens have numerous features, from a tropical house to a cactus house. Stop by the restaurant inside the gardens called Cafe Botanic, which is ideal for lunch or snacks. The attraction is located slightly outside of the city center and offers a peaceful respite for those tired of busy sight-seeing spots.

Bught Lane, Inverness IV3 5SS, UK
Phone +44 1463 701019
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09 of 12

Shop in Leakey's Bookshop

Interior shot of the dual-floored Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness, Scotland

Courtesy of Leakey's Bookshop

Stroll over to Church Street to discover Leaky's Bookshop, a second-hand bookstore that has been a fixture in Inverness since 1979. It's Scotland's largest used bookstore, and it's a must-see for book lovers. The emphasis is on non-fiction, although you can find books of all sorts on Leaky's vast shelves. The shop is located in the old town of Inverness, making it a good stop as you make your way through downtown.

Church Street, Inverness IV1 1EY, UK
Phone +44 1463 239947
10 of 12

Sip Coffee at Velocity Café & Bicycle Workshop

Photo of a latte and pastry from Velocity Cafe© & Bicycle Workshop

Courtesy of Velocity Cafe© & Bicycle Workshop

The best coffee in Inverness can be found at Velocity Café & Bicycle Workshop, located a short walk outside the city center. The cafe, which serves vegetarian food, delicious pastries, and coffee-based drinks, is a great place to sit and take a break from sightseeing. It's also a bike workshop, where cyclists can get repairs or other services on their bikes (or just find some like-minded people).

1 Crown Avenue, Inverness IV2 3NF, UK
11 of 12

Dine at the Mustard Seed Restaurant

Exterior shot of The Mustard Seed Restaurant in Inverness, Scotland

Courtesy of The Mustard Seed Restaurant

Downtown Inverness is relatively small, boasting several good dining options. One of the best and most popular is Mustard Seed Restaurant, located along the River Ness. It was built in a former church, leaving a ton of space for seating, and even has an outdoor balcony. They serve Scottish food and use local ingredients; you can't go wrong with any order. The restaurant has a little something for everyone who walks through its doors—the two-course lunch deal is a great budget-friendly option for travelers, and there are several vegan dishes perfect for those with plant-based diets. Reserve a table in advance; this restaurant fills up fast.

16 Fraser Street, Inverness IV1 1DW, UK
Phone +44 1463 220220
12 of 12

Hike to the Fairy Glen

Exterior shot of waterfalls in Fairy Glen Falls in Rosemarkie, Scotland

Michael Jagla / Getty Images

Drive to nearby Rosemarkie and follow an easy trail to the Fairy Glen, a beautiful glen with two waterfalls. It's less than a two-mile walk, so kids and those with limited fitness abilities can also join in the fun. While the trail is not steep, it can get slippery and muddy, so sturdy shoes are highly recommended. Plan your visit for a warm day to take full advantage of the water.

Bridge Street, Rosemarkie, Fortrose IV10 8UP, UK
Phone +44 1463 715000
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The Top 12 Things to Do Inverness, Scotland