Imagine taking a trip to Inverness, and you might see yourself cruising along Loch Ness, catching a show at Eden Court Theatre, shopping in the Eastgate Centre or enjoying a dram of whisky at Tomatin Distillery. While each one of those fantastic attractions is definitely worth a visit, this beautiful area of the north Highlands is also home to a wealth of lesser-known gems: independent cafés, quirky museums, woodland walks, historic monuments, and much more.
We recently asked our Twitter and Facebook followers where they would take a first-time visitor to the city, and they came back with dozens of great tips for a brilliant weekend in the ‘Capital of the Highlands’. Check out some of their suggestions below, plus a few of my own favourite things to see and do in and around Inverness.
Photo by Naia Lebrun
This lovely café on Crown Avenue serves a great variety of drinks and snacks, many of them locally-sourced; sip on a ‘Bicyclatte’ or a herbal ‘Velocitea’, and tuck into healthy salads and tempting cakes. The workshop offers expert advice and equipment for cyclists, and they also host events ranging from live music to ‘Poetry & Pints’.
There’s no better way to spend a sunny day in Inverness than taking a wander along the sheltered riverside paths around Ness Islands. If you’re visiting with wee ones, hop into a row boat on the pond in nearby Whin Park or take a ride on the Ness Island Miniature Railway, open weekends and during the school holidays.
Photo by Naia Lebrun
The first stop for book lovers visiting Inverness should be Leakey’s. Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop, it’s located in a former church – you can still see the pulpit and stained glass windows – and houses thousands of books on a huge range subjects, all stacked and piled around a log-burning hearth.
The Mustard Seed & The Kitchen
Photo by Paul Tomkins / © VisitScotland
Musts for foodies are sister restaurants The Kitchen and The Mustard Seed, both stylish riverside restaurants serving up locally-sourced European dishes with a unique Highland twist. Of course, they’re just two of the many fantastic restaurants in the city – look at our listings for many more tasty options.
Photo © Ship Space
Built in the back garden of maritime enthusiast Stanley Fraser, Ship Space is one man’s tribute to those that sail the seven seas. This eccentric free museum features replica boats, submarines and a wealth of nautical artefacts, but the jewel in its crown is undoubtedly its 1:10 scale model of the Titanic, where visitors can climb aboard and see the Parisian café and the Marconi wireless room.
Near the historic battlefield of Culloden lie the Clava Cairns, three chambered burial grounds that are said to have inspired US author Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Dating back 4,000 years, the cairns and the secluded woods surrounding them are incredibly atmospheric, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
Brodie Castle and grounds © VisitScotland
This striking 16th century castle was once home to the Brodie Clan and is opulently decorated with rare artworks and fine furniture. Make sure to take a walk around its beautiful estate, which includes peaceful woodland walks, an adventure park for kids, and a large pond where you can spot swans, ducks and perhaps even kingfishers.
Clootie Well, Munlochy
The area around Inverness is home to several ‘Clootie Wells’, old pilgrimage spots decorated with brightly coloured rags. People used to visit these wells or springs to dip a cloth in the water and tie it to a branch while saying a prayer, to spirits or goddesses in pre-Christian times, or later to saints. The Munlochy Well (pictured) is dedicated to St Boniface and is still used today; it even gets a mention in Ian Rankin’s novel The Naming of the Dead.
The Anderson, Fortrose
Situated in Fortrose on the Black Isle, the Anderson was once named one of the best places in the world to get a beer and features an impressive collection of Scottish and international tipples. Try local favourites from the Black Isle Brewery or the Cromarty Brewery, both known for their prize-winning beers.
Fairy Glen, Rosemarkie
Also on the Black Isle, the Fairy Glen in Rosemarkie was once known for well-dressing ceremonies, where local children would decorate springs with flowers in the hope that the fairies would keep the water clean. Take a walk along its beautiful woodland paths and look out for waterfalls and the ‘Money Tree’, which features hundreds of old coins hammered into its bark as offerings to the fairies. There are a couple of other magical waterfalls in the area too, take a stroll to the breathtaking Falls of Foyers or the Divach Falls.
Find more things to see and do in the Highlands, or leave a comment below to tell us about the hidden gems you’ve discovered in or around Inverness.