So, you've done Inverness' headline acts - cruised along Loch Ness, caught a show at Eden Court Theatre and shopped in the Eastgate Centre - but don't rest yet! There are many more hidden gems to discover in and around Inverness.
This beautiful part of the Highlands is home to a wealth of lesser-known experiences: independent cafés, quirky museums, woodland walks, historic monuments, and much more.
1. Velocity Café & Bicycle Workshop, Inverness
The lovely Velocity Café & Bicycle Workshop 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’.
2. The Castle Tavern, Inverness
The Castle Tavern is a favourite haunt with visitors and locals, offering a tempting range of real ales, freshly prepared meals, friendly banter and an excellent beer garden to sit in on fine days. Resting half way up Castle Street, you can enjoy the views of the castle from inside this cosy and intimate place.
3. Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness
The first stop for book lovers visiting Inverness should be Leakey’s, Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It’s located in a former Gaelic church – you can still see the pulpit and stained glass windows – and houses thousands of books on a huge range of subjects, all stacked and piled around a log-burning hearth. When you need a break from reading, you can check out the exhibits of local art or admire the collection of old maps and prints.
4. Ness Islands, Inverness
There’s no better way to spend a sunny day in Inverness than taking a wander along the sheltered riverside paths around the Ness Islands – a group of islands in the middle of the River Ness which are connected by Victorian suspension bridges.
If you’re visiting with wee ones, hop into a rowing 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. It’s a real treasure only a short walk from Inverness city centre.
5. The Mustard Seed & The Kitchen, Inverness
Sister restaurants The Kitchen and The Mustard Seed are both stylish riverside restaurants that serve 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.
6. Clava Cairns, near Inverness
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. If you're planning a trip to nearby Culloden, make sure you stop here as well.
7. Clootie Well, Munlochy
The area around Inverness is home to several ‘Clootie Wells’, old pilgrimage spots decorated with brightly coloured rags across the trees. People used to visit these wells and 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 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.
8. The Anderson, Fortrose
Situated in Fortrose on the Black Isle, just north of Inverness, 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.
9. 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.
10. Brodie Castle, near Forres
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. If you have a chance to visit Brodie Castle in the spring, the famous collection of daffodils will be in full bloom. There is also a picnic area and tea room.
11. Fort George, Ardersier
As well as being perhaps the mightiest artillery stronghold in Britain, Fort George is home to the Highlanders Museum which tells the fascinating story of a number of Highland regiments, including the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, from just after the Battle of Culloden to the present day. Visit the historic barrack rooms, explore the grand magazine with its superb collection of weapons, or look out from the ramparts for dolphins hunting and playing off the shore.