Ideas for Fun Things to Do Inverness
The Professional Traveller • Oct 07, 2020
Are you looking for things to do Inverness? You are in the right place.
Inverness is a small city, well more of a town and not a big one at that. You can easily see everything in Inverness in one day.
At the time of writing there are ever changing Covid19 restrictions in place so it’s always best to double check before you visit anywhere or anything.
Bonny bridges and an easy route.
The lovely River Ness has two footbridges that cross it. They are quite historic being built in 1880 and 1881 and offer a great view of the river, which depending on the time of year can be fast or like a torrent.
One bridge connects Bank Street with Huntly Street. Bank Street is the side of the river nearest the castle.
The other bridge connects Ness Walk (castle side) with Ness Bank.
This makes for a pleasant walk around the river and depending on your walking speed and the amount of photos you take would be around 30-45 minutes to do.
Whichever side of the River Ness you are walking you will have to navigate across a junction with the main road which crosses Ness Bridge (the main road bridge across the River Ness in the city centre, located close to the castle). Take care when going from Huntly Street to Ness Walk as this is a bit trickier and there is not an island in the middle of the road for pedestrians.
Fancy discovering Inverness at your own pace but with a local guide? Check out this audio walking tour with local guide Andrew Baxter. Download through your phone and lisen through your headphones and learn as you wander.
Islands in the stream, that is what these are (well in the river actually)
The River Ness not only has a monster (oh please!) – it actually has a series of lovely islands in the wider section of the river.
This is one of my favourite parts of Inverness because it is just a few minutes from the centre of the city but it is lovely and green, and there is a river rushing by too.
These islands are connected to either side of the river by footbridges so if you want to extend the circular walk above to a longer walk, but still easy to do, you can extend it by including crossing at Ness Islands.
From the Cathedral side of the river you continue walking alongside the river, with the river on your left. You will go past a series of buildings including a community hospital, the RNI. The area opens out into a series of sports fields on your right. Keep going and you will come to a footbridge that takes you over onto Ness Islands.
This is a popular locals spot and also very popular with local dog walkers. It’s a nice spot for a picnic too.
There is another footbridge of one of the islands that connects back to the riverside, Island Bank Road. Following this with the river on your left will bring you back to the city centre and the castle area.
Why not get to know more about Inverness from a Scottish Tour Guide Association guide and local Cath?
Things to Do Inverness – Idea 3
Have Fun At Bught Park
Fun for big and little kids, plus grown up ones too.
Bught Park is a large park with a good selection of play equipment in it for all ages. There are some great slides built into a hill too. It is a very popular local family spot.
However, this park has more attractions. One of them is a boating lake where you can hire a rowing boat or pedalo and go round in circles.
The other attraction is the miniature train. This is now run by volunteers to raise money for the local hospice which makes it even better. The track winds through the woods and there are various things to spot in the woods along the way.
There is a small car park at the entrance and little kiosk selling refreshments making this the all round perfect place to chill out with a picnic on a nice day so everyone can let off some steam.
You can take dogs into the park as long as you keep them under control and clean up after them of course.
Want to explore Inverness with a local guide and see much more than you can cover on foot? Why not try a 2 hour cycle tour? Max 10 people per group and easy rider bike so suitable for all abilities.
Things to Do Inverness In Church Street
Church Street is in Inverness centre. It runs parallel with the river and it has a range of independent shops and cafes that I prefer.
Floor to ceiling books to browse!
Leakeys is the largest secondhand bookshop in Scotland and it’s actually bigger than it used to be. It’s housed in an old church which gives it a really nice feel. Books are organised into categories and spread across the ground floor and the mezzanine. There are books on all sorts of topics – it is easy to spend a very long time browsing and buying!
If I want to find a secondhand book on a specific place or topic this is the place I will head for.
It’s well worth the wander down to the bottom of Church Street to find this great bookshop.
A real taste of Italy in Inversneckie
Miele’s is a family run business, that has really lovely gelato. If you are wondering what the difference is between ice cream and gelato – they have a different texture, with gelato being softer. Gelato also has much less fat than ice cream (which I’m sure makes it healthier, let’s just not mention the sugar).
Miele’s has an ever changing range of 24 different flavours. They also do hot waffles and other treats and they are open until about 9pm.
If you are staying in Inverness why not wander down to Miele’s for an ice cream instead of a pudding at your restaurant? It’s a lovely treat to enjoy.
Top spot for a plate of soup (yes we say a plate of soup in Scotland)
This little cafe is on a corner in Church Street.
It’s tiny, but friendly and welcoming. They generally have lovely soup and a good soup/sandwich deal on each day.
Dog friendly delights (with children allowed too!)
If you do like beer then this would be a great spot in Church Street. The beer is made locally on the Black Isle, hence the name. There are various organic beers available such as Red Kite. I have been told that they are nice beers by guests (I’ve never tried beer so I have no idea myself!).
There is a pizza oven the bar and there are a range of pizzas including a vegan option. None of that doughy rubbish you get at some famous pizza chains, proper pizza and yummy too.
This bar is also dog friendly, plus they also let children in as well. As such you can hang out with the kids and dogs while feasting on pizza and beer – that’s got to be good!
Note from Christy:
What Mum? There is a bar in Inverness that we can go and get pizza. When are we going?
Things to Do Inverness – Inverness City Centre
Quirky cafe with vegan treats
The Alleycat is a relative newcomer to Inverness. A kind of pop up restaurant that’s been around for a little while now. It’s tucked down a little close, Mealmarket Close, that runs between the High Street and Baron Taylor’s Street.
If you are in the High Street then you will find Mealmarket Close next to CEX, opposite HSBC. If you are in Baron Taylor’s Street you will find Mealmarket Close beside the Topkapi takeaway.
This is a quirky cafe with recycled and upcycled things inside. The tables and chairs are simple and there is also selection of games and magazines to read.
It’s welcoming for single diners or groups and has a great vegan menu with really delicious dishes.
It is also a nice place to hang out for a little while too, enjoying a read or a game over a plant milk coffee for example.
Interesting exhibits to while away and hour or so
Inverness Museum is small but it has regularly changing exhibits to help keep things interesting.
It’s located just below Inverness Castle beside the Tourist Information Centre which is at the lower end of the High Street (closer to the River Ness).
The entrance to the Museum is tucked round between the Tourist Information Centre and the castle.
It has art and craft exhibitions as well as changing exhibits.
It is free to enter with current opening times as follows;
Till 31 October 2020
Tuesday – Saturday: 10.30-13.00 and 13.45-16.00 (last booking at 15.00)
Sunday & Monday: CLOSED
As with many things you need to book ahead and there are timed slots to help with social distancing guidelines.
The new castle, that replaced the one the Jacobites blew up
Inverness Castle certainly occupies a lovely position, looking down across the River Ness. However, the main part of the castle is not open to the public. It has, for many years, been the local court. Thankfully the powers that be have finally seen sense and a new justice centre is just about complete and this means the castle will be turned into a visitor attraction.
In the meantime, you can visit a little part of the castle and that’s a new addition. It’s a glass viewing tower that was built to give visitors a good view over Inverness.
Visiting requires online booking and it is £6 per adult, £4 per child.
It may be worth checking the view from the castle terrace first, to see if you want to commit to visiting the viewing tower itself or perhaps do something else instead?
Things to Do Inverness – Explore Inverness On Foot
Find your family for free
Set down beside the River Ness, not far from Ness Islands, is the lovely new Archive centre. This is where you can do some research into any family connections you have to the area.
There are people there to help you with your research. There is plenty of free parking if you need it, although the centre is around 10-15 minutes walk from the centre of Inverness.
(The centre is temporarily closed during Covid19)
Why not get to know more about Inverness from a Scottish Tour Guide Association guide and local Cath?
Floral delights with tempting bites
Inverness Botanic Gardens are small but cute and a great place to visit on a cold day, a wet day or any other day infact.
There is a main hall with a lovely water feature and pond which is lovely for all ages. It’s a great spot just to sit and enjoy the sound of water for a little while.
The cactus house is really interesting too – who knew there were some many varieties!
It’s also a great place for photographers too!
The gardens are open 7 days a week 10am-4pm.
Entry to the gardens is free, although donations are much appreciated. There is also a cafe on site should you fancy a quick bite while you are there too.
The comfiest cinema seats and puntastic Panto
Yes! Eden Court is now open having been shut for over 200 days. The cinema is open with seats bookable online or via the box office, spaced to ensure 2 metre spacing all around. The cafe is open and there are some theatre shows on as well.
If you want to enjoy a coffee and perhaps catch up on some work the free WIFI and booth seating areas make the bar area a good spot to head for. You can also enjoy some good bar snacks including lovely chips with mayo and a nice vegan option or two.
If there is a film you fancy seeing then you should definitely go along. It has the comfiest seats of pretty much any cinema I have been in. The friends of the theatre got to test out several seat designs and my goodness they booked some great seats.
The cinemas are a little smaller and I like that. They also tend to show a different mix of films than the Vue multiplex which is out of town.
Unfortunately for 2020 the Panto is cancelled at Eden Court. This a real institution for locals with coaches bringing groups from all over the Highlands. The Panto always includes lots of up to date jokes as well as local content and we have been enjoying going for many years too. Let’s hope it returns next year and is busier than ever.
There is some free parking around Eden Court with paid parking at the Cathedral car park next door, and at the Highland Council car park behind the theatre.
Watch wildlife from the waves
Living not too far away from Inverness are dolphins – bottlenose dolphins to be precise, and actually some of the largest bottlenose dolphins in the world. (They are bigger because they have more fat due to the colder waters.)
If you want to see if you can spot some dolphins then you can easily take a trip out with local company Dolphin Spirit.
They run shorter trips on their bigger boat and longer trips on their fast inflatable boat.
This is a good opportunity to spend time with some local wildlife watchers. Depending on the season you may see and Osprey too and of course there is lots of information about the local surroundings.
The people at Dolphin Spirit are lovely and this is something I’ve enjoyed doing too – plus I learned lots that I didn’t know about this stretch of water.
Monster spotting underwater without getting wet
If you are looking to spot something a little bigger than a dolphin then why not take a trip on Loch Ness?
There is a pickup point in Inverness centre which will take you to the boat. There are a variety of options with longer trips going through the canal and then onto Loch Ness, as well as combination trips that include a visit to to Urquhart Castle perched on the side of Loch Ness.
The boat trips include a commentary, plus they all have sonar on them so you can see what is beneath the water as you glide across the top.
There is also a small bar service on the boats where you can enjoy a snack or a drink. There is outside and inside seating depending on how brave you feel and what the weather is doing.
The views are lovely from the loch and it’s a great place to get some lovely photos too.
Enjoy the scenery and hunt Nessie at the same time by taking a boat trip on Loch Ness – lots of options including short cruises, combined castle visits and full day options.
Sit back and enjoy a happy tour!
If you are looking for someone to take the wheel and show you the local sights then I would highly recommend Happy Tours. Run by Cameron, famous for wearing a kilt no matter the weather and how white his legs, Happy Tours is a local company with local guides.
They have a variety of tours and at time of writing are booking private tours only for up to 6 people. Their tour options include the Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Cairngorms & Whisky, Outlander and Loch Ness with Culloden battlefield.
Whenever I have sent guests on these tours they have been very happy with their experience and their guide, telling me they have had fun and learned a lot, a very happy tour experience infact!
Looking to stay in Inverness? Check out my guide to 17 Inverness hotels in and around the city.
If you want self contained holiday accommodation then check out Holiday Cottages Inverness – there are some fab stays right in the centre of Inverness.
Visiting the Highlands for the first time? Check out my guide to 10 important things you need to know before you visit.
Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, is now Scotland’s youngest city, a vibrantly growing community and the main destination for all tourists who seek their Highland roots or that more elusive creature – Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Inverness’s history, however, belies its peaceful present. Founded by Scotland’s monarchs as a strategic outpost on a wild frontier, the royal burgh on the Ness has been caught up time and again in the struggles that mark Highland and British history. Over the centuries, rebels against Lowland rule, the forces of Robert Bruce, followers of the Lord of the Isles, the English soldiers of Cromwell’s army, and Jacobites have swaggered through its streets. Here, too, have come some of the great figures in Scotland’s story – from St Columba, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Marquis of Montrose to Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Johnson and Boswell.
The city of Inverness sits at the northerly end of the Great Glen, a fault line in the earth’s crust that runs from one side of Scotland to the other. The current city’s origins date back to Pictish times; however there is evidence of the area being habited long before then, with the Clava Cairns, which sit just a short distance from the city, dating back to between 1500 and 200 BC, giving it a long and often forgotten history. Inverness has connections with several major figures in early Scottish history including St Columba, who ‘tamed’ the fabled Loch Ness Monster; MacBeth, who lived in a castle in the city; and David I, who built the first stone castle on the site of the earlier timber stronghold. The city grew to become an important trading port, which in turn brought conflict with others including the Vikings and Clan MacDonald, the Earls of the Isles. Despite this the city continued to grow, yet due to its remoteness from Edinburgh it was notable for not bowing to the political powers of the country. This was perhaps best demonstrated when Mary, Queen of Scots visited and was forced to stay in a small house after having been refused entry to the castle. The ‘Capital of the Highlands’ has many secrets just waiting to be discovered. In Secret Inverness, author Gregor Stewart pulls back the curtains of history to peer into the distant and not-so-distant past to reveal the forgotten, the strange and the unlikely.
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