Inverness: a Capital Time in The Highlands

By Murray Stewart, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Inverness.

Overall rating:5.0 out of 5 (based on 6 votes)
Enjoyable
4.833335
4.8
Useful
4.666665
4.7
Inspirational
4.666665
4.7
Recommended for:
Activity, Food and Drink, Winter Sports, Budget, Mid-range, Expensive

Whether you see Nessie or not, you can have a monstrously good time in Inverness. A long way north, but well worth it, the city will wine you, dine you, dance your socks off and send you home happy

On the flight from London to Inverness, the girl in front of me asked her boyfriend in all seriousness: “Is there a time difference between London and Inverness?” Without hesitation, he replied: “Yes, Inverness is about 20 years behind.”   

The capital of the Highlands may be geographically isolated from the more populous parts of Britain, but it can more than match the ‘big boys’ for quality of life, culture and the outdoorsFine restaurants and deep-rooted, historical connections strengthen its case. Stunning scenery just a caber-toss away ends the argument.

Getting there

Inverness Airport is well-served by Easyjet, Flybe and British Airways (Gatwick). Taking a train is another option, though this may be too long for some: eight hours from London.

What to do and see

Inverness’ status as the biggest dot on the map of the Highlands has counted against it. The city's comparative lack of awe-inspiring buildings is due to the number of times the town has been destroyed over the years by various invaders. Invaders like big dots.

But history there is. For starters, it has a castle. Although the current building dates only from 1836, there has been a fortification here since the 11th century. You can’t visit the interior, but its lofty location gives great views over the city and River Ness. In front of it is the statue of Flora McDonald, who once helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after the Battle of Culloden, inspiring the immortal lines of the Skye Boat Song (see video link, below).

To find out more about emotive Culloden, the last land battle on British soil (1746), try the worthwhile visitor centre (Culloden Moor, IV2 5EU, +44 (0)844 493 2159, www.nts.org.uk), 8 miles out of town. Bus information from the Tourist Office.

Take a walking tour around town with a kilted guide from Happy Tours (www.happy-tours.biz ), adults £10, concessions £8. Discover the city’s past, its connections with Oliver Cromwell, Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobites.

Chanonry Point, on the Moray Firth is renowned for its bottlenose dolphins. Let Inverness Dolphin Cruises (+44 (0)1463 717900, www.inverness-dolphin-cruises.co.uk) organise you a boat trip (March to October) to see them. There's a high chance of success - take binoculars!

In poor weather, the city's Victorian Market (www.invernessvictorianmarket.co.uk) provides shelter for a few hours browsing some quirky outlets (get your bagpipes refurbished at Cabarfeidh Pipes). Oh yes: tartanalia - rugs, kilts, scarves and shawls - abounds here. 

And if you can't find a whisky to your taste at The Whisky Shop (17 Bridge Street, +44 (0)1463 811871), file yourself under 'F' for 'fussy'.

Anything special happening today?

Inverness can pull in big name acts, recently attracting Rod Stewart. Every year there's the annual Rockness music festival (www.rockness.co.uk), the Inverness Highland Games (www.invernesshighlandgames.com) for caber-tossing, and Inverness Tattoo (www.tattooinverness.org.uk) for pipers and parachutists.

I'm hungry - do I have to eat deep-fried Mars bars?

Start the day at the Castle Restaurant (41 Castle Street, IV2 3DU, +44 (0)1463 230925), where a hearty  Scottish breakfast is £6, including haggis. It's good value and a city institution. They do lunches, too. (And I thought that crinkle-cut chips and knickerbocker glories were out of fashion.)

Still on Castle Street, take lunch at Cafe One (75 Castle St, IV1 1ES, +44 (0)1463 2262000 www.cafe1.net). Norman, the genial maitre d' awaits with delicious cuisine in a tasteful setting. A two-course lunch costs a mere £9.50.

For luxury dining,celebrated chef Albert Roux's Chez Roux restaurant nestles in the Rocpool Reserve Hotel (contact details below). The evening set menu is around £22, lunch menus are £13. 

Er, any chance of a wee drink?

Scottish beer can be something of an acquired taste for visitors. Try the organic ales of the award-winning Black Isle Brewery (Old Allangrange, Munlochy, IV8 8NZ, +44 (0)1463 811871, www.blackislebrewery.com) north of the city. Should you risk their 'Knicker Dropper Glory', suitably strong at 6.5%? Hmm. I'll let you decide. Brewery visits are possible, but if you simply want to taste rather than tour, the brewery supplies some of Inverness’s hostelries (Hootanannys' is one, see below).

And a wee jig?

Don’t miss Hootanannys' (67 Church St, +44 (0)1463 233651, www.hootananny.co.uk), where some of the Highland’s finest musicians guarantee you a memorable night. Willing locals hurl foreign students around, supposedly teaching them Scottish Country Dancing. It’s carnage and chaos, but great fun. Do join in - you don't need to be able to spell 'ceilidh' to take part in one! Bizarrely, the pub also serves well-priced Thai cuisine. Inverness is truly cosmopolitan.

And now.... I'm ready for my bed

For those on a budget, try the Bazpackers' Hostel (4 Culduthel Rd, IV2 4AB) which provides dormitory accommodation (including female-only) for £14. 

Mid-price Ardconnel┬áHouse (21 Ardconnel Street, IV2 3EU) has b&b rates from £35pp. Breakfasts include porridge, oatcakes and smoked haddock.

The chic Rocpool Reserve Hotel (Culduthel Road, IV2 4AG) combines luxury with...more luxury. Doubles are from £170. Pamper yourselves.

I took ALL of your drink suggestions. Now I need some fresh air and exercise to get rid of my hangover

A short stroll along the banks of the River Ness, to the Ness Islands, takes you to a calm, leafy space for walkers, shared with local wildlife.

Out of town, the wild outdoors really begins. Hillwalking is a huge favourite in the Highlands, and the serious mountain-collector in Scotland is known as a Munro-bagger. A Munro is a mountain over 3,000 feet high, and many are less than an hour's drive to the south and west of Inverness. Check out www.munromagic.com for details. 

But.... but you haven't talked much about the monster!

Oh, alright then. Down the side of Loch Ness is Drumnadrochit and the Loch Ness Visitor Centre (www.lochness-centre.com), where you can see photos and films, and read the stories and countless theories that have evolved over the years since Nessie first reared his (or her?) humps in the 1930s.

But here's an alternative: since 1991, Steve Feltham has lived as a monster-hunter in a former mobile library on Dores Beach on the banks of the loch. His hunting has (to date) been unsuccessful: tongue-in-cheek, his website is www.haveyouseenityet.com. He'd be ecstatic to meet Nessie, but in the meantime he is very content to chat to visitors. 

Other stuff

Inverness is the starting/finishing point for cycling, walking and boating holidays down the Caledonian Canal. There's world-class golf and a new marina, but they'll have to wait for another guide.

                         *********************************************************************************                             

On the flight back to London, there was a cabin crew announcement, directed at one member of a returning stag party, and no doubt scripted by another:

“Could passengers please join with me in congratulating Simon, who not only saw the Loch Ness Monster, but apparently spent the night with her?”

As the bewildered passengers applauded, and his mates erupted with laughter, the miscreant buried his face in his hands. He may have been unique (or not!) in his close encounter.

But while the 'real' Loch Ness Monster may have disappeared into the past, Inverness is very much a city with a vibrant present. And a bright future.
 

Save money on booking

flightshotelscar hire

by following our money-saving guides. They are written by our Simonseeks team of travel gurus.

More information on Inverness: a Capital Time in The Highlands:

Author:
Murray Stewart
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
5
Average: 5 (6 votes)
Total views:
381
First uploaded:
10 January 2011
Last updated:
3 years 32 weeks 5 days 17 hours 5 min 9 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Activity, Food and Drink, Winter Sports
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
wildlife; marine life, mountain-walking

Murray recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Rocpool Reserve
N/A
2. Ardconnel House
N/A
3. Bazpackers Hostel
N/A

What do you think of this guide?

Did it tell you what you needed to know?
Do you agree with the writer's recommendations?

Share your views by leaving a comment on this page.

Community comments (7)

Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

As always a joy to read! Honestly, it wouldn't matter where you go and write about, I will read your review and want to visit there. The fact there is the possibility of seeing monster, well, how can one resist.

You covered it all, can't think of anything else I would want to know except when can I go??

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Great guide Murray. Love the comments from the plane.

We visited Loch Ness about two years ago, absolutely lovely, didn't see the monster either though

Simon

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Reading the guide at the same time as listening to the music video attached has a nice effect- try it!

Another brilliant guide Murray! It is funny, informative, entertaining and useful; all of the main ingredients that are needed to make a guide brilliant. It is also more than that with the anecdotes, the easy to read structure with short paragraphs, humorous comments and innovative sub-headings.

I love your observations and comments on them, like Thai food being served in the ceilidh venue, the monster hunter and the cabin crew announcement.

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
5
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Going there as soon as I can!

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Made me smile, and that's always a good thing!
Just about recovered from the New Years head so drink is a delicate subject but I read on, in a good cause. Don't think I've ever done more than drive past but you certainly build a good case to stopover and there are plenty of recommendations.
Would like to try the Caledonian Canal sometime.

Was this comment useful?
Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Murray - you may have spotted I don't award 5 stars lightly, but in this instance, I totally enjoyed the humour, content, pace and balance in your piece.

Inverness is one of those areas I know well as I visit around twice a year to see friends. They used to live near Chanonry Point, so I know first hand how magical it is to spot the dolphins in the sea (and how close they get to mainland). Likewise, I know Black Isle beer very well!

Great write up, I think you have captured the main highlights of the city very well.

Paul

Was this comment useful?

You are a generous man. Thanks for your kind comments. I have some hardcore friends up there, so I cannot cope with too many visits there -I come back a wreck.