Inverness: the jewel of the north

by sincerity

The sparkling River Ness, restaurants to die for, a Victorian market and the best dolphin watching in the UK are just a few of the gems on offer in Inverness

Inverness is a vibrant and attractive destination. The River Ness flows through the centre of the town and the reflection of the sun has a magical way of sparkling like jewels dancing along the top of this river as it courses its way, through the romantic Ness Islands, under the city's bridges and out to the Moray Firth.

Many fine Victorian buildings - funded by native Invernessians who became rich in the Far East and other far flung corners of the world during the 19th century - overlook the river. The building that can be seen in almost every photograph of Inverness is the castle that is built on a cliff in the centre of the town.

Inverness is relatively accessible for people travelling from the south up the straight and direct A9 and has its own airport.   Also the Kessock Bridge gives access to the Black Isle and beyond to the north.  To the west the Skye Bridge enables visitors to travel from Inverness to Skye via Kyle of Lochalsh in a couple of hours. Therefore Inverness is an excellent base for the visitor to the Highlands and islands of Scotland.

Where to eat

The most exciting occurrence in Inverness in recent times is the fabulous range of restaurants that have opened their doors producing the absolute finest of food - which some may argue is the best in the world.  What allows them to do this is the presence of top quality fresh local produce ie. beef, pork, venison, partridge, oysters and scallops to name but a few.

Many of the chefs in these restaurants are French - who have brought their knowledge and expertise to the Highlands where they know they can access excellent local produce. What makes this successful combination even more exciting is that all these restaurants are competing with each other which is great for their customers, who not only have lots of choice of venues, but restaurants that are constantly improving on their already wonderful food.

For a special occasion Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel boasts two excellent restaurants that consistantly serve fresh local produce and cooked and served to perfection in Abstract and their brasserie, Contrast.  For example, in Abstract you can have dishes like beautifully fresh roast partridge with pureed celeriac or butternut squash with a glass of house wine for around £30. The hotel, which overlooks the river, offers a variety of romantic breaks and looks across at Inverness Cathedral and Eden Court Theatre which is the largest arts centre in Scotland.

The world renowned, multi-award winning Albert Roux OBE has opened his restaurant Chez Roux at the Rocpool Reserve (01463 240089; on Culduthel Road overlooking the river. Often cited as the most influential of his profession, he was taken to the Highlands by his parents on holiday during the 50s and 60s and loved the area and his ambition since becoming a successful chef was to open a restaurant in the Inverness area.

The location of The Mustard Seed (01463 220220; restaurant is to die for on a sunny day where you can eat out al fresco (weather permitting) on a balcony overlooking the river. Converted from an old church, with its high vaulted ceilings and arched windows, the restaurant serves superb food eg a superb two course lunch for £5.95. On the same street another church has been converted into a bookshop with shelves laden with books going right up to the ceiling.

If you are looking for food of the eastern variety Inverness has a secret jewel tucked up along Post Office Avenue which is off Queensgate. The Rajah Indian Restaurant (01463 237190; owned and run by Kabir Hussein who has been awarded The Master Chef Roll of Honour Award promises to make your meal 'an experience to remember' by only using the finest quality ingredients sourced by his very experienced team of chefs.

Where to stay

As far as holiday accommodation is concerned the area can adequately cater for all categories. Whether you are seeking a romantic weekend away for two or family accommodation at one of the many hotels or B&Bs - many of which overlook the river in Inverness. For example, The Glen Mhor Hotel offers beautiful double rooms with full breakfast for two for £80 per night.

Student Backpacker Hostel type accommodation is available at Bazpackers Hostel close to the castle which has family rooms or double rooms for £16 per night.

The most famous of all Scottish lochs

Inverness lies at the eastern head of what is probably the most famous of all Scottish lochs – Loch Ness. Although sightings of the inscrutable long-necked Loch Ness Monster have been rarer in recent years, the answer to the mystery is still swilling around in the depths of what is one of the deepest lochs in the whole of Scotland.

If you are interested in canals and how they work you can follow the Caledonian Canal that joins up Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy as far as Fort William where you can see the famous and unique Neptune's Staircase of canal locks designed by Thomas Telford.

A few miles to the east of Inverness lies the battlefield that hosted the last hand to hand battle ever fought on British soil – The Battle of Culloden, 1746. Charles Edward Stewart and his brave Jacobite Army faced the Duke of Cumberland along with many supporting Scottish Clans in what turned out to be a slaughter of the brave Highlanders who believed that the throne of Britain belonged to the Stewarts who had reigned over Scotland and England for many years.  Visit the new Visitor Centre and find out how the Jacobites suffered during and after the battle.

Dolphin watching

Inverness lies to the west of the Moray Firth and this area has become uniquely famous for dolphin watching - the largest acrobatic bottlenose dolphins in the world to be precise. There are several daily boat trips all through the summer season leaving from coastal villages on the Black Isle.

To the south of Inverness lie the omnipresent Cairngorm Mountains - fantastic mountain scenery with lots of opportunities for hill walking and skiing through the winter months. Aviemore has a treasure trove of activities for the outdoor enthusiast and the lover of wild, natural scenery together with an abundance of hotels, bed and breakfast establishments and eateries.

Although Inverness is the northernmost city of Britain, do not forget that that there is a lot to see north of the city. Lush green countryside will welcome you up on the north west coast at Plockton, Ullapool and Poolewe which is due to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.  Spectacular mountain scenery on the road from Lairg to Tongue on the north coast and the dramatic brooding Cuillin Mountains of Skye are a treat not to be missed.

All this and I have not even mentioned golf courses, whisky distilleries or salmon fishing and the fact that the little town of Nairn, fifteen miles east of Inverness was voted by worldwide TripAdvisor to be the second most attractive destination in the world a few weeks ago!  Yes, on so many fronts, Inverness is a truly ace place to visit.