Inverness, pronounced ‘Inbhir Nis,’ (Inbeer-ness) meaning ‘The Mouth of the River Ness.’ is not only a beautiful city, but it was also my honeymoon destination! Many people may not think of Inverness as a romantic destination, however I would disagree. Inverness is a perfect romantic destination: quiet city, long walks with nature, day excursions, and lots of fine drinking in warm pubs.
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. But the Highlands of Scotland might as well be a different country entirely – which is probably why Inverness is sometimes called Scotland’s other capital.
Inverness has a long Scottish history. The city dates back centuries and was once one of the chief strongholds of the ancient people of the Iron Age.
Today, Inverness is most often visited as a travel through city, a place to stop, tour Loch Ness, and move on. This is unfortunate, because Inverness and its surrounding areas offer at lot, and one can easily spend a few relaxing days here.
Things to Know
- Drive or take a Bus here – No matter where you are in Scotland, if you need to go anywhere, buses are by far the cheapest way and offer widest range of places. Plus, driving through the Highlands is an experience you don’t want to miss.
- Consider the Scotland Explorer Pass: They are $40.00 per person, but they give you access to tons of historical sites for up to 5 days. If you are driving to Inverness, you can use this pass to see many castles and sites. Follow the link for complete list of sites.
- Eat in a Pub – The best and often cheapest food is offered in the pubs. Also, pubs generally give you a true taste of Scottish culture.
- Plan to Take a Free Walking Tour – If you want to understand more about the complex Scottish history and people then be sure to take a free walking tour. They usually last an hour or so and are a great introduction to the city. There is a great one of Inverness at WalkHighlands
- Traditions are Strong: Inverness is proud of its past, and traditions are a key feature. You will find many of the local place names in Gaelic, once widely spoken until the 19th century. You will find bagpipes, tartans, good whisky, a proud Clan culture, and local folk music- ceilidh, not put on for tourists, but as part of everyday life. Traditions are alive and well in Inverness.
Where We Stayed
A beautiful bed and breakfast that offers small rooms but lots of charm. They offer single, double, twin rooms; and even family rooms on request. It is the PERFECT location to go touring during the day or take walks along the river. We arrived by bus and simply walked a few blocks to the Guest House. From Whinpark you are near the river Ness, only a few meters away from St. Andrews Cathedral, and a 15 minute walk from the Inverness Castle.
They have a beautiful breakfast nook for all guests. Get up early for a seat near the window so you can have a romantic English breakfast (included) of bacon, eggs, sausage, and toast.
Everything was clean, the owners are extremely friendly, and our room even had complimentary tea and cookies everyday. Guests have their own front door key, and are free to come in and out of the house as they need- very handy as anyone who stays in a bed and breakfast knows it’s usually a bit rough to come in after 9 PM. No worries at Whinpark.
What We Did
Inverness is a typical Scottish city. You’ll find beautiful stone buildings and churches, narrow streets, and of course plenty of pubs. They have a small historical centre and touristy spot that will try to sell you day trips to explore the surrounding Highland lochs and towns. If you want to stay in town there is still plenty fill in your days.
Walk Along the River Ness
Enjoy a morning walk along the banks of the river Ness. The city will just be waking up, the elderly old men will be gathering for their morning coffee, and the surrounding hills will be illuminated. If you sleep in, take a walk a night. The river looks lovely at night just as much during the day.
Be sure to spend at least half a day just wandering around the city, crossing over the River Ness a few times and wandering the downtown streets.
St. Stephens Cathedral (Old High Church)
St Stephen’s is the oldest Church in Inverness, and people have been worshiping on the hill since Celtic times (565 AD). The present Church was built between 1770 and 1772 but the west tower is from the 14th century, making it the oldest building in Inverness. The tower was the tallest structure in Inverness which is why it is called ‘Old High’ Church. (1)
It is nice to respectfully walk around the graveyard and read the stones. You can find limericks, occupations, families…it’s really interesting. Make sure to also look for bullet holes in the church walls and grave stones from past rebellions.
Total time spent: 1 hour
Right behind Oh High Church is the gorgeous second-hand bookshop Leakeys. It’s located in part of the Old High former part of the church. You can still see the pulpit and stained glass windows. Leakeys is a bibliophiles dream or nightmare. You will find thousands of books of many subjects, however they are also stacked and piled in all sorts of places. Be sure to ask for help finding something particular, or lose yourself among the shelves.
Total time spent: 1 hour.
If you are in a shopping mood or need a quick bite to eat. Head on over to the Victorian Market, an Old Highlanders clans meeting point. Though it has changed many times since then, the shopping center has a unique shops and a nice atmosphere. We had a nice cup of coffee and pastry to start our morning.
Total time spent: 2 hours
The castle overlooking the city is actually relatively “new” as far as castles go. It was built in the mid-1800s to replace a medieval castle that was destroyed by the Jacobites. It’s no longer a true castle so you can’t take a tour, it’s an active courthouse now. But you can still walk up to see it.
For the Shakespeare lovers, you’d be interested to be reminded that the Inverness castle was where Macbeth was said to have reigned! While it’s not at all true, as Shakespeare loved to write with historical people/places into his plays, Inverness is mentioned in the Scottish play.
Take a Cruise on Loch Ness
Taking a cruise on Loch Ness is basically a must if you are visiting Inverness. Loch Ness is a beautiful lake, containing the largest volume of fresh water in the whole United Kingdom.
Book a cruise with Jacobite cruise line. They will pick you up and bus you to the lake, you will board the boat where you can enjoy wonderful views, listen to an audio guide about local history, or watch the live sonar for a chance to see Nessie.
Things to Know: There are restrooms on the boat and a snack bar. The wind is higher on the water, so if you want to sit outside, be sure to dress warmly.
The Loch Ness cruise will make an excursion stop at Urquhart Castle, a 13th century ruined castle on the shore of Loch Ness that is amazing to explore.
Built on the edge of Loch Ness, its strategic location guarded the major route through the Highlands. The castle exchanged hands many times between Scottish clans and the English. All that remains today are ruins of Urquhart Castle after the castle was destroyed in 1692 in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Jacobites. Locals picked apart the castle as a quarry for many years.
There is a cafe and a gift shop nearby where you can use the restroom, warm up with a coffee, or buy souvenirs.
Total time spent: 1 hour
The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition Experience
As part of our Loch Ness Cruise, they made a stop at the incredibly cheesy Loch Ness Centre.
For centuries, Scotsmen have told stories of a monster that inhabited the Loch Ness. Ever since, people have used the best technology of the time to show definitive proof of Nessie’s existence. Visitors to Loch Ness can educate themselves and take a deeper look at the history of Nessie, the different types of technology attempts and the false flags that excited the world.
The center has a variety of presentations and interactive displays that provide a fun experience. Graphic presentations combined with animations give a 3-dimensional effect to the tour. The exhibition is designed to not only present the history of the Nessie hunt with facts and figures, but also presents the failure and scams of the myth in an entertaining way.
Total time spent: 1 hour
What We Ate
Inverness is flush with bars and pubs, we found The Gellions right over the river Ness. The Gellions Bar is wonderful for couples or friends who just want to have a good time, have a good drink, and eat some good food. Being the oldest pub (founded in 1841) in the Highland Capital was just a historical perk.
If you are looking for the most Scottish and lively of the Pubs then The Gellions is your place. Even the name Gellion is connected with Clan Maclean. (2) There is often live folk music that keeps the locals coming back. Be aware, Gellions has a bit of vinegar in it’s veins, so you might hear some tumbles or vulgar language even from the sweetest of old ladies at the bar.
We loved the atmosphere from the warm wood to the Scottish music, the friendly staff to an excellent fish and chips. They offered suggestions on local whiskeys to try after dinner, and they were absolutely great.
Inverness and it’s surrounding areas really offer it all – historic sites, romantic getaway spots, delicious food and drink, stunning scenery, and even a legendary elusive monster!
- Old High St Stephen Church. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_High_St_Stephen%27s. Retrieved on January 4, 2017.
- The Surnames of Scotland (1946) by George Fraser Black (1866-1948), http://forebears.io/surnames/gellion. Retrieved on January 5, 2017.