Inverness means “at the mouth of the River Ness”, and the river is the soul of the city. Wandering along the river to the Ness Islands, about 2 km from the city centre, gives a lovely perspective on the city, passing grand stone Victorian homes to the wilderness of the leafy islands, then back past the modern Eden Court arts complex and the Inverness Cathedral before returning to the high street. The more adventurous can continue their journey to the mystical Loch Ness, a breathtaking sight even in the harshest of weather. Loch Ness is also home to the charming village of Drumnadrochit (and its numerous Scottish-themed gift shops) and the beautiful Urquhart castle ruins, both a 20-minute drive from the city.
What do you like best about your city?
Inverness is the perfect base to explore the Highlands. The city is surrounded by stunning scenery, most of which feels isolated and peaceful. It has the amenities of any city – supermarkets, dozens of restaurants, bars and clubs for every taste, the main British high street shops – yet is a manageable size. The quality of life is among the best of UK cities.
The easiest walk is around the islands, mentioned above. A bit further a field, a walk along the Moray Firth from Fortrose to Chanory Point is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, especially in summer when dolphins and seals frolic in the currents. For the hardcore, Ben Wyvis is a 40-minute drive away. At 3432 feet, this challenging hike allows walkers to ‘bag’ their first Munro (the nomenclature for the 284 peaks in Scotland over 3000 ft high).
Inverness and Highland restaurants pride themselves in using locally-sourced produce, fish and meats, and most restaurants deliver high-quality food and service at reasonable prices in comparison to other UK cities. The Mustard Seed and its sister restaurant, The Kitchen, are both located on the river and specialise in weekly menus that feature seasonal dishes, such as salmon, venison and lamb. Further down the river, Abstract offers elegant, stylish food that marries Highland ingredients with French cookery. Recently named a ‘Rising Star’ by the Michelin guide, it is ideal for special occasions. The less expensive Contrast Brasserie shares a chef with Abstract, so the menu includes many creative fusion dishes. Nearly all Inverness restaurants offer inexpensive two-course lunch and early evening menus that showcase their menus.
Rock Ness is held in mid-June along the banks of Loch Ness. It’s a relatively new addition to the UK festival scene, but has already featured acts such as Razorlight, Daft Punk, Groove Armada, Mylo and the Chemical Brothers. A smaller festival, usually in August,is Belladrum, which focuses on talent local to Scotland.
Hootananny offers the most diverse nightlife for locals and visitors. The three-floor venue features live music to suit all tastes. The Bothy highlights local acoustic musicians, Madhatters showcases indie and rock bands, and the ground floor ceilidh bar features nightly traditional music from around Scotland. “Hoots” also serves delicious, inexpensive Thai food, and nabbing dinner before the nightly ceilidh session ensures a place to sit for the evening. Be wary of an archaic but enforced midnight curfew on weekends; if you’re not inside a bar by midnight, you’re not getting in.
Best Day Trip Out of the City
The Black Isle is a ten-minute drive across the Kessock Bridge and seems a world away from the ominous Highlands. The Black Isle is covered in lush green and farmland, and is surrounded by the tranquil waters of the Moray and Cromarty Firths. The charming stone towns of Fortrose and Cromarty offer insight into the past, and the peninsula is a perfect place for forest and coastal walks. Don’t miss the Black Isle Brewery, just a few minutes off the A-9, which specialises in tasty organic brews.
Something that not many tourists would know about
Inverness is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, and 1 in 7 residents is not British; for a city under 100,000 people, it has a cosmopolitan, international feel