Planning a trip to Inverness? Fantastic. There are plenty of things to do in Inverness – from visiting important sites in Scottish history, exploring the surrounding nature, and spending time entertained indoors.
Since the weather in Inverness can be unpredictable (or predictably cold and overcast, depending on if you are a glass half full person or not), I’d recommend arriving with a list of things to do in Inverness that interest you. With a bit of flexibility and planning, you can slot different activities into your itinerary based on the weather. Forget scrambling to cancel bookings last minute and rushing to find alternative indoor activities!
Arriving in Inverness prepared and inspired is important, so let’s delve into the 10 best things to add to your itinerary.
Visit St Andrew’s Cathedral
Christian or not, a visit to St Andrew’s Cathedral should hold a place on your itinerary. The cathedral is the Northernmost Anglican church in Scotland and, besides, is the reason that Inverness is classified as a city.
The cathedral is dedicated to St Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland. It is full of cultural and religious meanings – with stained glass windows, carved stone, and important statues. To learn more about the history and not miss these small details, I suggest inquiring about a tour rather than exploring independently.
If you want to get a feel for the community and culture, visiting St Andrew’s Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Inverness. Take a look around inside, then head to Café Ness, the cathedral café next door.
Pay your respects at Culloden Battlefield
A visit to Scotland is not complete without educating yourself on the Jacobite Rising. And in fact, Inverness is best known for its proximity to Culloden Battlefield.
Culloden Battlefield is the site of the final battle of the Jacobite Rising. Drastically outnumbered, the Jacobites were slaughtered in mass in just a 40-minute battle against the Redcoats in 1746. The battle remains one of the most tragic in history and a notable event in the story of modern-day Scotland.
If you choose just one of these things to do in Inverness, make it to visit Culloden. You can walk the battlefield, a small field with many marked clan memorials. You can also visit the Culloden Visitor Centre, which has interactive displays, artefacts, and important historical information.
While, thanks to the visitor centre, Culloden can be visited on a wet day, I suggest trying to coincide your visit with a dry day. Taking your time to walk the outdoor space is important to appreciating the battlefield.
Spend a sunny day at Inverness Botanic Gardens
Okay, Inverness Botanic Gardens are always beautiful. But on a sunny day? Perfection.
You can walk the formal gardens or head inside the huge tropical greenhouse. Walk amongst cacti and waterfalls, perhaps stopping to sit by the carp pond to spot the prettiest fish.
Inverness Botanic Gardens hold the title of the UK’s most northern Botanic Gardens – which is a draw in itself. The Botanic Gardens have a lovely family-friendly feel, although they could equally cater to a solo traveller. Entrance to the gardens is also completely free (although donations are always welcome), and it is open every day of the week from 10 am until 4 pm.
Visit the Inverness Castle grounds
Inverness Castle is pretty darn famous. Shakespeare fans may recognise it as the place where Macbeth murdered Duncan. Although this isn’t actually historically accurate, it still gives Inverness Castle a claim to fame, and many tourists rush to visit its grounds.
The castle sits on the banks of the River Ness. While no longer in its medieval state, it is now built from eye-catching red sandstone.
On a dry day, pack a picnic and make use of the free entrance to the castle grounds. Inside, the castle is not accessible to the public (although there are whispers of tours available to book in advance), but you’ll experience plenty outside.
Walk Ness Islands
For all those who immediately pictured spotting Nessie from a remote island on Loch Ness, lower your expectations ever so slightly. If you are lucky, you might spot a seal, though!
The Ness Islands are located on the River Ness. They are a cluster of small river islands connected by suspension bridges, a miniature train, and a network of scenic paths.
The Ness Islands are a fantastic way to get a fix of nature within Inverness. If you want a short, hour-long walk, choose this 3km circular route. You’ll loop through the Ness Islands, returning along the riverbank. Alternatively, you can continue on the Great Glen Way, reaching Whin Park before returning in a two-hour loop.
Watch a film at Vue Cinema Inverness
Heading to the cinema on holiday is a unique category of self care. Warm, comfortable seats, a large pot of popcorn, and an exciting new film – who could ask for more?
The Vue Cinema Inverness is in the Inverness Shopping Centre, so ideally combined with a sheltered shopping trip. The Vue is also a reputable cinema chain that offers concession discounts – so keep it in mind if you are a student.
You can check to see what movies are showing here.
Spend a morning at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
Wanting to keep costs low but stay entertained? Entrance to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is free unless you wish to donate.
From natural history to art, the attraction covers a variety of interesting and educational topics. You could spot Jacobite uniforms in one room and stuffed Scottish wildlife in the next – so be prepared to learn a lot during your visit.
We’d recommend allowing around half a day to explore Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. There is a café and gift shop on-site if you want to take a breather as well.
Visit the Clava Cairns
History lovers, listen up. Clava Cairns is a 4,000-year-old burial ground. A large ring of rocks encircles each cairn, and you can explore them for free.
Of course, if you want to splurge on a guided tour, do so. However, there are plenty of signposts with information to explore independently. I’d recommend just doing some reading about their history in advance so that you can appreciate them fully in person.
Clava Cairns are 100% exposed to the elements, so definitely coordinate your visit with dry weather where possible.
Shop at The Victorian Market
For a funky shopping experience, head to The Victorian Market.
The Victorian Market was built in the 19th century. It is a large, undercover market and shopping arcade and has had its vintage architectural style well preserved. You can shop for souvenirs, grab a bite to eat, or just wander the stalls.
The Victorian Market is one of the most easy-going things to do in Inverness for an hour or so. It is open from 7 am until 6 pm everyday bar Sundays, so make sure to drop by at some point!
Take a boat tour on the Moray Firth
The Moray Firth is the North Sea inlet that makes up Inverness’ coastline. Dolphins, seals, otters, and puffins venture down the Moray Firth – so jump on a boat tour and spend half a day wildlife spotting.
Dolphin Spirit Inverness is the most popular tour operator. As of 2022, there are tours of Moray Firth and Inverness for £19.50 and a tour of the Moray Coast for £49. I’ll attach a website link here if you want to take a look.
A covered boat can make a great rainy-day activity on a drizzly day! I suggest enquiring directly to each operator to see how suitable their boats are for wet weather.
Where is Inverness?
Inverness is in the North of Scotland in the Scottish Highlands.
What county is Inverness in?
Inverness is in the county of Inverness-shire.
What’s the weather like in Inverness?
In Inverness, you can expect cool or cold temperatures all year round.
Winters are long, cold, and windy. Inverness tends to experience snow, and temperatures can reach as low as – 6 °C.
In summer, Inverness stays cool, although occasionally temperatures reach up to 22°C.
How long from Glasgow to Inverness?
To drive from Glasgow to Inverness takes 3 hours, while on the train it takes 3 hours and 22 minutes.
How long from Edinburgh to Inverness?
To drive from Edinburgh to Inverness takes 3 hours, while on the train it takes 3 hours and 55 minutes.
Inverness is easily one of the best places to visit in Scotland. With its literary, political, and natural history, it is a fantastic place to learn about Scottish culture.
Don’t just stop at Edinburgh or Glasgow; continue north to enjoy all Inverness offers. Who knows, you could even make a road trip out of it!