Skip to main content.

A Guide to Inverness - Gateway to Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands

Hotel search

An ancient port on the River Ness, where the Scottish Highlands roll down to the North Sea, Inverness is nestled within a spectacular natural landscape. You can reach the world-famous Loch Ness with a scenic 20-minute drive or a longer meander by boat along the Caledonian Canal. You'll also want to wander the city's tranquil riverbanks, visit its historic buildings, and hear traditional Scottish music at a Highland pub.

In search of the Loch Ness monster


Many visitors use Inverness as a base for exploring nearby Loch Ness, the deep, dark Scottish lake that is said to conceal a very shy monster, widely presumed to be female and affectionately known as Nessie. Few have ever seen her but you can try to spot her by climbing aboard Nessie Hunter, a touring research vessel operated by Loch Ness Cruises. Experts tell Nessie stories while seeking her out with high-tech sonar equipment. For a whole day out on the water, you can sail with Caley Cruises from Inverness to the loch and back along the Caledonian Canal.


  • Loch Ness Cruises, The Loch Ness Lodge Hotel, Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire IV63 6TU; Tel: +44 1456 450395; Website: Loch Ness Cruises

  • Caley Cruises Ltd, Canal Road, Inverness IV3 8NF; Tel: +44 1463 236 328; Website: Caley Cruises Ltd

Get your bearings at Inverness Castle


Inverness Castle stands at the center of the city, on a hill overlooking the River Ness and the Gothic buildings of the Old Town. It's the ideal place to orient yourself and get a feel for the city's long history. The current structure is only the latest in a series of castles that have occupied this spot for more than 1,000 years. The interior is closed to the public but you can stroll the lush grounds and winding paths around the red-pink sandstone walls for a panoramic view of Inverness and the mountains and sea beyond.



Inverness markets and malls


The narrow streets of Inverness Old Town are lined with little independent boutiques and antique shops. Here you'll also find the Victorian Market, whose ornate interior and colorful storefronts become especially appealing on a wet and windy day. In the middle of town stands the Eastgate Centre. It's a vast modern mall full of big-brand outlets that draws crowds of shoppers from across the smaller towns and villages of the Highlands. You can grab a snack in the food court and stock up on books, clothes, and electronics for your own Scottish countryside adventures.



Inverness, the home of Highland music


The Scottish Highlands have been ringing with the sound of fiddles, harps, and bagpipes for centuries, and Inverness is a major hub of that musical culture. At almost any pub in the city, almost every night of the week, you can hear talented performers playing traditional music. Some tunes are improvised as part of a live session, while others might be newly composed by bands and solo artists keeping that tradition alive. Hootananny pub, restaurant, and live music venue is a wildly popular spot at the center of the local music scene, and always jumping at the weekends.


  • Hootananny, 67 Church Street, Inverness IV1 1ES; Tel: +44 1463 233651; Website: Hootananny


On foot in and around Inverness


Inverness marks the start or end point of many walking holidays in the Scottish Highlands. You may want to hike some or all of the Great Glen Way that stretches almost 120 km across the country to Fort William, but there are plenty of gentler strolls you can take within the city itself. The banks of the River Ness lead you to a mini-archipelago of nearby Ness Islands, all connected by a series of suspension foot bridges. Heading upstream, you'll pass historic buildings and well-tended public gardens, and maybe even see local salmon fishermen and curious seals in the water.