Inverness is a city on Scotland’s northeast coast, where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth. It’s the largest city and the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands. Its Old Town features 19th-century Inverness Cathedral, the mostly 18th-century Old High Church and an indoor Victorian Market selling food, clothing and crafts. There is also the beautiful Inverness Castle which sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness. Although Inverness is a lovely city to visit, its true beauty is what surrounds it. It is in easy reach of the Black Isles and Loch Ness which offer incredible scenery for those looking for a more ‘outdoors/adventure’ type holiday.
Where to Stay
During our visit to Inverness, we stayed at the Heathmount Hotel; a small family owned boutique hotel, situated close to the centre of Inverness. They have a busy bar and restaurant, serving an abundance of great food and drink, sourced from local suppliers and independent breweries. It is worth mentioning that their hotel is dog friendly, allowing your four legged friends to join you on the terrace.
The Heathmount has eight individually designed rooms to choose from, each with free wifi, flat screen TV with sky, tea and coffee making facilities, safety deposit box, hair dryer, iron, luggage room and room service. Each room is unique in its style and design so you can choose a room that caters to you.
The Heathmount’s restaurant has been one of the city’s most popular for over two decades and offers a combination of comforting home cooked traditional meals with modern takes on some of Scotland’s classic dishes. The candlelit lounge bar is relaxing and sociable while the public bar, with its large-screens and pool table, is a popular meeting place.
The staff were also incredibly friendly and accomodating. We ended up leaving an item of ours in the hotel room and they kindly posted it to our home address in London free of charge. It’s little things like that, that show the staff really do go above and beyond in ensuring excellent service.
What to Do
The best thing about Inverness isn’t necessarily the city itself, but what’s around it. Inverness is the perfect hub to stay in, when exploring the Highlands. It is in driving and cycling distance to Loch Ness, Fort George, Nairn Beach, and the Black Isles. We spent two days in Inverness and managed to fit a lot in. We cycled to Loch Ness, visited Fort George, and explored the city centre including Inverness castle. If we had a little more time, we probably would have also cycled around the Black Isles, as the views are supposed to be beautiful.
1. Cycle to Loch Ness
Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands, extending for approximately 37km southwest of Inverness. It is best known for the alleged sightings of the infamous Loch Ness Monster, known as Nessie. At 56 km squared, it is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area after Loch Lomond, but due to its great depth, it is the largest by volume in the British Isles (the deepest point being 230m!) It contains more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined, although the water visibility is extremely low due to a high peat content in the surrounding soil.
The scenery at Loch Ness is truly beautiful and is definitely worth a visit while in the Highlands. The best way to get from Inverness to Loch Ness is to take the Dores road, which is only a 20 minute drive. For cyclists, it takes around an hour to cycle to the tip of Loch Ness and again I would highly advise you take the Dores route. Not only is the Dores road a lot wider and safer to cycle on, but there is also a farm road that runs parallel to the main road, which you can take most of the way to Loch Ness. With no traffic and incredible scenery, it is a cyclists dream!
As you approach Dores, you will notice the stunning natural landscapes that lie ahead. There is a beautiful beach that you can walk along that offers incredible views of the whole loch, as well as a local pub called The Dores Inn which offers great food and drinks.
If you have the time, Urquhart Castle is also worth visiting. It is situated on Strone Point, a triangular promontory on the north-western shore of Loch Ness. It was once one of Scotland’s largest castles dating back to between the 13th and 16th century. It was abandoned in the 17th century and is now open to visitors who want to discover the history of the castle.
2. Visit Fort George
Fort George is a large 18th century fortress near Ardersier (about a 30 minute drive from Inverness). It was originally built to control the Scottish Highlands in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745. The fortress was never attacked and has remained in continuous use as a garrison. Despite still serving as an army barracks, it is open to visitors with ongoing exhibits that show the fort’s use at different periods of time. The fortification is based on a star design and remains virtually unaltered. It is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in history as the stories are fascinating – we managed to see the army training on one of the fields outside which was pretty surreal to see.
As the fortress looks over the North Sea, there is a chance you may see some bottlenose dolphins in your visit – they have been known to swim near Fort George so keep an eye out!
As mentioned, there are other things to do including cycling around the Black Isles, exploring more of the city, and heading down to Nairn Beach which is a short drive away. But, for 48 hours the above ventures is what I’d reccomend!
3. Explore the city centre
Inverness is a lovely city and the best way to see it is from the North Tower of the historic Inverness castle. The tower acts as a viewing platform, with fantastic views of the River Ness and the surrounding town and hills. While in the city, you can also visit the Botanic Gardens which puts on the most beautiful floral displays, as well as visiting the Inverness Museum which provides information on Scottish traditions and crafts, and general Highland life.
Inverness is a definitely a great place to visit. You can fit a lot of things in during a short stay, or you can take longer to enjoy its surrounding beauty. Whether it is history you are after at Fort George, or an adventurous bike ride to Loch Ness, you can find it all in Inverness.
Disclaimer: I was gifted two nights stay at The Heathmount Hotel in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own.