24 hours in Inverness: Gateway to the Highlands

    Mary Queen of Scots film locations
    The dramatic Scottish Highlands. Credit: John-Paul Bell/Alamy

    The main draw of Inverness is the beauty of the surrounding Scottish Highlands, but join us first for a whistle-stop tour of the historic city


    Breakfast on haggis

    Royal Highland Hotel
    The Royal Highland Hotel. Credit: Alison White

    Whether you plan to roam the hills or explore the city, any trip to Inverness should begin with a hearty breakfast at The Royal Highland Hotel. This former station hotel, with a stairwell that inspired the interior of the Titanic, opens daily for non-guests too. Opt for the “Full Scottish” to sample Tattie scones and haggis with your egg and bacon.

    Step back in time

    The open-air Highland Folk Museum gives a glimpse of Highland life dating back to the 18th century and the Jacobite Rebellions. A working farm and a reconstruction of a township settlement can be explored, while regular workshops, re-enactment weekends and Cèilidh trails add atmosphere to a visit.

    Fire up your knowledge

    With a working log fire crackling away at its heart, Leakey’s Bookshop has made the former Gaelic church a cosy destination. This is Scotland’s second largest secondhand bookstore and owner Charles Leakey has piled it high with choice novels and non-fiction. Pull up an armchair in the upstairs hardback section to browse before you buy.


    Browse the art of the Highlands

    Inverness Museum and Art Gallery mixes local art, archaeology and social history with a collection stretching back to 1881 and including Jane Nasmyth’s bucolic local landscape Loch Ness. The gallery’s café, Cobbs, is a popular spot for afternoon tea.

    Explore your Scottish roots

    Genealogy fans can explore their Scottish ancestry at the Highland Archive Centre with access to records dating back to the 14th century. With your roots revealed, head to the Hall of Names on Bridge Street to buy a family crest and the Highland House of Fraser on Huntly Street to find your clan tartan.

    Take in a historic view

    Inverness Castle
    Inverness Castle: robertharding/Alamy

    The current, sandstone Inverness Castle was built in 1836 but there have been fortifications on this site for almost 1,000 years. The north tower was recently converted into the Castle Viewpoint attraction, complete with drone footage guides, panels on local myths, and a 360-degree viewing platform at the top.


    Dine by the river

    The motto of River House’s chef-proprietor Allan Little is “keep it simple and let the ingredients do the talking”. His eaterie opposite the Greig Street Bridge does just that, specialising in prime Scottish beef and fresh local seafood chalked up on the special’s board each night.

    Be entertained at the Palace

    The Eden Court Theatre originally opened in 1976 in the grounds of what is now the Bishop’s Palace. While the old Victorian palace and the original listed theatre remain, a new contemporary arts centre was built a decade ago. November sees visits from the Scottish Ballet and Opera.

    Break bread in church

    Kitchen Brasserie
    The Kitchen Brasserie: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins

    The building that houses The Mustard Seed restaurant on Fraser Street was originally built as an independent chapel back in 1826, later serving as both a Congregational and a Free Presbyterian church. Today the classily converted interior is the perfect setting for sampling a menu big on Scottish produce. Look out for its equally excellent sister restaurant, The Kitchen Brasserie, too.


    Enjoy a literary retreat

    Early 20th-century Scottish author Neil M Gunn penned more than 20 celebrated, mostly Highlands-set novels and his former residence at Moyness House is now a homely B&B. Hens are kept in the extensive grounds, ensuring fresh eggs on the menu.

    Sleep over in style

    For the ultimate in overnight luxury, the boutique Rocpool is the city’s only five-star hotel and comes complete with a cocktail bar, hot tubs and emperor-size beds.

    Escape to the Loch

    The Loch Ness Country House Hotel is an imposing Georgian building on its own six-acre Highlands estate. Just two miles southwest of Inverness city centre, it’s the perfect stopover on the way to the monstrous Loch and beyond.


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