The capital of the Highlands, Inverness is located in a magnificent setting at the beginning of the Moray Firth. The modern city centre is dominated by its magnificent red stone Castle, built in 1834, on the site of a much older fortress. The castle sits on an high embankment overlooking the River Ness, where the river banks have been laid-out with attractive gardens and lined with trees. From the jetty you can take a cruise down the river to Lock Ness or a dolphin and wildlife cruise into the Moray Firth. Across the river are the twin towers of St Andrews Cathedral, consecrated in 1869. The tower spires are conspicuous by there absence as funds ran out before they could be completed. Nevertheless, it is still worth visiting for its fine carved columns and unusual octagonal chapter house. There is also a nearby shop and tearoom which makes an ideal stop-off point. Just below the castle, on Castle Wynd, is the City's modern museum, art gallery and tourist information centre.
Today the town is the main communications centre for the Highlands, as well as a market town and a business centre. The centre is compact and easy to walk around for either shopping or sight seeing. Many of the elegant sandstone Georgian buildings, bordering both sides of the river, have been converted to hotels and guest houses. There are many good restaurants and cafés, centered around Bridge Street, that serve both international and traditional Scottish fare. Academy Street has a excellent choice of pubs, many hosting live music from traditional to local bands. The Eden Court Theatre, located near the cathedral, provides a local venue for shows, music and cinema.
Inverness is one of the oldest settlements in Scotland, indicated by the many prehistoric burial cairns, carved stones and other archaeology in the area. The best known is the remains of Craig Phadraig, an iron age hill fort that rises to the west of Inverness. The name 'Inverness' is Gaelic for "river mouth of the Ness", upon which it stands. The town is ringed by mountain ranges to the north, west and south. The famous Colludon Moor is located just to the east of the city, where in 1746 the Jacobite cause was eventually quelled and the English finally conquered the Scots. Old Leanach Cottage, which survived the battle that had raged around it, is now the centre piece of a museum that tells the story of the bloody battle.
The oldest building in town is Queen Mary's House, which has been so highly restored that little of the original fabric remains. Abertarff House in Church Street, built for Lord Lovat in 1593, has a rare turnpike stair (a medieval spiral staircase) and is now the regional headquarters of the National Trust for Scotland. Balnain House, on the banks of the River Ness, was once a small museum devoted to Scottish music but sadly closed a few years ago. Nearby is the Highland House of Fraser, the ideal outlet to buy a kilt and tartan. It also houses a visitor's centre with an audiovisual display and history exhibition, plus kilt making demonstrations.
Castle Wynd, Inverness, Scotland IV2 3BJ - Tel: 0845 2255121
Inverness was declared a royal burgh in the 12th century by King David, who built the first stone keep on Castle Hill. The present castle was built in 1834, and is now a courthouse and administrative centre. A statue of Flora MacDonald stands in front of the main entrance. Erected in 1899, she looks towards the hiding place where she hid Bonnie Prince Charlie after his defeat in 1746. The castle is not open to the public but visitors can walk around the grounds and enjoy the picturesque views across the river.
The museum provides an excellent introduction to the history of the Highlands with exhibits including a fine collection of Inverness silver and lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie's hair.
Opening times: Mon-Sat 9am - 5pm. Free Entry
Location: Castle Wynd, Inverness, IV2 3EB. Tel: 01463 237114