Inverness, often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’, typically serves as a launching off point for people wanting to explore Scotland’s rugged north or simply as a base for day trips in the surrounding area. This means that many travellers don’t take the opportunity to explore the city itself, which is a shame given the city has a very pleasant vibe and a number of attractions that are worth exploring. Rather than simply beelining straight to Loch Ness, I would suggest spending one day in Inverness and enjoying the sites that the city has to offer!
One day in Inverness Itinerary: Morning
All good mornings start with breakfast so I suggest starting your 1 day in Inverness by heading to Cafe Artysans, a local modern cafe that also acts a social enterprise by training young local people to develop skills for sustainable employment. Their menu varies, however, you’ll be sure to find traditional favourites such as a Full Scottish Breakfast or opt for hot porridge if you’re after a slightly less artery-clogging meal!
From the cafe, it’s about a ten-minute walk to arguably Inverness’ most famous attraction – the Inverness Castle. Whilst the original castle that was built in the 12th century was destroyed by the Jacobites after the Battle of Culloden (a must-visit as a day trip from Inverness!), it was later rebuilt in the 19th century. You can explore the grounds surrounding the castle and also climb to the top of the North Tower for a view of the city, however, the only way to enter the castle itself is by committing a crime as it currently serves as the Inverness Sherrif Court!
If you want to delve further into the history and art of Inverness, then next to the castle you can visit the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. Entry to the small museum is free and you can view a number of historical artefacts and paintings in the art gallery. The museum has interactive displays as well, making this a good option if travelling with children.
One day in Inverness Itinerary: Afternoon
Eating out in Inverness can be expensive, however, a great way to sample some of the local restaurants is to enjoy a lunch special that many of the nice eateries offer. Cafe 1, just opposite Inverness Castle offers a lunch special of two courses for £15 or three courses for £17.50 from Monday to Saturday, which ended up being undoubtedly one of the best meals we had during our travels in Scotland. Their menu does change seasonally as the food is locally sourced however I do recommend going for the fresh seafood option if available.
After a multi-course lunch, it’s probably wise to have a slightly more active afternoon so I would suggest taking a one-mile walk along the River Ness to the Ness Islands. If you stay on the side of the Inverness Castle you will also pass war memorials and impressive flower arrangements during the warmer months.
The Ness Islands will make you feel as if you’ve left the city completely as you cross the suspension bridges from the banks of the River Ness. You can try and spot a variety of animals around here including seals and birds, watch the fishermen trying to catch salmon or simply enjoy the calm serenity of the area. Even though Inverness isn’t an extremely bustling city, the Ness Islands can still provide a lovely oasis away from city life.
Make sure to walk along the opposite bank of the River Ness on your way back to the city so you can stop to visit the Inverness Cathedral as well as enjoying some fantastic views of Inverness Castle!
One day in Inverness Itinerary: Evening
A great way to spend your evening during your one day in Inverness is the same way as many locals — by heading to the pub for a pint and dinner! The Castle Tavern, aptly named due to its proximity to Inverness Castle, serves typical pub fare along with a good range of beers and ciders. Another good option in the evening is to head to Hootananny, which has traditional live folk music many nights of the week.
Alternatively, if you are fortunate enough to visit Inverness on one of its few sunny days and are looking for a way to cool off then head to Miele’s Gelateria which makes fantastic ice cream including traditional favourites and Scottish inspired flavours like Irn-Bru gelato!
Why you should spend more than one day in Inverness
One of the best reasons to spend more than one day in Inverness is in order to use the city as a base to explore the Scottish highlands! While many people will opt to take a road trip through Scotland and either wild camp or stay in more rural areas, basing yourself in Inverness can be a great option if you don’t want to rent a car or simply don’t want to pack up your clothes every day!
There are many fantastic trips you can take from Inverness, including a visit to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, learn about the fascinating Jacobite uprising at Culloden Battlefield or go whisky tasting at one of the many nearby distilleries. Click here to read more about the best day trips to take from Inverness!
Another advantage of basing yourself in Inverness to explore the Highland is that there are a lot more accommodation options than rural parts of Scotland. Some of the best places to stay in Inverness include.
Torridon Guest House – a quaint bed and breakfast that is within a short walking distance of the city centre and a good option if you don’t want to stay in a hostel. Click here to see their latest prices
Airbnb – there are a number of Airbnbs in Inverness such as this great apartment in the city centre that can be a great alternative to hostels or hotels. Click here to view the best Airbnbs in Inverness!
Inverness is a lovely city that’s worth spending some time in rather than just rushing past it to explore the Scottish Highlands. I urge you to spend at least one day in Inverness to see some of the wonderful sites, eat great local food and experience life in a city that many Scots call home!
Are you planning to spend a day in Inverness? Have you been before? Let us know in the comments!