Known as the ‘Gateway to the Scottish Highlands’, the historic city of Inverness lies on the mouth of the River Ness and along the Caledonian Canal surrounded by spectacular scenery and a host of historic sites. The central area is set on the river’s east banks and is home to shops, restaurants, pubs and Inverness city centre hotels as well as pretty streets lined with Victorian and Edwardian buildings and a number of historic sites. Inverness is the heart of traditional Scotland, with the Scottish Gaelic language spoken and its culture and heritage still redolent of the great days of the clans.
One of the oldest continuing settlements in Britain, the city’s incredibly ancient roots are seen first in the Clava Cairns, three mysterious stone circles set just outside its borders and dating from the Stone Age. The 4th century Craig Phadraig is a Pictish/Gaelic hill fort, set to guard the strategic location of the settlement, and the ancient hill of Tomnahurich within the city limits was legendarily a place inhabited by fairies. Culloden Field wasn’t just the scene of the last, failed attempt of the clans to establish the Stuart dynasty Bonnie Price Charlie as the king in England, it was the site of many battles including a successful stand against Vikings from the Western Isles.
Within the city itself are many remnants of its time as the focus for the people of the Highlands and Island to the north, with Inverness Castle on its hill overlooking the river a replacement for the medieval; fortification destroyed by the Jacobite clans in the mid 18th century. A fantastic Victorian pile, the castle sits in beautiful grounds, although it’s not open to visitors as it holds the Sheriff’s court. Below the castle is Castle Wynd, home to the Inverness Museum with its fascinating exhibits of antique weaponry, Pictish stone carvings and many loaned treasures formerly shown in Edinburgh Museum.
Inverness is a city of churches, with the finest the elaborate Victorian St Andrew’s Cathedral, fabulously ornamented on its frontage and in its interior and containing an important collection of antique Russian religious icons. The oldest religious building in the city is the Old High Church, and 16th century Abertarff House is a charming reminder of earlier times. The Old Mercat Cross is highly significant for its Stone of the Tubs, an essential part of the coronation rituals of Scottish kings, similar to the famous Stone of Scone.
Iconic Culloden Field lies just outside the city, and is an essential visitor destination for those interested in the history of the Scottish clans. The famous battle in 1746, the last stand of the massed clans against the British forces, is marked by the Cumberland Stone, the Graves of the Clans, and a memorial cairn to the over 2,000 Scottish dead. A visitor centre with audiovisual aids gives a re-creation of the action and kilted guides take visitors on an hour’s tour of the atmospheric heath. Culloden was the last battle on British soil, but just one of the many which took place on the site during the previous 700 years or more.
The city is a centre for outdoor activities such as walking, hiking and trekking, with easy to follow trails set in the countryside and long the banks of the river and the canal. A fascinating walk takes visitors to the Tomnahurich Hill, with well-marked trails leading to the top with its views across the cityscape through a cemetery with many interesting ancient headstones. The riverbank walk taking in the churches set along the waters is another popular option.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Inverness City Centre Hotels content.