Inverness is known as the ‘Capital of the Highlands’. It’s a popular base for anyone wanting to explore the wild glens, imposing mountains, and dramatic west coast, but don’t make the mistake many do and forget to explore the city itself. I, too, have been guilty of doing this, but I recently decided to spend two days in Inverness exploring only the city. There are plenty of delightful things to see, do, and eat- and so I’ve put together this itinerary to show you exactly how to spend your time in (and around) Inverness.
Is 2 days in Inverness enough to make the most of the highland capital?
With just two days in Inverness, it is possible to see:
- two castles
- standing stones and ancient burial cairns
- a battlefield where one of Scotland’s most iconic battles was fought
- an enchanting bookshop
- a haunted loch
I’ve visited Inverness many times and I adore this charming wee city, which is known as the capital city of the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is a lot smaller than Edinburgh and Glasgow, making the city centre easy to navigate on foot.
However, some of the best attractions Inverness has to offer are outside the city walls.
Looking across the River Ness
How to get to Inverness
You can fly directly into Inverness, drive, or catch the LNER or Scotrail trains from Edinburgh or Glasgow Queen Street to the city.
The best way to get around Inverness
Public transport can be a little tricky when exploring some of the attractions that are located outside the city, so if you’re visiting, having a car is ideal.
If you need advice on car hire in Scotland, I always compare prices with Auto Europe, a fair car rental comparison website (note: to search for car hire in Scotland, you’ll have to select ‘Great Britain’).
You can also break this itinerary in half if you’re using Inverness as a start and end point for the North Coast 500.
If you’re travelling by public transport, the local bus agency is Stagecoach. If you are travelling by public transport I’ll make some recommendations throughout this itinerary to show you how to reach the attractions. Always double-check public transport timetables, as these can change at any time.
I use Google Maps to get an idea of how to get around Scotland using buses. It’s usually pretty accurate!
For more information on getting around Inverness, the Visit Inverness Loch Ness website is a great resource.
>> Read more: 12 Things to do on the drive from Edinburgh to Inverness
Accommodation in Inverness I recommend
>> Read more: The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Scotland
How to make the most of 2 days in Inverness
Clan Fraser burial stone; The Culloden Memorial Cairn
You’ll begin your day by visiting the site where the 1745 Jacobite Rising came to a tragic end at the Battle of Culloden.
It is free to visit the Culloden Battlefield, however, there is a fantastic interactive centre on the site which costs a small fee. Be sure to visit the memorial cairn which is surrounded by the clan graves of 1,500 fallen Jacobite soldiers. The clan graves are a haunting, yet touching tribute.
How to get here: Culloden Battlefield is only 15 minutes from the city centre by car. Buses also travel regularly to Culloden Battlefield. Check the Stagecoach North Scotland website for timetables.
Located a short drive away is the Clava Cairns. The Clava Cairns are ancient burial cairns that are around 4,000 years old. The three burial cairns are enclosed by stone circles, with standing stones dotted around them. Outlander fans or anyone interested in prehistoric Scotland will be enchanted by these bizarre yet beautiful tombs. Located near Clava Cairns is the Culloden Viaduct– just wander across the road to admire this mighty bridge.
How to get here: From Culloden Battlefield it is just a five-minute drive. There isn’t a bus that takes you directly to Clava Cairns, but you can walk there following this route. You can also hire a taxi.
>> Read more: What to pack for a trip to Scotland
Inverness: A Foodie Hotspot
Inverness has a thriving foodie scene that has flourished in recent years. Make sure you visit the following places I recommend:
XOKO and Bad Girl Bakery are two must-visits to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The Malt Room is an award-winning pub with an impressive selection of spirits, and serves local Inverness beer Dog Falls.
Black Isle Bar is one of my favourite places for pizza and beer, and the restaurant at Drumossie Hotel is home to some of the best chefs in the highlands. Downright Gabbler is located in Beauly (25 minutes from Inverness). They combine delicious highland cuisine with storytelling- a truly unique experience that I encourage you to add to your itinerary.
Fancy eating in? Hampers and Champers can deliver a hamper filled with location treats to your accommodation, so you can enjoy local artisan foods without having to wander far.
A hamper from Hampers and Champers Inverness; Local beer Dog Falls
Inverness Castle was built in 1836 and is one of Scotland’s most modern castles. Today, it houses the Inverness Sheriff Court, so tourists are not allowed inside. The only part of the castle open to the public is the north tower, and for only £5 you can climb to the top for a 360-degree view of Inverness!
How to get here: If you’re driving here there is public parking at 10 Kingsmills Road which is a 10-minute walk from Inverness Castle. You can also catch the bus into the city, but you may need to make your way back to Culloden Battlefield from Clava Cairns to do so.
>> Read more: How to plan a trip to Scotland on a budget
How to Spend Your Evening
I recommend heading to MacGregor’s Bar for traditional live music and a delicious meal. If it’s a nice evening, go for a walk along the River Ness before retiring to your bed to rest after an active day’s exploring!
Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness
You’ll start your day with a lovely drive alongside Loch Ness to one of Scotland’s most picturesque castle ruins: Urquhart Castle.
This castle looks out over Loch Ness and has over 1,000 years of history. The discovery of a Pictish brooch from the late 8th century hints that the site where the castle stands was possibly a high-status Pictish site.
How to get here: It typically takes between 30-40 minutes to drive to Urquhart Castle from Inverness. You can also catch a bus with Scottish Citylink, which takes around 45 minutes.
>> Read more: 10 Must-Sees in Scotland You Can’t Miss
Uilebheist Distillery and Brewery Tour
Uilebheist is the first distillery in the city of Inverness for over 50 years!
The artwork around the distillery focuses on the lesser known Scottish folklore (you won’t find Nessie here), and was designed by Tom Taylor who has done design work for Metallica and Iron Maiden.
On their tour, you’ll learn about their whisky and beer production, and afterwards enjoy a dram in their bar.
They also have afternoon tea experiences!
How to get here: If you’re staying in the city centre you may be able to drive or walk here (the address is Ness Bank, Inverness IV2 4SG). There are regular buses.
Leakey’s Bookshop is every book lover’s dream! This bookshop is Scotland’s second-largest secondhand bookstore and is located inside an old Gaelic church that dates back to 1793.
How to get here: The easiest way to get to Leakey’s Bookshop is to walk- it’s only a 10-minute stroll from Uilebheist.
How to spend your evening
To end your two days in Inverness I recommend heading to the Black Isle Bar for pizza and beer, which is a short walk from Leakey’s Bookshop.
>> Read More: 50 Travel Tips for Scotland
It’s easy to make the most of Inverness in two days, you just need to be organised! Hiring a car is advisable, however, it is possible to complete this itinerary using public transport and taxi services.
Be sure to bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes, and a good quality raincoat and umbrella!
Have you completed this itinerary? What did you think of Inverness?
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