This week, WIT Global Correspondent Wailana zipped over to Inverness! The Scottish Highlands have been receiving a lot of buzz lately, with mentions in Lonely Planet and Wanderlust – so she couldn’t wait to check what it was all about.
Inverness, “the capital of the Highlands,” is an ancient city with a lot of character. Founded as a Pict stronghold, the first fortifications were established in the Iron Age. Wailana was in town to join a bike and barge cruise – more gooey details on that later! But for two glorious days, Inverness was home.
Today, Inverness is largely a hidden gem, looked over by shining neighbors Edinburgh and Glasgow. It’s most noteworthy as the eastern edge of the Great Glen Way (more on that later!), a 125-km long path that follows the canals and lochs from Inverness to Fort William.
Within its city limits, Inverness Castle is worth exploring, as are the Pictish stones are Inverness Museum & Art Gallery. Just outside, historical sites abound, from Culloden Battlefield to Clava Cairns, and beyond to Loch Ness of cryptozoology fame.
Here’s a quick guide on how to spend a day in Inverness well!
Breakfast: Grab a Scottish Breakfast at Girvans, the most popular brunch joint in town. Their menu is comprised of fresh pastries and savory dishes, and, like most restaurants in Scotland, offer the Scottish Breakfast. This unique highland dish is similar to the English Breakfast but with a twist: broiled tomatoes, bacon, tattie scone (made from potato), link sausage, sauteed mushrooms, baked beans, egg, and black pudding. Some even serve it with haggis. It’s filling, it’s delicious, and definitely a must-have!
Morning: The old center of Inverness is easy to walk around. There are the main thoroughfares, Church St. and Academy St., where you can pick up all that last-minute hiking shoes you forgot to pack. Look out for artisan goods at the old Victorian Market. During your wanderings, you shouldn’t miss out at lovely Leakey’s Bookshop, an old secondhand bookstore with all sorts of literary delights, and prints dating back 100 years and more.
Lunch: Pop into Comfort Foods for a real look into a traditional Scottish kitchen. The menu is exactly what it sounds like–heavy, delicious dishes of potatoes, cakes, seafood–yum! Just be prepared for hefty portions! This place definitely doesn’t want you to walk away unfulfilled.
Afternoon: Peek your head into Inverness Castle, with its old fortifications, and a tower that offers the best views of the town. Step inside the tower for a creative look into Inverness’ magical histories, mythologies, and folklore–including a cameo by ole Nessie of course.
Dinner: Johnny Foxes is a large, traditional Scottish pub popular with both tourists and locals right on the riverside. They have a great founding story about an Irish poacher forced to flee Irish shores and set up a pub here on this very spot – who knows if it’s true though. 😉 But as the proverb says, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
After dinner, join the crowd at the Hootananny, the best pub in town for traditional live music and ceilidh.
How to Get There: Inverness is best enjoyed as part of a tour of the Scottish Highlands. It’s an easy flight from Edinburgh or London, or by train via the 8-hour Caledonian Sleeper.
- Inverness Castle: Open 11am-6pm daily
- Culloden Battlefield: Culloden Moor, Open 24/7
- Clava Cairns: Open 24/7
- Girvans: 2-4 Stephens Brae, Open Mon-Wed 9am-6pm, Thu-Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 10am-5pm
- Victorian Market: Queensgate, Open weekdays 6am to 6:30pm, Saturday 6am-5:30pm, Sunday Closed.
- Leakey’s Bookshop: Church St, Open Mon-Sat 10am-5:30pm
- Comfort Foods: 22 Church St, Open daily 9am-5pm
- Johnny Foxes: 26 Bank St, Open daily 11am-3am (kitchen closes at 9pm)
- Hootananny: 67 Church St, Open Mon-Thu 12pm-1am, Fri-Sat 12pm-3am, Sun 4pm-12am