3 Days In Inverness – Free Places To See And How To Make The Most Of It
A well-known loch that’s home to a green creature. Mountains, walks, and vivid history. Inverness is a fantastic place to visit. The best place to be in Scotland when it’s autumn. I visited Inverness back in October 2019 and am sharing all the places we explored. From places that are free/no-cost, and a car-hire adventure to Loch Ness and Fort Augustus. And other places around the city including visiting the Culloden Battlefield.
Old High St. Stephen’s Church
On our first day in the city, we decided to head out and enjoy all the ‘free/no-cost’ attractions. There’s plenty on offer in Inverness.
Our first discovery was the Old High St. Stephen’s Church and Graveyard, it was only a few minutes away from our hotel. Compared to the Inverness Cathedral, this church is smaller and more intimate. The walkway through the graveyard is quiet. The church wasn’t open so we couldn’t go in. But the area offers a piece of tranquillity away from the busy streets. It also overlooks the River Ness.
Nearby is an amazing family-owned café called Wild Pancakes where we stopped to eat. Their menu has a variety of different pancakes and also other food items. I went for the organic lentil soup and it was lovely.
Leakey’s Second Hand Bookshop
Only a minute or two away from Old High St. Stephen’s Church is Leakey’s Second-Hand Bookshop. It is the real-life Flourish and Blotts. It has the tallest stacks of books and a coal fireplace. It feels very much like you’re buying your books for Hogwarts. We spent a bit of time looking around the place. You could be there for hours looking at book spines huddled together on the shelves. Piles of books on the bookshelves. On the floor, in stacks against a wall, littered around the windowsills. Books, books and more books! There are also old and rare prints for sale and old maps. A treasure trove to enjoy.
Along the riverside of the River Ness stands the Inverness Cathedral. The building is stunning. It stands out against the autumnal-coloured trees on the banks of the river. Although we did not go into the cathedral, you are able to go inside and have a look around. By seeing how beautiful the cathedral is on the outside, I’m sure it is beautiful inside too.
Inverness Botanic Gardens
One of our walks took us to the Inverness Botanic Gardens. I can’t resist a botanic garden, I love them! The gardens are smaller than what I’m used to in Glasgow and Edinburgh. But still beautiful. My personal favourite was the Tropical House. I love when there are fish ponds in botanic gardens – do not know why, but it’s always my favourite! There’s also a little flower shop, Cactus House and gardens to get lost in.
The G.R.O.W project looks after some of the gardens. The project offers opportunities for practical horticulture for adults with a learning disability. Seeing all the flower and herb beds made by the G.R.O.W team was lovely. There’s also a café inside the gardens which has stacks of homemade cakes. We couldn’t resist a pot of tea and empire biscuits.
Ness Islands and River Ness Walk
My favourite walk we discovered is definitely the Ness Islands walk. The trees, the river and the escape over the bridge to the woodland Ness Islands is everything.
It was Halloween when we were there and the Islands were hosting an alien-inspired even. So there was lots of sci-fi looking objects around the place. Strange at first, but then fun!
I can’t recommend this walk enough. We ended up taking this walk every single day. If you are visiting Inverness make sure to put this on your list of things to do.
Car-Hire to Loch Ness and Fort Augustus
Not too far from Inverness is Loch Ness. We all know the history of Loch Ness. Especially when thinking about that green creature that lurks in the depths. As we travelled by train to Inverness, we decided to hire a car for a day to visit Fort Augustus. There are local places in the city to hire a car, we opted for Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Fort Augustus is a beautiful settlement that sits next to Loch Ness. It has a lot of walks in the area and you can get one of the Loch Ness Cruises (definitely should do this).
We walked down to get our picture taken at the ‘Welcome to Fort Augustus’ sign. And we watched some of the cruises leave and arrive. We also visited the Iceberg Glass Blowing Studio (perfect little place to get a souvenir). And we ate at the Boathouse Lochside Restaurant. We had a window view. I spent too much time ignoring my lovely fiancé and gazing at the loch instead!
We found a sign outside Fort Augustus for the Forestry Commissioned area ‘All na Criche’. We parked the car and went a wander around the place. It’s a short woodland walk with some views of Loch Ness. It is perfect with the cold wind and crunchy autumn leaves everywhere. If you’re looking for a walk to take, this is a good one.
On our car-hire journey, we also stopped off at Urquhart Castle. It is a Historic Scotland site. You can pay to visit the castle grounds that sit above Loch Ness. We arrived a bit late in the day and it was close to closing time so we weren’t able to go in. Since this visit, we have been back up and walked the castle grounds. It’s amazing! With 1000 years of heritage, the castle ruins sit next to Loch Ness and have beautiful views of the Great Glen. Think of a moody day, surrounded by forests, hills and a misty loch. What’s not to love?
You can’t visit Inverness without taking the bus or driving to the Culloden Battlefield. You need to enjoy a great piece of Scottish history. You also have to see Culloden’s Highland Cows – Primrose McKechie II and Mungo!
‘On 16 April 1746, the final Jacobite Rising came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in British history. Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops. It was the last pitched battle on British soil and, in less than an hour, around 1,600 men were slain – 1,500 of them Jacobites.’
You can walk through the huge battlefield for free. There are flags planted around the area to show where each army stood. There are also clan stones dotted around the place. You can pay to go through the Visitor Centre which has a museum-like story setting. With the Jacobite story on one side and the Duke of Cumberland’s Government story on the other. There’s even a 360-degree battle immersion theatre to watch. Cold and quite a sad experience – most of the Jacobites died in this battle.
There is a lot of clan heritage here. If you’re lucky to have a Scottish clan-name as a surname, you may find a bit more about your ancestry.
We visited the café (with exceptional sausage rolls, pies and baking). And there was a ceilidh band playing. I’ll admit it made me feel proud to be Scottish!
Inverness is a fantastic place to visit in Scotland and it should always be on your travel itinerary. These were some of the places we visited, there are many more things to do in Inverness. Next time we visit we definitely need to take one of the cruises down Loch Ness.