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Inverness is one of the country’s most desirable locations for tourists. Visit the city and you’ll discover why, but don’t expect a relaxing break – there’s too much to do!
Sail from the harbour out into the Moray Firth to see the dolphins; hire a boat and head off down the Caledonian Canal towards the west coast; take a cruise down Loch Ness; or stand in the River Ness in the city and do a spot of fishing (ask about fishing permits at the Tourist Information Centre).
Just minutes away is the thriving Eastgate Shopping Centre with some of the best-known stores and lots of bargains to be found.
The pedestrianised High Street is also full of shops and cafés with buskers and entertainers providing a carnival atmosphere.
On the first Saturday of every month, stalls are set up for the Farmers’ Market. Sample the best of local produce with a choice of home-made jams, bread, cheese, locally-reared meat, fruit and veg, Highland-grown plants as well as crafts and gifts.
If you’re looking for something unusual, try the Victorian Market in the centre of town opposite the railway station. The authentic Victorian covered mall is a good example of an iron-built structure of the Railway Age and has over 40 independent stores with real treasures to be found.
In Old Town Inverness, you’ll find even more great little shops, bookshops and boutiques. The area has recently benefited from investment with a regeneration project lifting the streetscape out of the ordinary.
At the heart of the city, the grounds of impressive Inverness Castle have fine views of the river and beyond. The castle is used as the courthouse and so is not open to tourists.
Close by, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery gives a good insight into the history of the city and the Highlands in general. There are more art galleries around Inverness, all featuring fantastic collections of modern and traditional works, many inspired by the Highland landscape.
Across the river, St Andrews Cathedral offers spiritual peace and interesting architecture. Eden Court Theatre is just along the road and is at the very heart of culture in the Highlands. Following a major refurbishment, the theatre’s two auditorium, two cinemas, exhibition space and dance and drama studios offer a vibrant programme.
A stone’s throw from the theatre is the sports centre, swimming pool, golf courses, ice rink and tennis courts near Bught Park, where the City of Inverness Highland Games are held in July.
For children there’s a boating pond, play area and trampolines at Whin Park, nearby.
Those interested in tracing their Highland family roots should make time to visit the Highland Archive and Registration Centre in the city’s Bught Road.
It holds the records for the former county councils of Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Inverness-shire and Nairnshire dating from 1890 and the 11 burghs within those counties, the earliest of which dates from 1455.
Documents available range from school and business records to maps, plans and estate archive material.
The searchroom is open to all members of the public free of charge, and staff are always on hand to advise. Please note, though, that an appointment must be made.
An integral part of the Highland Archive and Registration Centre is the Family History Centre, focusing on aspects of genealogy, clan history and family history throughout the Highlands and beyond.
It contains old parish registers on microfilm for the counties of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Inverness, Nairn and Argyll, as well as census returns from 1841-1901 for all those counties plus Orkney and Shetland.
There are also reference works and records of gravestone inscriptions.
Contact the Highland Council Archives on 01463 256444 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the genealogy service on 01463 256444 (email@example.com)
If you are feeling energetic, try some of the walks around town. Craig Phadraig has the remains of an Iron Age fort on the summit, as well as great views; and the Ness Islands, just 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre, offer a peaceful green haven.
In recent years Inverness has become a favourite destination for its nightlife too, with some high-quality restaurants and an exciting pub and club scene. Cheap flights from Belfast, Dublin, Bristol and Liverpool have made it a regular location for stag and hen weekends.