An enjoyable way to pass an hour or two on a dry day is to make your way to the River Ness and stroll. There are stroller-friendly paths on either side, as well as several pedestrian bridges across. You can make one of the public parks a destination, or just wander along the river and grab a park bench when you get tired.
One of several neogothic churches at the banks of River Ness. I was surprised that such a beautiful church building was up for sale by a real estate agency. The church was finished in 1852 and was altered in the late 19th century. In 1939 however, it was heavily damaged by a fire so that it had to be rebuilt.
In 2011, the building was purchased by a caritative organisation giving the church a new life.
This is the larger and younger of two suspension bridges used for pedestrain and bycicle traffic between the two sides of river Ness (the other being the Infirmary bridge). Both bridges are quite similar in style - Victorian Iron Cast. Together with the Free North Church, which was built around the same time, it gives you a good scenery for a Victorian photo. Greig Street bridge was built in 1881 and is still used for its original purpose. At the time of its construction, the only other alternative to cross the river was Ness bridge so that Greig Street Bridge and Infirmary Bridge were welcomed by the population.
The oldest known bridge on this spot was entioned in the 11th century. Several bridges followed as the old ones were destroyed by fire (1410), flood (1620, 1849), collapsed (1664) or were demolished to make place for a new one (1959). The present bridge was finished in 1961 - in the sober concrete style of its time. Ness Bridge is not exactly what you call a beauty, but is essential to the traffic in Inverness. However, it becomes a beauty at night when it is illuminated and changes its colour. A good spot for some night photos.
A bautiful neogothic Victorian church with a more playful design than its protestant neighbours. It was built in 1837, in 1894 it was altered and expanded. St. Mary's church plays an important role in the Polish community of Inverness, including references to Pope John Paul II. and services in Polish language.
The area at the eastern end of Church Street boasts a two churches, one former church, a decently-sized old graveyard and a couple of churches within sort walking distance. It is said that this place has been used for worship since Celtic times and that it was one of the places visited by St. Columba in the 6th century. The Old High Kirk can trace the root of its congregation back to these times and now forms part of the "Old High St. Stephen's Church" after a fusion with St. Stephen's.
The present building of the Old High Kirk as built in 1770, but its steeple is much older and probably once belonged to the former church of St. Mary. Different architectural styles of the last 600 years have found their way into this church. Its graveyard has a very spooky appearance, especially with the old angled tombstones. One place worth of notice is the Robertson Mausoleum from 1660. It is located adjacent to the former Greyfriar's church (now Leakey's bookshop) and looks like the ruin of a former chapel. Note the carved symbols of mortality like skulls and crossed bones.
The public library building looks like a small Greek temple. It was built in 1841 as a schoolbuilding, a "temple of wisdom", in greek renaissance style by William Robertson of Elgin. It was not until 1981 when it became the public library building. People interested in old manuscripts or genealogy can found extensive archives in here. Others like me just like the little Greek temple next to the coach station.
What do you do when a beautiful old church is not needed for its original purpose anymore? St. Mary's Gaelic Church (not to be confused with St. Mary's Catholic church) from 1649 was converted into a combination of café and antiquity bookshop. The books on offer range from valuable antiquities to ordinary second hand books. Old maps and charts are for sale as well.
I recommend to take a book of your choice and go to the café. During lunchtime, it can get quite busy and then you will get a ticket and you will be called when there is a free table. I had the soup of the day which was delicious. If you like books, this is a place where you can spend hours and hours...
Every time we're in Inverness we do a lot of walking and on your initial visit to the city there's no better way to take-in the general layout of Inverness and some of its sights than by walking the Ness Islands and the Caledonian Canal. Every time we've walked along this path we've discovered new little sights: wooden sculptures, play areas and even a very old pet cemetery (this is a favourite area for dog walkers as well).
I will try to explain the route as best as I can here, starting from a very easy-to-find landmark: Inverness Castle. The short walk takes you around 1 hour... to include the Caledonian Canal and up towards the Moray Firth will take around 4 hours of walking. (I've included a link to a map of this walk at the end of this tip.)
From Inverness Castle, walk down along the river bank (with the water on your right) on Castle Road and follow the same street (name changes to Ness Bank after a while) and you'll find the Ness Islands, a welcome little tranquil forest and natural park with plenty of local wildlife. This area is great for walks, picnics and just for catching your breath and escaping the busy streets of the city in scenic and peaceful surroundings.
You can cross the river on various little pedestrian bridges, turn left once you reach the other side of the river and the path passes Whin Island (large playground for children, rowing boats and a miniature train) and Bught Park (venue for the Highland Games, football pitches and crazy golf course) and the Floral Hall; a sub-tropical horticultural hall that is open all year round. Not far from here is also the ice rink and the Inverness Leisure centre (swimming pool, gym, climbing wall, etc.)
--> (NOTE: for the shorter walk (approx. 1 hour), you now turn RIGHT once you've crossed the Ness Islands' bridges and head up along the Ness Walk with the river on your right. This will bring you past the Eden Court Theatre and eventually also the Highland House of Fraser and The Kitchen restaurant.)
Now, where was I? Oh yes: Turn left along the river bank (following signs for the Great Glen Way). At the Floral Hall turn right and walk up Bught Road. Then cross the main road via the small bridge over the Caledonian Canal (to your left). Continue along the tarmac tow-path beside the canal when the Great Glen Way heads off to the left.
Eventually you'll reach a small marina; the path has to leave the side of the canal here and run on the road through the yard (sign for Muirtown lochs); pick up the tow path once more on the far side. This path will bring you past the beach and eventually you can turn right and walk back down (south) along Kessock Road, with the River Ness on your left.
Kessock Road branches-off but you can stay on Anderson Street right by the water's edge - eventually this way will bring you back to the city centre...
Put on a good pair of walking shoes and enjoy!
Culloden is an evocative place for many people... and I was unprepared for the emotions it evoked in me. As I sit here writing this tip, we approach the 266th anniversary of this great battle and the subsequent awful defeat. Not only is it the site of the last hand-to-hand combat to take place on British soil and the last stand of an ancient Gaelic royal dynasty, but it is also the place where the Highland clan culture of Scotland cried out one last time in utter defiance... the battle of Culloden on April 16th 1746 meant - quite simply - the end of an era for Scotland.
Much has been done over the past years to restore the battlefield (Drumossie Moor, to the north east of Inverness) to its original state and to preserve the mass graves which lay dotted throughout the land, and the new and very informative visitors centre was opened in the year 2007.
When we first arrived John and I took a walk around the field outside. Without having seen the exhibits and really been immersed in the horror of this battle yet, the field seemed gloomy and melancholic enough. But nothing could have prepared me for the feelings and the tears that welled-up when we walked through the field again after having toured the inside of the centre.
The exhibits include an amazing battle immersion film, where you stand in a room with 4 projector screens an all sides, so you feel like you are right in the centre of the fight. There is also a large animated battle table and a rooftop viewing area. Visitors can also walk the battlefield itself with portable GPS-enabled audio guides.
> The Battle of Culloden was the last of the great Jacobite risings – attempting to reinstate a Stuart monarch on the throne of Britain - and was led by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) against the Duke of Cumberland and his "Hanoverian" government army: made mostly of English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders, men from Ireland and a small number of Hessians from Germany and Austrians.
> From the beginning, Stuart's plan was doomed: he was inexperienced, and most of the Jacobites fighting for him were already on the brink of exhaustion and starvation when they arrived in Inverness. Also, the ground at Culloden was a "moor": marshy swamp land making every step arduous and grueling, and effective battle almost impossible.
Highlanders were renown for their full-on charge of the enemy, but on this soft ground the Duke's heavy artillery and cavalry were of great advantage. The artillery decimated the clans as they awaited the command to charge. Many fell simply because the command to charge came too late from the inexperienced Charles, whereas the government troops just kept firing and decimated the Jacobite army. It was - quite frankly - a slaughter.
> On this day, heavily outnumbered (approx. 9000 to 6000) and despite only a grim and narrow chance of success, brave men fought for their beliefs and their land... and they shall never be forgotten.
Even though I am merely an "adopted Scot" (i.e. I've married a Scotsman) I see Scotland as my second home and my love for this country and its people runs deep. I left Culloden with both a heavy heart, but also with a sense of pride and joy in the knowledge that even after this heartbreaking defeat and centuries of oppression, the defiant nature of the Scottish people was never quite extinguished, and that they remain patriotic and insubordinate to this day.
If you are Scottish, have Scottish ancestry or are merely interested in the history of this great country, you cannot miss a visit to Culloden. The battlefield is open all year, every day, but the opening timings for the visitor's centre are:
24 January - 31 March: 10am-4pm.
1 April - 30 September: 9am-6pm.
1 October - 31 October: 9am-5pm.
1 November - 23 December: 10am-4pm.
Closed: 24 December - 23 January.
Entrance is free if you are a member of the National Trust for Scotland.
Hire of a battlefield tour PDA is included in the price of admission.
This building is the Scottish Highland's main entertainment venue (well, let's also not forget the Inverness Caledonian Thistle football stadium, of course!) and it's a theatre and a cinema rolled into one.
Located by the bank of the River Ness, near the (St Andrew's) Cathedral and Northern Meeting Park, Eden Court was opened in April 1976.
The theatre is sited in the grounds of what was once the official residence of the Bishops of Moray. Built in the 19th century for Bishop Robert Eden, the house was incorporated into the new arts centre providing dressing rooms and offices and later on, a small cinema. It gave up its name to the arts complex and was renamed the Bishop's Palace.
Intriguingly, the theatre is said to be haunted: the most commonly seen ghost is the Green Lady. It is thought that she was the wife of one of the bishops who hung herself…
Apart from screening movies, musicals and comedy shows, the theatre also provides a vital space for many classes and activities for the community (such as dancing or art classes for children, etc.).
Upon entering the theatre there is a large cafeteria/restaurant area where you can sit by the huge glass windows on a rainy day, sipping a hot coffee whilst waiting for your movie / show to start, or (as we did!) just as an excuse to get out of a sudden downpour whilst out for a walk around the Ness Islands. They serve a proper full lunch and dinner menu here.
The Tickets and Information office is located just inside the front doors of Eden Court and is open each day from 10:00am until 09:00pm.
This is an annual event that takes place in July in Bught Park Arena, just south of the city centre on the bank of the river Ness.
Nobody knows exactly when the first Inverness Highland Games took place, but we do know is that back in 1822 the Inverness Courier newspaper reported that fundraising was taking place in the town to revive those primeval competitions and give Inverness games that its residents could be proud of. Thanks to the efforts of those early fundraisers, 186 years later the Highland Games are still alive and well as one of the largest and most enjoyable Highland Games in the North of Scotland.
There are numerous Highland Games every summer, all over Scotland and even in other countries! The competitive element is a major attraction in itself, but combine it with the spectacle of Highland dancers and pipers, the grandeur of the Scottish scenery and last but not least, the highly enthusiastic crowds make Highland Games a *must* if you're in Scotland in summer!
Here are a few of the "heavy competitions:"
> Caber Toss: A long tapered log is stood upright, balacned vertically in the competitor’s hands who then runs forward and, well, tosses it as far as he can.
> Stone Put: This event is similar to the modern-day shot put in the Olympic Games, but instead of a steel shot a large stone of variable weight is often used.
> Scottish Hammer Throw: A round metal ball (16-22 lb for men; 12-16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft about 4 feet long. You spin, you whirl it around your head and then throw it for distance over the shoulder.
> Sheaf Toss: A bundle of straw weighing 20 lb (9 kg) for men and 10 lb (4.5 kg) for women is tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar, similar to the one used in pole vaulting.
> There is also a Wrestling Competition and although it might not look like it: there ARE rules!
> It might be something you remember from your days in the school yard, but the Tug-Of-War at the Highland Games gets gritty & muddy!
Other Entertainment / Competitions:
> Competitive Highland Dancing is a very technical dance requiring many hours of training for several years. It actually has more in common with ballet than with social dancing of Scottish Country Dance. In addition, the Highland dances are performed solo (and often over swords!)
> And last but not least, everyone at the games enjoys the Bagpipes blaring-out "Scotland the Brave" or "Flower of Scotland" accompanied by thundering applause and sing-along. But the pipes and drums are not the only music which can be heard at Highland games: you'll hear fiddling, harp circles, Celtic bands and other forms of musical entertainment.
--> In 2009 the Inverness Highland Games with plenty of strong Scottish men throwing rocks and logs and unsuspecting tourists (haha!) took place on 18th & 19th July.
We visited on the 2nd day of the games (adult ticket is £4.-) and had a fantastic time! We were greeted by the "Haggis family" at the gates (the kids loved this), saw many of the Heavies competing, the adorable Highland dancing children, plenty of great food and all in all the event was perfectly organised. We spent quiet a few hours at the Highland Games and everyone had a fantastic time.
I even saw a bunch of "German" highlanders but am sorry to say that they seemed rather skinny compared to the heavies from Scotland, New Zealand, America, etc.! haha!
There are plenty of food & beverage options (both John & his dad tucked into a hot portion of Stovies, whist the rest of us enjoyed fish 'n' chips, Haggis and freshly made ice creams), stalls that sell Highland craft & souvenirs, also plenty of toilet facilities and a play area to keep smaller children occupied. I'd definitely go to the games again next year!
--> For more photos, click here: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/ad214/#TL
Update 2010: This year, we visited the Highland Games and they took place in the Northern Meeting Park, a slightly different venue along the River Ness.
There are lots of places you can visit on the Whiskey Trail of the Aberdeen and Grampian area but Dallas Dhu Historic Distilery is special. The entire distillery has been turned into a museum that expains the process of making Scotch whiskey. At the end you get to have a nip. It is a very nice self-guided tour where the entire process and all the equipment are very well explained. It is not that far to the east of Inverness so works as a day tour from there. The visit is made all the better by the beautiful road trip that gets you to the distillery. See my Dallas Dhu travelogue for more pictures.
These splendid buildings , built 1878-82, are a focal point of the main street in Inverness leading down to the river.
It is a working building but tours are available: 2.30pm on Tuesday and Thursday from June to September. Adults £4.50, students and OAPs £3,00. Inside are paintings, artb works, stained glass, swords from various important battles .
See the tour online at www.ambaile.org.uk
This wee walk doesn't take long, whether you walk it, cycle it, push a buggy around it, rollerskate or skateboard it ... los of park benches along the way to sit and enjoy the sound of running water or read a book when (ahem, WHEN?) the weather gets better ....
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