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Inverness >  Google™ Map May 2018+  Highland Coat of Arms

inbhir mouth (of the) + mis Scottish Gaelic (river name). Population - 61,235.

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May 2018+

Highland Coat of Arms

It's hard to believe this pair of intrepid travellers have never been this far north before. These are worrying times, however, since a Sat Nav-free SlyBob needs to negotiate a city and the grey blob in the tatty AA™ road atlas warns of a capital calamity, one-way-wise.


That's still the preferred method of navigation in these wheels but the centre of one of Europe's fastest-growing cities, they say, is surprisingly small and locating the lodgings is an unexpected doddle.

As cities go, this is fairly new and that's Y2K-new with the status awarded not so much for size but more for the celebration of a once in a millennium event, see also Brighton and Hove and Wolverhampton.

  Travelodge Inverness City Centre Hotel (Academy Street)

It's now known to be notoriously expensive to stay in Inverness since there simply aren't enough rooms although these 54 new ones went some way to balancing the supply and demand.

Even if you leave it until a week before, you'll still end up paying something similar as the same in fancy London for a single night and you'll need to fork out further for the parking.

The streets are familiarly Scottish even if that's just the three-by-six blocks, say, constituting the centre.

Inverness - Union Street

Not quite as gruff as Glasgow nor as elegant as Edinburgh nor as scary as Stirling now you mention it, this soggy Sunday morning doesn't really do the Victorian Gothic justice.

Inverness Town House
Inverness Train Station

The architecture came with the railways, largely, although if you're hanging around the station for that overnight Caledonian Sleeper, things are a little more 1960s than 1860s.

When it's said Victorian Gothic, by the way, it's Scottish Baronial, strictly speaking, if period styles need nitpicking.

  Black Isle Bar and Rooms (Church Street)

The Black Isle Brewery has been doing just that since 1998 and their organic operation is based a few miles north over the Moray Firth. Brewed from their own barley, the beer travels well and there are over 20 on tap including seasonal specials and selected guests.

Inverness - Black Isle Bar and Rooms

While their bird-themed booze used to be quite traditional, they've gone proper crafty of late with wood-fired pizzas, a rooftop terrace and, just for once, not a Courier font in sight. They'll also put you up for the night with a hostel option round the corner but don't bank on an early night if it's still this busy at last orders.

Rainy, mid-morning mooching is accommodated along the pedestrianised shopping area of High Street, which just about retains some of the city's identity.

Inverness - High Street

Head up to the modern Eastgate Shopping Centre, however, and, sorry Inverness, you could just about be anywhere.

Inverness - Eastgate Shopping Centre
Inverness - The Victorian Market

The impressive, indoor Victorian Market is home to some of Inverness' smaller independents.

Not too many of them are open on a Sunday, which is a shame because everybody could do with a new kilt and a tea towel with a Highland Coo on it.

Speaking of Victorian, is this when the staff of the Tourist Information on the high street did their training? Lighten up lads and lassies, most people in here are on holiday and it's hoped none of this nonsense is nearly so formal.

  Buonissimo (High Street)

That risible room rate doesn't include breakfast so excellent coffee and cannoli at this small, Italian street food provider it is, then. It's run by a young family from just south of Milan and it's agreed that the respective countrysides are similar.

Inverness - Buonissimo

They love it here and SlyBob loves what they're doing here, if only it were a little later, and that would be savoury later, for their fresh focaccia. They've even stuck to their roots with some outdoor seating, in Inverness!

Not so much Buonissimo, now though, more tragico no thanks to you-know-what. Shame that and it's hoped they pop up elsewhere.

So far, all of the hanging out's been on the River Ness' east bank and things seem to be simply more functional on the other side. The highlight of crossing is the view from the iconic Greig Street footbridge, which also has a right bit of bounce to it.

Inverness - From Greig Street Bridge
Inverness - Greig Street Bridge

There's a larger concentration of Victorian, riverside dwellings over there, which makes for a better backdrop, including a couple of formerly grand hotels whose heyday has long since passed, probably.

Head south and return by the similarly suspended Infirmary footbridge, which has an even bigger bounce, and during busy events, local bobbies act as bouncers to limit the numbers and keep the wobble down, they say.

  MacGregor's Bar (Academy Street)

Crafty alternative to the Black Isle that's just about at the city limits or the west end of Academy Street if you'd rather. They've a good selection from the Cromarty Brewing Co, who are also over the water, and in keeping with the size of the city do 2/3rd-pint portions of the stronger ones.

This was lost in translation and the request resulted in... two pints! Too timid to protest, the later than usual checkout that came with the big-budget bed was utilised to the last minute. Hic!

Of course there's a castle here but come at it from the wrong angle and you'll find it hidden behind a rather ugly bit of retail.

Inverness Castle - From Bank Street

It makes for quite a talking point, apparently, and the equally intrepid traveller Bill Bryson, no less, said of it... blot(s) the town centre beyond any hope of redemption.

This too was carefully considered and while his prose can't be pipped, poetically, it was noticed it's got a tandoori in it.

  Rajah (Post Office Avenue)

Some local knowledge was sought from a young barman as to the best of the several tandooris in town... 'The Rajah, by a mile!' The last table was nabbed at 7.30 PM but the solid, if unspectacular, fayre suggests he doesn't get that much time off to dine out.

Inverness Castle is perched on a mound that strategically overlooks the River Ness and isn't quite as old as you might think.

Inverness Castle

This 1836 effort is a period replacement for the 11th-century original, last in the news in 1746 when it was seized and razed by a Bonnie Prince and his Jacobite army although they'd give what was left of it back after Culloden.

There's £5 admission up a newish viewing tower but the free views from the walls and garden aren't too shabby.

Inverness Castle Garden - Looking South
Inverness Castle - Flora MacDonald

Flora MacDonald agrees and that's the same Flora MacDonald who helped to speed Charles Edward Stuart in an attractive-sounding vessel over the sea to Skye.

You're not allowed inside the castle, you see, not unless you're up before the beak since this is the magistrates' court or the Sheriff as they still call him up here.

Saying that, if you do find yourself in a pickle with the authorities in these parts, just like Charlie, you could always flee to France.

  The King's Highway (Church Street) wetherspoon

The Spoons have a tradition of naming their pubs based on the history of the city or the old building they invariably inhabit.

The inevitable offering in a city of this size is called the King's Highway, a 13th-century reference to 'The King's Highway of the North', which is now Church Street and where devotees of the Stella™ breakfast are seen to worship.

There are no awards for their nearly-out-of-date ale but the Director of Contrived Waterhole Naming gets a thoughtful (3/5) for linking some geography and history. For that reason and, just for once, they've got an apostrophe in the right place.