Straddling a nexus of major
road and rail routes, INVERNESS is the busy and prosperous
hub of the Highlands, and an inevitable port of call if you're
exploring the region by public transport. Buses and trains leave
for communities right across the far north of Scotland, and it
isn't uncommon for people from as far afield as Thurso, Durness
and Kyle of Lochalsh to travel down for a day's shopping here
- Britain's most northerly chain-store centre. Though boasting
few conventional sights, the city's setting on the banks of the
River Ness is appealing.
The logical place to begin
a tour of Inverness is the central Town House on the High Street.
Built in 1878, this Gothic pile hosted Prime Minister Lloyd George's
emergency meeting to discuss the Irish crisis in September 1921,
and now accommodates council offices. Looming above the Town
House and dominating the horizon is Inverness Castle (mid-May
to Sept Mon-Sat 10am-5pm), a predominantly nineteenth-century
red sandstone edifice perched picturesquely above the river.
It houses the Sheriff Court and, in summer, the Castle Garrison
Encounter , an entertaining and noisy interactive exhibition
in which the visitor plays the role of a new recruit in the eighteenth-century
Hanoverian army. Around 7pm during the summer, a lone piper clad
in full Highland garb performs for tourists on the castle esplanade.
Below the castle, the Inverness
Museum and Art Gallery
on Castle Wynd (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; free) gives a good general overview
of the development of the Highlands. Informative sections on
geology, geography and history cover the ground floor, while
upstairs you'll find a muddled selection of silver, taxidermy,
weapons and bagpipes, alongside a mediocre art gallery.
Just across Ness Bridge
from Bridge Street is the Kiltmaker Centre in the Hector Russell
shop (mid-May to Sept Mon-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 10am-5pm; rest of
year Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm). Entered through the factory shop, a
small visitor centre sets out everything you ever wanted to know
about tartan, and on weekdays you can see various tartan products
being made in the workshop. The finished products are, of course,
on sale in the showroom downstairs, along with all manner of
Highland knitwear, woven woollies and Harris tweed.
Rising from the west bank
directly opposite the castle, St
Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral was intended by its architects to be one of the
grandest buildings in Scotland. However, funds ran out before
the giant twin spires of the original design could be completed.
From here, you can wander a mile or so upriver to the peaceful
Ness Islands , an attractive, informal public park reached and
linked by footbridges.
OTHER POPULAR DESTINATIONS IN SCOTLAND