Looking for the best Inverness 3-day itinerary? I’ve got you covered. 

Inverness is the capital of the Scottish Highlands. The city sits just north of the Cairngorms National Park with the Moray Firth on one side and wooded hills on the other. 

Loch Ness with its legends of monsters reside on its doorstep while the last battle on British soil echoes on its surrounding moors. 

The city’s history captures the imagination but visitors will also delight in its exceptional food, beautiful nature and cultural events such as the Highland Games. 

So, from sailing around Loch Ness to visiting Scotland’s most beautiful bookshop, read on to find out how to spend 3 days in Inverness. 

Is Inverness worth visiting? 

A blonde haired girl wearing a red jacket stands on the banks of Loch Ness in Dores.
Visiting Loch Ness is one of the best ways to spend 3 days in Inverness!

Short answer? Yes! Inverness is a paradise for nature lovers as you don’t have to go far to be enveloped in the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands. 

The city is a fantastic base from which to visit Cairngorms National Park. It has the best of both worlds if you’re looking for wild landscapes and a lively food and music scene. 

Think cosy pubs with fireplaces and restaurants with fresh seafood. There’s a good choice of hotels too. 

Not forgetting the history with archaeological discoveries dating back to the Bronze Age! 

Inverness 3 day itinerary map 

Places mapped by Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

How to use this Inverness itinerary 

I’ve created this itinerary based on my trip to Inverness. Most activities are flexible so you can use them to make this itinerary your own. 

The only activities you need to book in advance are the small group tour of Loch Ness and the dolphin-watching experience. The rest you can do whenever it suits you. 

How many days should you spend in Inverness? 

a long white bridge connecting the riverbank to an island surrounded by trees. The Ness Islands in Inverness.
The beautiful Ness Islands are free to explore

I recommend spending 3 days in Inverness. That gives you a day to explore the city, a day to visit Loch Ness and a day for Culloden Battlefield without rushing. 

You don’t need more than a day to explore the actual city itself. It’s small and most landmarks are a walkable distance from each other. 

If you’re just spending a weekend in Inverness, you could combine Culloden Battlefield with your day in the city.

I would slim it down to one or two city attractions and then do Culloden as you won’t have time to fit it all in otherwise. 

Inverness sustainable travel tips 

Have a lighter impact when visiting Inverness by following these tips: 

  • If time allows, get the train to Inverness instead of flying. Planes emit between 30 and 50 times more CO2 than trains. 
  • The city centre is walkable so you don’t need a car to get around. Culloden Battlefield can be reached by bus and tours can take you to Loch Ness. 
  • Support small businesses around the city. Book tours that use local guides for a more authentic experience. 
  • Where possible, eat at cafes and restaurants that promote seasonal ingredients on their menus. 
  • Always bring a reusable water bottle instead of buying single-use plastic. I use Water-to-Go as it gives me safe drinking water wherever I go.
  • More of a practical tip for Scotland in general but…bring a backpack rather than a wheeled suitcase unless you’re prepared to wrestle it over cobblestone streets. 
  • While out in the Highlands take all litter home with you, stick to marked tracks, leave nature as you found it and don’t start fires. 
  • Keep a respectful distance from wildlife and don’t feed them. 

How to spend three days in Inverness

Lush tropical plants and a water fountain with a two-leveled building at the back. The tropical house in Inverness Botanic Garden.
Inverness Botanic Garden is one of the best free things to do in the city

Day 1: Explore Inverness 

Not driving and wondering what to do in Inverness without a car? You’ll be pleased to know that the city centre is walkable so the first day of this itinerary is a self-guided walking tour. 

Many of the places below are sufficient as quick pit stops. The route ends with a cosy bookshop and then it’s onwards to dolphin spotting and an optional nature reserve.

The walk takes you on a natural progression through the city towards the place where you embark on your dolphin experience. 

If you would rather start your day with dolphins, I recommend skipping the nature reserve and doing your walk back to front, starting with Leakey’s Bookshop. 

Ness Islands 

Start your first day at Ness Islands. Follow the River Ness inland and you’ll come to a collection of natural islands which are connected to the mainland by bridges. It’s possible to cross from one side of the riverbank to the other.

The islands are part of a park which is popular with runners, families and dog walkers. Stroll along winding footpaths and sit for a while on a bench before moving on to your next stop. 

Inverness Botanic Gardens 

One of the best free things to do in Inverness, the Inverness Botanic Gardens is a short 10-minute stroll from Ness Islands. It features an outdoor garden with a koi pond, a tropical house, a cactus house and a café. 

The garden is run by a charity and is free to enter although donations are appreciated. It’s also home to the GROW project, a gardening initiative for adults with special needs. 

I loved the tropical house best of all with its beautiful trailing plants and water features. It looked like the setting for a fairy tale! 

Editor’s tip: Inverness Botanic Gardens is open from 10am to 4pm seven days a week. 

Inverness Castle 

You’re just going to stop and admire the view of Inverness Castle as it’s closed for refurbishments until 2025. It may just be covered in scaffolding. 

The castle sits high on a cliff overlooking the River Ness. While a castle has held that spot since 1057, the structure that stands today was built in 1836. To be honest, it’s a little underwhelming as castles go. 

Inverness Cathedral 

Another quick stop is Inverness Cathedral on the other side of the River Ness to the castle. The cathedral’s construction began in 1866 and it was open for service in 1869. It has a ring of 10 bells. 

It’s now open 365 days of the year from 8am to 7pm. The café is open from Monday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm every day except for Mondays and Tuesdays from 7th November to 1st April.  

The Victorian Market 

A 10-minute walk from the cathedral and across the river in the direction of the city centre is the Victorian Market. 

The traditional 19th-century shopping arcade is entirely made up of independent shops. A small food court has a selection of places to get a bite to eat. It’s not huge but it’s a nice place to look around and buy a few souvenirs. 

Leakey’s Bookshop 

A lit wood burning stove surrounded by a protective gate and wood logs with bookshelves behind in Leakey's Bookshop, Inverness.
Leakey’s Bookshop!

The last stop on your self-guided walking tour through Inverness is quite possibly the COSIEST bookshop I’ve ever seen and one of the best things to do in Inverness. 

Leakey’s Bookshop is the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland. It’s family-owned and was established in 1979 by Charles Leaky.

It was originally spread over two shops until it moved to the 17th-century St Mary’s Gaelic Church in 1994. 

Leakey’s is regarded as one of the most beautiful bookshops in Scotland. Parts of the old church remain, including stained glass windows and a pulpit. 

Its most surprising feature is a large wood-burning stove which is the only source of heat in the building and keeps damp at bay. Add in lots of nooks for browsing and it’s easy to lose yourself in this enchanting bookshop. 

Dolphin Spirit Inverness

If you’re an animal lover, a boat tour of the Moray Firth is a must. About 200 bottlenose dolphins live in the Moray Firth and they’re the most northerly population in the world. 

The best way to see them is on a boat trip with Dolphin Spirit Inverness. The certified ethical company runs regular tours on a wildlife cruise and a high-speed boat. 

The Spirit Cruise experience is 75 minutes and is suitable for adults and children of any age. Ticket prices are £14 for a child aged 4-16 (children under 3 go free) and £21 for an adult.

There isn’t a guarantee that you’ll see dolphins or any other wildlife, but the company advises booking the Mischief Wildlife Experience on the high-speed boat for the best chance. 

The speedboat tour is two hours long and takes you up to dolphin hotspots including Chanonry Point.

There is a maximum of 12 people on the boat and it’s not suitable for children under 10. Ticket prices are £39 for a child aged 10-16 and £49 for adults aged 17+. 

Both experiences operate three times a day, Monday to Sunday. 

Merkinch Local Nature Reserve 

If you have a bit of extra time, you can get another wildlife fix at Merkinch Local Nature Reserve. 

Located on the coast of the Beauly Firth, the reserve is made up of tidal pools, marshland and scrubland that are a habitat for wading birds such as herons and cormorants. Roe deer, owls and weasels love it here too. 

There’s a short 30-minute circular trail made accessible by boardwalks which take you through the reserve. It’s a great way to connect with nature in the Scottish Highlands.

The one main challenge with Merkinch Nature Reserve is that if you visit it after your dolphin-watching experience, you have to go back on yourself to cross the next available bridge over River Ness.

That makes your total walk time 42 minutes to get there. 

Day 2: Visit Culloden Battlefield 

Standing stones and a cairn with trees behind. The Bronze Age Clava Cairns near Inverness.
The sacred Clava Cairns

On the second day of your 3 days in Inverness, you’re going back in time to one of the most significant moments in Scottish history – the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Then it’s a visit to the Bronze Age Clava Cairns. 

P.S. Any Outlander fans here?

Culloden Battlefield 

Culloden Moor was the site of the last battle on British soil. In 1746, the Jacobite Rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie fought and lost against the English army. 

Their defeat brought about the end of Scottish clan culture. As for the Bonnie Prince? He fled and lived out his days in exile. 

Culloden Battlefield is now one of the most visited places in Scotland and it’s less than 30 minutes east of Inverness by car or bus. 

The number 27 bus to Inverness Airport takes you from the city to outside the battlefield visitor centre. It runs approximately every 30 minutes and I paid £5.40 for a return ticket. 

The visitor centre has a museum run by the National Trust for Scotland. Entry costs £16 for an adult but it’s worth it as you learn about the battle and what happened in the run up to it. 

The actual battlefield is free to wander around and there are flags to show where the two armies came face to face. On one side of the battlefield, there are stone memorials to remember the clans who lost their lives on that fateful day. 

Editor’s tip: Another place to learn about the Jacobite cause is Glenfinnan which has a monument dedicated to the Lone Highlander.

Clava Cairns 

The Clava Cairns is a Bronze Age cemetery with standing stones and burial monuments in a beautiful wooded setting. It’s thought that this site was the inspiration behind Craigh Na Dun in the Outlander book series. 

It’s free to visit and about a 30-minute walk along country lanes from Culloden Battlefield. I recommend following the Walkhighlands route to get there but be mindful of occasional cars.  

The Bronze Age site dates back 4,000 years and offers a glimpse into the cultural beliefs of the time. The position of the stones indicates a focus on the midwinter sunset.

Excavations have also found evidence of farming on the site before the cemetery was even established. 

Day 3: Loch Ness day trip 

The ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness with a boat in the distance. This day trip is one of the best ways to spend 3 days in Inverness.
Urquhart Castle (or what’s left of it!) from Loch Ness

The last day on your Inverness 3-day itinerary is a trip to Loch Ness. 

The loch is just eight miles from Inverness but it has landmarks which are tricky to get to without a car. So, for this excursion, I recommend booking a small group tour. 

I did a Loch Ness day trip from Inverness. It was a full-day tour with transport included. There is an option to do a cruise on Loch Ness for about £19 extra. If you do the tour after the 1st of April, the boat cruise is included in the price.

My tour included all the stops below: 

Nessie hunting in Dores

My first glimpse of Loch Ness was Loch Ness Beach on the outskirts of Dores. 

The pebble beach happens to be the home of the Loch Ness Monster hunter Steve Feltham who lives in a tiny research van. 

Since his search began in 1991, he’s dedicated his life to solving the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. He’s been recognised by Guinness World Records for his efforts. 

When we arrived, he was cooking breakfast in his van so I thought it best to leave him to it. 

Falls of Foyers 

If you follow the road southwest which runs alongside Loch Ness, you’ll come to Falls of Foyers. It’s a spectacular waterfall which plunges 140ft down into a gorge on the River Foyers. 

The waterfall is accessible via a winding path that leads you through beautiful woodland with views down the gorge. You might spot a red squirrel here although I wasn’t so lucky. 

It doesn’t take long to reach the waterfall viewpoints. The path eventually takes you to the shores of Loch Ness but you won’t have time to do that on this trip. 

Fort Augustus 

The next stop on your tour of Loch Ness is Fort Augustus. The village sits on the bottom southwest tip of the loch and is bisected by the Caledonian Canal which runs 60 miles between Fort William and Inverness. 

Fort Augustus is a sweet village with scenic views up the loch. Many visitors stop here on their way to and from Fort William which is under an hour’s drive away. Several boat tours operate from here and the surrounding hills are popular with hikers and bikers

It’s the designated place to stop for lunch on the tour. There are some restaurants but I opted for a sandwich from Spar and treated myself to an ice cream from Miele’s Gelateria. 

I recommend checking out the locks on the canal and going for a wander on the shores of Loch Ness while you’re here. 

Invermoriston Bridge 

This stop turned out to be one of my favourite places on the tour. Invermoriston Bridge is a 19th-century stone bridge over the River Moriston. It was built by Thomas Telford in 1813 to improve the infrastructure around the Highlands. 

The bridge doesn’t look like much from the road but if you follow a footpath down to the viewpoint, it arches beautifully over tumbling falls. On the far riverbank, there’s a round stone summer house which was built for salmon season. 

It’s such a magical spot and it honestly looks like something in a fairy tale!

Loch Ness cruise to Urquhart Castle 

Now for the highlight of the day – a boat cruise across Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle. If you do the day trip around Loch Ness, your cruise will be with Loch Ness by Jacobite. 

The excursion is about an hour for a round trip and you sail down Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle as you listen to the audio commentary.

The boat has an inside area with seats, toilets and a bar. There’s also an upstairs outdoor deck which gets windy so bring a jacket (always essential for your Scotland packing list!)

It was a lovely experience settling into the boat trip and learning about Scottish history and the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Sadly, no monsters appeared though.  

The boat stops at Urquhart Castle which was deliberately blown up in 1692 so it could never again be used as a military fortress. 

Unfortunately, you can’t get off the boat to explore it as there’s no way of getting back to the tour. The best views are from the boat anyway. 

After the cruise on Loch Ness, it’s just under a half-hour drive back to Inverness and the end of your itinerary.

Editor’s tip: The Loch Ness cruise ticket is £19 for an adult, however, we managed to get a group discount when paying in cash. There’s an ATM at Fort Augustus. If you book the tour for after the 1st of April, your cruise is included in the price!

Where to next after Inverness?

Once you’ve spent 3 days in Inverness, you could visit Fort William and explore the West Coast of Scotland.

Highlights on the West Coast include the Isle of Skye, Glenfinnan Viaduct and the Isle of Mull.

You could head south to Aviemore and the heart of the Cairngorms. Travelling north to Thurso, John O’Groats and the Orkney Islands is another possibility. 

Inverness is the start of the North Coast 500, a seven-day road trip which covers the Black Isle and the West Coast. Alternatively, you could take the train back to Glasgow or Edinburgh or the Caledonian Sleeper to London. 

Planning your trip to Inverness

A small stone summer house on the banks of the river surrounded by trees in Invermoriston.
Can you spy the Invermoriston Summer House?

Read on to find practical information about planning a trip to Inverness, including the best time to visit, how to get around, where to stay and where to eat. 

Where is Inverness? 

The city of Inverness sits on the mouth of the River Ness on the southwest side of the Moray Firth. The city belongs to Inverness-shire, Scotland’s largest historic county. 

Inverness is regarded as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. It sits just north of the Cairngorms National Park which dominates the centre of Scotland. Its most famous local landmark, Loch Ness, is just 8 miles away. 

It’s a base for visitors travelling north to the Black Isle as it has the only international airport in the Highlands. It’s also the starting point of the NC 500 road trip. 

When is the best time to visit Inverness? 

As the capital of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness is a hive of activity all year round. 

In winter, the Cairngorms ski season is in full swing and the landscape around Inverness is often covered in a blanket of snow. Temperatures hover between 1℃ to 7℃ and it’s possible to see the Northern Lights. Some attractions are closed for the season.  

Summer is the most popular time to visit Inverness. Temperatures reach highs of 19℃ and it has the longest amount of daylight of any major tourist city in the UK. 

It’s a busy time of year for festivals and events including the Highland Games which takes place in July. 

If you want mild weather and a holiday without the crowds, I recommend visiting Inverness in spring or autumn. By April the snow has melted and attractions around the Highlands have opened for the tourist season. 

In autumn, the landscape is dramatic with turning leaves. There’s a slightly higher chance of rain but attractions are still open and the prices are cheaper at the tail end of the tourist season. 

How to get to Inverness 

A bunk bed with white bedding and blue leaflets on the Caledonian Sleeper train.
There is a range of accommodation options on the Caledonian Sleeper


If you’re travelling internationally, Inverness has its own airport which is about 20-30 minutes from the city centre.  


It’s possible to get the train from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Inverness. Direct trains take about 3.30 to 4 hours and it’s a lovely journey through towns on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. 

If you’re travelling from London, you could take the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. I did this and the cost for a ticket was a reasonable £55 for a seat one way. 

For more information on Caledonian Sleeper ticket prices and sleeping options, read my full review. 


There’s not much of a time difference between catching the train from Glasgow or Edinburgh and travelling by road as the route pretty much follows the railway. 

If you’re driving by car, follow the M80 from Glasgow or the M90 from Edinburgh to Perth and then join the A9. 

Another option is Megabus. It’s a good backup option if the trains aren’t running and the journey time takes just under 4 hours. Coaches M90 and M10A run directly to Edinburgh and Glasgow from Inverness. 

I got the Megabus from Aviemore to Edinburgh during a train strike. It was simple to use but I did have to change buses. I recommend booking tickets in advance. 

For a comprehensive run-down of the best train, coach and driving routes, read my full guide to getting to Inverness.

How to get around Inverness 

As a walkable city, getting around Inverness is easy. Admittedly, my first choice is to walk everywhere so if you’re not that way inclined, there is a decent bus network. Bear in mind, it will start becoming expensive if you use it all the time. 

The number 27 bus service goes to both Culloden Battlefield and Inverness Airport. I recommend arriving at the bus stop early and allowing some delay as it can get caught up in traffic. 

You can make contactless payments on the bus. 

If you’re also wondering how to spend 3 days in Inverness without a car, small group tours will be your best friend for exploring the local area. 

Where to stay in Inverness

A bunk bed with bedding and curtains at Bazpackers Hostel in Inverness.
The dorm room in Bazpackers Hostel

Bazpackers Hostel 

Bazpackers is a cosy hostel about a 10-minute walk from the train station. It has a small but well-equipped kitchen and a lounge area with a fireplace and garden. 

The dormitories have bunk beds with a curtain (I always prefer this for privacy!). I stayed here on my visit to Inverness and found it more than comfortable when travelling on a budget. 

Culliss House B&B

Culliss House B&B is the place for you if you have a mid-range budget and want some home comforts during your stay. The rooms are clean and comfortable and have private bathrooms. It’s about 15 minutes from Inverness Station. 

Heathmount Hotel 

If you want to splurge without going too crazy, Heathmount Hotel is a cheerful hotel with cosy rooms all with ensuites. 

There’s an on-site restaurant which is known for its traditional Scottish breakfasts and hearty dinner menu. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Inverness Station. 

The best places to eat in Inverness

A bike hanging from the ceiling in a cafe with people sitting at tables. Velocity Cafe in Inverness.
How cool is this café?

Velocity Café 

If you’re looking for a breakfast, brunch or lunch stop, Velocity Café is the place to go. It was recommended to me by a local.  

The vegetarian and vegan restaurant aims to be zero waste with a menu specialising in seasonal ingredients. It’s a social enterprise and it has a bicycle repair workshop attached. 

Castle Tavern 

This award-winning family pub is next door to Bazpackers so it was a no-brainer for me. 

The menu is typical of a gastropub with fish and chips, burgers and macaroni cheese. There are a few Scottish favourites too including cullen skink and haggis. 

Other worthy mentions include: 

  • Black Isle Bar & Rooms does excellent wood-fired pizza
  • Rocpool is a trendy fine-dining restaurant. 
  • The Mustard Seed is a local favourite and is located in an old church.
  • Café One is all about farm-to-table dining. 

Final thoughts on spending 3 days in Inverness

A boat going through the locks on the Caledonian Canal in Fort Augustus with hills behind.
Watching the boats on the Caledonian Canal in Fort Augustus

So, that concluded your 3-day Inverness itinerary! 

The itinerary covers all the top things to do in Inverness without being too hectic. If you have less time to spare, I recommend prioritising Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns and Loch Ness. 

Doing small group tours is also a great way to make the most of the area – particularly if you don’t have a car. 

If you have any questions about this Inverness itinerary, feel free to drop them in the comments below. 

Looking for more Scotland travel tips? Check out these posts!

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