Inverness is the United Kingdom’s northernmost city and is often referred to as the ‘Highland Capital’ of Scotland.
Though it has a relatively small population of just 60,000 residents, Inverness’s economy relies heavily on the influx of tourists from all over the world.
The town itself features a number of historic attractions, but it’s typically the nearby castles, lochs, and abundant Scotch distilleries that are the biggest draws for professionally guided tours.
Those who spend time in town appreciate its quaint charm, friendly residents, and easily accessible attractions. Tours touch on a variety of aspects of local life, including food and drink, history and culture, and arts and entertainment.
1. Loch Ness Cruise and Urquhart Castle
Located along the scenic banks of world-famous Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle is one of Scotland’s largest and most majestic historical attractions.
Departing from one of the loch’s many harbors, guests will board their vessel and embark on a 30-minute cruise, during which they’ll see some of the area’s most breathtaking natural wonders.
From the water, the views are impressive, to say the least, and guests will appreciate historic narration from their guide during their cruise and tour of the castle.
While on-board, participants will have access to drinks and snacks, free Wi-Fi, and comfortable indoor and outdoor seating.
Admission to the castle and visitor center are included.
2. Inverness Food and Drink Walking Tour
Previous guests of this popular walking tour tend to agree that experiencing cultural immersion is best done through food and drink.
Guests who prefer to see things from a street-level perspective will follow their guide’s lead and visit some of the city’s most prominent attractions while focusing on the ways in which the residents typically fill their stomachs with traditional fare.
Tours explore neighborhoods that don’t get much foot traffic and include fascinating but obscure tidbits of local history and lore that make for a more unique experience.
At pubs, guests will meet locals, sample beer and whiskey, and taste food favorites like seafood and haggis.
3. 24-Hour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Hop-on hop-off bus tours are gaining popularity with travelers who prefer not to tie themselves to traditional tours.
Guests will enjoy easy access to many of Inverness’s most prominent attractions from the comfort of a double-decker bus.
Stops include the city’s original neighborhood, Abertarff House, St. Andrews Cathedral, and the Highland Archive Center, to name just a few.
Guests will learn about larger-than-life figures from Scotland’s past, including Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scotts. They’ll have the ability to get off and see the things that interest them and skip those that don’t.
Tickets are good for one full day.
4. Alternative Loch Ness Tour
Since locals first purportedly spotted large aquatic beasts frolicking in its cold waters decades ago, travelers have flocked to Loch Ness to learn about the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
The drive between Inverness and Loch Ness is full of natural beauty and rich history. Along the way, guests will enjoy narration from their guide.
Highlights include stunning views of Urquhart Castle, several quaint villages, and large tracts of undisturbed highland wilderness.
Tours include ample time to stretch your legs, take photos, and have a meal and a drink before making the scenic drive back to Inverness.
5. Culloden Battlefield Visitor Center Ticket with Audio Guide
In April of 1746, loyalist and revolutionary forces converged on a battlefield in Culloden. According to reports, more than 1,500 soldiers lost their lives in less than an hour of brutal fighting.
On this tour from Inverness, guests will forego the usual live guide, instead using convenient audio guides to learn about one of the most epic battles in Scottish history.
Self-guided tours begin in the visitor’s center, which includes a variety of exhibits featuring original weapons, uniforms, and first-hand accounts of that fateful day.
Guests also have the option of touring the well-marked and easily walkable battlefield on their own.
6. Inverness Guided Walking Tour
For those traveling with children in need of exercise and engagement, leisurely family-friendly walking tours are great options.
This two-hour tour covers a moderate amount of ground and includes a number of aspects of local culture and history.
After rendezvousing with their guide at a convenient central location, the tour will set out to see some of the city’s most prominent attractions, like Inverness Castle and Cathedral, Old High Church, and Balnain House.
Tours also include a local drink tasting and a few historical gems that are slightly off the well-worn path.
It’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of water or two.
7. Skye and Eilean Donan Castle Small-Group Tour from Inverness
There’s nowhere you can go in Scotland that’s not full of fascinating history, and it often stretches back many centuries.
On this small-group tour from Inverness, guests will travel in style in a Mercedes minivan to one of the country’s most impressive and historic castles.
Tours include a guided tour of Eilean Donan Castle, after which participants will make their way through a majestic mountain range en route to the Trotternish Peninsula, which is home to iconic attractions like Kilt Rock and the Old Man of Storr.
Excursions include a lunch break in the town of Portree and a drive along Loch Ness on the return trip.
8. John O’Groats and the Far North Tour
John O’Groats has the distinction of being the northernmost point on the mainland of the United Kingdom.
It’s located along a rugged and beautiful stretch of the North Sea coast that’s dotted with historic villages, amazing castles, and some of the most scenic sea views anywhere in the country.
While en route, guests will learn about the things they’re seeing and have time to stop for photographs, refreshments, and a brisk walk along the cliffs overlooking the sea.
In Wick, participants will enjoy a relaxed lunch and free time to explore the town on foot before returning to Inverness.
9. Jacobite Steam Train and Highlands Tour from Inverness
Full-day tours that feature lots of distinct attractions are great value for travelers intent on making the most of their limited vacation time.
Departing from Inverness in the morning by steam train, this fun and engaging tour tends to stand out as one of the most memorable experiences of many guest’s trips.
A particular favorite of amateur photographers and lovers of history and natural beauty, it includes attractions like the ruins of Urquhart Castle, the United Kingdom’s tallest mountain range, Glenfinnan Viaduct, and Loch Ness on the return trip.
Tours last about 12 hours and begin and end in Inverness.
10. Full-Day Fort William and Glencoe Tour from Inverness
Though it’s the rare visitor that actually catches a glimpse of Nessie, visiting Loch Ness is a must for those who find themselves in Inverness with a free day to spare.
In addition to its natural splendor and mysterious lake creatures, the Loch Ness area is home to a number of historic attractions, like the archaeological ruins of Urquhart Castle, the Caledonian Canal, and Fort William.
Guests will also delve into more contemporary history when they visit a filming site from a Harry Potter movie, and a memorial to British Commandos who served during the Second World War.
11. Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle Tour from Inverness
Departing from Inverness in the morning and heading south, guests of this Isle of Sky and Eilean Donan Castle tour will see some of Scotland’s most impressive attractions.
First, they’ll tour the shores of Loch Ness, which, according to locals, may be home to a large-necked beast that occasionally rises to the surface for impromptu photo ops.
From the loch, tours make their way to Eilean Donan Castle on Loch Duic, where they’ll have time to stretch their legs and explore on foot with their guide.
Tours then proceed to the Isle of Skye, which is characterized by traditional villages, rocky cliffs, and rolling green hills butting up against the North Sea.
12. Speyside Whisky and Moray Firth Tour from Inverness
For lovers of idyllic natural beauty and intoxicating adult beverages, this multi-distillery tour from Inverness would be a great way to spend a day in the Scottish countryside.
Departing in the morning, guests and their guide will make a leisurely drive to the Benromach Distillery, where they’ll learn about the ancient practice by which run-of-the-mill ingredients are turned into fiery spirits much-loved around the world.
Guests will eat lunch in Elgin, do a bit of shopping, and explore the remnants of a historic cathedral before making their way to the Speyside Cooperage to see how casks are made for scotch produced in the area.
13. Brodie Castle Entrance Ticket
For hundreds of years between the 12th and 16th centuries, Brodie Castle was home to the Brodie Clan that played some significant roles in Scottish history.
With this entrance ticket, guests will be able to explore the castle both inside and out at their leisure.
The castle grounds are well-marked and include abundant plaques describing the things you see at each step along the way.
The castle’s appointments include a stunning library with thousands of individual volumes, opulent furniture, artwork, and housewares, and a sprawling garden that’s home to hundreds of species of daffodils.
14. Full-Day Loch Ness, Whisky and Outlander Tour from Inverness
After the scenic drive from Inverness to Loch Ness, guests of this combo tour may choose to embark on a cruise of the loch or take a side excursion to the village of Drumnadrochit.
If they choose the first option, they’ll visit the ruins of Urquhart Castle, and if they decide to stay on land, they’ll enjoy free time to explore the town and see a few filming locations from Outlander.
When guests reunite, they’ll make their way to a Highland distillery, where they’ll tour the production facility and sample a dram.
Tours also include interesting tidbits of local lore and history and a stop at the field where the battle of Culloden took place.
15. Spirit of the Highlands Tour from Inverness
On this eight-hour Highlands tour from Inverness, guests will put the city behind them and venture into some of the country’s most wild and untamed areas.
Tours include round-trip transportation from your accommodation or cruise ship and include prominent attractions as well as some that are slightly off the well-worn path.
Guests will get up close and personal with magnificent Loch Ness, explore the Culloden Battlefield, and learn about fascinating characters and historical events that altered the course of Scottish history forever.
Tours last between six and eight hours, get underway in the morning, and include the services of a knowledgeable local guide.