Should I visit Inverness, whilst docked in Invergordon?

Should I visit Inverness, whilst docked in Invergordon?

By Kay Pearson on 22nd November 2023

If arriving by cruise ship, your itinerary is likely to have, “Inverness/Loch Ness”, listed as the port, rather than “Invergordon”, where the cruise ship actually docks. It may surprise you to learn then that Invergordon is located 23 miles north of the city of Inverness!  We can only assume that these itineraries are designed to entice you with images of historic battlefields and famous monsters…after all, had you ever heard of Invergordon before you started researching this cruise?!

Invergordon itself is a small town of 4000 people, so most visitors choose to venture out further to explore the area (though if you do choose to stay in Invergordon, watch this space for a new blog containing our top 10 recommendations of things to do there).

Is Inverness worth visiting?

When considering where to explore whilst in Invergordon, Inverness is often at the top of the list.  Whilst it is one of Scotland’s smallest cities, it is referred to as the “capital of the Highlands” and, when you Google it, it seems like there are a plethora of attractions right on the city’s doorstep.  

This is correct, and we would certainly highly recommend this city as a base to anyone planning 2+ days in the Scottish Highlands.  The main reason for this is that it is much easier to find accommodation here (than, for example, on the Isle of Skye) and the city is well-served by public transport, restaurants, bars and shops, unlike many smaller towns in the Scottish Highlands.  It is a wonderful base for exploring Speyside whisky distilleries, the Isle of Skye, the Cairngorms National Park, Glen Affric, The North Coast 500, the Black Isle and Applecross.

However, with just one day to spend in the Scottish Highlands, we would definitely advise doing your research first.  Whilst Inverness is a great base, most popular sights are not within the city itself, or within walking distance.

What can I do in Inverness?

Sample Scottish culinary delights

In Inverness itself there are a plethora of restaurants, offering a wide variety of cuisines.  Establishments which offer traditional Scottish produce (haggis anyone?!) include Cafe One, The Mustard Seed, Prime, Girvans and Urquharts.  All are within the city centre. 

Try a Scottish whisky

For many, Scotland signifies whisky.  If you are a whisky fan, and this is the only Scottish port on your itinerary, you may be keen to try a local dram.  In Inverness you could try The Malt Room whisky bar (opens at midday) or there are three whisky shops which can offer you advice and the occasional sample – Highland Whisky Shop, The Whisky Shop and Inverness Whisky (the only one I have been in recently is Inverness Whisky – they have a wide selection of whiskies and were very friendly and accommodating).

Pick up a souvenir

It would be no exaggeration to say that Inverness city centre has more than its fair share of tourist shops! Many of these have a pretty similar offering to what you can find in any other Scottish city…tartan items, woolen wear, all things get the gist!  For a unique souvenir you could try wandering to the Victorian Market, where there are many independent shops, as well as a recently refurbished central courtyard featuring local eateries.  You could also try Leakey’s Bookshop, Castle Gallery and Judith Glue for more interesting souvenirs.

Visit Inverness Castle

The most obvious attraction within the city centre is Inverness Castle, an iconic pink building set up on a hill overlooking the city.  You can have a wander around the grounds and visit the tower, but note that the visitor experience here is not due to be completed until 2025.

Take a wander by the River Ness

If it’s a nice day then a stroll along the river is to be recommended.  You can walk from the city centre, past the Inverness Town House (perhaps call into Inverness Museum) and alongside the statues named, “The Three Graces”.  Continuing upstream you then cross over a series of bridges and paths meandering through the Ness Islands.  Once across the river you turn back towards the centre, passing Eden Court Theatre and Inverness Cathedral on your way back into the city centre.

There is certainly enough to occupy you for a few hours in the city, particularly if you are up for doing a bit of walking.

If I get to Inverness, can I visit nearby sights?

For many guests docking in Invergordon, this is their one chance to explore the Highlands, and they want to make the most of it!  There are many sights which are near to Inverness, including: Culloden Battlefield; Clava Cairns; Loch Ness; Cawdor Castle; Urquhart Castle; Tomatin Distillery; Glen Ord Distillery; The Cairngorm National Park and more.  

However, just because these sights are nearby, doesn’t mean that you can visit them if you get yourself to Inverness.  On busy cruise ship days, taxis can be very hard to come by, and public transport options are limited, so make sure you research your transportation options so that you are not disappointed.

WOW summary

If your aim is to get a bus/train from Invergordon into Inverness (read our blog here on how to do this) and get a feel for Inverness city centre, you can certainly achieve this in the 6 – 9 hours you have in port.  Inverness is a small city, with a compact city centre and plenty of shops, restaurants and historic buildings to peruse. Beyond this, given the limited time you have available, it will be difficult to visit any of the sights out of the centre.

In summary we’d recommend doing your research regarding what you want to see, and how you will get there, before you arrive in Invergordon. Whatever you choose to do, we wish you all the very best for your time in the wonderful Scottish Highlands!

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