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13 Free Things to do in Inverness

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If you’re travelling to the Highlands on a budget then you will want to stop off an explore some of the free things to do in Inverness.

Renowned for being the home of the infamous Loch Ness, Inverness is usually at the top of most tourist’s bucket lists coming to Scotland.

As Liam grew up in Inverness, we visit quite regularly and get to see some amazing sights whilst we’re there. It is truly a beautiful place to visit and there are plenty of things to do in Inverness during different times of the year.

View of Inverness from the bridge.

Our favourite time to visit Inverness is during the end of spring and into early summer because there are not as many tourists but you still get to enjoy some of the sunshine.

This is a great time to visit Inverness as the flowers will be out in full bloom with the sun beaming down on you. No matter what time of year you choose to go, visiting Inverness will be one of the highlights of your time in Scotland.

Free Things to do in Inverness

1. Explore Inverness City Centre

Whilst you’re in Inverness, you certainly can’t leave until you’ve explored Inverness City Centre itself!

There are plenty of shops that you can explore around in Inverness City Centre even if you are on a budget and don’t want to spend much money.

One of our favourite spots in the centre is walking down the canal and enjoying the beautiful views from the bridge. On a sunny day, this is a great place to capture some awesome photos especially if you’re a travel blogger!

Inverness Bridge is lit up in the distance with different colours. At the forefront of the photo is a sign for Ness Bank.

You can head over to the Eastgate shopping centre to browse some of the shops and see if there are any souvenirs that you would like to take back home.

There are also plenty of different restaurants in Inverness to try with a range of cuisines. You can try a traditional Scottish breakfast, deep fried mars bars and haggis at a lot of these restaurants.

Amy & Liam enjoying drinks at the Piano Bar in Inverness.

However, if you’re staying in Inverness for a few days then you can try one of the other different restaurants. Cuisines that you can try include Indian, Italian, Chinese, American, Caribbean and so much more.

Not to mention that there are plenty of Scottish pubs and bars to try. We found that there are some awesome cocktail bars within Inverness including Black Isle Bar, Scotch & Rye and The Piano & Whisky Bar.

These are great places to try some different drinks, meet some new people whilst travelling and experience the nightlife of Inverness.

2. Inverness Botanic Gardens

Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple or a family, the Botanic Gardens is one of the best Inverness outdoor activities to try whilst you’re visiting.

The Botanic Gardens are a great opportunity to educate your children about different plants and the impact they have on the wider world. It is free to enter the gardens but they kindly request a donation for them to continue their work.

This is a really beautiful place to visit especially during the summer where you can appreciate the different plants in the glasshouses and outdoor environments.

One of the most impressive parts of Inverness Botanic Gardens is the large collection of cacti they have available in the Cactus House. You will find cacti from all around the world from house cacti, agave, aloe vera and so much more.

3. Leakey’s Bookshop

Leakey’s Bookshop has been an upcoming place for tourists to visit in Inverness for a few years now. If you’re interested in books, you will be absolutely swept away with this impressive collection of second-hand books.

As Amy is a complete book nerd, she was speechless when entering Leakey’s Bookshop. We would definitely recommend considering taking one of the secondhand books home with you. Consider it a gift to yourself!

For any other travel bloggers, this is definitely a place that you want to visit before you leave Inverness. You will get some amazing photos for your travel blog that’s for sure!

One of the best free things to do in Inverness is to take a visit to Leakey's Bookshop. This image shows a view of all the second hand books from the top of the stairs.

4. Ness Islands

Another great spot for travel bloggers to visit that is completely free is by visiting Ness Islands in Inverness.

This is one of the best Inverness tourist attractions for you to visit whilst you’re in the Highlands. They are a collection of islands that is just a short walk from Inverness City Centre.

If you’re travelling to Inverness as a family then this is a great activity to do together. There is plenty of walking involved and a great chance for kids to burn off some energy.

Whilst you’re exploring Ness Islands make sure that you keep an eye out for the Loch Ness tree!

5. Loch Ness

You can’t take a trip to Inverness without visiting Loch Ness itself. If it is within your budget then take a trip on a boat to keep an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster!

However, to wander around Loch Ness itself is completely free and a great way to get out into Scotland’s nature.

View of Loch Ness with a sign displaying this. You can see the sun starting to set as the colour of the sky is a warm orange colour mixed with blue and you can see some of the munros in the background.

Scotland is famous for the amount of lochs and Loch Ness is one of the most famous of them all. Tourists come from all over the world to try and get a glimpse of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster!

This is a great place to take the children and let off some steam whilst telling them all about the myth of Nessie. It is also a really great place for a proposal if you’re travelling together as a couple.

This is one of the only museums in Inverness but it is definitely well worth a visit if you’re look for free things to do in Inverness.

In this museum, you will find plenty of artifacts where you can learn more about Inverness itself and the Highlands. You will find two art galleries here so this is one of the best things to do on a rainy day in Inverness.

For anyone that wants to learn more about Scottish culture, art and history, we really recommend taking a trip to this museum and art gallery.

7. Victorian Market

One unique free thing to do in Inverness is to wander around the Victorian Market. Before visiting Inverness it is worth checking to see if there are any live music events at the Victorian Market.

This is a really picturesque place to visit in Inverness so you’ll definitely want to capture some great photos whilst you’re there.

If you're looking for free things to do in Inverness then you will want to go to the Victorian Market to enjoy some live music. Even just wandering through here is a sight to behold.

There are plenty of shops to browse within the Victorian Market if you’re wanting to have a wander. Alternatively, there are also plenty of restaurants to try in the food court which is a great place to stop for a spot of lunch.

8. Clava Cairns

For any history buffs, Clava Cairns is one of the best days our near Inverness and a really interesting trip to learn more about this monument site.

Clava Cairns was originally a cemetery and holds around 4,000 years worth of history. It is a prehistoric site that is sacred and holds remains of the Bronze Age.

This is a really beautiful site to visit and a really interesting part of Inverness history. As Clava Cairns is located just outside of Inverness you will need to arrange to get the bus here from the City Centre.

9. Inverness Cathedral

Another beautiful place to visit within Inverness is exploring the Cathedral in the city centre.

The architecture of Inverness Cathedral alone is wondrous to behold. It is worth having a little visit inside the cathedral to admire the interior and the history that it holds.

If you’re planning to visit Inverness Cathedral then make sure to check the service times beforehand so that you won’t be disappointed when you arrive.

One of the most unique things about this Cathedral is that for those that are unable to attend services, they use their social media for live streaming. This is a great way to keep up with daily prayers when it can be difficult to physically attend the cathedral.

Although, the Cathedral is so beautiful that where possible you would want to be able to try and visit in person!

10. Culloden Battlefield

One of the most interesting places to visit near Inverness is the Culloden Battlefield. Walk over history dating back to 1745 and immerse yourself into Scottish history.

If you’re visiting the battlefield then another highlight is that there are also stunning panoramic views from here too. Make sure you keep an eye out for some highland cows whilst you’re at it!

Entrance to Culloden Battlefield is completely free but if you would like to visit the museum and learn more about the history of the battlefield then there will be a charge.

11. Whin Park

Liam's son watching the ducks at Whin Park.

Travelling to Inverness as a family is a great opportunity to explore with the children with plenty of things to do together.

Head over to Whin Park to let your children play on the 4 different play parks. If that’s not enough then there is also a beautiful pond where you can rent out a boat in the summer.

There will also usually be plenty of ducks on the pond as well which is a great learning opportunity for children and a way to appreciate nature.

Whin Park is really good fun for all of the family and makes for a lovely day out to spend time together.

12. The Calendonian Canal

If you like to get out and explore by walking or riding a bike then we recommend heading down the Calendonian Canal trail.

The Calendonian Canal stretches for 62 miles long so unless you’re really looking for a challenge, it won’t be possible to walk the whole thing.

For a shorter walk, you can start from Inverness City Centre and choose to either head towards Muirtown Basin or Loch Ness.

If you choose to start your walk along Calendonian Canal from Whin Park and head towards the Dochgarroch Locks which is around 7.5 miles.

This is a great way to take in some beautiful views of the Scottish Highlands and keep active whilst you’re at it!

13. Live music at Hootenannys

One of the best ways to spend your evening in Inverness is to go and enjoy some live Scottish music at Hootenannys.

We have spent a few different nights out here and we’ve had so much fun everytime! Get your dancing boots on and head out to Hootenannys for some good fun. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, you will still have a really great time here!

Amy and Liam enjoying their time at Hootenannys. This image shows Amy leaning into Liam and he is kissing her on the head with a candle lit in front of them.

You’ll find that on a Friday and Saturday night is when it is the most busy and this is the best time to go so that you can get stuck in and make some new friends too!

If you’re looking to carry the party on then the nightlife in Inverness can be quite good fun. Most of the locals pop to a couple of pubs or bars before heading to a final place like Hootenannys.

Quick Facts for Free Things to do in Inverness

Board from Hootenannys showing the different events at the time the photo was taken.
  1. Explore Inverness City Centre
  2. Inverness Botanic Gardens
  3. Leakey’s Bookshop
  4. Ness Islands
  5. Loch Ness
  6. Inverness Museum & Art Gallery
  7. Victorian Market
  8. Clava Cairns
  9. Inverness Cathedral
  10. Cullonden Battlefield
  11. Whin Park
  12. The Calendonian Canal
  13. Live Music at Hootenannys

Final Thoughts…

Inverness is a beautiful place to explore and there are lots of free things to do so this is always great news for budget travellers.

Whilst Inverness is stunning during the winter, we highly recommend visiting during the summer to really appreciate the beauty that this place offers.

There are also plenty of great tours to enjoy from Inverness and in particular a really good nightlife scene.

If you’re doing a little tour of Scotland then we definitely recommend heading to Aviemore, Haddington and Edinburgh during your exploration. We’ve included some more travel resources below for you.

Amy sitting on a bench at Ness Bank where you can see the cathedral over the other side.

Scotland Travel Resources

Can you explore Inverness without a car?

Yes you can explore Inverness without a car but as the attractions (other than the city centre) are a bit spread out, you may need to use the public bus to be able to get to all the attractions in Inverness.

Can you walk around Inverness Castle?

You can usually walk around Inverness Castle but it is closed for maintenance at the moment. Inverness Castle will be reopening in 2025 after its renovations has been completed.

Is Inverness Museum Free?

Inverness Museum and Art Galleries are free to visit so this is a great thing to do in Inverness for budget travellers.

Can you see Urquhart Castle without paying?

Unfortunately, as you have to go through the entrance to get to the ruins of Urquhart Caslte, you will need to pay to be able to see it.

What is Inverness popular for?

Inverness is popular for multiple reasons but the main reason it is popular is for Loch Ness. Tourists come from all over the world to visit the infamous Loch Ness and see if they can catch a glimpse of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

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