Skip to Content

Ultimate Guide on What to do in Inverness Without a car

If you’re visiting Scotland without a car and are choosing to spend a few days in Inverness the good news is that it’s very easy to find things to do in Inverness without a car.

The city is quite small and it’s very easy to get around on foot between the main Inverness attractions and things to see in Inverness.

There are also loads of awesome Inverness tours that you can book on to which include transport from Inverness to some of the most popular places for day trips from Inverness such as the Culloden Battlefield and, of course, Loch Ness.

If tours aren’t your thing then you can also get the train from Inverness station to places like Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park, or to Fort William on the east coast of Scotland. And, for more local places, catch a bus from Inverness to nearby towns and villages.

We spent a month living in Inverness as part of our year of travel and, though we did have a car, we ended up not using it much while exploring Inverness.

We stayed outside of the city center, but it was still only a 30-minute walk into the center, and from there everything was pretty much within 5-10 minutes of each other.

So don’t stress about whether you need to rent a car or not during your trip to Inverness, check out these fun things to do in Inverness without a car instead!

city of inverness with the a spire and castle in background and the river ness in front

Best things to do in Inverness without a car

Map of the best things to do in Inverness Scotland

Below is a map of my pick of the top things to do in Inverness. This Inverness map includes all of the attractions, restaurants, and Inverness cafes I’ve listed below as well as some of the best day trips from Inverness.

You can simply click the image below (or here) to open up this map of Inverness in your Google Maps app and use it when planning your trip.

inverness map things to do in inverness
old victorian bridge connecting ness islands inverness

Visit the Ness Islands

Walking around the Ness Islands was my favorite thing to do in Inverness during our stay there. It was one of the places I used to run to and around while living in the city.

If you’re staying in the city center, start your walk to the Ness Islands from the Cathedral or along the Ness Walk where you’ll find food trucks and a wide paved walking path, or alternatively, you can start a bit closer by the Botanical Gardens in Inverness.

Either way, you’ll walk alongside the River Ness before coming out to some bridges that cross out onto the Ness Islands.

These bridges are typical Victorian bridges and they’re quite wobbly, but pretty and definitely something different.

The pathways here are well-maintained and they’re also lit up with some pretty lights.

See if you can find the log made to look like the Loch Ness Monster!

inverness castle scotland

Visit Inverness Castle

Inverness Castle sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness and is one of the best attractions in Inverness.

Visiting Inverness Castles takes you back in time to explore Scotland’s rich history and legends.

The caste has recently undergone massive refurbishments and will reopen to the public in 2025.

As the new Inverness Castle Experience, the existing castle buildings, and esplanade gardens are being transformed from their original use as the home of Inverness’ prison and courts into a celebration of what makes the Highlands of Scotland a special place to live, work, and visit.

Inside there will be a Highland Highland Music Experience and Bar where you will be able to enjoy music, food, and drink.

leaky's bookstore and spiral staircase in inverness

Browse the shelves at Leaky’s Bookstore

If you know me, you know I love browsing the shelves of a second hand bookshop, and the shelves at Leaky’s Bookshop in Inverness are packed full of books.

Stepping into this bookstore really feels like entering the set of a Hogwarts film and you’ll feel like the books are about to fly off the shelves as you wander.

Set over two floors, with a spiral staircase to take you between them, this is said to be one of Scotland’s grandest second-hand bookstores It’s been family-run since 1979 and now houses a diverse range of books, maps, and prints.

Leaky’s is also architecturally impressive and is located in an ancient Gaelic Church from the late 18th century. spans two floors connected by a spiral staircase.

Dive deep into the tales of yesteryears or find a contemporary culinary guide, there’s pretty much every genre under the sun!

  • Opening Times: Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5.30 pm
inside the victorian market in inverness.

Wander the Inverness Victorian Public Market

The Inverness Victorian Public Market is a delightful blend of historical infrastructure and some tasty places to eat, grab a coffee, or do some shopping.

Housed in a beautifully preserved Victorian structure, the market buzzes with life, offering an array of local crafts, artisanal products, and unique mementos.

Each stall tells its own story, showcasing the city’s rich trading history and the vibrancy of its local businesses.

There’s also a newly reopened food hall in the Victorian Market where you can find lots of great places for lunch or an early dinner. On Fridays in summer they often have music too which is a great accompaniment as you enjoy some drinks with friends.

It can be a bit hard to find the entrance to the market, but there are usually some A-frames pointing you into the market to look out for!

Listen to live music in Inverness

Inverness is one of the best cities I’ve been to for daily live music.

Across the city, you’ll find pubs and bars playing traditional Scottish tunes to contemporary beats. In fact, all you need to do is walk around and you’ll likely come across someone playing bagpipes in the city!

As you dip in and out of the city’s numerous bars and pubs you may come across an up-and-coming local band perhaps playing heartfelt ballads or an international artist gracing the city with their talent, There’s always a tune to tap your foot to.

Some of the best bars and pubs in Inverness for live music include Hootananny, Market Bar, and MacCallums Bar.

Less regular live music but a great outside beer garden is the Castle Tavern pub which looks out onto the castle.

lunch sandwich and soup at velocity cafe and bicycle shop inverness

Enjoy lunch at Velocity Café & Bicycle Workshop Inverness

One of the best cafes in Inverness is Velocity Café & Bicycle Workshop. It’s a super cool place that’s built up quite a strong community based on a love of cycling, sustainability, and healthy living.

Not just a cafe, it’s also a bicycle workshop so if your bike needs some tuning, be sure to take it here and enjoy a delicious coffee or some tasty lunch while you wait.

During our visit, I had a great locally made kombucha, kimchi tofu sandwich, and a delicious quinoa and mushroom soup.

Velocity Cafe in Inverness also holds workshops and sessions on bicycle maintenance which are super useful skills to learn.

wooden boardwalk and steps going down to some water and grenery at the merkinch local nature reserve

Take a walk through the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve

After we were done with work or dinner, we’d often go for a walk somewhere in Inverness. One of the best places we came across, and something of a hidden gem in Inverness was the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve.

It’s easy to get here from the center of Inverness and you can walk from Ness Bridge, down Huntly Street and to the end of Kessock Road where the reserve begins, or walk from along the canal down to the lochs first which is a walk we did with some friends who were visiting.

There’s a paved path right alongside the sea and then there are several trails in amongst the trees of the nature reserve, as well as some boarwalks over the ponds.

Just watch out for midges as we ended up walking through many midge patches here!

You can make your walk here pretty much as long or short as you like and my favorite time to visit this place in Inverness was at sunset.

Look out for deer, herons, cormorants, and more as you scan the reed beds and scrublands during your walk in Inverness.

inverness botanical garden greenhouse

Visit the Inverness Botanical Gardens

Inverness Botanical Gardens is a beautiful, green escape right in the city that was so much better and bigger than I thought it would be.

From the outside, the building doesn’t look like much, but once you step inside you’re greeted with a lovely cafe space that has both outdoor and indoor seating.

Then, you’re free to walk through conservatories, and around the open-air parts of the garden spotting different plant species. There’s a large tropical greenhouse and a cactus greenhouse and there is also a large vegetable patch area too.

It’s a great idea for what to do in Inverness car free and worth visiting whether you’re looking for things to do in Inverness with kids, or are just visiting as adults.

  • Opening hours: Daily 10 am to 4 pm
  • Tickets: Free, donations welcomed

Play disc golf in Inverness

If you’ve never played disc golf before you’re in for a treat.

Disc golf is a mix between frisbee and gold where you throw a disc (like a frisbee) into a net area that acts as your hole in golf. It’s something we played a few times when living in Vancouver Canada and it’s always a lot of fun with friends.

Inverness has a great disc golf course near the canal at Torvean Park which is within walking distance from the city center.

There is an honesty box to borrow from with a limited selection of discs you can use and return after your game, or if you message the disc golf club beforehand you can usually rent or purchase some quite cheaply.

inverness canal
Inverness canal

Rent a kayak and paddle the Inverness Canal

On a sunny day in Inverness, there’s nothing better than enjoying a paddle down the beautiful canal that runs into the city.

You may see people setting off on their canoe or kayak trip from Inverness to Fort William, or perhaps catch the Inverness Rowing Club heading out for a training session.

I saw some people renting kayaks alongside the canal by the Torvean Swing Bridge so if it’s sunny out and you’re visiting in summer, head there to rent one yourself!

the city of inverness wit the river ness and flowers in the foreground

Take a guided walking tour of Inverness

Don’t just rush through Inverness on your way to explore the Highlands! Take a moment to discover the heart of the Highland capital with the Inverness City Daily Walking Tour.

These walking tours in Inverness take place twice a day at 11:30 am and 5:30 pm and they’re limited to just 14 people so you get a more personalized experience.

On these walking tours, you’ll get to know the city’s rich history and culture and make stops at famous landmarks like Inverness Castle, Balnain House, and the Inverness Cathedral.

You’ll also get the chance to visit the city’s hidden gems that many tourists often overlook.

From the iconic Flora MacDonald Statue to the serene Cavell Gardens and the historic Old High St Stephen’s Church, there’s so much to explore.

The guides come highly recommended by past guests on this tour and they loved the touch of humor and cheesy jokes alongside clear explanations and insightful historical details.

inverness loch ness scotland

Take a day trip to Loch Ness from Inverness

Since Inverness quite literally translates as the mouth of the Ness as in the River Ness and Loch Ness, you simply can’t visit Inverness without making a trip to Loch Ness itself!

Loch Ness is about 30 minutes by car but if you’re visiting Inverness without a car you can very easily book a Loch Ness boat cruise tour right from the city!

The scenery around Loch Ness is absolutely beautiful and I personally think a Loch Ness boat cruise is the best way to enjoy the loch.

On the boat tours of Loch Ness, you’ll get to see Urquhart Castle at the far end and listen out for Nessie with onboard sonar. They’re such a fun way to spend a few hours while visiting Inverness!

This tour to Loch Ness from Inverness is my favorite one and includes all the transport you’ll need from the center of Inverness.

Enjoy a private dinner experience in Inverness

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Inverness, then be sure to check out this authentic Scottish dining experience.

On this private dinner experience with a local at their home, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious meal while also learning more about Scotland’s vibrant culture and history.

The hearty home cooking focuses on the ingredients and dishes that are rooted in Highland’s traditions and stories and include things like haggis or local venison and Cranachan which is a desert made with cream and berries and Scottish honey and whisky.

All previous diners with the host have loved not only the food but the stories they were told and the welcoming atmosphere of her home.

It’s such a fun way to spend an evening and a great idea if you’re looking for more unusual things to do in Inverness.

a lock at the caledonian canal in inverness

Walk or bike along the Caledonian Canal

The Caledonian Canal is one of the best things to see in Inverness.

This long canal has a paved walkway alongside it and it’s a nice easy and flat walk in Inverness.

You can start from the sea and work your way westwards along the canal past the locks and see boats journey down the waters, or start from outside of the city center and work your way to the sea. The choice is yours!

You could also rent a bike and travel more of the canal as it makes its way into Loch Ness for a fun half-day adventure in the city.

Alternatively, take a guided bike tour of Inverness and its waterways. This 2-hour guided bike tour takes you along the River Ness and The Caledonian Canal and your guide is a local who grew up in the city so can share plenty of stories.

The route is mostly flat, and so it’s great whether you’re an experienced cyclist or not. You’ll cycle with a maximum of 10 people so the tour manages to stay quite personalised and there’s no need to worry about getting left behind either.

edinburgh whisky tour

Take a whisky tour with a guide

Fancy a Scottish whisky adventure without worrying about driving? The Speyside private tour is perfect for you!

This tailor-made experience is exclusively for your group, and it covers the best of Scotland’s famous Speyside whisky region.

You’ll explore top distilleries like Macallan, Aberlour, and Glenfiddich. And to top it all off, your guide will be a true Highlander dressed in a kilt!

Highlights include a visit to Carrbridge, home to the Highlands’ oldest bridge, the Cardhu Distillery with its rich history of farm-based whisky making, and the Speyside Cooperage where you can witness the magic behind cask-making.

At Glenfiddich, you can savor a dram in their tasting room, and Glenlivet is perfect for drinks.

Previous whisky drinkers on this tour loved it! Many said the host had an incredible knowledge of the area and that he even suggested more things for them to do during their trip.

Best day trips from Inverness without a car

If you’ve explored Inverness from top to bottom and want to visit some of the best places near Inverness instead, you can still do so even when you’re looking for things to do in Inverness without a car!

These day trips from Inverness are organized tours where you’ll get to visit some of the best places to see in Scotland including the Isle of Skye and the Culloden Battlefields which are full of history.

The best part is you don’t need a car and all your transport is included!

Cuillin Hills of Skye

Take a day trip from Inverness to Isle of Skye

This day trip from Inverness to the Isle of Skye packs in a lot!

Though I’d usually recommend you make a separate trip to Skye of at least 2 days, it is possible to see the highlights of the island in one day from Inverness.

On this day trip to the Isle of Skye, you’ll leave Inverness bus station making a stop at Loch Ness for a coffee and the chance to spot the Loch Ness monster.

Then as you continue towards the isle of Skye you’ll stop at Eilean Donan Castle, one of the prettiest Scottish Castles there is!

This castle has featured in many films including James Bond and you’ll have the option to take a tour of the castle or soak it in from the parking lot and short trails along the water.

Then, before you know it, you’ll be crossing the bridge into Skye and making your way to the pretty town of Portree. Here you’ll enjoy a lunch by the harbour and can then go and visit the stunning Old Man of Storr and the Lealt Falls which cascade down into the sea.

To finish the day you’ll enjoy a scenic stop looking down onto Loch Carron and then head back to Inverness.

plodda falls as seen from below

Visit Glen Affric from Inverness

This day trip from Inverness to Glen Affric takes you into the heart of what’s said to be the most beautiful glen in Scotland. And, you know what? I’d have to agree.

Glen Affric was one of the prettiest places we visited while staying in Inverness and this tour lets you experience it without needing a car which is otherwise quite tricky!

You’ll depart from Inverness and start by visiting the Clava Cairns which is a 4,000-year-old cemetery that is full of interesting local history.

Then, you’ll head to the Culloden Battlefields, which is a major historical landmark and a tribute to those who fought here marking the end of the significant uprisings of the time.

Afterwards, you’ll continue to Glen Affric where you’ll get to enjoy some easy walks amongst the Caledonian pine trees and visit the beautiful Loch Affric before stopping at Beauly Priory which is featured in Outlander on the return journey.

Previous people who took this tour loved the guide and all the in-depth explanations they received. They thought the unexpected farm visits and scenic walks were fantastic and learned so much!

glenfinnan viaduct

Ride the Harry Potter Train from Inverness

If you’ve ever wanted to see the Hogwarts Express yourself then now is your chance.

This Glenfinnan and Highlands tour has it all, from enchanting ruins to the magical scenes straight out of the Harry Potter movies, you’ll depart from Inverness and see some beautiful Scottish countryside to the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct which the Hogwarts Express travels across.

You’ll also continue north to Fort William where you can enjoy a lunch with Ben Nevis – the UK’s highest mountain – as your backdrop!

You’ll also pass by Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle on your return journey before coming back into Inverness having seen some of the best things to see in Scotland!

Perhaps the best part is that this tour is on an 8 seater only bus so it’s a nice small group trip.

an lochan uaine aviemore cairngorms national park

Take a day trip to the Cairngorms

Get the train from Inverness to Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park and explore the beauty of the UK’s largest National Park on foot.

You could also rent a bike and discover some of the best things to do in Aviemore like visiting the Green Loch and the Ryvoan Bothy.

There are loads of fun things to do in Aviemore and thanks to the numerous train stations in the area, you really don’t need a car.

If you would prefer to have a guide, you could also book this Cairngorms & Whisky day tour from Inverness.

This tour includes your return transport as well as a trip to some of the best views in the Cairngorms such as those at Glenmore Forest Park and Loch Morlich, and a tour of the whisky production process at the Glenfiddich Distillery.

In my opinion, visiting the Cairngorms is one of the best day trips from Inverness by train.

clava cairns inverness
The Clava Cairns

Take a tour of the Outlander locations near Inverness

One of the top activities to do in Inverness without a car is the full-day Outlander Experience.

This private tour transports you directly into the scenes of the beloved TV series, Outlander, all with the insight of a knowledgeable local guide.

Start with a visit to Abertarff House, Inverness’s oldest house, which holds connections to Jamie Fraser’s heritage. Then, experience the haunting history of the Old High St Stephen’s Church, where musket ball marks from the Battle of Culloden still linger.

Dive into Scotland’s mysterious side at Loch Ness and walk the historic grounds of Culloden Battlefield where Jamie Fraser’s clan faced its tragic end.

Continue your journey by exploring Clava Cairns, an ancient burial site believed to inspire Outlander’s time-traveling stones, and discover the strategic Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.

Each site immerses you in Outlander’s world while also teaching you about Scotland’s rich history.

Caledonian Sleeper Review

How to get to Inverness without a car?

It’s totally possible to visit Inverness Scotland without a car. While having a car allows you more flexibility, especially if you plan on doing some hiking, you can visit the main Inverness attractions and places near Inverness without needing a car.

This is great since it saves you a bunch of money (and saves you having to learn how to drive stick-shift if you didn’t know already!).

Below is some basic information on how to get to Inverness without a car.

Trains to Inverness

One of the simplest ways to reach Inverness without a car is by taking a train.

The Inverness train station is centrally located and well-connected to other cities across Scotland as well as the rest of the UK. You can book direct trains from many major cities, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, and even London.

The journey offers beautiful views of the Scottish countryside, and once you arrive, the station is close to many key attractions in Inverness.

You can book trains online in advance by using TheTrainline.com which makes it super easy to plan your journey ahead of time!

One of my favorite ways to get to Inverness if I’m traveling from London is to book the Caledonian Sleeper Train. The Scot Sleeper Train leaves London in the evening and you’ll wake up mid-morning in Inverness ready to explore.

You can book seats or private cabins and the trains come with charging poets, have a restaurant car, and are actually very comfortable.

Buses to Inverness

If you’re on a budget or coming from a location not directly served by trains, buses can be a great option.

National bus services like Megabus or Citylink have routes that connect various parts of Scotland with Inverness.

The bus station in Inverness is right in the city center by the train station, making it easy to start your exploration of the best things to do in Inverness city centre straight away.

Omio is a great platform for booking European and UK travel on. You can check train and bus prices and schedules and book super easily!

Flights to Inverness

If you’re coming from farther away or simply want a faster mode of transport, flying might be the way to go. However, I would encourage you to look into the other, more environmentally friendly, options first.

Inverness Airport is just outside the city and serves several domestic destinations.

From the airport, there are easy bus and taxi services that will get you to the city center in about 20 minutes.

Skyscanner is what I use to find cheap flights.

city of inverness scotland

Best places to stay in Inverness

Below is my pick of the best hotels in Inverness. They’re all quite centrally located which means they’re ideal if you’re exploring Inverness without a car.

  • Black Isle Hostel: Enjoy budget-friendly hostel accommodation in the center of Loch Ness above the Black Isle Brewing pub which does great pizzas, has great beer, and a lovely outdoor secret garden area for drinks in the summer.
  • AC Hotel by Marriott Inverness: This 4-star Hotel by Marriott offers air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, a fitness center, a restaurant, a bar, and some rooms come with river views.
  • River Ness Hotel by Radisson: This 4 star Inverness hotel has a gym, lounge, restaurant, bar, free WiFi, and air-conditioned rooms; it’s located near the city center and Inverness Castle, with various breakfast options available.
  • Doric House: This B&B in Inverness close to the center offers accommodations with free WiFi, flat-screen TVs, and private bathrooms, including breakfast, and a shared lounge area.
inverness ness walk scotland

When is the best time to visit Inverness?

Inverness is a beautiful city in the Scottish Highlands, and when to visit depends on what you’re looking to experience. Here’s a seasonal breakdown:

  • Spring (March to May): Typical temperatures range from around 4°C (39°F) in March to about 13°C (55°F) in May. Spring sees the countryside come alive with blooming flowers and greenery and tourist numbers are relatively low compared to the summer months, offering a peaceful visit.
  • Summer (June to August): Typical temperatures are around 10°C (50°F) to 18°C (64°F), although sometimes it can get warmer. This is peak tourist season due to the warmer weather, and it’s when Inverness sees the most daylight hours (with long evenings it’s not really being fully dark until midnight). There are also many festivals and events during this period.
  • Autumn (September to November): Temperatures are about 15°C (59°F) in September dropping to around 5°C (41°F) in November. The autumn colors in the Highlands are breathtaking. Like spring, tourist numbers drop, offering a more relaxed experience.
  • Winter (December to February): Typical winter temperatures range from around 0°C (32°F) to 5°C (41°F). It can sometimes drop below freezing. If you enjoy the crisp cold and possibly snow, then winter is for you. Inverness itself may not see too much snow, but the surrounding Highlands can offer picturesque snowy landscapes. Also, if you’re (very) lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

The best time to visit Inverness really depends on your preferences. If you enjoy warmer weather and a more busy atmosphere, summer might be best.

However, if you prefer fewer crowds and a more relaxed experience, spring or autumn could be the ideal time.

Just remember that summer in Scotland is rare. You shouldn’t expect warm temperatures and sun during your stay. During our month we saw the sun just a handful of times and all-day rain a lot more.

ness walk sign on a brick wall inverness scotland uk

FAQs about what to do in Inverness without a car

Can you get around Inverness without a car?

Yes, you can get around Inverness without a car. The city is quite walkable, and there’s a reliable public transport system, including buses and taxis, that makes it easy for visitors to explore the main attractions.

What is the best Scottish island to visit without a car?

The best Scottish island to visit without a car is probably the Isle of Arran. It’s accessible by public transport from Glasgow, and once there, local bus services, tours, and walking and cycling paths allow you to experience its stunning landscapes and attractions.

Can you explore the Scottish Highlands without a car?

Yes, you can explore the Scottish Highlands without a car. While having a car might offer more flexibility, there are several organized tours, trains, and bus services that can take you to key locations and offer breathtaking views of the Highlands.

How do I get from Inverness to Loch Ness without a car?

The best way to visit Loch Ness without a car is to take a guided tour from Inverness to Loch Ness. There are both boat cruises and bus tours available. Alternatively, you can use Inverness public transport.

ness islands inverness

Final thoughts on visiting Inverness without a car

Inverness is the UK’s most northern city and it’s a great destination for your Scotland travel itinerary.

The city is packed full of history, and legends, and there are plenty of things to do in Inverness without a car as you can see from this post.

Whether you’re walking along the Ness Islands or you’re taking an organized tour to one of the best day trips from Inverness like Loch Ness and the Cairngorms, you’re sure to have a great time visiting this city.

If you’re looking for more places to visit near Inverness be sure to check out this guide to the best walks in Glencoe, these awesome Glencoe photography spots, see what to do in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs or get these itineraries for one day in Edinburgh and what to do in Glasgow.

    This post may include affiliate links. These give me a small source of income and come at no additional cost to you.