Inverness Historic Trail
Inverness is one of the oldest towns in Scotland. Dating from 585 AD to the present day. Inverness has been the natural place for people from the Highlands and further afield to meet and trade. This ancient history is reflected in the wealth of interesting buildings to be found around the compact city centre.
The word Inverness comes from the Gaelic meaning “Mouth of the River Ness” – a walk around the riverside today gives you the chance to enjoy beautiful mountain views and wildlife in the heart of the city.
The Inverness Historic Trail guides you through Inverness’s New and Old Towns where you will find fascinating buildings and an abundance of shops and restaurants to enjoy. From the unique local traders in the Victorian Market, to souvenir shops by the river and on the High Street, and quality retailers in the Eastgate Centre; the Capital of the Highlands offers a friendly welcome with plenty to see and do.
Refer to the numbers on the painted city centre map in the centre pages of this guide for directions.
A: Inverness Castle There has been a castle on this site since the 12th century. Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobites blew up the Hanoverian Fort in 1746. The present sandstone building dates from 1834 with the North block added in 1847. Today it serves as the Inverness Sheriff Court House.
B: Town House Completed in 1882, this Victorian Gothic building was the Town House of the Royal Burgh of Inverness and now serves as the Inverness area office of the Highland Council.
C: Tollbooth Steeple The Georgian tollbooth steeple was erected beside the adjoining Old Court House and Jail in 1791 and rises 45 metres to where three bronze bells hang in the spire.
D: Falcon Square is named after John Falconer who opened Falcon Foundry at Inverness Rail Terminus in 1858. The building on the square which houses Laura Ashley and Pizza Express formed part of this Foundry – it was dismantled and relocated here in the late 1990s.
E: Library In 1841 this building, which has Egyptian and Greek influences was erected with Doric columns and pediments to house Bell’s Institution, and the school remained in the building until 1937. It has been the home of the public library since 1981.
F: The Victorian Market Originally known as the “New Market”, was built in 1870 and rebuilt after a fire in 1890. It connects all four surrounding streets and houses a variety of unique local shops. The entrance from Academy Street has Corinthian arches and animal carvings on the keystones.
G: Abertarff House Built in 1593, this is the earliest surviving house in Inverness. The crow-stepped gables – known as “corbie steps” – of this town house stand out in this crowded street. It was received from the National Commercial Bank and restored in 1966 by The National Trust for Scotland.
H: Dunbar’s Hospital Built in 1668, this building is named after Provost Alexander Dunbar, who endowed it as a hospital for the poor, and as the Grammar School which remained there until 1792. Subsequently it served as a public library and now houses flats, a shop and a day centre.
I: Old Gaelic Church Built as the Gaelic Church in 1649. Rebuilt in 1792 and reconstructed before becoming Greyfriars Free Church. It now houses a secondhand bookshop and café.
J: Old High Church The original Parish Church of Inverness dedicated to St Mary, built on St Michael’s Mount since at least the 12th Century. The base of the bell tower probably dates from the 15th century and the top from the 17th. The church was built in the 1770s. Jacobite prisoners were confined in the church after Culloden and some were executed in the graveyard.
K: Free North Church Built in 1889-92 in decorated Gothic style it has the highest steeple in Inverness, a dominant feature by the River Ness.
L: St Columba’s High Church The congregation was established in 1843, the present church opened in 1852. A fire in 1940 left only the walls standing. The congregation, servicemen & prisoners of war refurbished the church and it opened nine years later.
M: Balnain House Built as a town house around 1726 in early Georgian style, Balnain House was used as a hospital for Hanoverian soldiers after Culloden and as billets for the Royal Engineers when completing the 1st Ordnance Survey. Now restored it is the office of The National Trust for Scotland.
N: St Mary’s Built in 1837 in perpendicular Gothic Revival style, St Mary’s is the first Roman Catholic church built in Inverness after the Reformation
O: Inverness Cathedral The Cathedral was built 1866-69, to a design by Alexander Ross, in Gothic Revival style. The original design (shown on a painting inside the building) incorporated spires. Open all year for visitors, 9am – 6pm.
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