Inverness is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Scotland. On Craig Phadrig are the remains of a vitrified fort, believed to date from the 4th century B.C. One of the most important prehistoric monuments in the north, the Stones of Clava are about 10km (6 1/4 miles) east of Inverness on the road to Nairn. These cairns and standing stones are from the Bronze Age.
The old castle of Inverness stood to the east of the present street Castlehill, and the site still retains the name "Auld Castlehill." David I built the first stone castle in Inverness around 1141, and the Clock Tower is all that remains of a fort erected by Cromwell's army between 1652 and 1657. The rebellious Scots blew up the old castle in 1746 to keep it from falling to government troops, and the present castle was constructed by the Victorians in the 19th century. Today, this landmark houses the law courts of Inverness and local government offices.
The 16th-century Abertarff House, Church Street, is now the headquarters of An Comunn Gaidhealach, the Highland association that preserves the Gaelic language and culture. Opposite the town hall is the Old Mercat Cross, with its Stone of the Tubs, said to be the stone on which women rested their washtubs as they ascended from the river. Known as "Clachnacudainn," the lozenge-shaped stone was the spot where local early kings were crowned.
St. Andrew's Cathedral (1866-69), Ardross Street, is the northernmost diocese of the Scottish Episcopal church and a fine example of Victorian architecture, both imposing and richly decorated. Be sure to check out the icons given to Bishop Eden by the czar of Russia. The cathedral is open daily from 9:30am to 6pm. For information, get in touch with the Provost, 15 Ardross St. (tel. 01463/225-553).
If you're interested in bus tours of the Highlands and cruises on Loch Ness, go to Inverness Traction, 6 Burnett Rd. (tel. 01463/239-292). In summer, there are also cruises along the Caledonian Canal from Inverness into Loch Ness.
Shoppers might want to check out a family-owned shrine to Scottish kiltmaking, Duncan Chisholm & Sons, 47-51 Castle St. (tel. 01463/234-599; www.kilts.co.uk). The tartans of at least 50 of Scotland's largest clans are available in the form of kilts and kilt jackets for men and women. If your heart is set on something more esoteric, the staff can acquire whatever fabric your ancestors would have worn to make up your garment. A section is devoted to Scottish gifts (ties, scarves, yard goods, kilt pins in thistle patterns) and memorabilia. You can visit the on-premises workshop. The town's best jewelry store, with an unusual collection of bangles and bracelets inspired by the decorative traditions of Celtic Scotland, is D&H Norval, 88 Church St. (tel. 01463/232-739). At Celtic Spirit, 14 Church St. (tel. 01463/714-796), the focus is on New Age books and an unusual collection of wind chimes.
Golfers can head about 64km (40 miles) north to hit the links at the renowned Royal Dornoch Golf Club. Closer is the 5,288-yard Torvean Golf Course, Glen Q Road (tel. 01463/225-651; www.royaldornoch.com), an 18-hole, par-69 course with greens fees of £54 to £82 Monday to Friday, and £60 to £92 Saturday and Sunday.
The Hill of the Fairies -- West of the river rises the wooded hill of Tomnahurich, known as the "hill of the fairies." Now a cemetery, it's the best place to go for a country walk with panoramic views. The boat-shaped hillock is immediately to the southwest of the center. In the Ness are wooded islands, linked to Inverness by suspension bridges, that have been turned into parks.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.