As the Highlands’ only city, Inverness is a busy and prosperous hub. Its location at the head of the Great Glen and on the shores of the Moray Firth have made it popular with tourists, who flock here in their droves during the summer months to hunt for the elusive Nessie. The town makes a pleasant base to explore the region and has one of the best spots to watch dolphins frolic in the Moray Firth. The city also offers picturesque walks along the banks of the River Ness, which runs through the heart of the city, linking Loch Ness with the Moray Firth.
Leaky’s is a quirky old bookshop, housed in an ex-church piled floor to ceiling with literature. There is a fire burning hearth in the centre with logs piled all around and a black spiral staircase leading to an overhanging level. It’s a bit like something out of a fairytale and you wouldn’t be surprised if you found out they sold fairy dust under the counter and rented out the basement to a bunch of hobbits.
Church Street, Greyfriars Hall, Inverness, 01463 239 947, Mon–Sat 10am–5pm, closed Sun.
This is a pretty compact little bar and most evenings it seems as if they are playing a game of ‘how many people can you fit in one tiny pub and still have a great time’. But the reason for its popularity is not hard to fathom. It’s because it is the best place to catch live local bands and emerging musicians rocking their heart out. And the cheap booze helps things merrily swing along, of course.
32 Church Street, Inverness, 01463 220 203, Mon–Sat 12.30pm–1am, Sun 12.30pm–midnight.
No prizes for guessing what this might be. The revealingly named Victorian market is a covered space with intricate metal beams built in the ornate detail of the era, full of little boutique shops, an old-fashioned barbers and tiny teashops. It is about as far as you can get from high street shopping malls, which makes it charming in an eccentrically old-fashioned way and perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle.
Academy Street, Inverness.
Wildwoodz paintball park
You hate your travelling buddies; they hate you too. Why not sort out your grievances by shooting each other in the face? This paintball park is the perfect venue for some friendly warfare and adds some extra fun to the equation by inventing different scenarios, such as the ‘alien shootout’ where you go into battle with some extraterrestrials.
Viewmount Cottage, Precincts Road, Inverness, 01381 622 220, www.wildwoodzpaintball.co.uk
Hootananny’s Saturday Ceilidh
A traditional Scottish ceilidh really has to be experienced to be believed and here at Hootenanny’s it’s party time every weekend. And their special Saturday ceilidh is cooler than most, offering a unique experience. With Thai food served downstairs and locally produced Black Isle organic beer on tap, it’s a traditional ceilidh with a modern twist. The whole event is brought to life by the top-notch live bands, who help turn Hootananny’s into a sweaty mass of swirling dancing bodies. If you’re worried you won’t know any of the dances, you shouldn’t be; because someone will likely fling you around the floor so fast that you won’t have time to worry about things like that. You’ll be concentrating too hard on trying not to be sick after all that Thai food and local brew.
67 Church Street, 01463 233 651, www.hootenanny.com, every Sat 2.30pm–6pm.