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Complete Guide to Autumn in Inverness

Come, See & Explore with your complete guide to Autumn in Inverness.  We can’t believe Autumn has arrived! While things may be a little different this year, it is the perfect opportunity to enjoy and explore Inverness and the Highlands. We want this guide to help you make the most of your Autumn staycation in Inverness!

There is plenty to do in Inverness and the Highlands, read to the end of the blog for a comprehensive overview of Loch Ness adventures, history attractions, wildlife, walks for you, food, whisky and list all the OPEN attractions there is a lot to choose from! We hope these suggestions inspire your Autumn adventure, choose Inverness for your getaway & stay with us at the Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa. You will be in safe hands, we have introduced additional safety measures so you know that you can Stay with Confidence and Dine with Confidence at the Palace.

1. Autumn Adventures on Loch Ness

The complete guide to Autumn in Inverness must include some of the exciting adventures and experiences that Loch Ness has to offer, there is so much more, see our explore section.

Spend the day looking for Nessie

What visit to the Highlands would be complete without a bit of Nessie hunting? It’s a great day out with or without the kids! Take a leisurely drive down to Loch Ness to see if you might catch a glance of one of the world’s most famous cryptids. Although she is known to be a champion at “Social Distancing”!

Arriving on the western shore of the loch, 12 miles from Inverness city centre, you’ll be able to board the Loch Ness by Jacobite cruise. These fab cruises are currently offering 2 cruises per day from the Clansman Dock or Dochgarroch Lock. You’ll take onto the deep, mysterious waters and learn more about the history of the loch. You can also combine your cruise with a visit to the majestic ruins of Urquhart Castle.

Exhilarating RIB Adventures on Loch Ness

A top suggestion for things to do on a day out! Take your family on an exhilarating Beastie Boat ride down Loch Ness.  The Beastie Boat is a fabulous addition to a day out in Inverness. The Beastie Boats are brought to you by the much loved and trusted Jacobite Cruises!!  Your fabulous adventure begins on the shores of Loch Ness at the Dochgarroch Lock. There is plenty of parking, you will need to take your own waterproofs at the moment and you must be book in advance!.

When you arrive at the dock you will see a large serious looking RIB perfect for an hour of thrills on Loch Ness.  Prepare yourself for your exhilarating adventure on Loch Ness.  Enjoy speeding your way down the vast Loch Ness, taking in some truly special historical sights but at a much more exciting pace.  Your captain and tour guide will not only fill you in on the history of the castle, he will make sure you we got a fantastic view from the water. It is an exhilarating adventure, one the whole family will enjoy even those hard to please teenagers.

Take a Deep Scan Private Cruise

The fabulous Loch Ness Exhibition is offering private bookings on the specialist Sonar Equipped Loch Ness Scanning Ships! If you are Nessie obsessed and want to double your chances of an encounter they you don’t just want to scan the surface but also the deep! Loch Ness is exceptionally deep, the Eiffel Tour would only just break the surface… You can book this one of a kind experience direct with the Loch Ness Exhibition just call them on 01456 450573.

Hunt for Nessie on Land

There are 2 excellent Loch Ness Visitor attractions in the village of Drumnadrochit – there is the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre described by Scottish Natural Heritage as a “portal to the unique natural phenomenon that is Loch Ness” the exhibition provides in depth facts, science and the story around the mystery of Loch Ness travelling through 7 exhibition areas.  It is a a five star visitor attraction and is worth a visit.  Close by is Nessieland which is a great day out for all the family with a mix of facts and activities for kids it is a great family stop off.

2. Discover The Brutal & Bloody History of Scotland!

The Highlands were the home of the Clans who fought amongst each other for centuries and the Jacobites. The Jacobites were fierce warriors who waged war against the Red Coats. Make this Autumn your chance to learn about the bloody and brutal history of the Highlands. All of these excellent activities are only a short drive from the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa.

Urquhart Castle

You can also combine your cruise with a visit to the majestic ruins of Urquhart Castle. which served as inspiration for the 2013 animated film, Brave. You can roam all over these legendary ruins at the edge of Loch Ness, plenty of space for a picnic. Plus there is an excellent and informative visitors centre which tracks the history of the Castle across the centuries. Urquhart Castle is open, make sure you book your tickets online, keep up to date with all the information. Pack some binoculars and see if you and the kids can spot the legendary Loch Ness Monster – or at least some birds!

Fort George

Fort George is only a short drive from Inverness and a chance for you to experience life as a Redcoat in a real Highland Fortress. A fantastic day out, a chance to see, explore and discover this outstanding military fortification. Fort George was established in the Highlands by the Redcoats. You can explore this enormous military base protected by almost 1.6KM (1 mile) of massive walls. Discover what it was like to be a Redcoat inside this garrison fortress built in 1748-69, it has barely changed in 250 years of active service.  Plus you could also join one of our Dolphin Watches, scouring the Moray Firth for its resident population of bottlenose dolphins.  There is much for visitors to see including defences bristling with cannon, historic barrack rooms, a superb collection of weapons and the peaceful Regimental Chapel that holds many old colours or battle flags.

Culloden Battlefield Experience

Visit Culloden Battlefield and experience the emotive landscape and understand the tragic battle that left 1600 men dead, where Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 was crushed. 1500 Jacobites were slaughtered on the battlefield! The visitor centre has a 360-degree battle immersion theatre that gives you a glimpse of what it would have been like on the battlefield. Guided tours are held on the field to visit the memorial cairn and the graves of the Jacobite soldiers who lost their lives here.  Recently Culloden Battlefield gained new found fame through the TV series Outlander. The centre is open and you can book tickets here.

3. Explore Nature and Experience Highland Wildlife this Autumn

The landscape of the Highlands is world renown, rugged mountains, beautiful Glens such as Loch Affric, the dark deep mysterious waters of Loch Ness and the stunning coastline of the Moray Firth there is something for everyone. In Autumn the colours of the landscape are simply stunning, from Red to Gold and every shade in between. You will just want to sit down and take in the view.

Autumn Walks – Suggestions for an Autumn Walk or Stroll

Ness Islands Just a short walk away from the Palace Hotel, Ness Islands are ideal for a short, easy Autumn Stroll. Marvel at the beautiful colours of the trees and bushes while listening to the soothing sounds of the River Ness. At night the islands are lit up by traditional street lamps, multicoloured string lights and spotlights creating mystical shadows. The walk is only 2 miles long and consists of concrete paths.  On this walk you can also take the family to Whin Park which offers a kids play park, crazy golf, miniature railway, duck pond and skate park (ideal of scooters too) it helps to burn off some energy.

The Falls of Foyers is a short but beautiful walk with spectacular views of the Great Glen Way. Explore multicoloured woodland leading to a magnificent waterfall cascading through a dramatic gorge.  If you’re lucky you’ll also see some cheeky red squirrels scurrying around. Discover the quiet town of Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness before re-tracing your footsteps to the start of the walk. Refuel and enjoy a warming hot chocolate at the Waterfall Cafe admiring the views over the Great Glen Way. The route is steep and forest footpaths although good quality are often narrow.

River Affric and Am Meallan, Glen Affric is famed for its stunning views across dramatic hills and mountains, especially in Autumn! There are many fantastic walks in Glen Affric but this a personal favourite. The route is short, being only a mile long but is a perfect day out. There are several prime picnic spots, and toilets at the main car park. This route is comprised of two separate walks; the first part following the blue markers towards River Affric and the second following white markers for Am Meallan. The view from the memorial is breath taking; featuring the glen, Loch Affric and the peak of Sgurr na Lapaich.

Abriachan Trails are a longer walk of 5.5 miles, however there are shortcuts that can be taken for little legs! Experience fantastic woodland and moorland and admire sublime views along the way. Near the start there are toilets, a picnic area and lots of information on different trails.   Not long into the walk you’ll find children’s play fort near a reconstructed bronze age hut. There is also a dragonfly pond close by! When you reach the top of Carn na Leitire you will greeted by absolutely stunning views.  More ideas check out Walk the Highlands an excellent reference point for planning walks.

Dolphin Spotting

Dolphin Spotting at Chanonry Point in the Highlands. We know that the Scottish Highlands are a haven for wildlife lovers. In addition to Otters, Osprey, Deer, Red squirrels one of the stars of the show are the playful Dolphins.  There are a few hotspots in and around Inverness for Dolphin Spotting. One of the best places to try and see them is Chanonry Point on the Black Isle. It is only a 30 min drive from the Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa. There is a medium sized car park next to the old lighthouse, this is often very busy but there are generally always spaces available. There’s a path that takes you from the car park to the shore so is accessible for people who may find it difficult walking over the shingle beach.

Dolphins are resident in this area approximately 130 Bottlenose Dolohins live in the Moray Firth. Try and visit at low tide, about an hour after low tide. You will have 2 good opportunities per day to spot one of these magnificent creatures. Sometimes you may be lucky and see Minke Wales or Orca (Killer Wales). Pack a picnic and you can see some amazing sea-life from the comfort of the beach. If you prefer a more adventurous approach and would like to get closer to the sea-life, then book one of the many tours that operate in this area.  See Dolphin Spirit Boat Trips

It’s important to understand that the dolphins are wild and unfortunately won’t always appear. However you can increase your chances of seeing these elusive creatures. You’re most likely to spot dolphins on a rising tide as they are able to chase the fish into the channel.  You can find tide times on the below website:

You may need to wait around for the dolphins appear but luckily the point boasts some lovely views over the Moray Firth and towards Fort George. You can also walk along the beach to the very pretty village of Rosemarkie while keeping your eyes peeled. There are a few cafes along the shore where you can grab an ice cream or a hot chocolate weather depending!

Highland Wildlife Park

If you are looking for a family friendly wildlife day out then make the 57 minute drive to the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie.  The park made the headlines with the birth of Scotland’s first Polar Bear in 25 years.  The charming wee cub is known as Hamish and would be a memorable highlight to your trip, he is due to move to his new home in October so make sure you visit soon!  Drive around the Main Reserve in your own car and then investigate the walk-round area on foot. The Wildlife Park has a wide and diverse range of animals. From native species such as the Capercaillie and Scottish Wildcat to those from further afield such as the Amur Tiger and Polar Bear.  You can also stretch your legs and enjoy the Woodland walk. You will find the beautiful satyr tragopans, fierce some Scottish wildcats and the majestic Eurasian eagle owls. Keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky enough to see a wild red squirrel at one of the feeding stations.

See the Aurora Borealis This Autumn

If seeing the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, you might just find yourself lucky and catch a glimpse of this magnificent natural phenomenon while visiting Scotland. Believe it or not, the Highlands is on the same latitude as southern parts of Norway and Sweden, so, with a bit of planning, you might just witness this natural light display while visiting Scotland.

The ideal situation to see Northern Lights is a clear, dark night in an area free of light pollution – this means far away from big cities. That being said, Aurora Borealis have been spotted from time to time in Scottish cities like Inverness and Edinburgh. Stay up until the wee hours for a better chance to catch sight of the dancing lights.

Cold, dark nights are your best bet, so unsurprisingly, autumn and winter are the best seasons to see Northern Lights. October through March is prime time for seeing the lights in action. Ideally, you should have a clear view of the horizon to the north – this is where you’ll see the lights at first before they (hopefully) get stronger and travel overhead.

If you’re visiting Inverness, your best chance to see the Northern Lights is getting slightly outside the city on a clear night. You could try driving up to Findhorn or Nairn, where you’ll have good views far ahead over the sea. Getting anywhere with a bit more elevation is also a good idea. Ord Hill is an excellent choice for this, and even if you don’t end up seeing the Northern Lights, you can enjoy spectacular views over Inverness and the Moray & Beauly Firths.

4. Autumn Foodie Adventures in Inverness & the Highlands

The Highlands is home to some of Scotland’s finest produce! There are so many tempting local treats for you to enjoy, a wee dram or fabulous local beer! Exquisite Highland Cheese’s found in all the trendy restaurants try the “Clava Brie”.

Hidden Foodie Gems

There are some lovely wee hidden gems in the Inverness area. Kicking off with the Bad Girl Bakery in Muir of Ord, tasty treats, great cakes and yummy lunches, for Ice cream you need Miele Gelateria in Inverness, the Ness Walk Kiosk on the River Ness for a warm decadent waffle on a crisp Autumn Day perfect treat whilst taking a stroll. Lunch with a view try The Dores Inn on the banks of Loch Ness. If you are in Beauly don’t miss the Corner on the Square, takeout sandwiches, cakes and everything else including wine & tasty deli items! Enjoy your favourite tipple at Hootanannys or Johnny Foxes. Read on for more…

Escape to the Dairy

If you are partial to cheese you must visit Connage Dairy, this fabulous Highland dairy produces award winning cheese. The have a lovely cafe with lots of homemaking, this is currently closed however you can still pick up a takeaway. The yummy cheese store is OPEN and is full of cheesy delights!  More foodie stops link to our Inverness

Highland Organic Beer

The Black Isle Brewery, Scotland’s only organic brewery, making world-class beers from the finest organic malt and hops, all grown without chemicals. This fabulous brewery typically offers tours however they are not currently running, keen an eye on their website in case this changes. The beer is available at local restaurants and pubs it’s one to try during your stay.

Whisky Galore in and around Inverness – take a tour!

Inverness is a great place to visit for any whisky lover, read on for 5 of the best Whisky distilleries near Inverness. After all, it’s situated within convenient reach of two distinct whisky regions: Speyside and Highlands. Both of them produce their own distinct drams. Highland whiskies are known for diverse, full-bodied whiskies with notes like smoke, fruit cake and dried fruit. Meanwhile, Speyside whiskies are known to be sweeter and very light on peat, with notes like vanilla, apple and nutmeg.

With a good number of both Highland and Speyside distilleries within easy reach of Inverness, your holiday to the unofficial capital of the Highlands is a great chance to sample some of the best whiskies Scotland has to offer. Without further ado, here are five of the best whisky distilleries you can visit near Inverness Shopping and Cakes page where you will find a long list of fabulous stops in and around Inverness.

Glen Ord Distillery, Black Isle

Famous for their Singleton of Glen Ord whisky, this distillery, founded in 1838, is the only producer of single malt whisky in Black Isle. They export their aged single malt whisky exclusively to the South Asian market, meaning the easiest way to buy Glen Ord whisky in Europe is at the distillery. Apart from single malt whiskies, the majority of the whisky produced here is used in blends like Johnnie Walker and Dewar’s.

The distillery offers a variety of tours for all tastes. These fully-guided tours are known for being highly informative and engaging and offering a chance to sample a few different whiskies to help you develop your palate. Located just a 20-minute drive from Inverness, the Black Isle peninsula is well worth a visit. It’s known for beautiful fishing villages by the sea as well as some great chances for dolphin-spotting. To book your tour book directly with the visitor centre team by phoning 01463 872004 or emailing us at [email protected]

Tomatin Distillery, Tomatin

Located 16 miles south of Inverness, this Highland whisky distillery has been operational since 1897. Today, it produces whisky mainly for blended drams, including their own brands Talisman and Antiquary. Tomatin whiskies are known for a soft character with notes of fruit.

Tours of the distillery let you sample some of Tomatin’s single malt and blended whiskies as well as giving you a chance to bottle your own straight from the cask. As the distillery is just a 25-minute drive from Inverness, it makes for a good option for those travelling without a car as you could travel to the visitor centre by taxi. For those travelling to Inverness by car on the A9, visiting the distillery on your way to or from the city is also an option, as this is just a 3-minute detour.  For more Whisky information see our Explore Whisky trails page for great easy information.

5. Something new for the Autumn -Take an Expert guided Tour

We couldn’t miss this from your complete guide to Autumn in Inverness. Let someone else take the reins & enjoy an Expert Guided Tour with a specialist & personal tour guide. They will take you further afield and because you are not doing the driving it is so much more relaxing. You can see the best of the Highlands with all the expert local knowledge and stories, no more guide books, scrabbling for a loo, struggling for a parking space let someone else take care of it for you this Autumn.

WOW Scotland

With Gordon Pearson at the helm you are guaranteed a 5 star Visit Scotland rated experience, number 1 rated on TripAdvisor in Inverness.  Tours include Isle of Skye Day Tour, Skye Fairy Pools Tour, Whisky Tour and Castle Tour.  WOW offer a fantastic selection of Tours and Private Tours from Inverness and the opportunity to fall in love with the place we call home. Book Online

Happy Tours

We have worked with Happy Tours and excellent and the well known Cameron at Happy Tours for many years.  Cameron is offering bespoke, small group tours a maximum of 6 per group to discover more see here.  Tours include Isle of Skye, Outlander Tour, Loch Ness and Culloden, Whisky Tours, Cairngorm Tours and more.  You can book online just check out Cameron’s website!  Download your copy of our FREE Visitor Guide.

Stay with Us

The Palace Hotel & Spa in Inverness are the perfect base for your Autumn Highland staycation. If you’re looking for an Autumn Escape, look no further than Palace Hotel, Inverness. Our family-run hotel is centrally located on the bank of River Ness, overlooking Inverness Castle, offering easy access to all the attractions in the city and further afield. Stay in newly refurbished luxury River & Castle view room – they are the rooms with the view in Inverness! Don’t forget at the Palace you will enjoy the newly refurbished Leisure Club, Gym, Spa – now open, take a dip in the pool this Autumn!

Check out our Hot Offers stay 3 for the price of 2 nights or Autumn Escape package, it’s time to relax and enjoy again!! You can book onlineemail us or call our lovely team on 01463 22 32 43. Remember Book Direct for your very best offers.   Here’s to a new future together and a #highlandstaycation.

You can also read about our commitment to your safety during your next visit, please see Stay with Confidence and Dine with Confidence we want to reassure you of our commitment to you during your stay.

6. Your Complete Guide to Inverness Attractions Open this Autumn

Caledonian Canal

You can walk to the Caledonian Canal from the Palace and various different location of the canal are fabulous for walks and super sunset views. The Caledonian Canal Centre at Fort Augustus is open!

Cawdor Castle 

The gorgeous Castle gardens are open daily 10 – 5pm, visits must be booked in advance online.

Chanonry Point

On the Black Isle it is renowned for being one of the best Dolphin watching places in the Highlands.

Clava Cairns

These stunning beauties are OPEN, inspirational Bronze Age stones, inspired the TV show Outlander. You can enjoy these majestic stones and wonder about there purpose, social distancing is maintained with a one way system around the area.

Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield is OPEN, you can park and explore the battlefield at no charge, yes its FREE. The centre will re-open so you can enjoy the exhibition and shop at a social distance as will a limited food offering. All bookings need to made in advance see here

Dolphin Spirit Tours

You can enjoy the seas again, explore the stunning Scottish Coastline with one of these fabulous tours and remember to watch for the dolphins! You can make your booking here. Download your copy of our FREE Visitor Guide.

Dunrobin Castle

This fabulous Fairytale Castle is OPEN, 10 to 4pm daily ( last entry to castle 3.30pm)! Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland.

NEWS: You can enter the Castle! The size of the Castle’s Grand Rooms has allowed for 6 gorgeous spaces to be re-opened with social distancing! Plus you can explore the beautiful gardens, enjoy the Castle Shop stocked with many local delights and of course a tasty treat in the Tea Room. The Tea Room has some indoor seating and of course there are plenty of picnic tables in the ground for you to enjoy your homemade slice of cake and coffee!  Dunrobin is open 7 days 10 – 4pm until 31st October, you can still enjoy this fairytale place safely!

Fort George

Fantastic day out – highly recommend – see Historic Scotland Website for all up to date information.  You won’t want to miss the Fort, this imposing fort was designed by Lieutenant-General William Skinner and built by the Adam family of architects.

Harry Potter Express Train

ALL ABOARD the Jacobite Steam Train aka the Hogwarts Express is now open! There are trains available morning and afternoon! For full details on this famously fabulous scenic route see here

Highland Folk Museum

Welcome back to the Highland Folk Museum, the museum is now open. Britain’s first open air museum is open every Wednesday – Sunday, 10.30am – 4.00pm and visitors will need to pre-book their visit online via a new booking system, click here to book!  More information on your visit is available here so please check back – we are looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Highland Wildlife Park

Animal lovers will be pleased to learn that the Highland Wildlife Park is OPEN! You must purchase your tickets online in advance, there are new one way routes, extra special protection measures but still lots of fun and great memories to be made!  It is a great attraction to tire kids out young and old – with amazing animals and stunning views and loads of space for social distancing you can stop off on your way up to Inverness off the A9 or on the way home!!  Love it!!

Jacobite Cruises

Jacobite at Loch Ness is Open! You will need to book your cruise online, being on the water really gives you a sense of the massive scale of Loch Ness and its dark waters!   We also really recommend you stop for lunch at their new An Talla, visitors centre and restaurant.

North Coast 500

Discover why the North Coast 500 is Scotland’s answer to route 66Come North and experience the breath-taking beauty and stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands. It’s so much more than a viewpoint it’s a way of life! Sip a “wee dram”, delight in the delicious food straight from the sea, loch and field and “chat on” the locals.  Do you like to be in charge, then a road trip is perfect for you as you set the itinerary! A road trip is all about you!

Inverness Castle

You can enjoy the view of Inverness Castle from your room at the Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa! Simply take a stroll from your font door, its 5 minutes away. A gentle climb up the hill to the Castle where you can take in a view of the ancient city and the beautiful River Ness!  From there you can walk down the the gardens of Faith, Hope and Charity Statues overlooking the River Ness rescued from a drapers building in Inverness by a collector in the 1950’s they were returned to Ness Bank gardens in 2011 and represent a symbol of unity and community.  Don’t stop walking head go to Ness Islands.  See our Walking & Cycling Blog.

Loch Ness Visitor Center

A trip to Inverness wouldn’t be complete without a spot of Nessie hunting, where better to discover the stories behind the monster than this original iconic centre! EXCITING NEWS – calling all Monster hunters or those who enjoy being on the water, you can now book a private cruise on a Deep Scan research vessel!! Make a memorable family day out, your private tour, with first hand knowledge from the skipper! This option is available for family bubbles. To learn more and book your once in a lifetime cruise on a research vessel email [email protected]

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle is Open. Once one of Scotland’s largest castles, Urquhart saw great conflict during its 500 years as a medieval fortress. Control of the castle passed back and forth between the Scots and English during the Wars of Independence. Booking information.

Take a Day at the Beach even in Autumn!

Scotland has many fantastic natural open spaces just waiting for you to enjoy! The beautiful beaches below are just a short car journey to Nairn. You can enjoy a walk along the beach, take a Palace Hotel picnic; there is more than enough space to socially distance here! More about Beaches link to our Beach information.


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