Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa History

The Story of the Palace

We’ve been digging through the archives and come up a few stories about the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa. The Palace Hotel was built on the site of Ness House, a mansion that was destroyed in 1870. The building was designed by Ross & MacBeth and opened in 1890 to the designs of Dr. Alexander Ross. It is a Baronial-style three-storey building, with two conical-roofed towers, connected by an arch. The hotel has a Scots Baronial entrance very similar to the entrance of Fyvie Castle.

The construction of the railway made Inverness a popular tourist destination and the Palace was one of the first tourist hotels in the town. It was built to accommodate the increased number of visitors to the area after the opening of the railway. During World War I it was used by the Navy as a billet for its senior naval officers.

Photographs from the Archives

You can see some photographs taken of the Hotel from the Highland Archives starting with…

  1. This advertisement was taken from ‘Storming the Ramparts: The Crofters Bill in Parliament, or the Independent Highland Members of 1885 and 1886 and What They Attained’ (1892)
  2. Simple photograph of the Palace Hotel in 1910.
  3. Sent to us from a keen Navy historian are the 2 middle pictures.  The navy also commandeered the Palace during WW1. The photo shows the front of the Palace with the White Ensign (RN flag) outside, a sentry on duty and two members of the hotel housekeeping staff looking down from a balcony. The photo below shows a large number of naval personnel lined up for a funeral procession on Ness Walk outside the Palace Hotel in December 1918.  The naval people stationed in Inverness were Staff Personnel, the naval base of the Home Fleet was at Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth.
  4. Palace Hotel, Ness Walk, Inverness on 26 July 1933, with the River Ness visible in the foreground. Two cars are parked outside the hotel.

Recent History & Work

A great reference site for Highland History & Culture is Am Baile. The Palace Hotel is owned by Milton Hotels and has been part of the same Highland Family hotel company since roughly 1977 – we really aren’t sure!

During this time the hotel has seen many changes starting with the installation of bathrooms back in the 1970’s. An addition of bedrooms in the 1980’s and then a new Leisure Club & Pool with more bedrooms in 1998.

In 2013 the new Eight on the River Restaurant was added to with a lovely extension to give extra space. In February 2017 the reception and front lounge was given a stylish makeover too and later that spring we added 10 Townhouse at the Palace, the boutique Victorian building with 17 lovely bedrooms and modern cottage all refurbished with the classic structure of the building in mind with a soothing modern colour palate.

2018 started with a large refurbishment programme of the Bar and Brasserie as the bar was moved from its central location.  The work was detailed and time consuming but the results revealed a complete interior transformation of the new Bar & Brasserie at the Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa.  It is now a sophisticated and elegant space where you can simply dine in style.  Whilst that work was ongoing our great decorating team carefully transformed every corridor with lush new wool carpets, Farrow and Ball paint selection for all corridors and gorgeous new art and photography from Indigo Art.

2019 again started with a major refurbishment programme of 48 contemporary bedrooms to give them a modern soft palate of colours, with texture to the touch, as well as new furniture and fittings for every room. The bedroom furniture was manufactured by Dovetail from Dundee and the interior design with Corrinne Muir designs from Stirling.

January 2020 was the start of 2 major projects a 40 bedroom refurbishment programme in the traditional part of the hotel. It was a labour of love as the rooms are all different shapes and sizes. This time different interior schemes where chosen with Corrinne Muir Interiors to complement the River & Castle views and period style of the bedrooms. The furniture was again produced to a custom design by Dovetail, Dundee. At the same time after 20 years the Leisure Club closed for 3 months for a complete refurbishment of every element of the club. It truly was a significant undertaking with all tiles, changing rooms, major plant equipment being replaced whilst creating a luxury new environment. Unfortunately with the impact of Covid-19 the club remained closed for an extended period after the hotel was allowed to re-open. We are delighted to say both the Hotel and Leisure club and Spa have re-opened.

The hotel is a bit like the Forth road bridge. The work on the fabric and building never stops, as you’d expect of a stylish friendly Inverness City Centre hotel. There is always the great tradition of a truly warm and friendly welcome to extend.

How to add to the Palace history photograph collection

If you or a family member has some old photographs of the Inverness Palace Hotel and are happy for us to share them on this page please get in touch.  Contact us here at Palace and you can email the photos and we will be in touch.  If you know the story to go with the photos that would be lovely too.  It is great to capture the history of the Palace, as it holds so many different memories for different generations.  We hope to you will visit soon.