As a charming old city, known as the former capital of the highlands, Inverness is a great place to explore. But there are also many other cultural and historic cities that make for a great day trip outside of Inverness. All these destinations are easily accessible by train or bus. Unless otherwise stated, all services are operated by Scotrail and run from Inverness railway station, located right in the town centre just a 15m walk away from Inverness Castle.
Tain is one of Scotland's oldest royal burghs, having received its charter from the Crown in 1066. Its architecture and old town are reminiscent of Edinburgh, minus the crowds of visitors. Highlights include Glenmorangie distillery, the Tain & District Museum, and Skibo Castle.
Getting there – The direct Inverness to Tain service takes 1h 7m and runs every 2-3 hours daily.
The small town of Pitlochry blossomed after Queen Victoria visited it in 1842, and it still retains many buildings from this period. A unique period cast iron canopy covers the high street introducing an immediate Victorian flair. Pitlochry is the ideal town for gentle strolls up and down the city hills and a good meal in a pub.
The “Granite City” is renowned for its beautiful grey, stone buildings. It's also home to the UK's largest offshore oil industry. As a result, it's a culturally diverse city with a vibrant culinary scene. Visit the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, the Gordon Highlanders Museum, and the ancient St. Machar's Cathedral for a closer look at Aberdeen's rich history.
Getting there – The quickest train from Inverness to Aberdeen takes 2h 8m and runs every few hours between the two cities.
Located at the head of Moray Firth, Elgin has a rich history. The ruins of the century-old Elgin Cathedral, as well as the medieval Spynie Palace and Duffus Castle are the perfect introduction to Scottish history. After the historical tour, stop in a pub to sample the famous Speyside whisky, or visit one of the local distilleries.
Getting there – Trains from Inverness to Elgin take about 39m, cutting through some gorgeous Speyside countryside along the way.
5. Loch Ness
Even if you're unlikely to spot the infamous mythical monster, Loch Ness is a stunning location in the Scottish Highlands that makes for a beautiful day trip from Inverness. Take a boat tour, visit the Loch Ness Visitor Centre, and see the dramatic ruins of Urquhart Castle.
Getting there – The easiest way to reach Loch Ness is to catch the bus service 17 from Inverness to Drumnadrochit. The ride takes about 30m.
Aviemore is the gateway to Cairngorms National Park in the eastern Highlands. Explore the countless hiking trails, ancient forests, and secluded lochs of this pristine area of natural beauty. Or, take the funicular up Cairngorm mountain for panoramic views over the wilderness. Just outside Aviemore, you will also find the Highland Wildlife Park, which is home to capercaillie birds and Scottish wildcats.
Getting there – A 34m train journey brings you from Inverness to Aviemore. It's a beautiful ride, climbing steadily through the Cairngorm Mountains.
7. Cawdor Castle
This spectacular castle stands amidst the lush countryside outside the town of Nairn. Visit the elegant castle rooms, which date back to medieval times, and relax in the beautiful gardens on the estate.
8. Culloden Battlefield
The infamous battle of Culloden brought an end to the Jacobite uprising under Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. Dive into the history of the long conflict between Scottish clans and the British government in London with the help of the exhibitions at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre.
Getting there – The Line 5 bus service runs directly from Inverness to the Culloden Battlefield at Drumossie Moor. The travel time is about 35m.
Ready to start planning some day trips from Inverness? Check out our Trains in Scotland page for more information. You'll find all you need to know about the routes listed above, as well as great deals on train tickets.