On your travels around Inverness you are sure to come by a lot of Scottish Highlands history. This could be in museums, hotels or even in parks. However you will often be restricted from getting too near it, perhaps blocked by a glass case or a fence. Dunlichity Church and burial grounds, on the other hand, offers you the chance to touch history. Here you can stand in the same spot soldiers once stood who were preparing for battle.
The burial ground also hosts burial grounds of many members of the MacGillivray Clan, a lot of whom died at the Battle of Culloden. Of particular note is a large gated enclosure which hosts chiefs of the clan. This is a great place to do some family research for those related to this clan.
Keeping an eye over these and all other burials were men situated in the watchtower. This overlooked the site and was where guards were stationed to make sure the bodies of the dead were not dug up and sold on to medical schools for use in their teaching – a most lucrative enterprise, run back in those days by people called ‘resurrectionists’.
The church sits not far off the southern shores of Loch Ness. If you are driving from Inverness, take the B861 south of the city. About five miles along, take the turning for Dunlichity and keep driving until you see the church on your right. The What3Words for the church and burial ground is mondays.insolvent.remotes.
Exploring the history around Inverness
There are many other areas to explore near Inverness to give you a taste of the thousands of years of human history under your feet. Culloden Battlefield would be a good place to visit after spending time at Dunlichity Church. If you would like to explore more burial grounds, we can highly recommend Boleskine. To discover more about the ancient humans that roamed the land, then the Bronze Age Clava Cairns is a great place to visit.
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So, you want to see the best of our Scottish history and explore new places when visiting Inverness? Well, our East of Inverness History Trail is the ideal day trip for you. So make the most out of your visit to Inverness, Loch Ness, and the Highlands of Scotland with our planned day trips. Further, we’ve selected some of the best known, most beautiful, and historic locations to give you a sense of Scotland’s heritage.
You can travel to them all, starting at Culloden Battlefield and finishing at Brodie Castle. Or just select the highlights if you are short of time. Whatever you decide to do, you are sure to love the East of Inverness History Trail!
Fancy touching a piece of Scotland’s history that dates back over 4,000 years? Then a visit to Clava Cairns is what you are looking for. This is a burial ground from the Bronze Age which has lasted remarkably well through time. The Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava (as they are officially known) was a significant site for millennia for rituals and burials in Scotland.
It is believed that many of the stones used to build the cairns were actually from an even earlier farming settlement in the area, further adding to the historic significance of this ancient place.
The most remarkable aspect of this viaduct is that it is still in regular use today. Check out this video of an LNER train driver’s point of view as he heads from Inverness to Edinburgh.
The viaduct sits half a mile east of the Clava Cairns. You can view it on a map here, and it’s what3words is dreamer.forge.openly.
Whilst at Fort George, make sure to keep your eyes peeled on the water. This is a popular area for dolphins! Here and across the water at Channory Point are some of the best places to visit near Inverness to catch a really good sighting. Make sure you bring your camera as some of the dolphins like to play! Or you can book a boat trip on the Moray Firth to explore the sealife and spot dolphins with the experts at Dolphin Spirit!
Ready for a break? Then Nairn Beach is the perfect place to take a coffee or picnic and relax. With wide expanses of sand and breathtaking views over the Moray Firth, the beach is the perfect place to stop awhile. There are parking facilities, toilets, and some nearby cafes. There’s even a play area for the kids, Nairn Beach is dog friendly too.
If you can come when the sun is due to set, there’s a good chance you’ll get a beautiful display. In the colder winter months, it’s also a good place to spy the Northern Lights, if you are lucky. Narin beach can be found on a map here, and what3words are folds.bond.releasing.
By heading east of Inverness, you are guaranteed to find beauty, history, and culture. Enjoy your adventures in this beautiful part of the Scottish Highlands! If the East of Inverness History Trail has whetted your appetite for adventure, check out some more road trips near Inverness. So, now to head back to the start with a bit more history and Culloden Battlefield – one of the most popular attractions in Inverness.
On the south-east side of Loch Ness sits Boleskine Burial Ground. It’s the sort of place you might just drive past without further thought, but to do so would mean missing out on hundreds of years of history – and some spooky goings-on too! Boleskine Brusial Ground offers a tranquil place to pause on your trip around Loch Ness. It’s a place for quiet contemplation, looking down through the gravestones onto the loch and hills beyond. But if you look closer, you will be able to see physical remnants of a more violent time. Here’s what to look out for on your visit…
You can touch these dimples today, connecting you directly with the time of the Battle of Culloden.
This graveyard also has a site that mentions Lord Fraser of Lovat, known to Outlander fans as the Old Fox. He was the chap who changed allegiances from the House of Hanover to support the Stuart claim on the crown of the United Kingdom. It turned out to be a poor decision, and he was beheaded in London for high treason…
The area around Boleskine has for hundreds of years been said to be haunted or, at the very least, bewitched. For example, some say a minister of the parish called Thomas Houston (1648 – 1705) had to return the burial ground’s re-animated corpses back to their graves after a devious local wizard raised the dead. Houston’s stone can still be seen in the graveyard today.
However, if you look behind the graveyard, across General Wade’s road and up the hill, you will catch a glimpse of an old house. Some say Boleskine House is one of the spookiest houses in Scotland. That’s because it used to be owned by occultist Aleister Crowley. This was a man who performed a series of spells or ‘operations’ here, some taking months at a time in order to evoke his guardian angel.
To do so, he had to ‘…summon the 12 Kings and Dukes of Hell’. Whilst in the process, Crowley was called away without ending the spell and so never banished those demons already summoned. Some believe they still roam the house and grounds to this day. Indeed, his lodge-keeper suffered a variety of personal tragedies, resulting in Crowley admitting everything got a bit out of hand.
The house then changed hands over the years, at one point being owned by Led Zepplin founder Jimmy Page. Reports of haunted goings-on continued, with bangs at doors and inexplicable ratlings happening throughout the years. Unfortunately, Boleskine House was gutted with fire (at a time when nobody was in the house) in 2019. However, there is work underway to restore Boleskine House and gardens, with plans to eventually open up to the public.
So take your time as you wander through Boleskine Burial Ground, and look up at the house. But don’t take too long – you never know who’s going to be looking back at you…
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If you are looking for a hidden delight when visiting Inverness and you love books and history, then Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness is a must-see. This treasure trove of a store envelops you with bookshelves swathed in literature spoiling us bookworms of the world. Here you can peruse the wealth of secondhand books that adorn the shelves.
This gem was established back in 1979 by Charles Leaky and was originally spread over two shops. In 1994 once the church was converted this magical store was born and has become known as it is today. Hailed one of the most beautiful bookshops in Scotland possibly the UK, it heralds a fascinating history too. Now known as Greyfirar’s Hall this was once St Mary’s Gaelic Church, built in 1679 in the 17th century. With the addition of the spiral staircase, much of the original framework remains.
Well doesn’t it get more exciting if there is an Outlander link! And of course, there is. In the aftermath of The Battle of Culloden, this church was used as a temporary hospital to nurse injured soldiers. And you never know, you may cross paths with ‘Roger Mackenzie’ from Outlander as he frequents this store to absorb himself in its magic.
So when you visit Inverness you must head to this spellbinding place. It comes with the guarantee of magical memories and surely a book or two to cement them with. Furthermore, to add to its story it sits on Church Street in Inverness – how apt! A booklovers dream yet a place full of allure for all who visit. So what are you waiting for?Explore more Outlander attractions
Castle Leod is located in the village of Strathpeffer, around a half-hour drive north-west from Inverness city centre. Much of the current building dates from around the 17th century, although there has been a structure on this site since at least the 1100s. The castle building is open to the public only on certain days during the year. However, private tours for small parties are possible through special arrangement. It is also used as a wedding venue.
Castle Leod is widely regarded as the inspiration behind Castle Leoch, the seat of Clan Mackenzie in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. Although it was not used as a filming location in the TV series, it is still a popular place for fans to visit and is on the itinerary for many Outlander trips and tours.
A grade A listed building, the castle is looked after by the Clan Mackenzie Charitable Trust. The trust cares for the building, restoring and conserving it for future generations. As well as managing access for visitors. The castle and grounds are open to the public on selected dates throughout the year. Please see the website for public open dates and ticket prices. Private tours may also be available on request.
The Old High Church is the oldest church in Inverness, which stands on the banks of the River Ness, on St Michael’s Mount. According to legend, this has been a religious site since the first century, when St Columba preached here. Since then, there have been many church buildings on the site. However, the oldest surviving part of the current structure dates from the 1300s, with most of it built-in 1770. Today, it remains a working church and is open to visitors in the summer.
The church tower was once used as a prison. And after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the churchyard was used for the execution of Jacobite prisoners. They were blindfolded and shot, one by one, outside the tower. In fact, musket ball marks are still visible on the tower wall. This dark event is referenced in the third series of Outlander, and the church is mentioned a few times in the books. As such, this has become an Outlander location for fans of the series.
The church is located on Church Street in Inverness city centre. It stands on an ancient hill, known as St Michael’s Mount, by the banks of the River Ness. The church is open on weekdays during the summer. Visitors are welcome, and there are volunteer guides on hand to show you around. Please see the church website for more visitor information and opening times.
This ancient site, located in Beauly village, was founded in 1230 for monks of the Valliscaulian order. The monks came from France, and it is one theory that they named the area “beau lieu”, meaning “beautiful place” in French, later becoming “Beauly”. There is also a local legend that Mary, Queen of Scots named it much later, during a visit in 1564. Beauly Priory is the oldest surviving building in the town.
On a visit to the priory, you can explore the ruins of the monastery and the grounds. There are many interesting burial monuments, headstones and tombs. Plus, an ancient elm tree, thought to be the oldest in Europe. Information boards are dotted around the site, giving information on the site and its 800-year history. This is a peaceful place to visit, located in Beauly village centre. With local amenities such as shops and cafes close by.
Beauly Priory is free to visit and open year-round. Easy to access from Beauly village, with nearby car parking. It has become a popular tourist spot for fans of the Outlander book series, as the location where Claire meets the seer Maisri. It’s also a great place for history lovers, as an ancient site dating back to the 13th century. Find out more about visiting Beauly Priory.
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In the countryside to the west of Inverness lies a curious little building sat inside a graveyard. To the casual observer it’s merely a beautiful old building worthy of a glance. But its history is fascinating to researchers, sleuths and Outlander fans all over the world as it holds questions hundreds of years old. Inverness Wardlaw Mausoleum is a burial place located at Wardlaw Graveyard in Kirkhill village and is absolutely worth arranging a tour in advance to get the most from it.
It was originally built for the Lovat Fraser family in 1634 but later fell into ruin only to be was restored in the 1990s when the Wardlaw Mausoleum Trust formed to repair and maintain it. It has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years, due to connections with the Outlander book and TV series. The last known burial in the Mausoleum was in the late 19th Century.
Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, or ‘Old Fox’ features in the Outlander series as grandfather of main character Jamie Fraser. It is this connection that has sparked a new interest in the burial site, putting it on the must-see list for Outlander fans from all over the world. The series author, Diana Gabaldon, and several members of the TV cast have visited too.
Lord Simon Fraser was the last peer of the realm to have his head chopped off in the Tower of London in 1747. This was because he was unsure which side to join during the Jacobite uprising, until deciding to support Bonnie Prince Charlie. After their defeat, he was taken to London for trial under charges of treason. Found guilty, his sentence of being hung, drawn and quartered was reduced to simply beheading, as the king took pity on his frailness at the age of 70.
Were his remains carried back to the Highlands afterwards? That’s what most people beleived, even although official records indicate that he was interred at the Tower of London. There is a double-lined coffin at Wardlaw Mausoleum marked as Lord Lovat’s. This double lead coffin is consistent with transporting a body a long distance – for example, from London to Inverness. However recent studies of bones found in his coffin indicate a female skeleton instead. Could the Old Fox’s remains have been swapped out? Buried elsewhere? Or at the Tower of London all along? Right now, we just don’t know.
The barrel-vaulted crypt contains six lead-lined or double-lead-lined coffins in total, including a particularly poignant one of an infant, John Fraser, who died in 1779 and represented the end of this line of the Fraser family. The diagonal flagstone floor in the chamber is unusual.
You can visit the Wardlaw mausoleum by pre-arranging in advance. If you want to get as much information as possible about this fascinating piece of Scottish history, it is definitely worth booking in advance. The tour is free, but donations to help with the upkeep of the building are warmly welcomed. If you turn up without an appointment, you may still get a tour, but it is not guaranteed. Give the house on the right at the entrance to the graveyard a knock when you arrive. There is no entry fee but small donations are welcome.
Abertarff House is the oldest house in Inverness. Built in 1593 on the east bank of the River Ness and used in many ways over its 400-year history. With links to the Fraser of Lovat clan, the Commercial Bank of Scotland and The Gaelic Association, amongst others. Today, the National Trust runs it as a small museum, with a free exhibition on the ground floor, about life in the 17th century.
Tucked away on a close off Church Street, Abertarff is hidden but easy to reach. Located by the east bank of the river in the city centre, just behind Hootenanny’s Bar.
The house is open on a limited basis, so please check opening dates and times before visiting. Admission is free.
Even when the visitor centre is not open, there is a lovely peaceful bench outside, a great place to relax and view the exterior of Inverness’ oldest house.
Steeped in more than 1,000 years of history, Urquhart Castle sits on the banks of Loch Ness. It is one of Scotland’s largest castles, which has played host to some of the most climactic episodes in Scottish history.
By 1508, this castle was under the royal ownership of the Grant clan. Here, it played host to the many clan wars. And, in 1545 Clan Macdonald stripped the castle of all its valuables. Despite the castle having been heavily fortified it was abandoned in the 17th century. As a consequence, Urquhart Castle saw its demise. It was at this point, to prevent the Jacobites rising, it was deliberately blown up. Thus leaving the ruins that are visible today.
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In the heart of Inverness, the imposing Inverness Castle sits high on a hilltop. Standing proudly, overlooking the River Ness. The present building, made from red sandstone, dates back to 1836 and currently houses the Inverness Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Court. However, 1057 saw the first construction of a castle on this site, said to have been built by King Malcolm III of Scotland. And since, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. For example, Robert the Bruce destroyed the castle in 1308, to prevent the English from occupying it during the Scottish War of Independence. So did the MacDonald clan, many times during the Lord of the Isle era.
But perhaps the best views of Inverness Castle itself can be seen from the other side of the River Ness. At night it looks magical, when the castle is all lit up and the light is reflected in the waters below.
Inverness Castle is a dominant landmark in the city centre. You can walk up the hill to see it more closely, but there is an admission fee to access the Viewpoint. Check here for ticket prices and opening times.
Culloden Battlefield is the site of the historic Battle of Culloden. It was the last of battle of the Jacobite rising of 1745, a rebellion attempt to overthrow the Hanovarians and restore of the House of Stuart to the British throne. Today, you can visit the moor and learn about the tragic battle that changed history at the visitor centre.
Culloden is 5 miles east of Inverness, off the A9/B9006. The attraction is signposted from there. Find opening times and ticket prices on the National Trust for Scotland website.
Stand on the battlefield where this historic event took place. At the Culloden visitor centre, beside the battlefield, discover the emotions of battle at the 360-degree battle immersion theatre. Hear both sides of the story and see historic artefacts at the museum. And visit Leanach Cottage, a small thatched building which was used during the battle and is the only surviving example of its kind. There is also a gift shop and café in the visitor centre.
The Clava Cairns is an ancient burial ground with three Bronze Age cairns, known in full as the “Prehistoric Burial Cairns of the Balnuaran of Clava”. This is an extremely well-preserved site for its age, dating back 4000 years.
The Clava Cairns are free to visit and open all year round. Perhaps the best time to see them is a sunset during the midwinter, when the stones align perfectly with the setting sun.
The central cairn is called a Ring Cairn, an enclosed ring-shaped stone structure with an inner chamber. The two outer cairns are known as Passage Graves. So-called because they include entrance passages, aligned to the south west, where the midwinter sun sets. A small number of bodies would have been laid in each chamber, probably of significant figures and leaders.
Around a thousand years later, the burial site was reused and three smaller monuments were added to it. Including a smaller ring of kerb stones near the central cairn.