Adventures around Invernesswith PlusBus
The Highland city of Inverness is surrounded by countryside and wildlife. You could spot red squirrels in the woods and seals in the water. You’ll certainly see all kinds of birds, from seagulls to herons. The city’s name means Mouth of the River Ness and the river runs right through the middle. A PlusBus ticket gives you unlimited bus travel all over the city all day long so you can eat cake among flowery gardens in the morning and take a nature walk with a chance of seeing dolphins in the afternoon.
1. Ness Islands
Catch a bus from the station to explore Ness Islands with their series of suspension footbridges. Add PlusBus when you buy your train ticket to Inverness or simply show your train ticket when you arrive at Inverness railway station and ask for a PlusBus ticket then.
- Ness Islands are a group of natural, wooded islands in the middle of the river. Stroll over elegant Victorian bridges and under tall trees; sit on carved wooden benches to watch the river flowing past and don’t miss the fallen tree that’s a become a sculpture of the Loch Ness monster! You might see salmon fishermen standing in the river and – if you’re very lucky – you could glimpse a sleek otter swimming under one of the bridges. Traditional street lamps and strings of coloured lights illuminate the islands after dark.
- How do I get to Ness Islands by bus? Exit from Inverness railway station and turn right along Academy Street for a few steps to find a bus stop outside the Performing Arts Academy, just past the Pentahotel. Bus 9 leaves hourly from here (not Sundays) and takes six minutes to reach the stop opposite Ness Islands. Alternatively, take bus 2 (see 2 below).
- On the way, look out for Inverness castle, at the top of a grassy slope on the left as the bus runs along the river and St Andrew’s cathedral, across the water on your right. Step off the bus and walk a few steps back along the road to find the path on the left, leading to the first of several suspension bridges.
- There are lots of great walks in the area. You can stroll through the islands, past a landmark called the Circle of Wise. You will see signs for the long-distance Great Glen Way, which starts here, beside the river and the Caledonian canal. On the far side of the river, you’ll reach the Botanic Gardens. Read on for more details…
2. Inverness Botanic Gardens
The UK’s most northerly botanical gardens are open daily and packed with seasonal colour. Warm up in the fragrant, humid air of the Tropical House among fabulously bright all-year flowers that more usually grow in the Southern hemisphere. See what kinds of plants produce pineapples, ginger, coffee and bananas. Stroll past little waterfalls, a pond full of carp, sunset-coloured bird-of-paradise flowers and delicately-dangling orchids.
- How do I get to Inverness Botanic Gardens by bus? The gardens are an easy walk from Ness Islands but, if you want to head straight there from the railway station, you can also hop on bus 2 from Stop B on Queensgate, opposite the station. Get off, after about 7 minutes, at the stop called Cemetery gates. Walk a few steps further and turn left into Bught Drive. (Look out for cherry blossom on this road in spring!)
- Follow Bught Drive right. Keep straight between Inverness Ice Centre and Inverness Leisure Centre with its twisting flumes. Follow the signs right again to the botanic gardens.
- Once you’ve had a stroll through the flowering gardens and greenhouses, palm trees and cacti, it might be time to sit down (inside or out) for coffee and freshly-baked cakes at Café Botanics. The soup is made using produce from the garden and comes with a roll, oatcakes or a homemade scone.