History of Inverness

According to St. Adamnan, the Irish missionary St Columba visited The Pictish King Brude in about 565 to convert him to Christianity. It is thought that King Brude resided in the vitirified fort on Craig Phadraig, a hill (168m high) west of the city centre. This is now a very pleasant woodland walk.

Nothing remains of the old fortress, Auld Castlehill, built on a ridge to the east of the present castle. It was here that Macbeth murdered King Duncan, an event dramatised by Shakespeare although the playwright was not too concerned about historical truth.

Around the mid-12th century King David I founded a new castle on the present site. He also made Inverness a Royal Burgh on the strength of its growing importance as a trading port for fish, furs, hides, wool and timber. The town’s economic prosperity and status as the most important northern outpost, however, made it a prime target for marauding Highland clansmen. During the Wars of Independence in the 13th century the castle was occupied several times and finally destroyed by Robert the Bruce in 1307. Inverness became a regular target for both English and Scottish armies

In 1562 Mary Queen of Scots on her journey north wanted to stay in Inverness castle but Alexander Gordon, son of the rebel Earl of Huntly, refused to admit her. Later the castle surrendered, the queen took up residence and Gordon and his followerers were hanged.

In 1652-1657, Cromwell appreciating the town’s strategic importance, built a citadel on the right bank of the river near its mouth, using stones from the abbey of Kinloss and the cathedral at Fortrose. At the Restoration, only a few years later, the fort was demolished. Today only Cromwell’s Clocktower remains.

Inverness Castle was occupied by the Jacobites in 1715, and again in 1745. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops blew up the castle to prevent it from falling into the government’s hands.

In 1822 the Caledonian Canal was completed,linking Inverness to the west coast of Scotland and thus the North Sea to the Atlantic. For many years the canal was much used by sailing boats anxious to avoid the long and hazardous voyage around Scotland’s northern coast. The canal helped to promote trade between the East and West coast and contributed to the development of the Highland economy.

The railway reached Inverness in 1855 and the town greatly benefited from these improved communications making it easier to transport goods between Inverness and other parts of Britain.

The first tourists arrived from the south. These were rich industrialists or wealthy aristocrats who came to the Highlands for deer stalking and salmon fishing. They followed Queen Victoria who embraced a romantic notion of the Scottish Highlands.

The Victorian and Edwardian era was a long period of prosperity. Many people gained substantial benefits from the overseas British Empire or the industrial revolution at home, and they built grand Victorian houses for their families which you can see in Inverness.

Many new public buildings and private residentialhouses were erected in Inverness during the 19th century. The Royal Northern Infirmary on the river bank opened in 1804. The present castle was built in the years 1834-1846, St Andrew’s Cathedral in 1869 and the Town House in 1883. Three new bridges crossed the river, the Waterloo Bridge was built in 1808, the Ness Bridge was replaced in 1855 and the Infirmary foot bridge dates from 1879.