Inverness Car Hire

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Inverness is the capital of the stunning Scottish Highlands and its turbulent history is steeped in ancient warfare and clashes of clans and civilisations.

It’s also close to Loch Ness, the supposed abode of the Loch Ness Monster (known to locals as ‘Nessie’) and the home of football club Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Hiring a car in this graceful and elegant city is easy and it’s a superb strategic launchpad for visiting some of Scotland’s most beautiful sights, but if time permits, stick around for a while to explore the city itself.

With that in mind, here are some top things you need to know about Inverness:

  • Inverness is the most northerly city in the UK but has only been granted city status since the year 2001.
  • Loch Ness is often described as ‘bottomless’, hence why it has proven so tricky to locate Nessie! There is some truth to claims of it’s gargantuan volume – it actually contains more fresh water than all the lakes in Wales and England combined.
  • Inverness means ‘mouth of the River Ness’.
  • Britain’s highest peak is in Inverness-shire – Ben Nevis is 4,406 feet high and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
  • Inverness residents are called Invernesians.
  • An ancient law which is still on the statute books entitles every Invernesian to a free set of bagpipes on their 10th birthday.
  • Loch Morar near Inverness is the deepest lake in Britain, at over 1000 feet deep.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots was refused entry to Inverness in 1562 because its governor’s family had a feud with her – she found alternative accommodation and the governor was later hanged for taking his stand.
  • Inverness Airport was ranked third best in the UK in the Wanderlust Travel Awards.
  • Loch Ness forms part of the famous Caledonian Canal.
  • Inverness speed limits are 48 km/k in built-up areas, 96 km/h in built-up areas, and 112 km/h on both dual carriageways and motorways.
  • Inverness is the starting point of the North Coast 500, a 516 mile road tour route that takes you past scenic spots like Applecross, Caithness and John O’Groats.
  • Invernesians drive on the left – so should you!

Guide to Inverness

If you want to discover why Scotland has been voted the world’s most beautiful country, base yourself in Inverness.

It’s a compact city that’s full of colourful history and aesthetically-pleasing architecture, located a stone’s throw from the nation’s most stunning sights.

Located at the north end of the Great Glen, the River Ness runs right through the city and its contemporary cool, calm ambience belies a bloody history which swept away many of its ancient buildings in its wake.

That said, a few notable exceptions remain, not the least of which is the inspirational Inverness Castle – although it’s closed to the public you can still climb to its upper levels for a small fee and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the stunning cityscape and surrounding countryside. Built in the 1830’s this is a red sandstone structure is a reasonably new castle by Scottish standards, but still looks impressive nevertheless.

Where is Culloden Moor?

Culloden Moor is also nearby and this is the site of the 1746 Battle of Culloden. In the last battle fought on British soil, Jacobite rebels led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) were defeated here by Hanoverian Redcoats led by the Duke of Cumberland. Sometimes mischaracterised as the culmination of a Scotland vs England conflict, this was actually the decisive action of a power struggle between two royal dynasties which had lasted for generations.

If you prefer your natural environments a little less charged with historical enmity, stay within the city itself and stroll around the Botanic Gardens. The flora that’s in bloom outside varies seasonally, but the wildflower meadow is usually a highlight and you can warm yourself up in the tropical greenhouse, which is packed with curvaceous cacti and other exotic plants imported from all around the world.

Splendid Gothic Town Hall

Another Invernesian architectural highlight is the gorgeous Gothic town hall, built between 1878 and 1882 and interestingly, the only location that the UK Cabinet has officially gathered outside England. Since he was holidaying north of the border at the time, PM Lloyd George called an ad hoc cabinet meeting here in 1921 to discuss Ireland’s rejection of the British Crown.

Tollbooth Steeple is another prominent landmark – constructed at the tail end of the 18th Century, this was originally part of the city’s prison. The point of the steeple features a cockerel and two golden spheres, the largest of which is rumoured to contain a gallon of whisky.

If you’re feeling thirsty after a hard day’s sightseeing, you won’t be surprised that there are pubs aplenty where you can revive yourself with a delightful dram of Scottish whiskey, a pint of beer or your cocktail of choice. Hootananny is one of the best, because as well as its range of refreshments, there are live musicians most nights playing traditional Scottish music, and you might even find a Ceilidh (Scottish dance) underway where kilted revellers will show you how to show some shapes in classic Caledonian style.

Things to do in Inverness

Despite having a population of just under 70,000 in the Greater Inverness area, there are more things to do here than in many larger cities. Here are a few highlights:

  • The town of Invergordon is around 45 minutes from Inverness and attracts over 100,000 visitors a year who disembark from cruise ships at Admiralty Pier and then explore as much of the Highlands as their itineraries allow. The Baronial Kings Craig Castle Hotel is an atmospheric place to stay and nearby Fortrose is a prime spot for dolphin spotting on the Moray Firth.
  • The visitor centre at Culloden will prove fascinating if you want to find out everything that’s worth knowing about the 1746 battle and the 1745 Jacobite uprising which preceded it. The centre has a 360-degree immersion theatre which realistically recreates what it felt like to be in the heat of the action and an expert guide will take you out onto the moor to see the memorial cairn which marks the graves of 1500 slain Jacobite soldiers. The museum contains original artefacts recovered from the battlefield and tells the story of Culloden from both Hanoverian Government and Jacobite Rebel perspectives.
  • You can’t leave Inverness without visiting Loch Ness and trying to see its elusive monster for yourself. Local companies like Cruise Loch Ness can whisk you safely out onto the water and take you to the likeliest spots for a close encounter – have your phone at the ready to capture the ultimate wildlife selfie!
  • Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness is a mystical ruin that changed hands regularly between Scotland and England during the Wars of Independence, was also raided by the Lords of the Isles and was eventually blown up by Hanoverian troops before they left after the Jacobite Uprisings. Despite its battle scars, much of the building remains standing on its rocky promontory and you can gaze out across the Great Glen from the blood-soaked battlement of the Grant Tower and breathe in 1000 years of living history.
  • Following the Hanoverian victory at Culloden, draconian measures were imposed in the area to pacify the Highlanders and curb their language, culture, music and traditions. The plan also imposed a modern transport infrastructure on the wild landscape which, over the centuries, had proven so suited to the guerrilla tactics favoured by natives yet foreign to better equipped troops from England and later, from the Hanoverian Crown.

Building and improving modern roads was crucial, as was constructing a series of forts where troops could be deployed from to quickly quell any future rebellion. Fort George is the most prominent of these buildings and it remains the most robust artillery fortification in Europe, bolstered by huge cannon and an armoury that included the heaviest weaponry available in the world at the time.

  • For something a little more genteel, Leakey’s Bookshop is a treasure trove of books from all genres and eras, all piled high in a lovely interior that’s more reminiscent of a grand library than a simple shop.

Eating out in Inverness

There are plenty of exciting places to eat in Inverness, with a wide range of local and international cuisines to suit every palate. Whether you want a quick bite or a sumptuous sit-down meal, you’re spoiled for choice. The following emporiums are renowned for their edible treats:

  • If you fancy some local Scottish fare with a sophisticated twist, the Fig & Thistle Bistro at 4 Stephens Brae will tantalise your taste bids with mains like seared spiced Orkney salmon fillet matched with fragrant coconut curry and basmati rice, and Highland venison and haggis burger with smoked Applewood cheddar.
  • The Dores Inn is located eights miles out of town on the south shore of Loch Ness, but it’s well worth the journey for the fine food as well as the scenic view. Try the freshly-caught crispy fish and chips, sample seafood like mussels and scallops or treat yourself to a sizzling steak. But before you leave (and provided you have a designated driver) be sure to sink a dram of a marvellous single malt whisky like Lagavulin and take a moment to look out over the loch. With ‘the water of life’ in your blood, you might be more likely to spot Nessie!
  • If you have a hankering for Mediterranean Turkish fare, look no further than Aspendos at 26 Queensgate. Pasta and steaks are on offer as well as traditional Turkish meze dishes, so there’s something to suit everyone in your party. The lamb moussaka is delightful but the piece de resistance of the diverse menu must be the special beef – a tender beef fillet stuffed with onion, garlic, mushroom, salami and cheese, with mashed potato on the side.
  • Fans of Italian food will love Little Italy at 8 Stephens Brae and this intimate family-run restaurant is perfect for a romantic or cosy family meal. You can’t go wrong with the classic spaghetti Bolognese but if you can handle the heat, opt for the tagliatelle volcano – it’s prepared with a selection of prime Italian meats, peppers, onions and the fieriest tomato sauce this side of Florence.
  • For a casual yet satisfying food experience, try Comfort Foods at 22 Church Street. You’ll enjoy belly-bursting breakfast rolls, paninis, burgers and fish and chips, as well as freshly baked scones and cakes. This is a lovely place to chat to locals and everything you order is always served with a smile.

Car Hire in Inverness Airport

Inverness Airport (INV) is small but very well connected, with regular flights to London Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton, Amsterdam Schiphol, Bristol, Birmingham, Dublin and Belfast City.

Where is Inverness Airport?

Located in Dalcross, it’s a mere 15 minutes from Inverness city centre, so when you hire a car here from a choice of trusted providers, you’ll be bang in the middle of town in no time at all. Here’s a brief overview of the high-calibre companies and car rental packages you’ll find at INV:

  • Alamo Rent A Car was founded in the US in 1974 and now has outlets all around the world. It has a range of vehicles from reliable manufacturers like Vauxhall, Toyota and Ford. Inverness airport car hire packages from Alamo typically include features like 24 hour assistance, theft protection and much more.
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car is another global car rental operator headquartered in the US. Founded back in 1957, it has 10,000 branches worldwide in over 90 countries and a fleet of over 2 million vehicles at the ready. Car rental deals at Inverness Airport from Enterprise usually includes components like free cancellation up to 48 hours prior to the start of the rental period, third party liability and a collision damage waiver.
  • Hertz is a long established care hire company with over 10,000 franchises worldwide and it’s built up an excellent customer care reputation over generations. Inverness Airport car rental from Hertz includes reliable vehicles from manufacturers like Vauxhall, Skoda and Kia.

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FAQs about car hire in Inverness

Most frequently asked questions about hiring a car in Inverness

Car hire costs in Inverness vary according to provider, make and model. As a general guide, it currently costs around £23 per day for a Vauxhall Corsa and £49 for a Mercedes A-Class.
At the time of writing, the cheapest car rental in Inverness is £21.48 per day for a Toyota Aygo or similar model.
You can hire a Toyota Aygo in Inverness for under £22 per day. However, although a large vehicle like a Seat Alhambra costs around £63 per day, it safely seats 7 passengers, so if you’re splitting the cost with your party, the price is still reasonable.
The minimum age for car rental in Inverness is 21 years of age.
Some car hire companies may levy additional charges for renting a car in Inverness – these might be applied for young drivers, for instance. Furthermore, some car hire companies impose an airport surcharge for vehicles picked up at INV. However, all the car hire firms available through Enjoy Car Hire are transparent and trustworthy, so please ask them to clarify whether extra charges will be applied as soon as is practicable.
Most car hire providers in Inverness will allow you to have additional drivers on your car rental agreement, provided that their license and all other mandatory ID is valid. An additional fee will be added to your daily rate for any co-drivers.
Choosing the best car depends on your personal plans. For instance, a Vauxhall Astra is convenient for getting around the city, but if you’re exploring Loch Ness, Culloden and other sights further afield and travelling with kids in tow, you might be more comfortable in a 4x4 Range Rover Sport.