The buildings of Inverness include Inverness Castle and St Andrew's Cathedral. The castle was built on the site of a previous building from 1835 and is now a Sheriff Court—an older wooden castle was located further east in the 11th century, and may have been the basis for the castle in Shakespeare's Macbeth. St Andrew's Cathedral has a curiously square-topped look to its spires, as funds ran out before they could be completed. Islands in the River Ness, and the river banks, form a pleasant series of walks. The town is well served with shops, as it is the shopping centre for an area of nearly 10,000 square miles.
Inverness was granted city status by the Queen in December 2000, and celebrated its new status officially in March 2001. Its population was approximately 62,000 in 1991. The city's economy relies mainly on tourism, with its many bed and breakfast establishments, and is boosted by tweed production, leather tanning, engineering, and distilling. Salmon fishing is also popular, and smoked salmon is a local delicacy.
Inverness is linked to the Black Isle across the Moray Firth by the new Kessock Road Bridge. It has a railway station with services to Glasgow,Aberdeen,Edinburgh,Wick,Thurso and Kyle of Lochalsh. There is an airport at Dalcross.
Owing to its situation at the north-eastern extremity of Glen More, the beauty of its environment and its fine buildings, it is held to be the capital of the Highlands; and throughout the summer it is the headquarters of an immense tourist traffic.
The present castle, designed by William Burn (1789 – 1870), dates from 1835, and is a picturesque structure effectively placed on a hill by the river's side; it contains the court and county offices. Of the churches, the High or Parish Church has a square tower surmounted with a steeple, containing one of the bells which Cromwell removed from Fortrose cathedral. On the left bank of the river stands St Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral, in the Decorated Gothic, erected in 1866 from designs by Dr Alexander Ross.
Among the schools are the High School, the collegiate school, the school of science and art, and the Royal Academy, incorporated by royal charter in 1792. Other public buildings are the museum, public library, observatory, the northern infirmary, the district asylum, an imposing structure at the base of Dunain Hill (940 ft.), the Northern Counties Blind Institute, the Highland Orphanage and the Town Hall, opened in 1882. In front of the last stands the Forbes Memorial Fountain, and near it is the old town cross of 1685, at the foot of which, protected since the great fire of 1411, is the lozenge-shaped stone called Clach-na-Cudain (Stone of the Tubs), from its having served as a resting-place for women carrying water from the river. The old gaol spire, slightly twisted by the earthquake of 1816, serves as a belfry for the town clock.
Half a mile to the west of the Ness is the hill of Tomnahurich (Gaelic, "The Hill of the Fairies"), upon which is one of the most beautifully-situated cemeteries in Great Britain.
The open spaces in the town include Victoria park, Maggot Green and the ground where the Northern Meeting—the most important athletic gathering in Scotland—is held at the end of September.
Inverness was one of the chief strongholds of the Picts, and in 565 was visited by Saint Columba with the intention of converting the Pictish king Brude, who is supposed to have resided in the vitrified fort on Craig Phadrick (550 ft.), 1 1/2 miles west of the town. The castle is said to have been built by Malcolm Canmore, after he had razed to the ground the castle in which Macbeth according to tradition murdered Duncan, and which stood on a hill 1/2 mile to the north-east.
William the Lion (d. 1214) granted the town four charters, by one of which it was created a royal burgh. Of the Dominican abbey founded by Alexander III in 1233 hardly a trace remains. On his way to the battle of Harlaw in 1411 Donald of the Isles harried the town, and sixteen years later James I held a parliament in the castle to which the northern chieftains were summoned, of whom three were executed for asserting an independent sovereignty.
In 1562, during the progress undertaken to suppress Huntly's insurrection, Queen Mary was denied admittance into the castle by the governor, who belonged to the earl's faction, and whom she afterwards therefore caused to be hanged. The house in which she lived meanwhile stands in Bridge Street.
Beyond the northern limits of the town Oliver Cromwell built a fort capable of accommodating 1000 men, but with the exception of a portion of the ramparts it was demolished at the Restoration. In 1715 the Jacobites occupied the royal fortress as a barracks, and in 1746 they blew it up.