Ness Islands: A beautiful family walk in Inverness

The Ness Island circuit is a delightful family walk right in the heart of Inverness. This small group of islands sits in the middle of the River Ness in the southern part of the city, and the islands are connected across the river by a series of footbridges. The Ness Islands are beautifully landscaped, and contain a number of interesting sculptures. The full loop is good quality tarmac paths, and is suitable for most buggies.

Distance: 1.5 miles / 2.4km. The route may easily be extended, either by exploring further around the islands, or continuing further along the banks of the Ness.

Parking: You can park on Bught Road outside the Inverness Skate Park and Crazy Golf. Alternatively, if you wish to start and finish at the playground, park slightly further down Bught Road at Whin Park. Both these options are free.

Amenities: Public toilets are available at the entrance to Whin Park. There is also a wee kiosk here in the summer selling drinks and ice-creams. At the other end of the loop, if you continue walking a little way on from the Infirmary Bridge you will reach the Ness Walk Kiosk which sells excellent ice-cream and waffles.

Buggy/bike-friendly? This is a very pushchair-friendly route, with the whole circuit being tarmac paths. There are a few bumps from tree roots at points, but it should be suitable for most prams and buggies. It is also an excellent route for balance bikers and older children on their own bikes. Of course, make sure to supervise well as it is near open water.

Ness Islands walk: the route

1. Cross Bught Road from the parking area, to find a white footbridge crossing on to the first island. If you have a buggy, take care on the short tarmac path down to the bridge as it is steep, and directly above the river.

You can choose which direction to take around the circuit. We travelled clockwise, so we set off downstream along the river bank.

2. The path runs through the trees along the side of Bught Road, with playing fields off to the left. On the right, there are good views of some of the smaller islets in the Ness Islands group.

3. Further downstream, you will reach The Gathering Place, curved stone pier extending out into the River Ness. The pier is part of a public artwork project for the city. It opened in October 2021 with the vision of connecting the city and the river, and increasing access to the river. It is somewhat controversial locally.

4. Turn right onto the next footbridge you come to, the Infirmary Bridge. Alternatively, if you wish to extend your walk, you can continue along the bank here to visit Inverness Cathedral, crossing at the next bridge and returning under the Castle.

5. You may wish to pause on the bridge to enjoy the excellent vantage point up and down the river. On the opposite bank, turn right to continue along Ladies Walk, with some beautiful old houses to your left.

6. Soon you will reach the turning onto Ness Islands, marked by a decorative iron bridge. Enjoy meandering through the islands following the network of paths, finally reaching the white bridge where our walk began.

What is the terrain like?

The main paths are all tarmac, and mostly of a high quality. There are some patches where tree routes have made the surface uneven. Care is needed with buggies at the start of the walk on the short stretch down to the white footbridge, as there is an open drop to the river.

The whole route is near to open water, so it is very important to keep small children under close supervision.

Ness Islands – The history

The islands have long been a tourist attraction for the city, with the first bridges being opened in 1828. These were swept away by a flood in 1849, and replaced by suspension bridges built by James Dredge in the 1850s. The Victorian bridges were finally replaced in 1988, but one of them survives as part of the miniature railway in nearby Whin Park.

You may spot a fly fisherman wading in one of the pools around the islands, continuing an ancient tradition:

Within a mile of the town [the Ness] is divided into two branches by an island, or rather a series of islands, luxuriantly wooded. These, in ancient days, were celebrated as the scenes of rural feasts given by the magistrates of Inverness to the king’s judges when they came here to hold assize courts. Fresh salmon, caught in an adjoining pool, are said to have formed the chief delicacy at these banquets’.

Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Orkney, by George and Peter Anderson, 1842

Ness Islands: Nearby attractions

There are a number of attractions near the Ness Islands which you could incorporate into your walk. Just by the start of the walk is the Inverness Skate Park and Inverness Crazy Golf. Further along Bught Road you will find a large children’s playground (Whin Park) complete with boating lake.

Inverness Crazy Golf

At the other end of the loop, you could extend your walk to take in Inverness Cathedral and/or Inverness Castle.

Looking downstream from Infirmary Bridge towards Inverness Castle

You might also enjoy these other short walks in and around Inverness.

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