What’s going for it? Every time I step off the sleeper at Inverness, it feels as if I’ve dozed off south of Crewe and woken up in Reykjavik or Trondheim. Everything feels different, as though the light this far north comes from a different sun, cooler and lower. It makes the city exotic to this southern softie. The more so when I clock the turrets of the castle, the mountains in the distance or dance a tipsy jig in Hootananny bar. Reports often cite the citizens of Inverness as the happiest in the country, perhaps owing to all this and the city’s casually ordinary beauty, the things it probably takes for granted, like the fresh (sometimes teeth-janglingly so) air, wildness on its doorstep, or the promenades along the beautiful banks of the river Ness. A decent economy helps, too: the city has long been one of the fastest growing in the UK thanks to the hi-tech and healthcare sectors. Or maybe it’s the dolphins in the Moray Firth. Just the sign of a nose breaking the water’s surface is enough to cheer me up.
The case against Not a lot. Even the hours you have to put in to get to other big towns or cities seem worth it when you’re home.
Well connected? Trains: local lines to Nairn (15 mins), Elgin (40 mins), and Dingwall (34 mins); farther afield, to Aberdeen (about 2hrs 20), Perth (just over two hours), Glasgow (3hrs 20) and Edinburgh (3hrs 40), and several a day north to Thurso and Wick (4+ hours). Driving: 30 mins to the Cairngorms, 20 mins to Loch Ness and across the bridge to the Black Isle (and its brewery). The airport has flights to UK and European destinations including, yes, Reykjavik.
Schools Primaries: quality indicators for Hilton and Holm are mostly “good”, says Education Scotland, with those for Inshes mostly “very good”; no current reports for Merkinch, Muirtown, Dalneigh, Kinmylies, St Joseph’s RC, Central, Crown, Raigmore, Drakies, Cauldeen, Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis or Lochardil. Secondaries: no current reports for Inverness High, Milburn Academy, Charleston Academy or Royal Academy.
Where to buy There are some fine neighbourhoods of Victorian stone-built homes, all gables and pinnacles; hunt around the Crown conservation area, such as Crown Circus, south around Southside Road, and, on the west side of the New Glenurquhart Road. The riverbanks are lined with pretty (if prime) property. Plenty of neighbourhoods full of suburban moderns, such as Westhill. Large detacheds and townhouses, £350,000-£800,000. Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £180,000-£350,000. Semis, £125,000-£250,000. Terraces and cottages, £110,000-£225,000. Flats, £75,000-£250,000. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £500-£550pcm; a three-bedroom house, £750-£950pcm.
Bargain of the week Four-bed art deco detached in the Crown neighbourhood; needs modernisation. £290,000, with tailormademoves.co.uk.
From the streets
Owen Smith “Cross country skiing in my lunch break.”
Harriet Dempster “Velocity cafe and bike workshop: a lovely community space with a friendly relaxed vibe, tasty veggie food and yummy cakes.”
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