Aerial photograph of Inverness (Image shot in 2005).

The former royal burgh of Inverness lies close to the mouth of the River Ness at its confluence with the Moray Firth. Developing on the east bank of the river at successive crossing points, it was situated at a junction of major early routes: north to Dingwall, Sutherland and Caithness, east to Nairn, Forres, Elgin and Aberdeen, southeast to Perth, southwest to Loch Ness and the Great Glen and west to Skye. This junction was dominated by the royal castle on a hill at the southern end of the burgh.

The medieval burgh was founded by David I and in 1179 William the Lion commissioned a moat or ‘fosse’ around the burgh. To the northeast this followed the present line of Academy Street. Initially laid out in 1758, Academy Street was known as New Street until the construction of the Inverness Royal Academy in 1792.

The coming of the railway to Inverness in 1855 changed the face of Inverness with Station Square on Academy Street becoming a focal point in the town. There was much development in the area including the construction of the railway’s own offices and the Station Hotel along with other hotels, shops and offices being established near the station. It was also at this time that Union Street, running from Academy Street through to Church Street, was created.

A large number of warehouses were built in the nearby Eastgate area to house dry goods and groceries; livestock markets were also located here, and the Falcon Foundry was established close to the railway so that its goods could be moved by rail.

Over the years, the street has played host to schools, churches, theatres and cinemas, pubs and hotels and a variety of businesses all with a story to tell.

This is a view of Inverness – or ‘Innerness’ – from the south side, in 1693. It shows the Castle on the far right, with the bridge crossing below it. The layout of the town along the River Ness with the Church at the left end. Towards the mouth of the river where it joins the Moray Firth, ships are shown in the harbour and Cromwell’s Fort beyond this, and, in the distance, the Black Isle.


John Home’s map shows Inverness based on survey in 1774. This excerpt shows “New Street” (Academy Street) with Church Street on the northeast side of the river. The layout of the buildings and gardens gives an indication of the development of the town during this period, also providing the names of some landowners. Key locations, such the Castle, Kirk, Maggat and Glebe, are shown as are school, burial ground and brewery sites in the town.


William Daniell’s illustration of Inverness in 1821 shows the 7 arches of the old bridge that crossed the river at the base of the castle hill site prior to the construction of the present castle. The spire of the Town Hall is clearly visible on the centre right and the Old High Church spire in the centre.


John Wood’s 1821 map of Inverness provides a wealth of information, with landowners named and key buildings labelled with numbers shown on a legend.