The Royal Highland Hotel, formerly known as the Station Hotel, was designed by noted architect and engineer, Joseph Mitchell, for the opening of the railway in 1855 and substantially redesigned in 1858-59 by Matthews and Lawrie. It was purchased by the Highland Railway Company in 1876 and, as the company increased its network, the hotel was updated in 1898 by Alexander Ross, who moved the entrance from Academy Street to its present location in Station Square. You can still see the emblem of the Highland Railway Company above the original entrance on Academy Street. The turret above the current entrance is no longer there, but it is not known when exactly it went.
The advert below, taken from Mackenzie’s Guide to Inverness in 1893, has taken considerable artistic licence in its depiction of the hotel, exaggerating its size, and rather grandly claims that the hotel was patronised by most of Europe’s nobility.
The hotel has, however, played host to several notable guests over the years. As a young woman, Jean MacKay worked in the hotel as a chambermaid in the late 1930s and recalls ‘the ice-blue sheets the Duke of Kent brought with him, a disappointingly off-hand Amy Johnston, Churchill – “a marvellous looking man” – and Chamberlain on a hush-hush meeting.’ Perhaps one of the most glittering stars of all the Station Hotel’s customers never actually stayed under its roof. In 1938, the Maharajah of Mysore and his entourage parked their private trains at Inverness Station. Meals were taken out to them along the platform.