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Inverness is an ancient city dating back to the 400s AD to the Pictish Kingdom, later turning Celtic and Christian. Historically Inverness has been an important port city and the home of generations of kings.
In the 13th century bridges were already constructed and the city was beginning to take shape. The original buildings were made of wood and are long since gone, having burned ages ago. Restorations were made in stone and many survive to this day.
Inverness Castle occupies a prominent central position overlooking the city, the River Ness and beyond. The first fortified castle on the site dates back to the reign of King David I (1124 - 1153), and would have been constructed from timber with earth ramparts and ditches. By 1280 Inverness was a Royal Burgh and the seat of justice for the whole of the north of Scotland. It was around this time that the Casle was rebuilt in stone. Under frequent attack during times of turmoil, the Castle was captured in 1746 by Bonnie Prince Charlie's army and blown up to prevent it from falling into Hanoverian hands. Today the castle at Inverness is one of the most popular attractions even though it is a more modern replacement, built in 1834 in neo-Norman style. The Inverness Sheriff Court House is now located in the Castle.
The Old Gaelic Church was originally built in 1649, rebuilt in 1792 and is now home to Leakey's antiquarian book store. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the church was used to imprison the defeated Jacobite soldiers, with executions carried out in the church graveyard.
The adjacent Old High Church is believed to be sited on St Michael's mound where St Columba of Iona preached in the 6th century. The original church was built in the 12th century. It includes a bell tower (the base of which probably dates from the 15th Century and the top from the 17th century), while much of the current church was built in the 1770s. The curfew bell dates from 1658 and has rung every evening at 8 o'clock from Monday to Saturday since that time, except during the Second World War.
Dunbars Hospital in Church Street was built in 1668 by Provost Alexander Dunbar, and endowed as a hospital for the poor and as a grammar school.
Also on Church Street is Abertaff House, dating from 1593 and the earliest surviving house in the city centre. It features crow-stepped gables, known as "corbie-steps".
Balnain House (on Huntly Street) is a 1726 merchant's house constructed in early Georgian style. After the Battle of Culloden the house served as a hospital for Hanoverian soldiers. It now serves as home to the National Trust for Scotland.
Tollbooth Steeple (on Bridge Street) was constructed in 1791 (and originally adjoined the Old Court House and jail, no longer standing) and is 45 metres high, with 3 bronze bells in its spire. According to local lore a bottle of whisky is contained within the larger of the 2 balls beneath the weathervane.
Inverness Cathedral is sited on the riverside opposite the Castle. It was built between 1866 and 1869, amd was originally intended to have twin spires built on top of the 2 towers, but a shortage of building funds meant that the spires were omitted from the final construction.
The Town House is a fine Victorian Gothic Building (dating from 1878) on Bridge Street, and now serves as the Inverness area office of the Highland Council. In front of the building is the Mercat Cross, which has the Clachnacuddin Stone (the town's Stone of Destiny) in its base. According to legend, as long as the stone remains in place the town will prosper.