Inverness Botanic Gardens

Written by Chris Thornton | 6th of December 2023
Inverness Botanic Gardens

Inverness Botanic Gardens is a beautiful and unique botanical garden located in Inverness, directly next to Inverness Leisure Centre (and Aquadome). It is a popular destination for locals and tourists, offering a peaceful retreat and a chance to see a variety of plant species from around the world.

Highland Council owns and maintains the gardens, including a café, gift shop, and conference facilities.

This article aims to provide an overview of Inverness Botanic Gardens, its history, location, plant collections, events and activities, sustainability efforts, and its significance as a botanical garden. Whether you are a horticulture enthusiast or simply looking for a relaxing day out, this article aims to inspire you to visit Inverness Botanic Gardens and appreciate the beauty of its plant life.

My wife and I visited the gardens in mid-March; not the best time to see the outdoor plants but the indoor greenhouses were spectacular.

Entrance to Inverness Botanical Gardens with picnic tables.
The main view of the building entrance with picnic tables.
 
Main entrance to Inverness Botanical Gardens.
The main entrance to the gardens.

Entering the gardens

Entering the building, there was a donations box; there was no fee to visit the gardens. On our visit, we had to make our way through the cafe to reach the gardens.

In March, there wasn't a great deal to see outside in the formal gardens, but it was still lovely exploring the grounds. Following the paths through a variety of nice areas, we came to a gate to access the "secret garden".

Locally raised plants.
Even in March there were beautiful colours in the outdoor gardens.
 
Beautiful formal gardens.
This arch will be covered in flowers come the better weather!
 
Snug seating area.
A snug little corner of the gardens.

Grow Project

Adults with special needs run the Grow Project (Garden, Recycle, Organic and Wildlife). This garden has many hidden corners and exciting things to see:

  • Wild flower meadows

  • Herb gardens

  • Bug hotels

  • Tee pee

  • Jungle path

I even spotted some big neeps growing at the far side of the compound! We will definitely return later in the year to see the secret garden in full bloom.

Tee pee and bug hotel!
Tee pee, seating area and bug hotel.
 
Borders planted. Big neeps!
Glorious neeps growing beneath a protective barrier.

What caught my eye were the two large greenhouses, particularly the larger one, which seemed to be packed with plant life, so we excitedly made our way there.

Impressive glasshouses reveal many varieties of plant life.
View of the cactus house on the left and tropical house on the right.

Tropical House

For my wife and I, this was the star attraction of the botanical gardens. Entering the large greenhouse (also known as the Tropical House), the heat and humidity instantly hit us, which was massively in contrast to the crisp cool March morning outside.

View from entrance of Tropical House.
The left and central paths in the Tropical House.
 
Friendly Koi Carp
Koi Carp pond.
 
Lush tropical plantlife.
Lush plantlife within the Tropical House.

When you first enter, there are three main paths:

  • To the right, this takes in the carp pond, waterfall, faux cave and many plants.

  • The central path allows you to go up to the second level of the greenhouse.

  • The left path takes you to the left side of the greenhouse, but also to access the cactus house.

I instantly went for my camera to get some photos of the interesting plants within the greenhouse; however, due to the humidity, I had to wait until my lens acclimatised to the heat - it was all steamed up!

We followed the right-hand path first and saw some huge koi carp in the water. It's an excellent water feature with a waterfall a little further along. It was lovely taking in the atmosphere of the greenhouse; it felt alive and teeming with life. There is a fake cave in the central area of the greenhouse, but it adds to the feel of this beautiful attraction. An opening looks out from the cave to the waterfall.

Koi Carp
More of the Koi Carp.
 
Waterfall
View from inside the cave of the waterfall.
 
Stair leading to the upper level.
The stair leading to the upper level of the Tropical House.

Reading the many informational boards, we were interested to learn that many plants were native to Brazil, Mexico and the Bahamas, including coffee, ginger, pineapple and banana plants.

Plantlife in the Tropical House, Inverness.
There are unqiue plants to be found everywhere you look.
 
Red flower in the Tropical House.
The flowers are stunning and unique.
 
Light shining through orange leaves.
The light shining through these leaves caught my eye.
 
Up in the trees of the Tropical House.
Upstairs in the Tropical House.
 
Upper level with seating area.
This little seating area is a great place to stop for a break and take in your surroundings.

After seeing everything in the tropical house, we made our way to the adjoining cactus house. Between the two greenhouses is an interesting area for carnivorous plants, don't miss it!

Cactus House

The cactus house was a different experience from the tropical rainforests from whence we came. There is much more light here, and the cacti and succulents are growing within a 75-ton rock display.

Other plants include:

  • Agave

  • Aloe Vera

  • Crassula

  • Euphorbias

The display here is excellent as you almost feel you are looking down into a rocky desert crevice accessible via stairs at either side. Sadly not wheelchair accessible, but you can still see a great deal from the upper level. This definitely an area to be extra careful in; I would hate to fall into one of these cacti! Something to keep in mind if you have small children with you.

Cactus House external view.
The external view of the Cactus House.
 
Overview of the Cactus House.
Overview of the Cactus House.
 
Cluster of cacti
Interesting specimens!
 
Large cactus.
This was the tallest cactus in the house!

Cafe Botanical

We didn't try the cafe on this visit, but it was very busy, which can only mean it's good! The sandwiches and cakes looked great in passing, and the smell of coffee filled the air.

The cafe is open daily between 10 am and 4 pm; the last orders are at 3.45 pm. Seating is available inside and outside. The menu can be seen here.

We noted there was also a shop where indoor and outdoor plants could be purchased to support the gardens.

View of the cafe at Inverness Botanical Gardens.
Cafe Botanical

How to get to Inverness Botanic Gardens

The gardens are directly next to Inverness Leisure Centre, so there is a large car park there to accommodate many cars.

From the east:

  1. Leave the A96 and join the A9, heading north.

  2. Turn left before the Kessock Bridge at the roundabout, and head down the A82.

  3. Follow the A82, crossing Friars Bridge.

  4. Go around the Telford roundabout, staying on the A82.

  5. Turn right down Tomnahurich Street.

  6. Continue some distance down the A82 southwards until you see a left turn down Bught Road.

  7. Follow Bught Road to Bught Drive and follow the signage around to the car park.

  8. While entering the car park, the botanical gardens are on your left.

From the west:

  1. Inverness Botanic Gardens are more accessible from the west.

  2. Follow the A82/Glenurquhart Road eastwards into Inverness.

  3. Follow the A82 around two roundabouts and then turn right down Bught Road.

  4. Follow the road to Bught Drive and follow the signage for the leisure centre.

Address: Bught Lane, Inverness, IV3 5SS.
Telephone: 01463 701019
Email: Click here
What3words: ///diary.hops.cubes
Google maps link

History of Inverness Botanic Gardens

The gardens are actually on the grounds of an 18th-century stately home - Bught House - which no longer exists. The new icerink now exists where the house once stood.

The walled garden once attached to the house is now the modern garden and is the most northerly botanic garden in the UK, opened by Prince Edward in 1992 under its original name - Inverness Floral Hall and Gardens.

FAQs on Inverness Botanic Gardens

Here are some frequently asked questions about Inverness Botanic Gardens.

How long does it take to walk around Botanical Gardens?

It depends on what you want to see; you could easily spend a couple of hours here or just 20 minutes checking out the impressive greenhouses.

What is the difference between an arboretum and a botanical garden?

Arboretums are comprised mainly of trees, whereas botanical gardens have wide varieties of plants, often for scientific research.

Is Inverness Botanical Gardens suitable for disabled visitors?

Yes, most areas can be accessed by wheelchair, the only parts that are inaccessible are the second floor of the tropical house and the lower floor of the cactus house, but a great deal can still be seen from the accessible areas.

When are Inverness Botanical Gardens open?

The gardens are open every day between 9.30 am and 3.45 pm.

Videos of Inverness Botanical Gardens

Here are a few short video clips of our trip to the gardens.

Koi pond near the entrance of the Tropical House.
 
More Koi Carp!
 
The waterfall near the faux cave.
 
The waterfall from inside the cave.
 
Cactus House
 
Cactus House
 
Video taken from the main entrance.
 
View of the greenhouses from the outdoor gardens.

Key information on Inverness Botanic Gardens

  • Parking is free at Inverness Leisure Centre, directly next to the gardens.

  • It is free to visit the gardens, but donations are welcomed.

  • Plan your visit for late spring or summer to get the most out of the outdoor gardens.

  • There are two large greenhouses: the Tropical House and the Cactus House.

  • The Grow Project is at the far side of the garden, run by adults with special needs.

  • The brilliant Cafe Botanical offers food and drinks for reasonable prices.

View of the greenhouses.
View of the greenhouses.

Conclusion

We loved our visit to Inverness Botanical Gardens; we couldn't believe that after all the years we have been visiting Inverness, we didn't know about this very special place. There is something here for everyone - from avid gardeners to those just wishing to check out a very large greenhouse filled with amazing plants. Highly recommended.

From the gardens, we decided to check out the Ness Islands Walk and then continued into the centre of town to grab some lunch at Coyote Burger and then visit Inverness Museum and Elgin Cathedral.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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