Travel: Mercure Inverness Hotel, Inverness

The Mercure Inverness Hotel enjoys riverside views
The Mercure Inverness Hotel enjoys riverside views
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A northern jewel in the capital of the Highlands -

Scotland on Sunday’s Do Not Disturb

This inviting Highland capital retreat is the perfect base for a weekend filled with fun and adventure. And there can be few things more satisfying than seeing the hotel you’ll be staying at within moments of arriving at your destination. So short a distance is Mercure Inverness from the city’s railway station we deliberately chose a slightly longer route via the High Street just to enjoy a little fresh air after spending three hours cooped up in a carriage from Edinburgh Waverley.

Situated on Church Street, within a stone’s throw or two of Inverness Castle and boasting picturesque views along the banks of the bonnie River Ness, you cannot fault the Mercure on location. As a hotel porter put it, the only way you could guarantee a night’s stay closer to the castle would be to bash somebody over the head (the castle doubles as the courthouse).

Budget or boutique?

Clad in post-war panelled concrete, the Mercure’s outer layers offer relatively little architecturally, but inside is a different matter. This recently refurbished northern jewel merits its four stars and then some.

Modern décor throughout is supplemented by subtle hints of Highland identity that are tastefully displayed in the hotel’s foyer, corridors and bedrooms. While far from budget, rooms here are affordable and won’t break the bank for a weekend stay.

Room service

We stayed in a Privilege Room, with riverside views and all the space and amenities you could need or reasonably expect. Dark wood finishes were balanced by paler-coloured walls and contemporary tartan throws.

A nice touch was the monochrome canvas of Inverness that hung above our bed, an image only bettered by the panoramic views out of our window.

Wining and dining

The Mercure’s main restaurant is also blessed with some excellent window views of the River Ness. Awaiting refurbishment to bring it up to the same standard as the rest of the hotel, it looks a little on the tired side, but all was forgiven thanks to the attentive staff who worked hard at ensuring all diners were made to feel comfortable and welcome.

Food-wise, the Mercure is a celebration of international cuisine. There are Scottish and British options, including a chicken main with haggis stuffing, while a range of different steaks, gourmet burgers and pizzas, as well as Thai and Indian curries, are also on offer. The culinary options here are sound and, most importantly – for us at least – child-friendly.

The bar, 33 Church Street, is quiet and understated with all the hush and peacefulness of a Chicago speakeasy. This is the place to settle down and engage in thoughtful conversation.

The Mercure offers a vast spectrum of wines, whiskies and gins and boasts a team of affable bar staff, one or two of whom are masters at the art of preparing a cocktail.

Worth getting out of bed for

The Inverness district is enjoying the benefits of the Outlander effect and fans of the hit series can visit some of the real-life locations referenced by the writers. Just five minutes down the road from the Mercure, you’ll find Inverness bus station. From here you can find services that will take you to Culloden Moor and the 4,000-year-old Clava Cairns standing stones. We ventured out to both locations on our first day and it was no hassle at all.

The following morning we returned to the bus station and booked ourselves on a guided boat trip to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, again with no fuss.

But if you’re after a quiet stroll, simply stick close to the river.

Little extras

A hamper of goodies, including chocolates, sweets and pinot grigio was there to welcome us on arrival.

Guestbook comments

Tremendous in terms of views, location and ease of access to nearby must-see sites, Mercure is the traveller’s choice for a short stay in the capital of the Highlands.

David McLean

Double rooms start from £70 per night B&B.

Mercure Inverness Hotel, Church St, Inverness IV1 1DX (0844 815 9006, www.mercureinverness.co.uk)