As with anywhere in northern Scotland, the weather in Inverness is unpredictable, and rain and chilly winds can come at any time. Bring warm clothing even in the warmer months. And, if you are walking in the hills, bring sturdy boots.
The Scottish summer runs from May to September. Temperatures hover between the mid-50s and mid-60s, and there are as many as 18 hours of daylight. The long evenings and golden twilight are particularly beautiful. This is the best time for hill walking and for boat excursions on Loch Ness and the Moray Firth. During the June through August high season, hotels fill and even the lonely expanses can begin to feel a little crowded—if not with people, then with hundreds of small biting flies, known locally as midges.
Music fans arrive in large numbers in mid-June for the three-day RockNess music festival, played by some of the biggest names in British rock music, including, in previous years, Kasabian, the Chemical Brothers, and Fatboy Slim. July sees the Inverness Summer Festival, which includes the Inverness Highland Games, with burly men in kilts tossing the caber and throwing hammers and weights. There is a repeat performance in August, with the Glenurquhart Highland Gathering and Games on the shores of Loch Ness.
Days get progressively shorter and darker from October through December. Many hotels and shops close for the season, and Inverness sees few visitors. This changes on New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay, when Inverness throws The Red Hot Highland Fling, one of Scotland’s biggest free parties.
From January to March, the Highlands are covered with snow and skiing is popular, especially in Cairngorm and the Nevis range, some 15 and 40 miles from Inverness, respectively. Piste and facilities might not compare to the Alps or Aspen, but the scenery is magnificent.