History of Inverness in Scotland

Engraving of Inverness from A Tour in Scotland by Thomas Pennant, 1771.

Inverness, which means the “Mouth of the River Ness”) colloquially known as “Inversnecky,” is a town in the Scottish Highlands. It is the administrative center for The Highland Council and is deemed the capital of the Highlands.

Inverness History

Inverness was one of the chief fortresses of the Picts. In 569 CE, it was visited by St Columba to religiously convert the Pictish king Brude, who is deemed to have lived in the vitrified fort on Craig Phadrig, on the west edge of the town. Archeologists found a 2.9 kg (93 oz) silver chain dating to 500–800 CE just to the south of Torvean in 1983 CE. A monk’s cell or a church is believed to have been built by early Celtic monks on Saint Michael’s Mount, a hill close to the river, now the place of the Old High Church and cemetery. Inverness Castle is said to have been established by Malcolm III ( Máel Coluim III ) of Scotland after he had destroyed to the ground the castle in which Mac Bethad mac Macbeth (Findláich) had, according to much later tradition, butchered Máel Coluim’s father Duncan I (Donnchad), and which stood on a mountain around 1 km to the northern-east.

The imperative location of Inverness has led to many battles in the region. Reputedly there was a confrontation in the early 11th century between Thorfinn of Norway and King Malcolm at Blar Nam Feinne to the southwest section of the city.

Medieval Inverness experienced regular raids from the Western Isles, especially by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles in the 15th century CE. In 1187 CE, one Donald Ban (Domhnall Bán) managed islanders in a fight at Torvean against men from Inverness Castle led by the son of the governor, Duncan Mackintosh (Donnchadh Mac An Toisich). Both leaders were slain in the battle; Donald Ban is said to have been buried in a cairn near the creek, close to where archeologists found the silver chain.

Medieval tradition, which still stands tall, says that the villagers fought off the Clan Donald in 1340 CE at the Battle of Blairnacoi on Drumderfit Hill, north of Inverness, across the Beauly Firth. On his way to the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 CE, Donald of Islay sacked the town, and around sixteen years later, James I held a conference in the castle to which the northern chieftains were assembled whom three were arrested for defying the king’s command. Clan Munro overpowered Clan Mackintosh in 1454 CE at the Battle of Clachnaharry just west of the town. Clan Donald and their allies attacked the castle during the Raid on Ross in 1491 CE.

Inverness played a crucial role in the Jacobite rising of 1689 CE. In May 1689, it was attacked by an army of Jacobites governed by MacDonell of Keppoch. The city was rescued by Viscount Dundee, the Jacobite commander, when he entered with the main Jacobite army, although he required Inverness to declare loyalty to King James VII.

On 7 September 1921 CE, the first British Cabinet gathering to be held outside London occurred in the Inverness Town House. This is when David Lloyd George, on holiday in Gairloch, called a crisis meeting to discuss the situation in Ireland. The Inverness Formula designed at this meeting was the foundation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

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