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On his way to the Battle of Harlaw in 1411, Donald of Islay harried Inverness, and sixteen years later James I held a parliament in the castle to which the northern chieftains were summoned, of whom three were executed for asserting an independent sovereignty. Clan Munro defeated Clan Mackintosh in 1454 at the Battle of Clachnaharry just west of the city. The Clan MacDonald and their allies stormed the castle during the Raid on Ross in 1491.

In 1562, during the progress undertaken to suppress Huntly's insurrection, Queen Mary was denied admittance into Inverness Castle by the governor, who belonged to the earl's faction, and whom she afterwards caused to be hanged. The Clan Munro and Clan Fraser took the castle for her. The house in which she lived meanwhile stood in Bridge Street until the 1970s, when it was demolished to make way for the second Bridge Street development. The city's Marymass Fair, on the Saturday nearest 15 August, (a tradition revived in 1986) is said to commemorate Queen Mary as well as the Virgin Mary.

Beyond the then northern limits of the town, Oliver Cromwell built a citadel capable of accommodating 1000 men, but with the exception of a portion of the ramparts it was demolished at the Restoration. The only surviving modern remnant is a clock tower. In 1715 the Jacobites occupied the royal fortress as a barracks. In 1727 the government built the first Fort George here, but in 1746 it surrendered to the Jacobites and they blew it up.

Culloden Moor lies nearby, and was the site of the Battle of Culloden in 1746, which ended the Jacobite Rising of 1745-1746.

On September 7, 1921, the first UK Cabinet meeting to be held outside London took place in the Town House, when David Lloyd George, on holiday in Gairloch, called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Ireland. The Inverness Formula composed at this meeting was the basis of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

The name Inverness is Gaelic and translates as 'mouth of the river Ness'. See Aber and Inver as place-name elements. Since the town predates Gaelic settlement, it is likely the name is a Gaelic adaptation of an older form with Aber-. In the colonial period the name was given by expatriates to settlements in Nova Scotia, Montana, Florida, Illinois, and California.

Inverness is also known by its nicknames Invershneckie and The Shneck.

Inverness lies at the mouth of the River Ness, and it is from this that the city derives its name: Inbhir Nis is Scots Gaelic for "mouth (or confluence) of the Ness". In nominal terms, the river mouth is at the southwestern and most inland extremity of the Moray Firth. The Beauly Firth may be seen, however, as a westward and more inland extension of the Moray Firth. Also, Inverness Firth has some currency as a name for the section of the Moray Firth between the mouth of the River Ness and the more eastward promontory of Fort George.

The river flows from nearby Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal and connects Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy.

Islands in the River Ness, the Bught and the river banks form a pleasant series of walks, as do the forested hills of Craig Phadraig and Craig Dunain. The city is well served with shops, as it is the main shopping centre for an area of nearly 26,000 kmē.

Inverness has an Oceanic climate and is one of the coldest cities in the United Kingdom.

Raigmore is the main hospital in Inverness and the entire Highland authority. The present hospital opened in 1970, replacing wartime wards dating from 1941.

Raigmore is also a teaching hospital catering for both the Universities of Aberdeen and Stirling. A new Centre for Health Science is located behind Raigmore Hospital. This is being funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Executive and Johnson and Johnson. Phase I of this opened in early 2007, phase II is under construction and phase III has been funded. The University of Stirling is moving its operations from Raigmore Hospital to the CfHS. The UHI also has strong links with the centre through its Faculty of Health.