VISITORS were treated to breathtaking 360-degree views of the Highland capital and its famous landmarks to celebrate Easter Monday as the North Tower of Inverness Castle opened its doors to the public.

Inverness Castle Viewpoint is the first phase of Highland Council’s plan to transform the 175-year-old castle into a major tourist attraction.

The tower, built in 1840, is owned by the council and is currently the base for the city’s courts service, which is to be moved to a new building.

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Those wishing to visit were advised to book in advance through Inverness Museum and Art Gallery as the big opening was fully subscribed.

Highland Council, Inverness Common Good Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have all contributed to the cost of the North Tower project, which includes new access, a shop and a stairway to the roof and viewing platform.

Highland Council’s director of development, Stuart Black, said more than a million visitors came to the city each year.

He added: “Scenery and castles are the two main things they come for, so it’s really been important to open the castle. This is just the first phase – with the courts moving out in two years’ time we’ll get the whole castle. We’re going to turn it into a spectacular visitor attraction.”

The Inverness Castle tower viewpoint was officially opened by the last family to call the castle their home.

The ribbon to mark its official opening was cut by 75-year-old Isobel Taylor, who lived in the castle with her children and husband James from 1969 to 1995 when he was a caretaker and court officer there.

Curious visitors eager to check out the new viewpoint have the next few days to enjoy a sneak peak before charges come into force on Friday. After this it will cost £5 for adults and £3 for children.

The ground floor of the revamped North Tower will include a 360-degree camera viewing area alongside a shop and a spiral staircase.

Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: “This will provide a significant boost to the tourism offering for Inverness. A key part of this project is accessibility. Everyone will be able to enjoy the outstanding view from the very top.”