The red sandstone structure evident today was built in 1836 by architect William Burn. It is built on the site of an 11th-century defensive structure. Today, it houses Inverness Sheriff Court. There has been a castle at this site for many centuries.
The castle itself is not currently open to the public, however a recent campaign has led to the creation of a working group to explore the possibility of doing so in the future.
A succession of castles has stood on this site since 1057.
The castle is said to have been built by Máel Coluim III of Scotland, after he had razed to the ground the castle in which Macbeth of Scotland according to much later tradition, murdered Máel Coluim's father Donnchad I of Scotland, and which stood on a hill around 1 km to the north-east. The first Inverness Castle was partially destroyed by King Robert I of Scotland.
In 1428, James I, in his effort to bring the Highlanders to heel, summoned fifty clan chiefs to a parley at Inverness Castle. However, “where the Parliament was at the time sitting, they were one by one by order of the King arrested, ironed, and imprisoned in different apartments and debarred from having any communications with each other or with their followers.” Several chiefs were executed on the spot.
Among those arrested were Alexander, 3rd Lord of the Isles, and his mother, Mariota, Countess of Ross. Lord Alexander remained imprisoned for twelve months, after which he returned to Inverness with 10,000 men and burnt the town, though he failed to take the Castle.
The castle was occupied during the Raid on Ross in 1491.