Floods and flooding in Inverness

There are two types of flooding threat to Inverness, one from the volume of water potentially flowing down the river and the other from tidal surge. There is an interesting article on the possibilities at www.leopardmag.co.uk/feats/154/how-long-till-inverness-floods.

The Great Flood of January 1849

The most notable flood on the Ness occurred in January 1849 after sustained heavy rain. Remarkably, when safety standards of the day are considered, there was no loss of life but there was a lot of damage and destruction, including the loss of three bridges.

By the afternoon of the 24th of January (Wednesday), the Ness covered the roads at Ness Bank (upstream from the castle) and Douglas Row (between Greig St. bridge and Friars bridge) on the right bank, facing downstream; Huntly St. (Ness bridge to Friars bridge) and King St. (parallel to Huntly St.) on the left bank. This was only the begining though, it would be another three days before the river began to retreat.

The gate on the Ness bridge, which had stood since 1689, was closed with a policeman allowing adventurous pedestrians through. The supporting piers were covered, the raging torrent forcing its way through the arches.

Talk in the town was alarmist, one fear was that the Caledonian Canal would burst and leave the town at the mercy of a deluge from Loch Ness. The Caledonian Canal did contribute to the flood, there were certainly severe leaks, but "bursting" might give the wrong impression.

By the early morning of Thursday 25th, the situation had become alarming, a few minutes before 6:00 am the Ness bridge succumbed to the waters. The sole eyewitness, a policeman standing on Bridge St. described it falling with a "rumbling sound"1.

Much of Merkinch was underwater, the people crossed Waterloo bridge (Black bridge) to find refuge in the town. People wondered now how long the "Black bridge" would stand. The Ness Islands suspension bridges came down, one of which struck Waterloo bridge a wooden bridge at the time which sustained the loss of a couple of posts. The iron structure of the Ness Islands bridge passed by and the wooden bridge survived until it was replaced in 1896.

At its worst the water reached the the tops of ground floor windows on the west side, being slightly higher the houses on the eastern bank suffered very slightly less.

Railway Bridge Collapse 1989

In February 1989 the Railway Bridge was washed away after two days of heavy rain.


1. NOBLE, JOHN, 1902. Miscellanea Invernessiana. Stirling: Eneas MacKay.