The Ness Islands, although just inside the city are very much "outside" the city. There are two islands, both wooded, connected by footbridges, two of these are suspension bridges connecting to each bank similar in style to the Infirmiary bridge. The islands are also connected in the middle by a beam bridge and there are two smaller, new (2007) bridges on the right hand island (facing downstream), replacing older bridges.
Bridge building to the islands commenced in 1829, the suspension bridge on the right as you face downstream was built first, the larger suspension bridge on the left was built after. These bridges were chain suspension bridges, they were not maintained, fell into disrepair and were washed away during the Great Flood of 1849 one causing some damage to the old Black Bridge as it washed past . The bridges were replaced around 1853, again with suspension bridges, these stood until 1987 when they were replaced with the present bridges.
The islands were bought by The Highland Council in the 1800's for use as a public park area. There are several pools and some weirs making this area one of the favourite places along the river for anglers, the river is also most easily accessible here whilst still being "out of town".
The Ness Islands are well managed and are certainly no wilderness, despite this they are full of wildlife and can be especially rewarding to anyone with enough patience.
The islands were in use as a recreational area before the bridges were built. Carruthers (1843) describes a time, when the islands were accessible only by boat, a salmon dinner on a public gala day. He quotes "a gentleman of the town, Mr Angus B. Reach":
"On the grand occaisions of the judges' visits, and when the entertainments were on the most extensive scale, the 'Isle' was the scene of the revelry. With the embowering branches of the oak and the birch weaving a living canopy over them, and the pleasant sound of the running, stream in there ears, the 'lords' doffed their robes and cares of office together, and, attended by their busy entertainers, held sylvan court, like the banished monarch in the Forest of Ardennes ........ The only wonder is, how the river was crossed after the hogshead was empty."
CARRUTHERS, R., 1843. The Highland Notebook or Sketches and anecdotes Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.
NOBLE, JOHN, 1902. Miscellanea Invernessiana. Stirling: Eneas MacKay.