Loch Ness is the most famous loch in Scotland and much of that is down to the mystical creature that lives in the depths of its water.
You will find this magical loch just south of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Measuring 23 miles long and 750m deep there is plenty of shoreline to explore, water to play on and boat trips to ride. The Great Glen Way, a 73-mile trail from Inverness to Fort William runs along the banks of the loch for a significant stretch and thousands come here to soak up the beauty and splendour of the area.
Not only is it a destination for Nessie spotters and myth debunkers, but it’s also a place of overwhelming natural beauty. Come and find out all about Loch Ness.
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness is home to Scotland’s most enduring legend – the eponymous and most mystical Loch Ness Monster.
Legend has it that there is a large creature, resembling a large swimming dinosaur, living in the depths of Loch Ness. For hundreds of years locals and visitors have reported different sightings of ‘Nessie’ in different locations and times of day. Scientists have even come to work on funded projects to try and discover whether she is real or not.
It was an Aldie Mackay that first spotted a ‘whale-like’ beast in the water. Other spotters describe the mystery swimmer as a plesiosaurus – a long-extinct dinosaur with a long neck and flippers that swam the oceans during the Jurassic period in the age of the dinosaurs. With no solid evidence, Nessie continues to live on as a mystery to all.
Quite often the locals will get asked the question - Is there really a massive water dragon living beneath the surface of Loch Ness? Well, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t believe in the fabled creature’s existence, after all, it’s fun to keep an open mind! The modern museum and visitor centre at Drumnadrochit is a great place to learn all about the history of the loch and the monster, with doctored photos and copies of accounts dating back to the 1930’s!
Today, people from all around the globe come, hoping to catch a glimpse of Nessie. Read our guide about the Loch Ness Monster.
Towns and villages near Loch Ness
The city of Inverness in the Highlands is a welcome haven for anyone wanting to punctuate their peaceful countryside break with a hit of shopping and city culture. The Victorian market is housed in a shopping arcade that plays host to over 40 different types of stores. Head in for delicatessens and locally made fancy goods. Allegedly, the market clock hasn’t stopped ticking since its installation in 1890! Try on a kilt at the Highland House of Fraser. You can even rent one overnight if you have a function to attend.
- The castle sits high on a hill and can be visited to get panoramic views of the city.
- Enjoy the impressive architecture of St Andrew’s Cathedral.
- Open-top bus rides offer a trip around the city centre and also trips to the banks of Loch Ness.
- Great variety of bars, cafes, restaurants and retails parks.
- The Monadhliath Mountains and Grampian Mountains are never too far away.
Fort Augustus is a tiny village that is cleaved in two by the Caledonian Canal (60 miles in length) connecting the most southerly end of Loch Ness to Loch Oich then Loch Lofty, and finally Loch Linnhe by Fort William - perhaps the Loch Ness Monster escaped down the canal into the sea! It’s a fun pastime to watch the boats pass through the flight of locks. The canal was designed by the famous civil engineer, Thomas Telford and opened in 1822.
- Visit Urquhart Castle, a medieval castle that has played a role in Scottish history. Destroyed in the 14th-Century it sits on Loch Ness in its ruined glory.
- Discover Pepperpot Lighthouse, supposedly the smallest lighthouse in the UK. Built in 1822 and still in use, it measures only 3 metres wide and 7 metres tall!
- Visit the heritage centre that is open to visitors interested in the canal’s history.
- There are often organised Ceilidhs in which you can attend and dance your socks off.
Drumnadrochit is a small highland village nestled at the head of Urquhart Bay on the northern shore of Loch Ness. This is the place to come to find out all about the Loch Ness Monster. The village is surrounded by the glens, Glen Urquhart and Glen Moriston, as well as the Great Glen that reaches across from Inverness in the east to Fort William in the west, so it really is a place of true beauty. With lots of little holiday cottages around in the height of the season it is a bustling and exciting place.
- Visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition about Loch Ness – there is a real life replica of Nessie!
- Take a cruise from Drumnadrochit down Loch Ness, stopping at the castle.
- Enjoy activities including pony trekking, cycling, and fishing.
- Treat yourself to meals out and cake breaks in the lovely selection of pubs and cafes.
Dores is a small idyllic village on the east shore of Loch Ness sitting 10km south of Inverness. It is a well-known spot with the locals for its gorgeous beach. Standing on this beautiful shingle beach makes you feel like you are right at the end of the loch, even though there is actually still a bit of length to go. The views from here are spectacular, and it is one that is photographed over and over again so visitors can take it with them.
- The beach is a lovely place for a long walk and even a picnic on the sunny days
- The Dores Inn is a popular eatery where many come to enjoy delicious home-cooked meals with a splendid view
- The circular walk starting at the Inn takes you along the pebble beach, through a woodland path to Aldourie and around Torr Point. Keep an eye out for red squirrels!
Top things to do around Loch Ness
There are many enjoyable things to do around Loch Ness which offer lots of fun for the family, and as mentioned above, many of them centre around Loch Ness highlighting it as an amazing attraction in itself. Here are some must-see attractions whilst visiting the Loch:
The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition - The most popular aspects of the museum are the sections devoted to the various investigations into the existence of the monster and audio-visual footage from the underwater expeditions to find Nessie. You can also gain knowledge about the loch and the surrounding area’s geology and nearly 500 million years of history. Location: IV63 6TU
Take a boat cruise - The most high-profile search for the elusive Nessie took place in 1987, when a small flotilla of launches scanned the loch with echolocating equipment but returned to shore none the wiser. Embark on your own tour and enjoy amazing views across the water to Urquhart Castle and of the surrounding hills and glens.Check out Jacobite Cruises for the ultimate boat trip experience.
Nessie Land - For children who want to explore the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie Land is a great day out, with a bunch of great features to enchant and entertain kids in equal measure. Head into the Nessieland Caves, an adventure playground, a model railway, outlander tours and information about the past sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Location: IV63 6TU
Urquhart Castle - Perched atop a hill overlooking Loch Ness, are the remains of the imposing Urquhart Castle. It once played an important role in the Wars of Independence in the 14th century and is now a popular landmark. Some of the most breathtaking views of Loch Ness can be enjoyed from the castle. Location: IV63 6XJ
Outdoor activities at Loch Ness
The 79-mile-long walking path runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south. You can both cycle and walk along the Great Glen Way. It’s a wonderful introduction to long-distance walking as the course of the path remains at shore level for much of its length. Following a massive natural fault line that cuts across the entire country, you will walk along several lochs and the grand Caledonian Canal.
Why not head off down the 60-mile-long Caledonian Canal from Loch Ness on the Great Glen Canoe Trail? Scotland’s Great Glen is home to one of the most beautiful (partially man-made) waterways in Northern Europe. The canal interlinks several lochs and was a godsend when it was completed as it saved shipping companies days of sailing around the outside of Scotland across the seas. Hire a canoe and a guide for getting to Forts William and Augustus, and other spots along the way. There are courses for canoeists of all ages and ability.
Some things to do further away
Managed by the National Trust, the Battle of Culloden was a significant clash during the Jacobite uprising in 1745. Visit the memorial cairn, the site of 1,500 graves of the fallen soldiers. The visitor centre has a brilliant set of exhibits that recount the fateful battle at Culloden Moor. It’s a must-see for history buffs.
Cawdor Castle will forever be associated with William Shakespeare’s depiction of Macbeth, also known as the Thane of Cawdor. Today you can visit the striking tower house of Cawdor and its three ornamental gardens. You can also follow a trail through the intriguing Cawdor Big Wood or head out to the nine-hole golf course on the estate.
Close to the southern end of Loch Ness are the Falls of Foyers. Set in a dramatic gorge, you can reach this beautiful waterfall via a circular trail (2.75 miles) that originates in the village of Foyers. The path is steep with many steps and sections along the rocky shore of Loch Ness. The ascent is worth the effort as the waterfalls are as pretty as you’ll ever see. Lying in a mini canyon, it’s a grand setting for a walk. This trail is for fit walkers and is best attempted in dry weather.
Attractions for rainy days at Loch Ness
Visit the most incredible military fortress in northern Europe. Fort George was built for Bonnie Prince Charlie after the defeat at Culloden Moor in 1746. Protected by over 1.5 km of colossal fortifications, it is still a magnificent sight. The defences include battlements with cannons, barrack rooms, a regimental chapel and a collection of weapons. You can visit the Highlanders’ Museum which is situated at the Fort.
For historians and ‘army barmy’ visitors, the Highlanders’ Museum covers three floors of Fort George’s former Lieutenant Governors’ House. The museum has roughly 20,000 artefacts and an estimated 10,000 documents and photographs. The museum is the largest regimental museum in Scotland, outside of Edinburgh. The museum includes items from Allied Regiments from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Gurkhas.
For a bit of culture and entertainment, Eden Court in Inverness is a leading venue for the arts. You can see live events that cover the spectrum from theatre, dance, music, and comedy. There is also a cinema showing mainstream films for you to enjoy. For blockbusters and family films, head to the Vue Cinema complex. The cinema is a great choice when the weather takes a turn for the impossible.
The food and drink
You are bound to be ravenous after a long walk by the Loch, so you’ll need very little encouragement to head to one of the superb eateries near Loch Ness. Only one pub sits at the edge of the loch and that is The Dores Inn. If you aren’t a complete culinary wimp, sample some haggis, Scotland’s quintessential dish. Made from minced lamb, suet, oats, and various spices, it was traditionally encased in a sheep’s stomach but is now commonly cooked with a sausage skin.
Haggis is best eaten with a side of mashed turnip and potatoes (neeps and tatties). Another good place to eat haggis is the Fiddler’s Highland Restaurant, which also prides itself on offering a huge selection of single-malt whiskies and boasts freshly landed seafood on the menu. Inverness is represented by an impressive variety of restaurants and takeaways. Chinese, Indian, Italian and Thai are also well-represented alongside fine dining options and high street favourites. You can also embark on the Highland Whisky Trail, most of the distilleries in Scotland offer guided tours – so try out Glenmorangie or Glen Ord.
Scottish food and drink to look out for
- Haggis, neaps and tatties
- Fish and chips with mushy peas
- Harry Gow’s dream rings
- Scotlands famous seafood
- Black Isle Brewery - Scotlands only organic brewery
Loch Ness holiday cottages
Situated above Loch Ness with views of Drumnadrochit, this property is a true delight for those looking for the real deal. Sleeping four guests, it's the perfect escape for a young family or couples that are looking for a stunning place to hideaway in the Scottish Highlands. Look out for the Loch Ness Monster!
A bit more info:
- Sleeps 4 in 2 double bedrooms
- Exclusive lakeside location overlooking Loch Ness
- Ideal for romantic escapes and country pursuits
- Sensational views of Urquhart Castle and the wild surrounds
- Woodburner for atmospheric winter nights
Loch Ness View is another one of our impressive holiday cottages holding pride of place from its tranquil elevated position. Sleeping six guests, as the name suggests, you can enjoy amazing panoramas of the loch below. Relax on the decking as the sun goes down over the glen, it's Scottish Heaven on Earth.
A bit more info:
- Sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms
- Enchanting position overlooking Loch Ness
- Ideal bolthole for family getaways in Scotland
- Superb location for wildlife-watching and hiking
- Off road parking for 3 cars
Take a look at our collection of cosy holiday escapes for families, boltholes for couples, and large stylish houses for big groups, and find your perfect Loch Ness cottage. Check out our guide and discover some more magical lochside locations throughout Scotland.
If you’d like to peruse more options, you could view our full collection of holiday homes, lodges and holiday cottages in Scotland.