The Complete Guide to Visiting Loch Ness in the Highlands

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Last updated on May 23rd, 2020


Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands

Loch Ness is one of the most famous, most visited, and most photographed tourist attractions in the whole of Scotland. It’s best known for the mysterious monster that’s rumoured to live in the loch’s 230-metre depths.

Category: Loch, Walk or cycle route

Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years

Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers

I rate it: 9 out of 10

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

About Loch Ness

Loch Ness is without a doubt one of the most famous, most visited, and most photographed tourist attractions in the whole of Scotland. Not only is there an abundance of wildlife living both in the loch and along its banks, but there’s a rich history to be discovered thanks to famous nearby attractions like Urquhart Castle and the city of Inverness.

There are lots of pretty villages dotted along its 23-mile length including Fort Augustus on the southern edge (which is a favourite stopping-off point with tourists looking to explore the loch), and many sight-seers try to spot the elusive Loch Ness monster as they stand on the shoreline.

But the best way to enjoy Loch Ness is to take one of the many cruise boats that sail up the loch daily and soak up the atmosphere of this ethereal body of water.

Loch Ness

Things to do at Loch Ness

Although Ness isn’t the largest loch by surface area (that crown goes to Loch Lomond), thanks to its 230m depths it is the largest by volume, a fact that has supported reports that the monster is able to evade capture by hiding deep at the bottom of freshwater crevices.

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In fact, Loch Ness is so large that it contains more fresh water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined.

Tourists wishing to explore the loch can take advantage of frequent cruise boats which ferry passengers up and down the body of water, while walkers can enjoy the many popular trails that run along the water’s edge, such as the lovely Fort Augustus Heritage Trail.

History fans will enjoy stopping off at the 13th-century Urquhart Castle (learn more about it with my Guide to Urquhart Castle) on the western edge of the loch, where fantastic views across the water can be enjoyed while exploring the ruins of one of the largest medieval fortifications in Scotland.

Moving further north you’ll come across Inverness – often referred to as the capital of the Highlands – where visitors will find the beautiful River Ness that eventually feeds into the dark, peaty waters of the loch, as well as the mighty Inverness Castle.

Loch Ness

The many rivers that flow into and out of the loch are an integral and much-enjoyed part of the Ness experience, with the Rivers Ness and Oich being particularly popular with tourists.

One of the most popular sailing routes in Scotland can be found here with sailors frequently passing through Loch Ness as they tour along the Caledonian Canal, the 60-mile waterway that runs from Beauly Firth on the north-east of Scotland to Loch Linnhe on the west coast.

Fisherman keen to catch some of Scotland’s largest fish will find several species living in the water of Loch Ness, with the famed Scottish Atlantic Salmon living alongside Brown and Sea Trout, Perch, Roach and Char, while golf enthusiasts will find the nine-hole course at Fort Augustus to be one of the most challenging in Scotland, and its spectacular location in the Great Glen makes a visit more than worthwhile.

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A top-tip I have for you is to take a visit to the five-star rated Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition at Drumnadrochit where you can learn all about the loch, the history of the surrounding area and the legend of the fabled monster. Discover the attraction in detail with my Complete Guide to The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition.

The highlights

  • It’s a beautiful place to explore and a boat trip across the loch is an unforgettable experience.
  • Urquhart Castle is well worth a visit. Read my guide to Urquhart Castle for a good overview.
  • Fort Augustus has plenty of restaurants and cafés. Inverness at the opposite end of the loch is a lovely town as well.

My top tips

  • It gets pretty busy at Fort Augustus so I’d personally give it a miss during peak tourist season.
  • Visit the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition to learn about the story of this famous body of water (and its monster).
  • There are walks all along the loch, but failing that I recommend driving the A82 which hugs the shoreline on the loch’s western side.

Photos and video

Photo Gallery
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Streetview

Scotland 360 Photo Tour
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Address and map

Loch Ness extends for 23 miles south of Inverness and there are plenty of locations from which to explore it. Perhaps the most frequently visited entry point is Fort Augustus at the southern-most end.

Fort Augustus can be found on the A82, at the head of Loch Ness in the heart of the Highlands. It is 33 miles from Fort William and 34 miles from Inverness.

  • From Glasgow take the A82 via Crianlarich and Fort William to Fort Augustus – 132 miles.
  • From Edinburgh take the M90 to Perth, the A9 to Dalwhinnie, the A86 to Spean Bridge and the A82 to Fort Augustus – 157 miles.
  • From Aberdeen take the A96 via Nairn to Inverness, then the A82 to Fort Augustus – 141 miles.
  1. Inverfarigaig
  2. Dochgarroch
  3. Drumnadrochit
  4. Fort Augustus
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Click map for directionsGoogle Map of loch ness


Tickets and opening times

Pre-book your Loch Ness tour tickets here.

Loch Ness is open year-round and has no entry fee. Some tourist attractions such as tour boats and Urquhart Castle have their own operating times and prices.


Contact details


Facilities

Getting there: Dependent on location

Getting around: Dependent on location

On-site conveniences: Dependent on location


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Craig Smith

A proud native of Scotland, Craig Smith loves writing about the country almost as much as he loves exploring it. His aim is to visit every Scottish attraction and share his experiences with the world. Follow Craig's adventures on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.