Loch Ness is one of the most famous, most visited, and most photographed tourist attractions in Scotland.
It is best known for the mysterious monster that’s rumoured to live in the loch’s 230-metre depths but it is also a popular tourist destination with visitors who come to sail along it on pleasure cruises.
Review of Loch Ness
Loch Ness is without a doubt one of the most famous, most visited, and most photographed tourist attractions in 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 and down the loch each day while soaking up the atmosphere of this picturesque body of water.
If you would like to join a guided tour of Scotland’s lochs take a look at this selection from Get Your Guide.
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 a monster is able to evade capture by hiding deep at the bottom of freshwater crevices.
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 loch 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.
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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 in these rivers 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 coast 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.
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.
Find more places to visit with my Scottish Highlands articles.
- Loch Ness is a beautiful place to explore and a boat trip across it is an unforgettable experience.
- Urquhart Castle is well worth a visit and so is Culloden Battlefield which is located 17 miles north of the loch.
- Fort Augustus has plenty of restaurants and cafés. Inverness at the opposite end of the loch is a lovely town as well.
- 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.
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.
- Fort Augustus
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near Loch Ness
- Urquhart Castle. Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6XJ. Iconic 16th-century castle situated on the western bank of Loch Ness. The castle was inhabited by both English and Scottish over the course of hundreds of years till it was partially destroyed in 1692. The Historic Environment Scotland visitor centre houses a permanent exhibition about the loch and the castle as well as a restaurant with outside seating and a gift shop.
- Urquhart Bay Wood. A82, Inverness IV63 6XN. An alder woodland located on the shore of Loch Ness with footpaths throughout it. This is one of the few remaining wet woodlands in Scotland where the entire woodland becomes flooded after a rainfall.
- The Garden on Loch Ness. Kilianan, Loch Ness Side, Inverness, Highlands and Islands IV3 8LA. A plant nursery and woodland garden that has an array of native and exotic plants.
- Craig Monie. Inverness IV63 6XD. A hill to the south of Drumnadrochit that provides uninterrupted views across Loch Ness. Note that the hill is open to the public but it is covered in managed fir trees which are forested at any time and there is no clearly marked path to the top.
- Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6TU. A museum and exhibition centre that aims to educate and entertain visitors with displays and exhibitions about Loch Ness, the monster and the surrounding landscape. There is a café on-site and loch cruises can be booked from the centre.
More places to visit in The Highlands
- Ben Ledi – Stirlingshire: Complete Visitor GuideBen Ledi is an 879-metre high mountain in the lower Scottish Highlands. It can be found 5 miles north-west of the popular country village of Callander in the Trossachs National Park. The Trossachs are famous not just for their mountain ranges but also for their lochs which include the mighty Loch Lomond – one of the most scenic bodies of water in the United Kingdom.
- Muir of Dinnet – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuideThe Muir of Dinnet is a national nature reserve located on the eastern border of the Cairngorms national park in the Scottish Highlands. The reserve features a wealth of different habitats including heath, woodland and wetland, but it’s perhaps best known for ‘the vat’, a natural gorge formed by glaciers over 10,000 years ago.
- Glen Etive – Inverness: Complete Visitor GuideWhat if I told you there’s a 12-mile stretch of road where you can see those mountains, rivers and forests in a single relatively small area, where gob-smackingly beautiful vistas open up around every corner on a secluded, frequently tourist-free single-track road?
- Faraid Head – Sutherland: Complete Visitor GuideWhile Scotland’s west coast islands usually take first prize for the number of amazing beaches you’ll find (hello Isle of Tiree) you shouldn’t be too quick to discount Scotland’s mainland either, especially in the far north where it’s relatively tourist-free compared to the rest of the country.