Loch Ness Travel Guide - Everything you need to know (2022)

To the West of the Highlands, the loch (lake) with the largest volume of water in the United Kingdom is waiting for you: Loch Ness. It is 20 miles (37 km) long, alongside a geological cleft and fault line (the Great Glen); to the South, the tiny town of Fort Augustus; to the North the outskirts of the city of Inverness. This loch, like others to which it is connected to, was created after the melting of an ancient glacier. His fame reached the entire world back in the 1930s, thanks to the reports of Nessie, a creature similar to a plesiosaur who could have survived to this day. The locals (and also visitors) spotted it on numerous occasions and even took pictures. As time went by, it has been called Nessie and it became one of Scotland’s biggest claims. But Loch Ness is much more than the famous monster. Its shore has extraordinary flora and fauna and its historical heritage is not far behind. There are a few towns that also deserve a visit, such as Dores to the North, Inverfarigaig to the East and Drumnadrochit to the West, among others. In its shores you can also visit Urquhart Castle, the Loch Ness Center & Exhibition, not missing that several companies offer excursions to navigate the loch.

What to see on Loch Ness?

Although surely your eyes will be lost in the immensity of the loch looking for Nessie, we want to show you that its shore has many more possibilities to offer.

Boat cruise on Loch Ness

Loch Ness Travel Guide - Everything you need to know (1)
Navigating the loch is a good way to start exploring the landscape. Many companies offer their services from different ports, so depending on where you are you will find one or the other more convenient.
.

Where can you board the boat from and who offers the tours?

Several companies provide this service, most of them departing from the northern shore of the loch, close to the city of Inverness. One of the best known companies is Jacobite Cruises, which leaves from Inverness or from the loch. When cruises depart from the mouth of the Ness River, closer to Inverness, they will be a little more expensive than the routes that start from the loch shore itself, but you will also the opportunity not only to explore the river, but also the Caledonian Canal. Other cruise tickets include the visit to Urquhart Castle, to where you alight directly from the boat. Besides this company, you have a wider selection to choose from: Castle Cruises operates from Drumnadrochit and Cruise Loch Ness from Fort Augustus. Other companies do express services, to cross the loch all along only in a few hours, on an overdraft, and others fishing tours, such as Fish Loch Ness.

When can you take the boat?

On high season (Spring and Summer), these companies have many cruises a day, every day of the week, roughly from 10am to 4pm, every hour. These services may be reduced on low season, with bigger gaps in between boats, late starts and early ending times. So, please look at the timetable of your company before approaching Loch Ness. Cruises usually last between 1 and 3 hours, and in most services you have disabled access, car park area and pets are allowed.

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How to get there?

If you are in Inverness, there are several docks from which you can board the boat: Dochgarroch Lock (5 miles from the city center); Clansman Harbour (9 miles from downtown) and Tomnahurich Bridge (1.5 miles from downtown). those departure places offer also different timetable, so please do check beforehand.

Ticket prices

Again, there is a huge diversity in prices depending on how long the cruise is and what activities or visits the cruise include. Tickets may range from £15 to the shortest cruises departing from Fort Augustus, to around £35 for the longest ones, including in some cases other attractions, like Urquhart Castle. Most of these services have concession tickets, and reductions for the youngest ones.

Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness Travel Guide - Everything you need to know (2)
With all due respect to Nessie, Urquhart Castle is one of the biggest attractions of Loch Ness. It is located on its west bank and has been watching over the loch since the 13th century. The first historical reference of occupation of this land date from the 6th century, when Scotland was turning into a Christian kingdom. But for a castle we have to wait a few centuries. It is believed that those who built the castle were members of Clan Durward, back in 1229. From that moment on, numerous owners succeeded each other, sincen the castle would be besieged, captured, lost and recovered countless times. It was captured by the British troops from Clan Grant, and then destroyed in 1692 in order to prevent the Jacobites seizing him back. Today it is in ruins, forming an architectural complex that, thanks to its exclusive location overlooking the loch makes it a very pleasant place to visit. In fact, as soon as you are there you will notice the incessant bustle of visitors arriving by bus or cruise ships. In 2001, Historic Environment Scotland set up an interesting interpretation centre at the castle, with a few services, for all visitors.

When to visit this castle?

Between the months of April and July, and also in September, the castle opens its doors from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The last ticket is sold at 5:15 p.m. In August you can access for longer, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. However, the last pass is at 7:15 p.m. Between the months of November and March you can be there only from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The last entry will be sold to you at 15:45. In October the schedule is extended a little more, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., therefore, the last entry is at 4:15 p.m.

How to get there?

The best option to visit Urquhart Castle is from Inverness. Whether on a cruise or by public transport, you will arrive quite quickly, as distance is short. Citylink and Stagecoach buses leave at different time intervals to the castle. The journey is half an hour and costs about £10 pounds (return trip). You can check prices and schedules at Traveline Scotland.

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If you prefer to take a walk along the river bank you can take a bus from Inverness to Drumnadrochit. Once there you have the possibility to visit its museums and then walk to the castle. This may take up to 45 minutes, but it is worth it to enjoy the landscape of the Highlands. If you are in a hurry you can also take a local bus, which will leave you there in just 5 minutes.

Ticket price

The entrance to the castle is included in the Historic Environment Scotland Explorer Pass. If you have not obtained it, adult tickets cost £12. Those over 60 have a slight reduction, and also young people between the ages of 5 and 15 pay approximately half price, while children under 5 can access the castle for free.

Loch Ness Exhibition Center

The center was created in 1980, but was renovated in 2000. It is located in Drumnadrochit, very close to Urquhart Castle. Inside you would find a complete exhibition of pictures, legends, objects and materials linked to the monster, but also rooms going well beyond Nessie: the geological past of the loch and the biodiversity it holds. Ah! The information panels are translated into eleven languages, so you won’t miss anything at all. It is an ideal place for the little ones and, although there are a few shops of souvenirs in the area, you can also buy here everything you wanted about Nessie.

When to visit this center?

In winter months, the center is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. From Easter until June it is from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In the warmer months, such as July and August, you can access the center for longer, from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. In September and October it will close only one hour before that time.

How to get there?

The best option is the Citylink company buses, which stop at Drumnadrochit on the Inverness – Fort William line. You also have buses from Inverness to Cannich and Tomich that also stop in the village.

(Video) Loch Ness Scotland Travel Guide

Ticket price

Adult tickets start at £8.45, but there also concession tickets for older people, reductions for kids, and even free entrance if they are younger than 6. Also, there is a special discount for families of four or more members, paying only £23.95.

How is the weather like in Loch Ness?

Although the Highlands may be cold on Winter, the volume of water stored by Loch Ness balances temperature, so the weather here is milder than in the region around, both on Winter and Summer. A good reference for the loch is the temperature of Inverness, which is one of the closest populations. You should not forget that the extension of Loch Ness is important, but the main attractions are to the north, a few miles from Inverness. As can be seen in the following graph, rainfall is significant, even in the driest months. Temperatures are mild, with an annual average of about 8ºC. Waterproof clothing is always a must if you want to explore the Highlands.

Loch Ness Travel Guide - Everything you need to know (3)
Graphics purchased at https://es.climate—data.org/location/89/

How to travel to the area of Loch Ness?

There is no direct public transport to Loch Ness from Edinburgh, but to the city of Inverness, that you can reach by train or bus. The train journey takes three and a half hours from Edinburgh and prices vary according to the day and time chosen. We recommend to buy the ticket in advance at ScotRail to benefit from discounts. The cheapest option is the bus, and the duration of the trip is approximately the same: three and a half hours. To be sure about price and times, you can check the Megabus website, one of the major companies operating the line.

If you are not afraid to drive on the left, you can make the trip in your car or in a rental car. The loch is about 200 miles apart from the Scottish capital, so those three and a half hours are inevitable, but worth it.

Where to stay to visit Loch Ness?

If you want to spend more than one day at Loch Ness, it is best to stay in Inverness, although you can also find some limited accommodation in Fort Augustus or Drumnadrochit. We can recommend several options, although we must bear in mind that the city is small in size, and although very tourism-driven, it can be difficult to find a place in the peak of the high season. There are a few guest houses, hotels and hostels, and also even some cozy B&Bs. Here we present you two affordable and interesting options:

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Ardentorrie House

For about £80 a night you can stay in this B&B that has all the comforts. It is located one minute from Inverness Castle, five minutes from the train and bus stations, and twenty minutes by car from Loch Ness. It offers spacious rooms with their own bathroom, but one of their biggest hits is their Scottish full breakfast, served every day.

Pentahotel Inverness

This hotel is ideal because it is very central, located just one hundred yards from the train and bus stations in Inverness. By car you can reach Loch Ness in just twenty minutes. Bedrooms are spacious and bright, with private bathrooms and all kinds of amenities. There is room service, a high quality breakfast and a playground for the little ones. The price per night is around £100-150.

Información de interés

You have some interesting hiking trails, such as the South Loch Ness Trail. It is very long (about 30 miles), linking Fort Augustus with the outskirts of Inverness by the East bank of Loch Ness. If you want you can also do the route in kayak, crossing the loch from North to South, but for this you must register first on the Scottish Canals website and pay a very small fee.

Map of Loch Ness


As you can imagine, we offer one trip to visit the mysterious loch: a day tour to Loch Ness, Glencoe Valley and Highlands. Do not miss it!

FAQs

How long should you spend in Loch Ness? ›

Loch Ness is a vast and ancient loch, full of history, legend and romance. It takes around 2.5 hours to drive around the whole loch, and there is plenty to see on the way. So if you only have one day to experience it, take a Loch Ness day trip and see some of the highlights.

Do you need to pay to visit Loch Ness? ›

It doesn't cost anything to take in the splendour of Loch Ness and have a walk along its shores. There are plenty of great walks and hikes you can enjoy that don't cost a penny (though you might want to take a packed lunch).

Which side of Loch Ness is best? ›

If you prefer to see the “quiet” side of Loch Ness, head down the South Side of Loch Ness on the B852 towards Dores and Foyers, where you will find lovely walks, quiet picnic spots and amazing viewpoints! Not to mention, the South Loch Ness Trail, which is the perfect way to explore the area.

How long does it take to walk around Loch Ness? ›

Walking this Scottish trail should take around six days to complete the entire loop. Cyclists can expect to take two to three days for this Loch Ness cycle path.

Can you swim in Loch Ness? ›

Most people who do choose to swim in Loch Ness are very well-versed in cold water exposure or are trained swimmers who wild swim all year round.

Can you see Urquhart Castle without paying? ›

You have to go through the visitor centre to get to the ruins, so you have to pay the admission fee. A large area of the Urquhart Castle Visitor Centre is dedicated to a cafe and gift shop.

What is the nearest town to Loch Ness? ›

Drumnadrochit sits on the north side of Loch Ness, along the Great Glen Way. Famous for its links with the Loch Ness Monster, attractions include Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, Nessieland and Urquhart Castle. The village green has tourist shops, pubs, cafes and good local facilities.

How do you get around Loch Ness? ›

Public Transport

Local bus and train services are available to provide transport to and around Inverness, Loch Ness and Highland areas. You can also use the Traveline Scotland Journey Planner.

Is Urquhart Castle worth visiting? ›

Halfway up the loch, on the western shore, is Urquhart Castle. This is the most scenic spot to view Loch Ness and the prime location to spot Nessie. If visiting Scottish castles excites you, Urquhart Castle is a great one to visit. It has a stunning location with the loch as a backdrop.

How do I see Nessie? ›

5 Unmissable Viewpoints on the Loch Ness 360° Trail
  1. Inverness Castle. This is a viewpoint that is right in the centre of Inverness! ...
  2. Dores Beach. Not all viewpoints require a climb. ...
  3. Falls of Foyers. Watching the Falls of Foyers cascade down into the gorge below is a great sight. ...
  4. Suidhe Viewpoint. ...
  5. Urquhart Castle.

Does Loch Ness have a beach? ›

Dores Beach is one of the best viewpoints of Loch Ness - from here you can see all the way down the famous Loch and you will see why this is a favourite spot for anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of Nessie!

Is there a path around Loch Ness? ›

Welcome to the Loch Ness 360° Trail

The Loch Ness 360° Trail is an epic walking, cycling, running and outdoor activity trail in the Scottish Highlands. The trail loops the entire circumference of Loch Ness. You can start and finish in the Highland Capital of Inverness, or join the trail at any point of your choice.

How long does it take to drive around Loch Ness? ›

At over 23 miles long, Loch Ness is the largest and perhaps best known fresh water loch in the Scottish Highlands.

Where can I walk on Loch Ness? ›

Here's our guide to the best walks around Loch Ness:
  • Abriachan Forest walk: At the top of the hills overlooking Loch Ness on the North side you'll find Abriachan Forests walks. ...
  • Loch Ness 360 Trail: ...
  • Meall Fuar – Mhonaidh: ...
  • Dores/Aldourie Forest walk: ...
  • Falls of Foyers and Dun Bonnet's cave: ...
  • Tomnahurich to Dochgarroch Lock:
Sep 11, 2019

Are there any fish in Loch Ness? ›

There are many fish that live within Loch Ness and travel through it. That's not surprising when you consider the loch is approximately 23 miles long, with a surface area 52 feet above sea level.

How Much Does Loch Ness cost? ›

A great way to discover Loch Ness and what lies beneath those dark waters!
...
Overview.
Address:Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, IV63 6TU (beside the Drumnadrochit Hotel on the A82 east of the village)
Admission:Adult £8.95, Child £4.95 (under 6 yrs free), Senior £7.95, Family £24.95
Parking:Yes
7 more rows

Where is the Witches Cauldron Scotland? ›

Witch's Cauldron, Highlands

Just off the B8005 road, this waterfall is known locally as Eas Chia-aig, with the first pool by the bridge is the deepest and largest. This 7.5m fall was used in the film adaptation of Rob Roy in 1995. The 7.5m fall was used as a setting in the film adaptation of Rob Roy (1995).

How long would it take to swim Loch Ness? ›

Our Loch Ness swim involves teams of up to six people taking it in turns to swim for one hour each, swimming from Fort Augustus to Loch End. The relay route is 22 miles long with depths of up to 230 metres.

How long does it take to tour Urquhart Castle? ›

over a year ago. I would say a good 2 hours. They have a small inside museum like with the history and such. Then touring the castle.

Is Culloden worth visiting? ›

Currently looked after and cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, Culloden Battlefield is one of the most important heritage sites in the country and well worth a visit.

How do you say Urquhart? ›

How to Pronounce Urquhart (Real Life Examples!) - YouTube

What is the main town on Loch Ness? ›

Cities, towns and villages

1 Inverness is six miles north of the loch. It's by far the largest town in the region, with the most visitor amenities, so it's the obvious base for touring the loch and Great Glen.

Is Loch Ness freshwater or saltwater? ›

With a depth of 788 feet (240 metres) and a length of about 23 miles (36 km), Loch Ness has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain.

Is Edinburgh near Loch Ness? ›

The distance between Edinburgh and Loch Ness is 105 miles. The road distance is 166.2 miles.

Can you visit the Scottish highlands without a car? ›

Re: Visiting the Highlands Without a Car? You can get to some parts easily by public transport. Oban for west coast scenery and a tour to Mull Iona and Staffa. Aviemore for outdoor pursuits and walking.

Does Loch Ness connect to the ocean? ›

Loch Ness is connected to the sea via the River Ness, the only outlet, and the Caledonian Canal. The lake is home of Nessie, the legendary mythological Loch Ness Monster. The first recorded sighting of the monster was nearly 1,500 years ago when a giant beast is said to have leaped out of the lake.

How long is Loch Ness in miles? ›

Is it better to stay in Edinburgh or Glasgow? ›

While Edinburgh has all the historic beauty, Glasgow is more of a city that never sleeps and still has a lot of great other cultural things to indulge in whenever you do want to do some sightseeing. It is possible to visit both cities during your trip to Scotland. They are both only a 45-minute train ride apart.

Who blew up Urquhart Castle? ›

Much of the Jacobites' support came from the Highlands, and so Urquhart became a garrison for government forces for more than two years. When the last soldiers marched out of the castle in 1692, they blew it up.

Is Fort Augustus worth visiting? ›

This hamlet is loved by tourists for its scenic views and serene atmosphere. If you enjoy hanging out in the wilderness and want to see some of the most beautiful spots in the Highlands make sure you stop off here as there is loads of things to do in Fort Augustus.

What is Nessie short for? ›

Nessie is a nickname of the Loch Ness Monster, a cryptid that reputedly inhabits the Loch Ness lake in Scotland.

Is there more water in Loch Ness than in England? ›

Loch Ness is the largest loch by volume – it contains more water (7,452 million cubic metres) than all English and Welsh lakes together.

Can dogs go to Loch Ness? ›

The Loch Ness 360 ° Trail is fully dog friendly. All we ask is that you respect the countryside access code and look after the trail, our nature and farming stock whilst walking responsibly with your dog.

Can you swim in the lochs in Scotland? ›

While it's possible to swim in Loch Ness all year round, we'd recommend only visiting in summer as the water can get down to a chilly 5 degrees in winter.

Can you swim at Dores beach? ›

Dores Beach is a good spot and local swimmers meet here regularly for swimming.

What is in Dores? ›

  • The Highlands, Abriachan. Abriachan Trails. Parks and Playgrounds, Outdoor. ...
  • The Highlands, Drumnadrochit. Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. Museums and Art Galleries, Indoor and Outdoor. ...
  • The Highlands, Inverness. Ness Islands Railway. Railway and Transport Attractions, Outdoor. ...
  • The Highlands, Inverness. Frankie and Lolas.

How long does it take to cycle Loch Ness 360? ›

Yes, the Loch Ness 360° trail is suitable for mountain bikes. Cycling the whole trail will take about 3 to 4 days, which leaves time for some sightseeing. On the Great Glen Way side we recommend the “low route” option for mountain bikers between Drumnadrochit and Invermoriston and Invermoriston and Fort Augustus.

Does Inverness have a castle? ›

Inverness Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Caisteal Inbhir Nis) sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness in Inverness, Scotland. The red sandstone structure, displaying an early castellated style, is the work of a few 19th-century architects.

Where do the Scottish Highlands begin? ›

Explore Highlands by area. The Highlands stretches from Fort William in the west, right up the coast by Skye, around the North Coast 500 to Durness and John O' Groats in the far north. It also runs up to Inverness and east out to Elgin, taking in Aviemore and some of the Cairngorms National Park.

Why you should visit Loch Ness? ›

''Loch Ness is one of those rare destinations that engages everyone, from children enchanted with Nessie, to adults interested in photography, hiking and more. It combines Jacobite history, stunning scenery and the possibility of a monster sighting, ensuring it's a perfect destination all year round, for all ages.

What does Ness mean in Scottish? ›

From the headland

What creatures live in lochs? ›

On this page…
  • Badger.
  • Bat.
  • Beaver.
  • Deer.
  • Pine marten.
  • Red squirrel.
  • Seal.
  • Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises.

Are there pike in Loch Ness? ›

Loch Ness is another famous waterway into which pike have been introduced for sporting purposes.

Is Loch Ness nice to visit? ›

''Loch Ness is one of those rare destinations that engages everyone, from children enchanted with Nessie, to adults interested in photography, hiking and more. It combines Jacobite history, stunning scenery and the possibility of a monster sighting, ensuring it's a perfect destination all year round, for all ages.

Is Urquhart Castle worth visiting? ›

Halfway up the loch, on the western shore, is Urquhart Castle. This is the most scenic spot to view Loch Ness and the prime location to spot Nessie. If visiting Scottish castles excites you, Urquhart Castle is a great one to visit. It has a stunning location with the loch as a backdrop.

Is Fort Augustus worth visiting? ›

This hamlet is loved by tourists for its scenic views and serene atmosphere. If you enjoy hanging out in the wilderness and want to see some of the most beautiful spots in the Highlands make sure you stop off here as there is loads of things to do in Fort Augustus.

Does Loch Ness have a beach? ›

Dores Beach is one of the best viewpoints of Loch Ness - from here you can see all the way down the famous Loch and you will see why this is a favourite spot for anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of Nessie!

What is the nearest town to Loch Ness? ›

Drumnadrochit sits on the north side of Loch Ness, along the Great Glen Way. Famous for its links with the Loch Ness Monster, attractions include Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, Nessieland and Urquhart Castle. The village green has tourist shops, pubs, cafes and good local facilities.

Is Inverness worth visiting? ›

Inverness undoubtedly owes its high visitor number to its strategic position in the northern Highlands and popular nearby destinations such as Loch Ness, the Speyside whisky region or the North Coast 500 road trip, the city itself is a fantastic place to visit too.

Is Inverness safe to visit? ›

OVERALL RISK : LOW

Inverness is overall, very safe and you will probably encounter no problems when traveling there. Still, do not let your guard down and be vigilant at all times.

How long does it take to tour Urquhart Castle? ›

over a year ago. I would say a good 2 hours. They have a small inside museum like with the history and such. Then touring the castle.

Is Culloden worth visiting? ›

Currently looked after and cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, Culloden Battlefield is one of the most important heritage sites in the country and well worth a visit.

Is it better to stay in Edinburgh or Glasgow? ›

While Edinburgh has all the historic beauty, Glasgow is more of a city that never sleeps and still has a lot of great other cultural things to indulge in whenever you do want to do some sightseeing. It is possible to visit both cities during your trip to Scotland. They are both only a 45-minute train ride apart.

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