When you think about Scotland, the stories of Loch Ness probably come to mind. Mystical and picturesque, this loch is steeped in history and is one of the most famous places in the world for its dramatic scenery, great adventure sports, nearby castles and isolated lighthouses. If you have ever wanted to immerse yourself in nature and meet Nessie, here is a complete travel guide to Loch Ness with everything you need to plan the perfect day trip.
Whilst in Edinburgh, back in October a few years ago, I decided to organise a day trip to Loch Ness and learn more about this magical place (and, of course, spot the legendary monster).
I booked my tour with Heart of Scotland and embarked on a journey through the Highlands. It was incredible. I could not believe what I was witnessing (read more here). I loved spending time around the loch. However, I would have preferred to spend more time there to discover more in-depth this region.
But rest assured, however long you stay near Loch Ness, you will not be disappointed. The breathtaking beauty of the region and the surrounding hills and lochs makes this a place worth visiting for the scenery alone, all year round.
My Loch Ness experience: Duration 1 Day Dates visited October Season Autumn
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- Overview: best things to do in Loch Ness
- What is Loch Ness?
- Where is Loch Ness?
- Loch Ness monster
- Loch Ness facts & travel guide books
- Loch Ness Map
- Best things to do around Loch Ness
- Unforgettable experiences I recommend
- When is the best time to visit Loch Ness?
- How much time should you spend near Loch Ness?
- How to get to Loch Ness?
- Where to stay near Loch Ness?
- Sustainable travel in Loch Ness
- Scotland travel planning guide
- Loch Ness travel guide – FAQ
Overview: best things to do in Loch Ness
- Experience unique Loch Ness views
- Enjoy the scenery from the water
- Embark on a picturesque hike
- Immerse yourself in forests
- Stop by the waterfalls
- Explore the hidden lochs
- Discover Urquhart Castle
- Uncover Loch Ness history
- Cycle your way around
- Wander in Fort Augustus
What is Loch Ness?
Loch Ness is a large freshwater loch full of history, legends and romance. It is situated in the Scottish Highlands, stretching southwest of the town of Inverness.
If you are wondering, a loch is the Scottish Gaelic word for a lake. Therefore, Loch Ness is the equivalent of a large lake.
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Where is Loch Ness?
Loch Ness is located in the north of Scotland, extending from south Inverness down to the town of Fort Augustus.
The breathtaking landscape of the Scottish Highlands and the Monadhliath Mountains surround the loch to the southeast, and the River Ness connects it to the sea from the northern end.
Loch Ness monster
We can not do a Loch Ness travel guide without mentioning its monster.
Loch Ness is home to the well-known Nessie, the legendary mythological monster, often described as tall, long-necked and with one or more humps protruding from the water.
Whilst evidence of its existence is anecdotal, many people have not agreed and have constantly brought proof of its presence through photos and sonar readings. One of each is the most famous Surgeon’s Photograph, taken in 1934 but revealed to be fake.
Today, the legend of Nessie lives one, and who knows, keep your eyes open when visiting the loch!
Planning a weekend getaway in the Lake District? Check out this article: 10 Best Easy Walks & Hikes in The Lake District
Loch Ness facts & travel guide books
First, here are some facts about magical Loch Ness:
- Loch Ness is the most voluminous lake in the UK and contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined.
- Loch Ness is approximately 37 kilometres long.
- Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area after Loch Lomond (Loch Ness is the deepest).
- Loch Ness takes its name from the River Ness, which flows from the northern end.
And if you want to know more, here is a selection of books and travel guides on Scotland and Loch Ness (Kindle edition and used books available):
Loch Ness Map
Click on the pin to display more information & top left of the map to display the list of locations.
Best things to do around Loch Ness
Whether you plan a day trip or stay for a few days, there is plenty to do and see around this magical loch.
Here are the 10 best (eco-friendly!) things to do around Loch Ness :
1- Experience unique Loch Ness views
Loch Ness offers many beautiful panoramas to enjoy and capture. Here is a selection:
- Dores Beach. From there, you will have a beautiful view looking right down the length of Loch Ness. The perfect place to spot Nessie!
- Suidhe Viewpoint. You can park your car nearby, but you will need to walk the last part – totally worth it! You will have unspoiled views across the Highlands in all directions.
2- Enjoy the scenery from the water
One of the best ways to discover Loch Ness is to experience it from the water and plan a boat trip. Here are some options:
- Cruise on the loch. I usually do not recommend this option. I know going on a cruise is an easy way to explore, but boats are also one of the most pollutant forms of transportation. Therefore, if you choose to do a cruise on Loch Ness, look for an eco-friendly tour operator with green credentials or electric boats.
- Kayak on the loch. A greener option! For example, check out the Great Glen Canoe Trail, which connects Fort William to Inverness through Loch Ness. A perfect activity for outdoor enthusiasts.
3 – Embark on a picturesque hike
There is no better place than Scotland to immerse yourself in nature. And if you want to see more of the beauty of the loch, take an adventure on the Loch Ness 360° Trail, an epic 360° loop around the waters of Loch Ness. It offers 80 miles of possibilities ranging from walking to cycling and running. Plus, you can start and finish in Inverness or join the trail from anywhere.
4- Immerse yourself in forests
You will find around Loch Ness some of the most beautiful and dramatic forests waiting for exploration. Here are two woodlands you should add to your list: Farigaig Forest and Abriachan Forest. Both are perfect for enjoying the fresh air and spotting red squirrels.
5- Stop by the waterfalls
I find waterfalls so mesmerising. I can stand there, watch them and listen to their sound for hours. Each of them has something special. And if, like me, you are always amazed when you see one, here are some you can come across around Loch Ness:
- The Falls of Foyers. You will find this stunning waterfall on the south side of Loch Ness, along the Loch Ness 360° Trail. The perfect spot to catch your breath and capture the moment.
- Plodda Falls. You will locate this one 5 km southwest of the village of Tomich, near Glen Affric. It is a hidden treasure and the tallest waterfall in the area.
- Falls of Divach. You will encounter this beauty just outside Drumnadrochit. It is a tranquil and panoramic spot for a picnic with fantastic views over the famous loch.
6- Explore the hidden lochs
Loch Ness is the best-known but not the only loch in the Highlands. Go for a wander, and you will be surprised by what you find. Here are a few you can dwell on:
- Lochan Torr an Tuill. A small and picturesque lochan.
- Loch Tarff. A beautiful loch surrounded by pine trees.
- Loch Oich. The highest point of the Caledonian Canal.
7- Discover Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle is a spectacular ruined castle on the west side of Loch Ness and a perfect place to learn more about Scotland and its heritage. You can admire the ruins from the water, on your hike or park next to it.
Urquhart Castle is open year-round but requires a fee to visit. You can find more information here.
8- Uncover Loch Ness history
If you want to know more about Loch Ness and its rich history, I suggest you visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. Situated in Drumnadrochit, it displays information and presentations on the geological formation of Loch Ness and its legendary monster. You can find more details here.
9- Cycle your way around
If cycling is more your thing, you will be happy to hear that Loch Ness offers a variety of trails. For instance, the Loch Ness 360° Trail mentioned before is suitable for cyclists. You can also cycle on the Great Glen Way and South Loch Ness Trail. Bring your bike or hire one, and go for a venture!
10- Wander in Fort Augustus
Fort Augustus is at the south end of Loch Ness and is one of the largest villages in the area. By wandering around, you will discover the Caledonian Canal lock gates and plenty of shops, restaurants and small museums.
Looking for a good and practical backpack for your trip? Check out this article:
10 Best Sustainable Backpacks for Travel & Hiking
Unforgettable experiences I recommend
When is the best time to visit Loch Ness?
Spring is the best time to visit Loch Ness. If Scotland is known for its frequent rainy episodes, April and May are the driest months of the year. During this season, the countryside is lovely and green with mild weather, and it is an ideal period to enjoy the region and its riches.
Spring is also the perfect time to travel to Loch Ness for those who prefer lesser crowds and more affordable hotels.
Nonetheless, do not expect high temperatures, even in summer. The yearly average maximum temperature in Loch Ness Lake is 10°, rising to 17° in July.
Finally, spring is a great time to observe wildlife, as many species wake up from their winter hibernation and get ready to enjoy the better weather. For example, it is the prime time to spot the red squirrel in Scotland, best seen in the morning and afternoon.
NOTE – I visited Loch Ness at the end of October, and it was freezing. I remembered that we decided to picnic at a table outside, and my hand were frozen and shaking. We went straight into a cafe afterwards to warm up. But it was still a lovely time to visit the loch as the colours were gorgeous.
Fancy a road trip across Scotland? Check out this article: Scotland Road Trip Guide: Epic 7-Day Itinerary
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How much time should you spend near Loch Ness?
One day or two near Loch Ness is perfect for exploring the loch and its area.
Loch Ness is an ideal destination for a day trip. For example, it takes around 2.5 hours to drive around the whole loch, and there is plenty to see along the journey. So even if you are short on time, you will have the chance to experience many highlights.
But, you can also spend more time in Inverness and truly immerse yourself in this Scottish region. From unique history to stunning scenery and the possibility of a monster sighting, you will not get bored.
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Create your dream day trip & live a unique green experience.
How to get to Loch Ness?
Loch Ness is accessible from many destinations and in many ways. Here are the main ones:
Getting to Loch Ness from Inverness
Inverness is the nearest town to Loch Ness, situated on its northern end.
If you have a car, your first option is to drive from Inverness to Loch Ness. The journey takes around 20 minutes.
Otherwise, here are other alternatives:
- You can take public transport. There are a variety of buses operating from Inverness to various stopping points along the north side of the loch, all the way to Fort Augustus. If you plan a day trip, you could stop at Drumnadrochit and Urquhart Castle.
- You can join a guided tour. It will allow you to enjoy the loch and its surroundings stress-free whilst discovering the main attractions. Many companies offer personalised options or daily tours you can join: Happy Tours – Highland Explorer Tours – Rabbie’s.
- You can hire a bike and cycle to Loch Ness. The route to the loch by bike is the same as by car, except that there are cycle paths for most of the way to Dores, making Inverness to Loch Ness by bike an enjoyable day out.
Getting to Loch Ness from Edinburgh
If you are staying in Edinburgh for a few days, this would be an ideal opportunity to plan a day trip to Loch Ness. Here are your options:
- You can use your car or rent one and drive from Edinburgh to Loch Ness. The route is incredible, passing through the Cairngorms National Park and the highlands, and it will take you around 3.5 hours each way.
- You can take the train from Edinburgh to Inverness. There are regular direct trains with an average journey of 3.5 hours.
- You can book a guided day tour. It is a great way to explore Scotland with freedom and ease. During my time in Edinburgh, I used Heart of Scotland and I highly recommend them. We were a small group and our guide Andy was lovely. He stopped us at the best possible spots and told us many stories about the culture and history of his country.
Getting to Loch Ness from Glasgow
Glasgow is approximately the same distance from Loch Ness as Edinburgh, and your options will be relatively similar:
- You can use your car or rent one and drive from Glasgow to Loch Ness. The route is spectacular, passing through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and it will take you around 3.5 hours each way.
- You can take the train from Glasgow to Inverness. There are regular direct trains with an average journey of 3.5 hours.
- You can book a guided day tour. It is a great way to explore Scotland with freedom and ease. Check out Rabbie’s.
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Where to stay near Loch Ness?
Loch Ness and Inverness offer plenty of commodities, from hotels to bed and breakfasts and cottages.
And because sustainability is close to my heart, I have selected for you the best eco-responsible accommodation near Loch Ness:
Situated off the beaten track close to Loch Ness in the peaceful Glen Urquhart, Torcroft Lodges offer self-catering green accommodation. They are the perfect place to escape from your busy life and experience a tranquil holiday.
This family-run business is committed to going green and offers a unique eco-friendly stay. Guests will have the chance to enjoy the tranquillity and natural beauty of the Great Glen, and they will be looked after by people who care for the environment and local communities.
Consequently, Torcroft Lodges have made the commitment to their guests and the environment to choose environmentally friendly options where possible.
Furry friends: their Loch Ness Lodge 2 is dog friendly.
The Lovat Loch Ness
The Lovat Loch Ness is a luxury 4-star eco-hotel in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, steeped in history and elegance. It stands on the site of Kilwhimen Barracks, one of four created in 1718.
Each room carefully blends Highland heritage with contemporary charm and is designed with inspiration from the landscape, offering absolute comfort and calm.
In addition, The Lovat Loch Ness understands how essential is sustainability for the hospitality industry. They have developed a targeted eco-conscious policy, such as becoming free from products containing palm oil and installing a fully automated wood chip boiler.
Furry friends: their Garden Bedrooms are dog friendly.
Morag’s Lodge is a cosy 4-star Loch Ness hostel offering superb budget, dog-friendly accommodation in Fort Augustus on the Great Glen Way.
The hostel is located just minutes from the shores of Loch Ness, nestled amongst the trees and surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. It is undoubtedly the ideal gateway to the Scottish highlands.
Morag’s Lodge takes necessary steps to minimise its environmental impact and help protect the Scottish heritage. As a result, they hold a Gold Green Tourism Award, recognising their strong commitment to sustainable tourism. In addition, they actively share these sustainable practices with their team, suppliers and guests.
Furry friends: their private bedrooms are dog friendly.
Pinewood Steading offers luxury self-catering accommodation near Loch Ness, in a rural and tranquil part of the Scottish Highlands, with captivating and uninterrupted views. It is a converted stone steading set in 3.5 acres of mixed birch and pine trees. It is the perfect place to relax, unwind or spend the day discovering Loch Ness.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, look no further! The Steading is ideal for easy access to a variety of walks. Mountain biking, cycling and water activities are also possible. It is the best place to combine wildlife, history, nature and culture.
Finally, Pinewood Steading holds a Gold Award from Green Tourism and is committed to building a green and sustainable business. It includes efforts to be efficient in many areas such as energy, water and waste management.
Furry friends: their Steading is dog friendly.
Need more inspiration for your green holiday? Check out this article:
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Sustainable travel in Loch Ness
Sustainable travel means exploring the world whilst being aware of your surroundings and having a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the places you visit.
Be a more responsible explorer in Loch Ness and leave a positive impact with these sustainable travel tips:
- Prioritise greener methods of transport, such as walking, cycling, using public transport (bus or train) and only driving your car when necessary.
- If you are flying to Inverness, book direct flights and offset your carbon footprint. BUT, do not use carbon offsetting as a complete solution. Combine it with other sustainable practices, like avoiding single-use plastic on the plane and mindfully packing your suitcase to be ready for your green adventure.
- Stick to marked trails. When you go on a hike or a simple wander, always stay on the marked paths and be careful not to litter. Remember that your surroundings are fragile and need attention.
- Be zero waste and avoid plastic. Sustainable travel in Loch Ness also means picking up your trash or any you encounter and avoiding plastic at all costs! The best way to reduce waste when exploring is to arrive prepared, so consider what you bring, even for a weekend break or a day trip. For example, filtered water bottles are the perfect companions for staying hydrated and lowering your carbon footprint.
- Buy and eat local and seasonal. Scotland offers delicious cuisine, so take advantage of it. Ask the locals where they like to eat, buy your food at local markets, and go to local vegetarian and vegan restaurants supporting farmers and sustainable products.
- Stay in an eco-conscious accommodation. Many accommodations are working to become greener by innovating and reducing their impact. Therefore, try booking your Loch Ness getaway at a hotel or B&B that adopts eco-responsible practices and look for green accreditations on their website.
- Always respect the local heritage. Treat people and their surroundings with respect. Sustainable travel is not only about the environment but also about the local communities. So, always be respectful and try to learn a few Scottish words!
Download your free sustainable travel checklist ↓
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Want to know more?
- The Complete Guide to Sustainable Travel
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Scotland travel planning guide
Yes, buying insurance is always valuable when travelling abroad. Enjoy your trip to Loch Ness stress-free with one of my favourite providers, Nomad Insurance.
Yes, tap water is safe to drink all over Scotland. However, I also recommend travelling with the UltraPress Purifier Bottle, a lightweight filtered water bottle perfect for reducing plastic and staying hydrated.
Yes, renting a car in Scotland is easy and is a great way to explore the country and Loch Ness area freely. I recommend booking yours with Rentalcars.com – they offer a variety of operators for all budgets.
The best way to book your accommodation in Scotland is with Booking.com – my favourite platform to compare and reserve places to stay each night, from affordable guesthouses to luxury hotels.
I recommend booking your plane with Skyscanner. It has been my favourite platform for years, as it allows me to book the cheapest flights whilst lowering my carbon emissions.
Loch Ness travel guide – FAQ
Spring is the best time to visit Loch Ness, with April and May as the driest months of the year. During this season, the countryside is lovely and green, and it is an ideal period to enjoy the region and outdoor activities.
I recommend spending 1 day or 2 near Loch Ness to have enough time to explore the Loch and its area. From unique history to stunning scenery and the possibility of a monster sighting, you will not run out of ideas for things to do.
The easiest way to get to Loch Ness is from Inverness, the nearest town. You can rent a car from there and explore the region. The other way to reach Loch Ness is from Edinburgh or Glasgow – by train, car or guided tour.
And you, have you ever visited Loch Ness or would you like to go one day?
Let me know in the comments below!
With love ♡