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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 19 March, 2023
Expert travel writer: Lucy Gillmore

If it weren’t for Nessie, this would be just another loch: admittedly the second largest in Scotland and the deepest, containing more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. But it’s the legendary Loch Ness Monster that put it on the map. There are ‘Nessie hunter’ boat trips available all around the loch.

Start your visit at the informative, award-winning Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition in Drumnadrochit for the low down, and to delve into the scientific findings. Then head off for some monster spotting, while taking in ruined castles, waterfalls and mountain trails.

Don’t miss

Pay a visit to the romantic ruins of Urquhart Castle, a medieval fortress on the shore of the loch. You can watch a film of its history in the visitor centre. Also hike up to the Falls of Foyers to see a famous optical illusion. Stare at the water then flick your eyes sideways to see the rock wall move upwards.

While you’re there

The recently built ‘South Loch Ness Trail’ is a fine walking trail stretching 28 miles along the quieter side of the loch from Loch Tarrf to Torbreck near Inverness. For a shorter walk, try the 10-mile stretch from Inverfarigaig to Dores; download a map at the Visit Loch Ness website.

The 80-mile Loch Ness 360-degree trail loops the circumference of the loch. It is split into six sections (see the website for the breakdown), which you can walk (about 6 days) or cycle (about 3 days), and joins up with the South Loch Ness Trail. It starts just north of Loch Ness in Inverness, and passes the Falls of Foyers and Urquhart Castle. Some parts of the route are steep, and the width and quality of the path varies along the way, so you need reasonably good fitness and agility.

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Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: -

Getting there & doing it

Inverness is a good base for tours and excursions to Loch Ness. It’s also the starting point for the Loch Ness 360 degree walk. If you’re self-driving, the main A82 runs from Inverness along the western shore of Loch Ness to Fort Augustus; note, this route is clogged with traffic in summer. The eastern side of the loch is quieter and more rural.

When you’ve had enough Nessie-spotting, head to the Dores Inn in the village of Dores, a lovely little pub on the eastern shore of the loch.

When to do it

The Loch Ness visitor centre is open all year round, seven days a week. Nessy only appears when he/she feels like it. The walks are accessible any time of the year. May to September offers the best weather, but also an abundance of annoying midges (so take repellent).

Aerial view of a large waterfall
Experience

Falls of Foyers

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Hike up to the 165-feet high Falls of Foyers to see a famous optical illusion. Stare at the water then flick your eyes sideways to see the rock wall move upwards. The waterfall feeds into Loch Ness.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Ruined castle in the foreground, the loch stretches away behind
Experience

Urquhart Castle

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

This former medieval fortress, on the shore of the loch, once was the home of Scotland’s Grant Clan. Built in the 13th century, it was subsequently destroyed by the English in 1692 following the crushing of the Jacobite Rebellion at Culloden. You can watch a film of its history in the visitor centre.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Foyers Lodge

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)[8 miles]

A quirky and characterful Victorian lodge on the quieter south side of Loch Ness, with tree-fringed views over the water.

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

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Magnificent mountain scenery slashed by silvery lochs and peppered with brooding castles: all laden with rich Scottish heritage, history and tradition.

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