A Guide To Loch Ness

Published: 19th February 2024

As one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, visiting Loch Ness is definitely one to add to the bucket list. Steeped in history and based in the stunning Scottish Highlands, we highly recommend our Lords, Lairds and Ladies take a trip to catch a glimpse of Nessie, the notorious Loch Ness Monster!

Where is Loch Ness?

Where is Loch Ness in Scotland?

The Scottish lake, Loch Ness is a large, freshwater loch that is located approximately 37 kilometres (23 miles) southwest of Inverness (the nearest town to the Loch and Highland Capital). The surface of its water sits 16 metres (52 feet) above sea level.

Is Loch Ness Connected to the Sea?

The famous Loch sits between an interlinked series of Scottish waters. At the southern end of the Loch, it is connected to both the River Oich and a section of the Caledonian Canal, which then leads onto Loch Och. At the northern end, there is the Bona Narrows which opens out into Loch Dochfour, which feeds the River Ness and a further section of canal to Inverness, ultimately leading to the North Sea via the Moray Firth.

How Big is Loch Ness?

What size is Loch Ness?

Loch Ness is the second largest loch in Scotland, after Loch Lomond when based on surface area, covering an impressive 56 Km2! At its longest point its waters stretch 36km (about 23 miles), and it has a maximum width of 2.7km (about 1.7 miles wide).

How deep is Loch Ness?

At its deepest point, the Loch Ness waters go down 230m. This makes it the second deepest loch in Scotland after Loch Moar. However, when you consider its expansive surface area and depth together, Loch Ness could be described as the most voluminous/biggest lake in the UK. It is said to contain more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined!

How long does it take to swim Loch Ness?

Due to the depth of Loch Ness it is recommended to avoid swimming there. The waters remain bitterly cold all year round and therefore, can put swimmers at significant risk of cold water shock or hypothermia.

Those who do swim in loch ness, are trained cold water swimmers, whose bodies have been acclimatised to the otherwise dangerous temperatures. The first person recorded to swim the length of Loch Ness was British teenager, Brenda Sherratt in 1966, who swam the length of it in 31 hours 27 minutes! Since then many have completed this historic swim as either solo swims or as part of relay teams.

The History of Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle, sitting overlooking Loch Ness has played a large part in the loch’s dramatic history.

Dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries and built on the site of an early mediaeval fortification. Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence and was subsequently held as a royal castle, being raided several times by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. This conflict continued even after the castle was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509. The castle was strengthened despite these further raids, only to be pretty much abandoned by the mid 17th century.

Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces and it subsequently decayed. Nowadays, the castle is owned by Historic Scotland and has a visitor centre, which was built in 2002. You are able to explore the ruin and climb to the top of Grant Tower to enjoy jaw-dropping views over the loch and the Great Glen.

The Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness has been made famous, by the presence of the one and only Loch Ness monster, that is said to lurk beneath it’s surface. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Nessie’, scientists are baffled by her potential existence.

The best known early mention of Nessie that attracted a lot of attention was an article in the Inverness Courier published on 2 May 1933, about a large “beast” or “whale-like fish”.

Since then Nessie has been at the forefront of local folklore and news. There have been over 1000, sometimes unexplainable, eye-witness accounts and sightings!

Learn more about the history, folklore and cultural impact of the Loch ness monster in our Loch Ness Monster Guide.

Visit Loch Ness

How to get to Loch Ness…

By Car

The A9 is the main road to Inverness from the cities of Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Therefore, when looking for directions to Loch Ness the most common route when travelling by car is to head onto the A9 and follow the directions to Inverness. A journey by car from Edinburgh to Loch Ness is approximately 3hrs 20min and from Glasgow to Loch Ness is 3hrs 26min.

By Train

You can also catch the train to Inverness in approximately 3.5 hours from Edinburgh or Glasgow Queen Street. Once in Inverness, you can easily reach other parts of Loch Ness by local buses.

By Plane

Inverness also has its own airport which is located within 7 miles of the city centre.

How to Get Around Loch Ness

It is possible to drive around the famous Loch taking in the views, but if you are feeling more adventurous, why not walk, cycle or horse ride on the new Loch Ness 360 Trail, a 80 miles long scenic circular route taking in the route of the Great Glen Way on the north side and South Loch Ness Trail on the south side. With many boat trips and Nessie tours from Inverness, Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit, you can also cruise along the loch!

Towns to Visit Near Loch Ness

  1. Drumnadrochit – This charming village is a town-sized tribute to Nessie, the iconic monster lurking in the depths of Loch Ness. Go on your very own monster hunt at Nessieland, and explore the history and mysteries of the area at the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. Drumnadrochit also hosts its own annual Highland Games in August, where you can experience traditional Gaelic sporting events, such as hammer throwing, tossing the caber, and shinty. And if you’re still not convinced – the Groundskeeper Wullie from the Simpsons is said to be from Drumnadrochit!
  2. Fort Augustus – A historic and scenic settlement with spectacular views of Loch Ness. The centrepiece of the village is the Caledonian Canal. This amazing feat of engineering has a series of locks and bridges which run right through the Great Glen, allowing boats to travel safely from coast to coast. If you follow the canal to the banks of Loch Ness, the view of this western tip is hard to beat, and the official Loch Ness sign is a popular prop for holiday photos. We recommend visiting Fort Augustus in the mornings to beat the crowds as by lunchtime, this wee village will be buzzing with tour buses and visitors.
  3. Beauly – Said to be named by Mary Queen of Scots during her visit in 1564 after exclaiming ‘C’est un beau lieu’ (what a beautiful place). This stunning town is home to award-winning independent shops and cafés like the deli Corner on the Square and the excellent wee bakery Café Biagotti. The magnificent ruins of the Beauly Priory were chosen as a film location for Outlander Season 3, and this is also where you can find the oldest elm tree in Europe. In the summers, pipe bands often perform in Beauly’s town square, which will make your visit truly unforgettable.

Loch Ness Historical Landmarks

Urquhart Castle
  1. Urquhart Castle – Its dramatic ruins offer a taste of the castle’s rich history, spanning over 1,000 years. Located on a strategic route through the Scottish Highlands, the castle set the stage for the miracles performed by St Columba, vicious grapples for power, and inspired acts of defiance and chivalry. Enjoy the breathtaking views from the Grant Tower and explore the foundations of medieval life.
  2. Culloden Battlefield – The harrowing site of the last battle fought on British soil and one of the most significant events in Scottish history. Learn all about the Jacobite Uprisings, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Battle of Culloden and the aftermath, in the modern visitor centre, before taking an audio guide outside to explore the battlefield and various memorials.
  3. Clava Cairns – Located only a short drive from the Culloden Battlefield, you can explore the mysterious remains of an ancient cemetery, dating back over 4,000 years. The well-preserved passage graves from the Bronze Age are made up of ring cairns, kerb cairns, and standing stones, which sit serenely in the beautiful woodlands. Interestingly, the cemetery was used in two periods, a thousand years apart. The cairns are free to visit and open all year round.
  4. Boleskine Burial Ground – This historic cemetery is the final resting place for Clan Fraser, and includes a memorial stone to Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, who is referred to in the Outlander series as Jamie Fraser’s grandfather. He was the last man to be beheaded in the UK, after being charged with treason in 1747 for his role in the Jacobite uprisings.

Nature Spots

  1. The Loch Ness 360° Trail – this extraordinary 80 mile route runs right around the entire circumference of Loch Lomond. Walk, run, or cycle along the trail to take in the stunning Scottish wilderness and charming villages. If you’re really up for a challenge, you can run three marathons around it! Or, join the trail at any point of your choice.
  2. Invermoriston Bridge & Falls – A short stroll into the forest will take you to the ‘Summer House’ which boasts the most picturesque view of the falls and the bridge, designed by Thomas Telford. Before returning to your car, take a walk onto the bridge for a view of where you’ve just come from: it’s another jaw-dropper. You might even be lucky and see the salmon leaping.
  3. Glen Affric – One of the most beautiful glens in Scotland, known for its glorious woodlands and rugged terrain. Be sure to take a wee trip to the Plodda Falls, a stunning waterfall cascading from towering heights. The best photos can be taken from the viewing platform which looks down over the falls and from the area at the base of the falls. Continue deeper into this wildly scenic glen and soak up the enchanting scenes around the Dog Falls.
  4. Chanonry Point – this spit of land on the Moray Firth is one of the best places in the UK to see bottlenose dolphins! Dolphins can be seen throughout the year but it can depend on salmon numbers and tides. Also make sure to take in the lighthouse built in 1846 and the picturesque beach stretching all the way from Chanonry Point back to Rosemarkie.
  5. Falls of Foyers – Along the south side of Loch Ness in the small village of Foyers, you can find a spectacular waterfall that drops into a gorge. You can take the path down steep steps all the way to the shores of Loch Ness. Keep an eye out for excerpts of the poem which Robert Burns wrote about the falls during his visit in 1787. And you might even spot a red squirrel!
  6. Highland Titles Nature Reserve – Spend the afternoon exploring the beautiful Highland Titles Mountainview Reserve and experience the impacts of our conservation efforts first hand. Mountain View is a “self-guided” reserve with a well-made trail to explore so you can just drop by to visit your plot and discover stunning views along the way. Only 1 hour from Inverness, the area is quite easy to reach and it is a great way to spend a day hiking, fishing and spotting the 6 species of bumblebees that inhabit the reserve.

Loch Ness Tours & Activities

  1. Cruise Loch Ness – choose from a leisurely cruise or a high-speed RIB ride. Both offer a unique perspective of the loch and the points of interest around the shore, as well as lots of information about the local wildlife, history and Nessie.
  2. Great Glen Water Park – Book an adventurous day out kayaking, canoeing, gorge walking or rock climbing.
  3. Glen Ord Distillery – Learn all about how Scotch whisky is made and sample a dram straight from the source.

Food & Drink in the Area

Images courtesy of The Lovat Loch Ness
  1. Glen Rowan Café – Perfect for a spot of lunch. This cute roadside eatery specialises in freshly prepared local produce and tempting sweet treats. If the weather permits, grab something to takeaway and enjoy at your next stop.
  2. The Lovat Hotel, Fort Augustus – whether you choose to stay here or not, the hotel is well worth a visit for dinner alone. The menu focuses on high-quality, local produce which is prepared and presented like a work of art.
  3. MacGregors Bar, Inverness – this award-winning bar doesn’t do anything by halves; the food is amazing, the drinks offering is local and extensive, and the live music will have you clapping and toe-tapping!
  4. Fiddlers Highland Restaurant, Drumnadrochit – this family-run establishment is all about Highland hospitality and hearty Scottish food, including their own award-winning haggis.

What you should do next...

  1. Browse our plots to claim your title of Lord or Lady of the Glen
  2. Discover the masjetic Kilnaish Estate
  3. View our fun gifts and accessories, inspired by the Scottish Highlands