Loch Ness Itinerary: How to Spend Two Days at Loch Ness
Written by: Kay Gillespie
Published: 23rd February 2021
Loch Ness Two Day Itinerary
Scotland has over 30,000 lochs, but there is one in particular which has worldwide notoriety. It is, of course, the intriguing Loch Ness! Loch Ness is the largest body of water in the United Kingdom and it is encircled by stunning Highland scenery which has been hundreds of millions of years in the making.
Loch Ness is one of four lochs which sit on the Great Glen Fault: a significant, diagonal split in the landscape which runs from Loch Linnhe on the west coast to Loch Ness on the east. The last Ice Age carved a dramatic corridor of mountains down either side, as well as the deep cavity of Loch Ness, which is now filled with fresh water.
To say that Loch Ness has an interesting character would be an understatement, yet this unique geology and special location are not what has earned the loch its global reputation. For that we can thank the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
The first recorded sighting of the loch’s mythical beast, ‘Nessie’, was by St Columba in 565AD. Since then, there have been many alleged sightings, hoax photographs, and studies of the loch: none of which are conclusive about what the creature could be or whether it even exists.
Monster or no monster, Loch Ness is still an iconic place to visit on your Scottish adventure and a perfect base for exploring the surrounding area. This two day itinerary encompasses our top recommendations for things to do, places to eat and where to stay: from the tourist hotspots to the hidden gems. Feel free to adjust the starting point based on where you’re staying.
Day One – Fort Augustus and Glen Affric
Start your day in Fort Augustus. By lunchtime, this wee village will be buzzing with tour buses and visitors, so a morning visit will beat the crowds. The centrepiece of the village is the Caledonian Canal, which was constructed by renowned Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. This scenic waterway is an amazing feat of engineering with a series of locks and bridges which right run through the Great Glen, allowing boats to travel safely from coast to coast.
Admire the impressive lock system then follow the canal down to the banks of Loch Ness. The view from this western tip of the loch is hard to beat, and the official Loch Ness sign is a popular prop for holiday photos. This is your first proper look at the loch, but now it’s time for a closer inspection!
Return to the centre of the village to embark on a water-based adventure with Cruise Loch Ness, and 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.
Afterwards, hit the popular A82 road towards Invermoriston and stop for a woodland walk at Invermoriston 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 which was also 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.
All the fresh air will have worked up an appetite so pop along to Glen Rowan Café 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.
Continue on the main tourist road past the ruins of Urquhart Castle (squeeze in a visit if you love history and castles) and through Drumnadrochit before driving in the opposite direction of the loch towards Glen Affric. Drumnadrochit is a town-sized tribute to Nessie, with several tributes to the sea creature dotted around. It is also where Groundskeeper Wullie from the Simpsons is said to be from.
Immerse yourself in the magic of Glen Affric: one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland. First, take a wee detour to Plodda Falls to see the stunning waterfall cascade 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.
Glen Affric is a remote oasis, lush with native forest and wilderness. Continue deeper into this wildly scenic glen. Driving the winding road is an adventure in itself, but a very worthwhile one at that. Simply relax and soak up the enchanting scenes around Dog Falls or set off on one of the walking trails.
Afterwards, follow the same way back to your base and freshen up before dinner. Skip to the end of the post for our dinner recommendations.
You can view the map of your route for today here. Success, you’ve completed day one!
Day Two – South Loch Ness and Inverness
Start your day in Foyers, following the loch’s less-touristy south road from Fort Augustus. The star attraction here is the Falls of Foyers. You’ll never tire of waterfalls on this trip, especially when they look like this! The descent into the gorge towards Loch Ness is a pretty prelude to what awaits. Keep an eye out for excerpts of the poem which Robert Burns wrote about the falls during his visit in 1787,before watching the waterfall plunge into the pool below.
Back in the village, drive a bit further down the road to 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.
Next up, lunch by the loch! Stop at the friendly, family-run Dores Inn for a hearty bite to eat. Perch at a table outside for maximum Loch Ness appreciation, then take an after-lunch wander along the pebbly shore for amazing views back up the loch.
Set aside at least an hour or two to visit Culloden Battlefield, which is the 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.
Spent the rest of the day exploring Inverness, the ‘Capital of the Highlands’. If you’re still hungry for history, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is an excellent option, otherwise climb to the top of Inverness Castle Viewpoint for uninterrupted views of the River Ness and beyond. Bookworms will absolutely love the magical Leakey’s Bookshop; it’s the type of place you’d expect to bump into Harry Potter!
When you’re satisfied with your Inverness discoveries, hang around for dinner and live music or return to your base for the evening. Follow the A82 north road back to where you’re staying, to complete your loop of the loch.
You can view the map of your route for today here.
Additional suggestions for the Loch Ness area
If you have more time to spend at Loch Ness and Inverness, or you have time to make some stops on your journey home, here are some other suggested sights and activities.
- The Loch Ness 360° Trail – this 80 mile route runs right around the loch and can be walked or cycled. If you’re really up for a challenge, you can run three marathons around it!
- Great Glen Water Park – book an adventurous day out kayaking, canoeing, gorge walking or rock climbing.
- Clava Cairns – mysterious standing stones and chambered cairns from over 4000 years ago, located a short drive from Culloden Battlefield.
- Glen Ord Distillery – learn all about how Scotch whisky is made and sample a dram straight from the source.
- Beauly – said to be named by Mary Queen of Scots, this pretty town is home to an excellent wee bakery and Beauly Priory which is a film location for Outlander Season 3.
- Chanonry Point – this spit of land on the Moray Firth is one of the best places in the UK to see bottlenose dolphins!
Where to stay at Loch Ness
There are lots of accommodation options within reach of Loch Ness. Here are three of our top picks:
- Loch Ness Glamping, Drumnadrochit – stay close to nature, but with lots of home comforts, in a quirky Armadilla pod. Bedding and towels are provided, and each Ardmadilla has hot water, underfloor heating, a fire pit and a built-in BBQ.
- Foyers Lodge, Foyers – this luxury guesthouse, which sits in a peaceful location overlooking Loch Ness, was built in the 1800s and has been beautifully restored by the current owners, who will ensure that you are very well fed and looked after. The accommodation offers evening meals for guests as well, so you don’t have to venture out again after a busy day of sightseeing.
- The Lovat Hotel, Fort Augustus – if you’d like to base yourself in Fort Augustus, where you can walk down the loch (or to the pub!) in the evenings, this stylish, eco-friendly hotel is for you.
Where to go for dinner around Loch Ness
Scotland has some fantastic produce to indulge in, and there are a number of restaurants around Loch Ness using the local, seasonal ingredients to create their dishes. Be sure to pre-book your dinner reservation to avoid missing out.
- 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.
- 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!
- Fiddlers Highland Restaurant, Drumnadrochit – this family-run establishment is all about Highland hospitality and hearty Scottish food, including their own award-winning haggis.
How to get to Loch Ness
The best way to explore Loch Ness is by car. You can drive north from Edinburgh or Glasgow via Glen Coe and start the itinerary as suggested from the west side of the loch. Take a wee detour to Highland Titles Nature Reserve at Appin on your way to Loch Ness. You can then return south via Inverness and the A9 route.
Alternatively, you can fly or take the train into Inverness and hire a car from there, and do the itinerary in a different order. If you are returning the car in Inverness, award yourself an additional day to visit Glen Coe and the Highland Titles Nature Reserve.