Visit Loch Ness

Visiting Loch Ness: 8 best attractions and fun tours

When you think of Scotland’s most famous lake, you also think of Britain’s most famous monster: Nessie (also known as the Loch Ness Monster). Although Nessie hasn’t appeared in decades, no place does a better job of keeping the age-old legend alive than the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, with its exhibits related to the famous “beast” and the history of the area. Even without its fascinating tales of monsters, Loch Ness is extraordinarily beautiful, with the romantic ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shore. Loch Ness stretches along the Great Glen, a fault line where the tectonic plates collided to create the surrounding mountains, and at a depth of 755 feet it is Scotland’s deepest lake. Loch Ness and its surrounding attractions are close enough to both Glasgow and Edinburgh and can be reached on day trips from either city..

Read also: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Scotland

1 Nessie: The Legend of the Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness

St. Columba, an Irish missionary, is said to have been the first person to encounter Loch Ness’s oldest inhabitant, when the monster dragged the (soon to be) saint into the impenetrable depths. Then, in the 16th century, Hector Boece said in The History of Scotland that a “terrible creature” had suddenly emerged from the water and swallowed three men. The next sighting, in 1933, occurred while a couple sitting on the north bank saw a strange, wriggling creature crossing the road in front of them. A number of snapshots and eyewitness accounts followed, not to mention a growing stream of visitors. Most descriptions say it resembles a large sea reptile with a long neck, small head, fins and several humps.

The most famous photo of Nessiteras Rhombopteryx, to give Nessie its full name, came from London gynecologist Robert Wilson. On April 19, 1934, Wilson reported seeing something on the water and taking a moment: a long neck of the monster had just emerged from the icy water. It later emerged that Wilson was part of a media targeting team. Shortly before his death in 1993, Christian Spurling, one of the ‘conspirators’, admitted his part in the great deception. According to the Sunday Times, Spurling, an amateur woodworker, had mounted a dinosaur doll on a toy submarine. The ruse worked perfectly.

2 Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle

The impressive ruins of Urquhart Castle – located just minutes from Drumnadrochit – stand on a headland jutting into Loch Ness. Set against the backdrop of the loch and mountains, the castle – once one of Scotland’s greatest defenses – is at the center of many ancient myths. Dating from the 12th century, it was a typical example of a fortress and bailey, but in the 14th century the stone walls replaced the original wooden structure. In 1509, James IV gave the castle to John Grant of Freuchie, who ordered its extension into the keep, and in the late 17th century the fortified castle fell victim to a fire. Today, visitors can enjoy on-site facilities including a cafe, gift shop and beautiful views of the loch.

Address: Drumnadrochit, Inverness, Inverness-shire

Official site:

3 The Village of Drumnadrochit

The Village of Drumnadrochit
The Village of Drumnadrochit

At the head of Urquhart Bay on the northern shore of Loch Ness, the village of Drumnadrochit is a great place to start exploring Scotland’s most famous loch, its many myths and legends, and nearby Urquhart Castle. You’ll find plenty of things to do here. As well as guesthouses, B&Bs, cafes and souvenir shops, it is home to the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, which tells the fascinating story of the loch’s most famous resident, Nessie. It’s also a great place to take one boat trip to do some monster spotting for yourself, go fishing or just enjoy the beautiful scenery of the lake. The village is also a popular place for horse riding and pony walks.

Official site:

4 The Loch Ness Center and Exhibition

The Loch Ness Center and Exhibition Draco2008 / photo modified
The Loch Ness Center and Exhibition Draco2008 / photo modified

Exhibitions here use audiovisual techniques and static displays to tell the evolutionary history of the region and its famous Loch Ness Monster. You can read the latest developments in the search for the monster and view images, headlines and underwater photos. The most interesting display focuses on Operation Deepscan in 1987 and includes sonar measurements of the murky waters of Loch Ness. The footage seems to confirm the existence of something down there, and the study certainly hasn’t ruled out the existence of the beloved monster. Another monster-related exhibit is at the nearby theme park, Nessieland.

Address: Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, Inverness-shire

Official site:

5 Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus
Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus, at the south end of Loch Ness, is a favorite spot for tourists. The fort gave the place its name and was built in 1715 to become the headquarters of the English General Wade in 1729. After changing hands several times, most of it was demolished in 1876. Benedictine monks have since built an abbey and a highly regarded school on the site. Another nearby attraction is the beautiful waterfall at Foyers.

6 The Caledonian Canal

Visit Loch Ness
The Caledonian Canal

The Caledonian Fault has been used for transport since Thomas Telford completed the Caledonian Canal in 1849 (work had begun in 1803). Stretching from Fort William and ending in the east at Inverness, the canal spares the dangerous northern route through the Pentland Firth between the Scottish mainland and the Orkneys.

Only a third of the canal’s length is man-made, most of it made up of narrow lochs, including Loch Linnhe; Loch Lochy; the little Loch Oich; and then the longest (and most famous), the 24-mile-long Loch Ness. All told, the canal (including lakes) stretches for 60 miles and passes through 29 locks, the most impressive group of which are the eight locks of Neptune’s Stairs. Today the leisure industry makes most use of the canal, with holidaymakers in rental boats and canoes enjoying the beautiful scenery along the waterway.

7 Spean Bridge

Visit Loch Ness
Spean Bridge

Just south of Loch Ness is the road to the village of Spean Bridge, with beautiful panoramas of the Caledonian fault and the north side of Ben Nevis. Spean Bridge is a great base for walks through the Glen Roy National Nature Reserve, with its ‘Parallel Roads’, as the terraces that run along the escarpment are called. These indicate the different water levels of a Pleistocene lake that was dammed by glaciers during the Ice Age. It’s also where you get the Commando Memoriala monument dedicated to the men of the British Commando Forces who trained at nearby Achnacarry Castle.

8 Loch Oich and Invergarry

Visit Loch Ness
Loch Oich and Invergarry

The small islands in Loch Oich south of Loch Lomond are set against a backdrop of steep slopes and make a picturesque sight. On the west bank of the loch at a spring known as Tobar nan Ceann stands a remarkable monument to a bloody incident that took place in the 17th century. Here seven brothers were executed for the deaths of two members of the Keppoch family: their heads were washed in the spring before being presented to the chieftain. Invergarry is another good base for walkers and is also a popular center for fishing and horse riding through remote highlands and mountain passes.

Where to stay near Loch Ness for sightseeing

We recommend these charming hotels in a picturesque setting near Loch Ness:

  • The Lovat, Loch Ness: 4-star hotel in Fort Augustus, Victorian building, good food, home-made biscuits, open fire.
  • Glenmoriston Arms Hotel: mid-range Invermoriston hotel, beautiful surroundings, friendly staff, full Scottish breakfast.
  • Serendipity Bed and Breakfast: great guest house in Glenmoriston, beautiful scenery, fantastic hosts, excellent breakfast with home-made jams.
  • Cluanie Inn: affordable prices, surrounded by mountains and hiking trails, traditional Scottish food, free parking.

Tips and tours: how to get the most out of your visit to Loch Ness

  • Tours of Loch Ness: On the 12-hour Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small-Group Day Trip from Edinburgh you can travel to the highlands by minibus with an expert guide, visiting Spean Bridge, the Cairngorms National Park and Fort Augustus, where you will have time to an optional cruise on Loch Ness. The Loch Ness, Glencoe, and Highlands Small Group Day Trip from Glasgow departs from central Glasgow, along much the same route, and also allows plenty of time for a Loch Ness cruise.
  • Transport to Loch Ness on your own: The train from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Inverness takes approximately 3.5 hours. From here it is about half an hour by bus to Drumnadrochit.

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