Deep water, Highland cattle and the possibility of a close encounter with the elusive Nessie are just some of the many things that draw people to this uniquely alluring reach of fresh water south of Inverness, stretching some 23 miles.
The Loch Ness monster is, of course, the most evocative image associated with the area, but visitors here will find plenty of other things to entertain them in this fascinating region.
Where to stay in Loch Ness
Loch Ness Bay Camping is in a great spot for exploring the area, halfway between the Loch Ness Centre and magnificent Urquhart Castle. Alternatively, there’s Loch Ness Shores C&CC Site is located on the quieter south shore, near the pretty village of Foyers. Cannich Woodland Camping is another option – it’s just a 20-minute drive away from Loch Ness, in a really beautiful setting between the Rivers Glass and Cannich.
If you’re thinking of heading to another part of Scotland, our best motorhome site in Scotland guide is worth a look, as we share our pick of the standout campsites to head to in the region.
For a start, the loch contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined, and reaches to a depth of 230m at its deepest point.
It is also incredibly beautiful, providing fantastic walking and cycling trails, and the opportunity for enthusiasts to enjoy an extensive choice of watersports and fishing.
You’ll also be able to observe a wide variety of animals and birds here, with pine martens, otters, red squirrels and several species of deer all to be found in the area. Woodpeckers, black grouse, golden eagles and osprey are among the impressive birdlife.
The 360º walking route around the loch is a great way of appreciating the scale and beauty of the lake, and gives you the chance to see the atmospheric ruins of Urquhart Castle, and Cherry Island, an artificial island thought to have been constructed during the Iron Age.
Visitors should also be sure to get out on the water while they are here. There’s no doubt that on a misty morning, on a still day, with only a paddle for company, even a hardened cynic might just wonder if that curious splash was the sound of Nessie raising her head from the water…
What to do in Loch Ness on Day 1
9am – Loch Ness 360°
You can now walk the entire way around Loch Ness on one fabulous, uninterrupted trail – the Loch Ness 360°. This new route, which opened in the summer of 2018, takes you on a magnificently scenic loop around the circumference of the loch.
While you won’t have time to do all of it in one day (the trail loop stretches for 80 miles), you can walk a good distance over the course of a weekend.
10.30am – Take a cruise
You can sail in style across the depths of Loch Ness on a Jacobite Cruises boat. Your voyage of exploration includes a one-hour trip around the mysterious loch – offering lots of opportunities for Nessie spotting – and another hour to explore the glorious setting and ruins of historic Urquhart Castle. Adult tickets cost £26.
1pm – Pub grub
Back on dry land, and it’s time to stop off for a spot of lunch at The Dores Inn (open Thursday to Sunday). Here you can enjoy the welcoming atmosphere, and a range of traditional ales and classic dishes, such as braised lamb shank with black pudding mash, and rosemary, thyme and garlic roasted carrots (pictured right).
3pm – Falls of Foyers
Head south to see the inspirational Falls of Foyers, where you can walk off that delicious lunch. The two-hour hike from the car park at Upper Foyers takes you on a scenic loop around the gorge and the beautiful waterfalls.
7pm – Dinner is served
It’s only a short trip to enjoy delicious Scottish fare at Foyers House, overlooking Loch Ness. Dishes served at this warm and welcoming guesthouse include venison sausage with mashed potatoes, and pan-fried Scottish salmon fillet.
What to do on Day 2
9am – Paddle your canoe
Experience the full beauty of the loch with a morning paddle in an open canoe, in the company of a qualified guide.
The 2.5-hour trip starts on the shores of Loch Ness at Fort Augustus, and you’ll be able to see Inchnacardoch Bay, Cherry Island, Fort Augustus Abbey and the mouths of the Rivers Tarff and Oich. Tickets cost £45.
11am – An education
Visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, where a fascinating multimedia display leads you through seven themed areas and 500 million years of history, mystery and legend, revealing the loch’s truly unique environment and the origins of the Nessie legend. Adult tickets cost £8.95.
1pm – Café culture
Time for lunch in Drumnadrochit, just a few minutes from the Loch Ness Centre on the south of the River Enrick. And if you fancy an ice cream, don’t miss Nessie’s Gelato Cabin!
2.30pm – Botanic bounty
Head north to Inverness Botanic Gardens, to enjoy the Tropical and Cactus Houses and spectacular gardens. Entry is free.
Lead image: Getty Images
Wondering where else you can head to for a weekend getaway? Then head to our Best of British: Weekends Away section, for more great ideas!
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