Loch Ness

A mythical lake in the heart of the Scottish Highlands


Loch Ness, Highlands, Scotland

GPS: 57.323148398709, -4.4241487618007

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Loch Ness is in the south-west of the city of Inverness, in the remote Highlands of Scotland. Surrounded by green hills and a series of wide valleys (Great Glen or Glen Mor), this freshwater lake is world famous. Shaped by erosive processes during the last ice age, Loch Ness is the second largest body of water in the country after Loch Lomond (56 km² vs 71 km²). It lies close to the Highland Boundary Fault, a geological divide separating the mountainous area of northern Scotland from the rolling hills and agricultural domain of the southern Lowlands.

Elongated in shape, Loch Ness is some 40 kilometres long and no more than 2 kilometres wide. Particularly deep (250 metres at its deepest point), it owes its legendary fame to the elusive Loch Ness monster. Looking like a sea serpent, a prehistoric long-necked animal or a giant marine reptile, this terrifying beast is also known affectionately as Nessie. The first traces of the mystical Loch Ness animal in the murky waters of the lake date back to the 6th century, when it was first described by an Irish monk (named Saint Columba). Since then, it has continued to fascinate the curious and the truly mythological. Despite numerous testimonies, there is no evidence to date that the Loch Ness Monster actually exists.

Near the town of Drumnadrochit on the north shore of the lake are the ruins of Urquhart Castle, one of the largest castles in Scotland. Built in the early 13th century on a rocky promontory, it offers a beautiful view of Loch Ness. During the Middle Ages, this fortified site was the scene of many military battles before being abandoned in the late 17th century. Although you may not be able to see the monster of the lake during your stay, Loch Ness’ central location makes it an ideal destination for exploring the Scottish Highlands. This wilderness is renowned for its valleys, mountains, lochs, rivers, and the Caledonian Canal built in the early 19th century to link the North Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.

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  • The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition at Drumnadrochit; the legends that have made this mystical place famous
  • The ruins of Urquhart Castle overlooking the lake
  • The Benedictine Abbey in the town of Fort Augustus (19th century Fort Augustus Abbey); the charm of the city of Inverness (cultural capital of the Highlands)
  • A boat trip on Loch Ness or a cruise on the Caledonian Canal (series of 29 locks following the route of the Great Glen)
  • Walks in the Glen Mor and Glen Coe valleys; forest walks (Farigaig, Abriachan and Inverfarigaig); fishing on the lake
  • The rugged valleys and wilderness of the Highlands; typical wetland fauna and flora
  • Nearby waterfalls (Falls of Foyers and Invermoriston Falls); the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore (depicting the way of life of Scottish Highlanders from the early 18th to the mid-20th centuries); the historic sites of Clava Cairns (Bronze Age) and Corrimony Chambered Cairn (4,000-year-old underground chamber); the ruins of Beauly Priory (medieval abbey) and Cawdor Castle (late 14th century)
  • Whisky distilleries around the lake (Dalwhinnie, Tomatin, Ben Nevis, Glen Ord, Glenfarclas and Benromach)
  • The Loch Ness Marathon (5, 10 and 42-kilometre courses in late September); Sail Caledonia boat race held on the Caledonian Canal (boats powered by sail and/or oars in late May or early June)
  • The first official photo of the Loch Ness Monster was published in the British newspaper Daily Mail in 1934 (only one year after a circus owner promised a large sum of money to anyone who could capture it). This information created a lot of interest throughout the kingdom and was taken very seriously by the Scottish government, which decided to create an official investigation office in the 1960s. A dozen scientific expeditions equipped with great technical means (such as the use of sonar and naval radar) were then deployed to find this strange creature, without success. Although the hoax was not revealed to the public until 1975 (the photo had been faked), the legend continues to spark the imagination and interest of many visitors.
  • A total of 3,000 testimonies refer to the appearance of this mystical creature of cryptozoology in modern times. Some still believe in its existence and the lake continues to attract monster hunters. They believe that Loch Ness is a plesiosaur, a long-necked marine reptile with a small head from the dinosaur era. But specialists believe that this species became extinct 66 million years ago.
  • A webcam that is continuously connected to the waters of Loch Ness invites Internet users around the world to watch the elusive Loch Ness from behind their screens.
  • Researchers believe that these mysterious appearances are simply the result of wind-driven wave movements or that a giant eel may have been mistaken for the animal.
  • A Scottish Nessie enthusiast since childhood, Steve Feltham, has been living in a caravan on the southern shore of the lake since 1991 to track the animal (based near the village of Dores, he has no access to electricity or running water).
  • In terms of water volume, Loch Ness has the same capacity as all the other lakes in the United Kingdom. The dark colour of the lake is due to the high peat content of the water in the River Ness. As a result, Loch Ness is one of the least fishable lakes in Scotland.
  • The Caledonian Canal is a 96-kilometre waterway crossing three major Scottish lakes (Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness) and a series of locks. It provides a link between the east and west coasts of Scotland by boat and avoids the need to go around the north of the country by sea.
  • In September 1952, the calm waters of Loch Ness were the setting for a water speed record attempt. This was undertaken by British racing driver John Cobb, who already held several land speed records (including a road speed of 634 km/h at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1947). In his custom-built speedboat, the Crusader, he reached 321 km/h on the water, but his boat broke up when it hit a wake and John Cobb died instantly. Although the water speed record was broken (the previous record was 287 km/h), the attempt was not validated by the race organisers.
  • Take in the stunning Highland scenery as you attempt to climb Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom (1,344 metres), from the town of Fort William. Beware of the weather conditions before you set off. On your way up, do not miss the Ban Steall waterfall south of the summit.
  • Alternatively, you can cycle or walk along the lake from the town of Inverness to Fort Augustus (via the 45km Ness Trail South Loch) or to Fort William south of the lake (via the 117km Great Glen Way).

Where to eat

  • Cafe Eighty2
    (delicious breakfast)
  • Glen Rowan Café
    (for all hungers)
  • The Lovat Brasserie
    (gastronomic stopover)

Where to go

  • Glen Affric
    (beautiful valley)
  • Borlum Farm
    (horse riding)
  • Battle of Culloden Site
    (historic site)

Where to stay

  • Whitebridge Hotel
    (retro and typical)
  • Bank House B&B Loch Ness
    (rustic and rejuvenating)
  • Balachladaich Loch Ness B&B
    (spacious and peaceful)