1 Day Mileage – Start and finish in Inverness, 67 miles
Loch Ness is known the world over for the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and taking a boat trip out on the Loch and making your own mind up about ‘Nessie’ is a must for any visit to the area. But there is much more to Loch Ness and the Monster. The Loch itself is an average of 600ft deep and almost 22 miles in length. It contains more water than every lake and reservoir in England and Wales combined and can be seen from outer space! The area around the Loch is of outstanding natural beauty, a landscape dotted with small villages and attractive short walks and historical attractions. Our full day Loch Ness Circuit car tour suggested itinerary will give you a taster of all that the area has to offer.
Following the A82 south out of Inverness, Loch Ness first comes into view just beyond Lochend where there is a large lay-by to stop and take your first photos. The lay-by is called the Wellington lay-by as it was here that a Wellington Bomber aircraft crashed into the waters of the Loch on a training flight during World War 2. From the lay-by you can also see across to Aldourie Castle, a ‘fairy tale’ style castle, home of the Cameron Clan for over 300 years, but now providing exclusive accommodation for families and groups.
A few miles further down the road pull in at the Clansman Hotel. Not only does it have a great gift shop and café, it is also the embarkation point for Jacobite Cruises out on to Loch Ness. This 5 star cruise operator offers two cruise options from the harbour across the road from the Clansman. Other options are available sailing from their Dochgarroch moorings.
Thirteen miles from Inverness you enter the village of Drumnadrochit. Park in the large car park in the centre of the village and walk back to visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition or Nessieland. The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition has a VisitScotland 5 star exhibition which tells you all you could wish to know about about Loch Ness and the Monster, both fact and fiction. A long established family business, the centre manager Adrian Shine is the world authority on everything associated with the Loch. Back down in to the village Fiddler’s Restaurant not only provides excellent bar food but also a huge selection of whiskies to choose from (not if you're the driver, of course!)!
Half a mile beyond Drumnadrochit is the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Standing perched above the deepest point in Loch Ness, the castle is a very popular attraction providing an insight in to the rich social and cultural history of the area. There is also an excellent café and gift shop.
From Urquhart Castle it is a 20 minute drive down to the small village of Invermoriston. Often overlooked by visitors, it’s a good place to stop and stretch your legs on the short walk to the waterfalls and Thomas Telford's historic bridge. Allow 30 minutes for this.
The next stop is at Fort Augustus at the southern end of Loch Ness. This bustling, small attractive village is dominated by the Caledonian Canal, built in the early part of the 19th Century by Thomas Telford, one of Scotland’s greatest civil engineers. Take a walk up and across the locks or simply rest a while and watch, particularity in summer as yachts and cruise boats make their way through to Loch Ness or south towards Fort William and the West. Fort Augustus is also where the other main cruise operator on Loch Ness operates out of. Cruise Loch Ness are another long established company who in addition to the traditional type cruise offer high speed rib rides out on the loch. Fort Augustus can get very busy in the summer months so if you don’t book in advance, you can expect to queue for a cruise, but there is also a small number of gift shops in the village to browse and places to eat. Also don’t forget to take a stroll along the lovely footpath which takes you along the waterfront around Fort Augustus Abbey. This building has a long and chequered history stretching back hundreds of years but today has been converted in to exclusive apartments.
From Fort Augustus you start your journey back up the south side of Loch Ness on the B862. Drivers should be aware that much of the road on this side of the Loch is still ‘single track’ but don’t be put off by this. The traffic on this side of the Loch is light and as long as you follow the etiquette of driving on these roads you will be fine. The scenery on the south side is wild and spectacular and for the best views stop at the highest point on the road called Suidhe Viewpoint. If you're not in a hurry, why not take a short walk along the South Loch Ness Trail from here and really take in the views?
At the small village of Foyers, a visit to the Falls of Foyers is a must. A tourist attraction since Victorian times, when in spate they must be seen to be believed, the water thundering down over the falls through the gorge out in to Loch Ness. There are a number of short walks in the vicinity of the falls to explore and the village also has a couple of lovely cafes to stop off for another cup of coffee after your exertions.
If you are interested in local history, two miles on from Foyers is Boleskine Graveyard which is close to the remains (private property) of Boleskine House, once home of the notorious Victorian occultist Aleister Crowley and also owned in the 1970/80's by Jimmy Page of the rock group Led Zeppelin. It was here on the hillside behind the house that they recorded the fantasy sequence from ‘The Song Remains The Same’.
Finally, no circuit around Loch Ness is complete without a stop at Dores. Not only does it have a great restaurant but also the only beach on Loch Ness and long- time resident Nessie spotter Steve Feltham! On a sunning day it is a lovely place to relax and just saviour the unique atmosphere and scenery of Loch Ness.