Many people looking for things to do when they visit Loch Ness only stick to the northern side of the loch. This is a huge mistake! You absolutely must visit the beautiful, historic south side too. It’s an amazing trip along the southern banks of the loch. The history of the area is second to none, ingrained in the people and places around the shore. You just have to know where to look to hear the real stories that will inspire and stay with you. So whether you are visiting on day trips from Edinburgh to Loch Ness, or coming from further afield, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
If you want to get to know the real Loch Ness, then follow our one-day itinerary. It’s an insiders guide to the side of Loch Ness that many people miss, where you can experience amazing views, get close to rare wildlife and get so close to soldiers preparing for battle that you can almost touch them.
If you visit Loch Ness, these are fantastic places to stop into. By starting and finishing in Inverness, you can be sure there is opportunity to stock up and have a warm bed to return to after your trip. You’ll be able to take in views of Inverness Castle, the Ness Islands and River Ness before
A view along Loch Ness
It only takes ten minutes to get from the centre of Inverness to the unspoiled wilderness of the Highlands. Heading south along the B852and stopping at Dores will allow you your first proper view of Loch Ness.
As you admire the scenery, take a moment to consider that there’s more water in this Loch than all the lakes of England and Wales combined. If you want more facts about the loch to impress friends and family, there’s plenty more here.
Dores Beach is home to Steve Feltham, otherwise known as the Nessie Hunter. Steve has been hunting for Nessie full time since 1991 and is a wealth of knowledge on the subject. This is a great opportunity to spot our mythical monster as you can see far down the length of the loch on a clear day.
Bird watching and a touch of history
Carry on south but on the B862, and take the road marked “Loch Ruthven Nature Reserve”. This area of water is a very special place for bird watchers. It is home to half the UK’s population of the Slavonian grebe, a beautiful and colourful bird. It is also very rare, but this area is an excellent place to spot one without causing any disturbance.
Continue eastward from Loch Ruthven before heading north onto the B851. Turn left when you get to a sign pointing towards Dunlichity. Follow this road until you reach a junction opposite a walled churchyard. This is your next destination.
It is an innocuous-looking graveyard but holds a fascinating chance to touch the history with your fingertips. This is a fascinating site in its own right, with a watchtower to protect against graverobbers built in 1820. However, this graveyard holds another secret.
The graveyard was where many soldiers met, before departing to the Battle of Culloden. At this point, they knew most of them would never return home. However, the wanted to give themselves the best chance of survival, and so sharpened their swords on some of the brick wall that surrounded the cemetery.
Amazingly, the marks the swords made are still visible today, and by touching them you can stand in the footsteps and feel a connection with the men who were about to fight to their deaths on a battlefield many miles away.
Camping in style at Loch Ness Shores
If you plan on camping on your trip to the Highlands, Loch Ness Shores is a spot you should book in advance. Open all year, this award-winning campsite is situated in a stunning location. Perched on the south side of the loch, it offers unforgettable views across the water, surrounded by trees and countryside. It’s not uncommon to spot red squirrels, as the area is teeming with wildlife. The site is also serious about environmentally friendly ways to camp. Its green credentials are boosted by solutions such as water-to-water geo-thermal, solar-thermal, and hydro-power to produce electricity.
Boleskin Burial Ground
Another cemetery that is worth stopping at is Boleskin Burial Ground. For fans of Outlander, this is a place you really must visit. It is the final resting place of all the Frasers of the region. It also contains a memorial to Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, who was the last man to be beheaded at the Tower of London. In Outlander, Lord Lovat is the grandfather of Jamie Fraser.
Another fascinating point of interest in this graveyard surrounds an event that happened in 1745. It is said that a hungry young boy stole a loaf of bread from a passing military convoy. The soldiers opened fire on the lad, and the bullet holes can still be seen on some gravestones to this day. Luckily, the boy survived!
Cows and canals
Hungry for lunch? Heading west towards Loch Duntelchaig and you will eventually rejoin the B852 alongside Loch Ness again. Keep an eye out by the roadside for a monument to geologist James Bryce, who died whilst surveying the nearby area.
A wonderful place to stop for lunch is The Camerons Tea Room and Farm Shop, near Foyes. Keep an eye out for amazing chandeliers made out of antlers, and an ever-growing collection of cycling jerseys! You might even get a chance to get up close with the highland cows and deer who live on the farm!
This is also a great opportunity to visit the Falls of Foyers. Admire a gorgeous 140ft waterfall which plunges into a gorge leading towards Loch Ness. So stunning are the falls that they inspired Robert Burns to compose a poem on them. What will they inspire in you?
Five miles before you come to Fort Augustus, you will come across the opportunity for a stunning view over the hills and lochs. 400m above sea level, you’ll be able to catch sight (on a clear day) of a prehistoric crannog, deserted townships and the remains of prehistoric stone houses.
Enjoy the views of Loch Ness as you continue to its most southerly tip, and enter Fort Augustus. This beautiful hamlet is famous for its canal and locks, and is a wonderful place to take a break and watch the barges move up and down the water. The Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre takes you through the history of the area.
In summer, you’ll often find outdoor stalls selling fresh Scottish strawberries. Some say these are the best berries in the world! Fort Augustus is a great place to pause and relax, with delicious Scottish food available. It’s also a perfect place to wander around and buy those all-important souvenirs for friends back home.
As you leave Fort Augustus, you’ll head northwards back in the direction of Inverness. There’s still loads to see though! Make sure you stop over at the old bridge at Invermoriston. This is a scenic area with a fast flowing river and a beautiful stone bridge. Called the Thomas Telford Bridge, it was built in 1813 as a way to improve road networks in the Highlands.
Your next stop will surely be one of the most photographed castles in the area – Urquhart Castle. Perched on the shore of Loch Ness, its fascinating history of wars and civil unrest is absorbing. Offering stunning views along the loch, it’s on every tourist’s must-see list.
Further along the A82 you will pass through the charming hamlet of Drumnadrochit, where you may enjoy the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. This five-star rated attraction will tell you everything you wanted to know about Loch Ness (and any mysterious inhabitants therein).
Heading further north, you will pass through Dochgarroch. A stop here is definitely worth it. Loch Ness by Jacobite offer legendary Loch Ness cruises, and you’ll find their newest departure point here. Even if you don’t fancy a trip on the water, the centre offers a cafe and shop for you to take a break. A stroll along the canal is also a great way to see more of the countryside.
Enjoying the whole of Loch Ness
And that concludes your full Loch Ness tour! This has only scratched the surface of the many sights to see along the area. If you have time, it’s a wonderful place to stop and explore your surroundings.
Perhaps you’ll see a Golden Eagle or deer? It’s a beautiful area, and you are sure to appreciate the sheer beauty of this wild side of the Highlands when you visit Loch Ness. Find out a bit more about the activities available in the area by looking at our itineraries page.