How the Ice Age moulded Inverness and Loch Ness

Explore interesting places where the ice age in Scotland left its mark around Inverness

Here, the area around Inverness and Loch Ness has got lots to offer for those interested in history. For example, amazing historic sites like Urquhart Castle, Fort George and Cawdor Castle are to name but a few of the popular sites. However, the Inverness and Loch Ness landscape is the footprint left behind from the fascinating period of ‘The Ice Age ‘. So let’s step back in time and find out about how this place of beauty became what it is today.

A view of Loch Ness from a steep bank

Loch Ness and the Ice Age

Did you know that Loch Ness itself is a direct result of the last Ice Age? Interestingly, it and was formed by the melting waters of a huge glacier. And, of course, some say that this is when Nessie got trapped in the Loch. As a result, he has become one of our most famous local residents since!

Furthermore, if you look along the shores of Loch Ness from the water, you can still see ‘raised beaches’. The cause of these ‘raised beaches’ is what scientist call ‘isostatic rebound’. To explain, this was when heavy glaciers melted after the last ice age causing the land to rise up. Thereupon, creating these ‘raised beaches’ showing where the level of the Loch once was. So now you can visit this iconic Loch and understand how its form evolved.

A beach at Loch Ness

The Great Glen Glaciers

The glaciers that once filled the Great Glen have left their mark in other places, too. Near the village of Farr you will find the Esker Trail at Littlemill, a very pleasant walk from the Forestry Commission car park. Interestingly, the Esker ridge here was formed by a river running underneath the glacier, leaving behind sand and gravel. The little lochs called kettleholes were also left behind by the retreating glacier. Here, you can choose from three different walks around Littlemill. One of these takes you past the working quarry where a modern-day business takes advantage of the sand and gravel left by the glacier!

An esker and kettlehole at Littlemill

Littlemill Esker and Kettle Hole Trail © Copyright valenta and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Eskers and Kettleholes

These eskers (long winding ridges formed through glaciation) and kettleholes (lochs left behind as a result of glaciation) can also be found near Torvean and Tomnahurich on the outskirts of Inverness. Today one of these eskers, Tomnahurich Hill, is the site of a fascinating 19th-century cemetery. And, a lovely walk leads all the way to the top. Although parts of the climb can be steep, it is well worth it for the views. And from this vantage point, you can see the land before you. All the stunning footprint of glaciation.

Tomnahurich Hill which is an esker made from glaciation

Caledonian Canal at Tomnahurich, Inverness © Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

So even though the ice age might be ancient history, you will still find amazing little places like these all around Inverness and Loch Ness. See what you can find and share with us. We hope we’ve given you some ideas about where to look!