If you are planning a trip to Scotland, then you may be wondering if Loch Ness is worth visiting. This beautiful lake has been the source of mystery and legend for centuries, and it is definitely a must-see attraction for any visitor to Scotland. In this blog post, we will provide all the information you need to make a decision about whether or not Loch Ness is right for you. We will discuss what there is to see and do in Loch Ness, as well as tips for making the most of your visit. So, read on to learn more about this amazing Scottish landmark!
Some history about the legend of Loch Ness
The legend of Loch Ness dates back to the sixth century when St Columba reportedly encountered a “water beast” in the lake. Throughout the years, reports of mysterious sightings and unexplained phenomenon at Loch Ness have become legendary, leading it to be known as the home of Scotland’s most famous cryptid: the Loch Ness Monster.
From time to time, sightings will make headlines around the world, particularly when strange photographs or video footage surface from unexplainable sources. Despite these reports, no one has definitively proven its existence yet, leaving some believing that it is all a myth and others hoping that one day an actual photograph or film clip of the creature will finally be released.
Things to do in Loch Ness
Before you decide if you want to visit Loch Ness, you should know what kinds of activities are available there. Here are the 5 best things to do in Loch Ness.
Tip: below you see our map of Loch Ness. The highlights are marked on the map. You can make the map bigger by clicking on the top right corner. If you click on the star next to the title, you can save this map in your Google Maps account. On the map, you can show or hide different categories. You can then use this map to navigate when you are at Loch Ness.
#1 Visit Urquhart Castle
If you are looking for a true Scottish experience, then you must visit Urquhart Castle. This majestic castle stands proudly on the banks of Loch Ness and offers an incredible view over the loch. The ruins of this once great fortress have been standing since the 13th century and it is a wonderful place to explore. During your visit, you can walk the grounds and learn about its fascinating history at the visitor center.
You can wander through the majestic ruins of Urquhart Castle, which date back to 1230 and are filled with secrets from centuries past. Explore the old barracks and take a walk through the castle’s secret chambers. In addition, you can also admire breathtaking views of Loch Ness from the ramparts. The visitor centre also offers interesting activities such as archery demonstrations, falconry shows and storytelling sessions for children. There is plenty to keep visitors entertained at Urquhart Castle, making it well worth visiting if you are in Loch Ness!
You can park your car for free at Urquhart Castle. You can buy tickets at the entrance, or online via the official website if you want to skip the line. The tickets are £12 ($14.40) per person.
Tip: you should watch the video about Urquhart Castle at the visitor center before you go explore the castle ruins.
#2 Cruise at Loch Ness
The best way to fully appreciate the beauty of Loch Ness is from a boat. There are several companies that provide boat tours on the loch, allowing visitors to admire its stunning views and explore its depths. As you cruise along, you will get a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape, as well as close-up views of Urquhart Castle, mysterious islands and natural wildlife. The pleasant climate in Scotland makes it possible to enjoy a relaxing cruise almost all year round.
Most cruises depart from Clansman Harbour near Inverness and last roughly 45 minutes with stops at Urquhart Castle and other points of interest along the way. We recommend this particular cruise of Loch Ness because it is the most populair one to do. During this cruise you will have the chance to look for underwater happenings with the onboard sonar. Plus, you can relax and enjoy a Scottish snack and wee dram from the onboard bar.
#3 Stop at the viewpoints
One of the best things about driving around Loch Ness is that you can take in some breathtaking views from the various viewpoints along the way. There are several places that offer great vantage points over the loch and its surroundings, so it’s well worth taking a little time to explore them all.
The most popular spot is near Inverness, where you can admire views of Urquhart Castle and the lake itself. Other notable viewpoints include Clansman Harbour and Tower Point, both located on the north side of Loch Ness. The latter offers spectacular views down to Urquhart Bay and across to Fort Augustus. If you have enough time, it’s definitely worth making a pit stop at these viewpoints to soak in the stunning scenery. The best way to find these viewpoints is by using our map.
#4 Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition
After visiting Urquhart Castle and cruising on the loch, take some time to explore the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. This excellent museum is located just 6 minutes by car from Urquhart Castle and offers a comprehensive look at the history of Loch Ness. Through interactive displays and high-tech audio-visuals, you can learn all about the mysterious legends surrounding this famous loch. You will also get an insight into local wildlife and discover how scientists are using cutting-edge technology to uncover its secrets.
The exhibition also features a special underwater camera so visitors can observe real creatures living in the depths of Loch Ness for themselves. There is even 4D cinema experience that puts you right in the middle of an adventure story!
So, if you want to find out more about the history of Loch Ness, make sure you visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. Admission is £9.95 ($11.24) per person and can be bought at the entrance or online via the website of Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition.
#5 Aldourie Castle
If you are looking for a unique experience in Loch Ness, then Aldourie Castle is the right place to visit. This majestic castle dates back to 1626 and stands as one of Scotland’s most impressive historic buildings. It offers visitors a chance to admire its beautiful architecture and explore its rich history.
During your visit at Aldourie Castle, you can enjoy guided tours that provide an insightful look into the lives of past generations. In addition, there are plenty of interactive displays that let you get hands-on with artifacts from centuries ago. You will also have the opportunity to try traditional Scottish meals prepared by the castle’s chefs!
Aldourie Castle is surrounded by lush gardens and stunning views of Loch Ness and the surrounding countryside. The castle’s convenient location makes it easy to explore other nearby attractions such as Urquhart Castle and Inverness.
For specific information about visiting Aldourie Castle we recommend reading their official website.
Our experience and opinion about Loch Ness
Exploring the largest loch of Scotland, Loch Ness, was great. We visited Loch Ness when we travelled from Cairngorm National Park to Black Isle to start the NC500. Although it meant an extra 1-hour drive and 3 hours of the day, we really enjoyed our detour to Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. We were taken aback by its beauty, with views of Urquhart Castle and the loch itself.
We briefly visited Loch Ness Center & Exhibition and Aldourie Castle to get an impression but did not want to lose too much time.
Is Loch Ness worth visiting?
It all depends on your itinerary. When journeying between Edinburgh/Cairngorm and Inverness, or from Inverness to Fort William, you’ll find yourself conveniently close to Loch Ness – allowing for a brief exploration without sacrificing too much of your schedule! You can easily savor the sights at Loch Ness within three hours or less.
If you’re only planning to explore Loch Ness and not visit other nearby attractions, then it’s probably wiser to spend more time in locations like Skye, Fort William or Loch Lomond instead. It is therefore not advisable to drive all the way for Loch Ness.
Visit it independent or with a tour?
If you only want to visit Urquhart Castle, stop at the viewpoints and enjoy the lake you can do it independent withtout any problem. We did this and we liked it.
If you want to go on a cruise, we recommend that you follow a tour. It is not possible to do it independently. You have the option of doing the cruise with a tour or visiting Urquhart and the cruise with a tour. Check the links for more information.
Tips of good places where you can eat near Loch Ness
Ness Deli is a good place to eat near Rogart Castle. You can order quiches of the day for £9 ($10,80).
The Loch Ness Inn is another option to order good burgers. Inverness also has many restaurants suitable for all budgets and tastes.
Where to stay in Loch Ness
If you visit Loch Ness during the morning like us it is not needed to stay in Loch Ness. If you however visit Loch Ness later during the day it is better to stay for one night close to Loch Ness.
Accommodation are fully booked quickly , especially during peak seasons. Therefore, it is important to book at least several months in advance.
Loch Ness Inn is a good accommodation to stay. It offers comfortable, well-equipped rooms with views of the loch and surrounding countryside. The inn also features a restaurant that serves delicious pub grub and locally sourced seafood dishes. Loch Ness Clansman Hotel is an excellent option when Loch Ness Inn is fully booked. This stunning hotel is set on the banks of the loch and boasts luxurious rooms with private balconies overlooking the water.
Tip campervan: if you visit Loch Ness in the morning and you follow our itinerary, you start after visiting Loch Ness the roadtrip NC500, therefore it is recommended to stay at Fortrose Bay Campsite, which is located near the Black Isle. Loch Ness Bay Camping is a good option if you want to stay near Loch Ness.
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Transport in Loch Ness
Exploring Loch Ness is difficult challenge when you do not travel with a car. There are not that much of bus stops and plenty of highways that dominate the area.
If you travel to Scotland by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.
Traveling to Scotland with a motorhome is the perfect way to experience this beautiful country! With IndieCampers you get an excellent motorhome with high quality and prices that are budget friendly. We really liked it, everything went as planned – even better than expected due to their exceptional service.
How to get to Loch Ness
The easiest way to get to Loch Ness is by car. The nearest city is Inverness, which can be reached from Edinburgh in about three and a half hours. From there you can take the A82 northward toward Fort William.
You can also take public buses from cities such as Inverness or Aberdeen which will drop off at locations near the lake. But to be honest we do not recommend this option. There are various tour companies that offer day trips and cruise packages that provide transportation to and around Loch Ness. If you do not have another option, this tour is the best one to find.
Travel time from the most populair places to Loch Ness (Urquhart Castle) are:
- Edinburgh to Loch Ness: 3 hours and 30 minutes | 174 miles / 280 km
- Inverness to Loch Ness: 30 minutes | 17 miles / 27 km
- Glasgow to Loch Ness: 3 hours and 30 minutes | 186 miles / 300 km
- Aviemore to Loch Ness: 1 hour and 30 minutes | 55 miles / 89 km
- Fort William to Loch Ness: 1 hour and 10 minutes | 48 miles / 77 km
Best time to visit Loch Ness
The best time to visit Loch Ness is during the summer months when the weather is mild and the days are long. The sunsets over the lake are breathtaking and the cool breeze brings a refreshing atmosphere. From April to October, temperatures range from 16°C (60°F) to 21°C (70°F), making it an ideal time for sightseeing, walking and outdoor activities.
If you plan to go on a cruise or visit Urquhart castle, it is recommended to do that during the summer months when the lake is calm, and the weather is pleasant. The peak season for visitors runs from May to August so make sure to book your tickets in advance if you want to avoid the crowds.
If you don’t mind cooler temperatures, visiting Loch Ness in winter is also a great option. Temperatures average at 8°C (46°F) during the day, but snow and rain can make some of the roads impassable so check weather conditions before setting out on your journey.
Do you want to see more of Scotland?
Most people visit Loch Ness during the day and continue their journey. We traveled from Loch Ness to Black Isle, where we started the NC500. The NC500 is a road trip of 500 miles where you can see some of the most impressive landscapes in Scotland. If you want to know more about this road trip, read our North coast 500 itinerary 5 days article for all the tips.
When you’re looking for inspiration to create your own itinerary in Scotland, our 3-week Scotland itinerary is a great starting point. You can also explore the majestic beauty of Scotland without having to commit to the entire NC500 route by traveling to Isle of Skye and Fort William.
What do you think of Loch Ness? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Disclaimer: the prices mentioned in this article may differ from the current situation. We regularly update our articles. Would you like to help us to provide to best possible insights to help other travelers leave a comment with the latest information. Thanks!
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