Drumnadrochit is a small rural village about 30 minutes drive south of Inverness, perfectly placed on the banks of Loch Ness. This Loch Ness village is said to have its very own microclimate tucked away in sunny Glen Urquhart, a natural valley which is surrounded by heather and tree covered hills.
The village is not only an easy day trip from Inverness but it’s also an ideal place to visit if you are walking the scenic Great Glen Way or travelling by car on the popular A82 tourist route that links Inverness to Fort William and Skye.
Drumnadrochit – referred to as “Drum” by locals” – offers you a choice of three pubs which all serve excellent food and a great range of malt whiskies. There are also a couple of superb cafes, a small supermarket (the Coop), a petrol station, a post office and plenty of places to stay overnight, including 3 hotels. We now call Drumnadrochit home and will share with you everything you need to know to make the most out of your visit!
How to get to Drumnadrochit
Unfortunately there is no train option, but there are plenty of buses which leave regularly from Inverness bus station. The buses either stop at the post office on the Village Green or at a shelter near the Coop supermarket.
The 919 Citylink service to Fort William, the 917 Citylink service to Skye and Stagecoach bus number 17 all stop in Drumnadrochit. The journey takes around 30 minutes from Inverness and it’s about the same in the car. If you decide to take a taxi you should expect to pay £35-£45 on average.
If you are driving from Inverness the road is very scenic, the A82 follows the shores of Loch Ness and there are plenty of places to pull over to take photos along the way.
Become a Believer at The Loch Ness Centre
You can’t miss the impressive and ornate Victorian building, that is the Loch Ness Center, as you enter Drumnadrochit from Inverness. The whole centre has recently benefited from a major renovation completed in spring 2023.
Inside, there is a 60 minute immersive experience which goes back 500 million years, that tells the many stories of Loch Ness and its famous monster named Nessie. Become a believer, as both locals and scientists explain their facinating theories based on real experiences and research. We recently visited following the refurbishment and thought it was a fantastic experience, a must if you’re visiting Drumnadrochit. The centre is now run by the same company that manages the “Real Mary King’s Close” in Edinburgh.
If you feel brave enough, why not consider a voyage on Deepscan with Captain Matheson? The boat trip lasts around an hour and gives you the opportunity to spot Nessie for yourself using the hi tech sonar equipment on board. Click here to book your tickets.
Discover Urquhart Castle
This magnificent castle is the 3rd most visited castle in Scotland and is also one of the most photographed appearing on numerous postcards. The romantic ruins are situated on a grassy headland overlooking Loch Ness and undoubtedly make for one of the most photogenic scenes in Scotland.
There has been a castle on this site since the 13th century and in the 14th century it became an important fortification during the wars of Scottish independence. It survived many raids during conflicts over the years, being attacked and then rebuilt. The decaying structure that you see today is a result of it being deliberately vandalised in 1692, to ensure that the Jacobites didn’t use it to their advantage.
Urquhart Castle is located 2 km south of Drumnadrochit and in the busy summer months parking at the castle itself is sometimes not possible. But there is a temporary overflow car just down the hill from the castle opposite the campsite, then it’s a walk up the hill to the entrance. Another popular choice is to take a trip boat on Loch Ness, which departs from the Clansman Hotel or Dochgarroch, where the An Talla restaurant is located (see below).
Once inside you will find an excellent visitor centre, which houses a gift shop, a small museum (with artefacts found at the castle), a theatre (that shows a short film about the castle’s history) and a glass walled cafe with an impressive view down Loch Ness. We really enjoyed the informative film that brought the history and the castle alive and were impressed by the range of local quality crafts available to buy in the giftshop.
Due to the popularity of the castle it’s always a good idea to book ahead whatever the time of year to prevent disappointment. The castle is managed and maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, to book your tickets or find out more please click here.
A Cruise on Loch Ness
Since you’re in such close proximity to the renowned Loch, it would truly be a missed opportunity to not partake in a boat excursion. Thankfully, there are numerous choices available for embarking on cruises across the impressive Loch Ness. Among these options, the Jacobite Cruises stand out as one of the favourites, boasting a remarkable 40-year history. Their acclaimed cruises attract nearly 300,000 visitors annually, all aboard their spacious French catamarans.
Loch Ness by Jacobite Cruises
→ 50 minute Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle Cruise from the Clansman Harbour
Set sail from the Clansman Harbour (a 5 minute drive from Drumnadrochit) and enjoy a leisurely ride across the iconic loch. As you soak in the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands, the knowledgeable guides on board provide fascinating insights into the history and legends surrounding Loch Ness. You’ll get a great view of Urquhart Castle although you won’t be able to step ashore. Choose the cruise below if you’d like to spend time exploring the ruins of the castle.
→ 2.5hrs Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle visit from the Clansman Harbour
This cruise is similar to the above one, however, the highlight of this cruise is a 75 minute visit to the historic Urquhart Castle, where you’ll have the opportunity to explore the ruins and marvel at its strategic location overlooking the loch.
It’s worth noting that parking can be difficult at the Clansman Harbour during peak season. We, personally, didn’t enjoy the experience when we visited in August and as such, would choose a cruise that leaves from An Talla if visiting during the summer months. An Talla is a short 15 minute drive from Drumnadrochit and has a fantastic restaurant, café, gift shop and a very large car park!
→ 2hr Loch Ness, Caledonian Canal & Urquhart Castle Cruise from An Talla (Dochgarroch)
As mentioned above, this cruise leaves from Dochgarroch where you’ll find the lovely An Talla complex. Parking is very easy and you can combine your visit with a walk along the Caledonian Canal, a bite to eat in the An Talla restaurant and if you’re lucky, you might even get to see the friendly Highland cows in the neighbouring field. This cruise does not stop at Urquhart Castle, however, you’ll get to enjoy some lovely views of the ruins from the lochside.
Loch Ness Cruises
If you fancy a spot of Nessie hunting but don’t fancy the crowds on the Jacobite big trip boats then Loch Ness Cruises is for you. The boat is a 12 metre long fairline 40 and the skimmer is a Highlander with local knowledge that is available in 20 languages.
To increase your chances of seeing Nessie the boat is fitted with 3D deep sonar equipment and radar. All 12 passengers on board have space to sit in the heated cabin with large panoramic windows that are perfect for that 360 degree view of Loch Ness.
The cruise departs from the pick up point at celtic crafts gift shop in Drumnadrochit, then it’s off to the harbour to start your voyage.You will be shown where the deepest point in the Loch is, John Cobb’s marker posts (see below) and of course hear some spooky stories about Urquhart Castle.
To find out more or make a booking click here.
Relax on the Village Green
No trip to Drumnadrochit is complete without visiting the old green, the beating heart of the village. This was once the site where local farmers sold their cattle and sheep. Surrounded by a range of attractive historic buildings including the famous Fiddlers pub, the Ness Deli and the Post Office, this is the place to be. On a sunny day, there are picnic benches to enjoy and don’t be surprised to find yourself being serenaded by bagpipes in true Highland style. The centrepiece of this green space is the floral model of Urquhart castle, which makes for a great photo backdrop.
Buy Local Crafts at Market on the Green
Every 2nd Saturday between April and September, the community market appears, selling all sorts of fantastic locally made products, from cakes to jewellery. So why not support a local craftsperson by indulging in some holiday gifts to take home. Or enjoy it immediately if it’s a delicious cake from the French style patisserie O’Délice, one of our favourites.
Parking is easy right across the road from Fiddlers at the Hub, which also provides clean toilets and a facility to fill your drinking water bottle.
Art at Drum Farm Gallery & Gift Shop
This is a newly established art gallery and gift shop located in the heart of Drumnadrochit next to the Village Green. It features work by owner and artist Karen Price alongside other talented local makers’ pop-up shops. Karen uses a needle felting technique to create a whole range of masterpieces. Expect to see cute red roofed crofts, hairy highland coos and purple thistles featuring in her paintings and needle work. Each creation is unique and made with love at her art studio in the wilds of Glen Affric.
→ To find out more click here.
Watch a Shinty Game
The game of shinty is unique to the Scottish Highlands and involves hitting a ball with a stick. It is thought to have its origins linked to the 2000 year old Irish game of hurling and many people believe that Canadian/American ice hockey has its roots in shinty. The belief is that Scottish emigrants took their beloved game with them and it was adapted in their new homeland.
There is one thing for sure though and that is this is a great game for spectators! There are very few rules and the ball and stick can be used high in the air unlike field hockey. You will notice that players have full face masks just like ice hockey for protection.
Drumnadrochit has a thriving shinty club that’s been around since 1885! It plays an important role in the community with all ages training several times a week come rain or shine. Matches are played on the sports pitch – Blairbeg Park – on the opposite side of the road from the Coop. There is a great atmosphere and a real community feel. Click here to find out about events and matches.
Walks at Craigmonie & Balmacaan Woods
These neighbouring woods are delightful to visit and were once the private gardens for the now demolished grand Balmacaan house. Nowadays they are open to the public to explore for free. There is a generous network of well sign-posted paths which guide you through the impressive flora of rhododendrons, Scots pine and redwoods. If you are lucky you might even spot a pine marten or deer, a fairly common site in this area.
Perhaps the best part of visiting the woods are the spectacular views over Loch Ness and the surrounding area, particularly if you happen to visit at sunrise. Both the Milton and Craigmonie walking trails take you high in the hills above Drumnadrochit and are around 2.5kms. However, our favourite is the Craigmonie path which features a rocky viewpoint locally known as “Queen Mary’s Rock” or to give its viking name, Creag Monaidh. Legend has it that a Viking prince once died here after being wounded in battle 1000 years ago and in slightly more recent times, it’s said that executions were carried out here. Either way it’s a great place for a picnic or to take a break on the bench with a view!
To find out more about Craigmonie Woods and to download the route map please click here, and for Balmacaan Woods click here. There is no parking directly adjacent to the woods, but if you park at the Hub in the centre of Drumnadrochit it’s about a 500 metres walk.
Get dizzy at the Falls of Divach
This attractive waterfall is only 3 kms from Drumnadrochit. Turn off the A82 at Balmacaan Road, then follow the steep narrow winding lane past sheep-filled fields, to Divach. There is an impressive view of Loch Ness on the way.
There is a small car park on the right, sign posted by the forestry commission, then it’s a lovely stroll downhill along a path lined with oak trees. The water cascades 30 metres down a rocky cliff until it crashes into a clear water stream below, a loud thundering torrent when rainfall is high. It’s not uncommon to find people enjoying a zen picnic at the viewing area with the watery orchestra playing in the background.
John Cobb Memorial
In 1952, John Cobb, a wealthy banker from London, chose Loch Ness as a location to break the world water speed record, unfortunately it didn’t go to plan. On 26th September, his vessel, the crusader, hit a rogue wave which catapulted him at great speed into the loch. He was instantly killed.
In the build up to the attempt, John Cobb became part of the community constructing a special boat house at Temple Pier and hiring a local support team. Even the Queen Mother came to watch some practice runs. After his death, locals erected a cairn memorial close to the place where the accident happened. You can see it on your left shortly after passing Urquhart Castle as you head south towards Fort Augustus.
Loch Ness Clay Works Pottery in Bunloit
This is a fabulous, off the beaten track, place to visit! The pottery and walkers cafe is set in 200 acres of mature woodland and the view high on the hill is really impressive. The artisan pottery is handmade by Rebekah Allan and features beautiful natural blue, green and earth coloured glazes. The café is really lovely and well worth the detour – you can choose to sit inside amongst all the pottery or in the lovely garden where you can relax with a coffee and a homemade cake on a summer’s day.
The pottery is actually located in Bunloit which is about a 15 minute drive from Drumnadrochit. To get there is an adventure in itself! Heading south on the A82, turn right AFTER you have crossed the bridge (after the Esso Garage) and follow this road uphill (lots of steep, winding bends) and just keep going for about 6kms until you reach the end of the track and can go no further! You’ll find a small car park on your right and it’s then a short 200 yard walk to pottery. It’s right on the Great Glen Way so it makes for a perfect place to stop if you’re doing the route. There’s also a mountain walk that starts from there – it takes several hours and you’ll be rewarded with some incredible panoramic views .
→ Find out more about the pottery here.
The Loch Ness Hub and Travel
The hub is located right in the centre of Drumnadrochit and includes a large free car park and toilets. This small community-run tourist office also offers baggage transfer to Inverness, Fort Augustus, Fort William and Aviemore. Perfect if you are doing the Great Glen Way or the Affric Kintail Way. There is also an option to hire E bikes from April to November if you fancy exploring the Loch Ness area on two wheels.
If you are planning to explore the local area by foot then the Hub will be able to provide you with the ideal map and guide book to make the expedition go smoothly. Or how about a Highland Coo tour? The tour gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with this iconic highland beast at a nearby farm with panoramic views of Loch Ness. Don’t forget to pick up a little bit of Great Glen merch before you leave, there is a super selection of T Shirts and hoodies to choose from.
→ To find out more about the hub click here.
Places to eat & drink in Drumnadrochit
We’ve written a detailed post about the best places to eat and drink in Drumnadrochit, however, here’s a quick round-up of what’s on offer in the village:
- There are 3 pubs in Drumnadrochit: the Fiddler’s Rest Bar, The Loch Ness Inn bar and the Benleva Hotel bar
- There are 3 tea-rooms which offer great coffee and cake along with tasty soup & sandwich meals: Ness Deli (on the Village Green), Tea & Temptations at the Village Store (opposite Ness Deli) and Quila Cridh (located on the outskirts of Drumnadrochit about 2 minutes after leaving the village on your left)
- There are 5 take-aways: a great Chinese take-away “Taste of China” (please note, they only accept cash), Fiddler’s Food truck (fantastic fish& chips), The Italian Job for some amazing Italian wood-fired pizzas (next to the Coop), a fish & chips shop (also next to the Coop) and a great Italian ice-cream take-away truck next to the Loch Ness Centre called “Miele’s gelateria“
- There are several restaurants: the Loch Ness Inn, Fiddler’s Highland restaurant, the Italian Job, The Benleva restaurant
Events in Drumnadrochit
Glen Urquhart Highland Games [last Saturday in August]
The Glen Urquhart Highland Games are a must if you’re visiting the area at the end of August! They take place every year on the last Saturday of August. The event draws both locals and visitors alike to partake in a day filled with traditional Scottish games, music, dancing, and camaraderie. From the spectacle of caber tossing and hammer throwing to the lively sounds of bagpipes echoing through the glen, the games offer a genuine immersion into Scotland’s rich history and traditions.
Walks around Drumnadrochit
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to walking in and around Drumnadrochit. Whether you are looking for a brief afternoon stroll or a once in a lifetime mountain hike you are in the right place.
Urquhart Bay Woods
This small wood is located in Drumnadrochit and is on the Loch Ness shore. There are well marked paths through woodland that run next to fast flowing streams which flow into Loch Ness. The path network extends to around 2 kms and it takes roughly 45 minutes to get around. It’s easy going as the surface is fairly smooth and the terrain is almost completely flat. There is a convenient car park opposite the start of the walk.
→ Find out more here.
Craigmonie Woods & Viewpoint
As mentioned earlier in this post, one of the best views of Loch Ness is from the viewpoint in Craigmonie Woods. To get there park at the Hub and walk past the turn off to the school until you see signs for Craigmonie Woods. It’s about a 1 km climb uphill to get to the viewpoint, also known as Queen Mary’s rock, but wow is it worth it! There is a spectacular view through the trees of the village below and Loch Ness beyond.
→ Find out more here.
The Coilte loop walk is more of a hike than a walk as there are steep hills and rough terrain to overcome, although the reward is an amazing unspoilt view over Loch Ness and the hills beyond. In total, it’s around 10 kms. To get to the start, follow signs for Divach Falls and then go right up the fire road before the stone bridge. The walk ends in Craigmonie Woods and the best place to park is the Hub near the Village Green.
Affric Kintail Way
This stunning trek runs from Drumnadrochit in the East to Morvich on the Western seaboard. The cross country walk/MTB trail is 44 miles long and passes through Corrimony, Cannich and Glen Affric.
→ Find out more here.
Great Glen Way
The famous and very popular Great Glen Way runs from Fort William to Inverness and is a total of 79 miles in length. The route passes next to the Caledonian Canal, Loch Ness and through the hills. Most people can complete the walk in a maximum of 7 days with some lovely places to stay overnight.
→ Find out more here.
Places to Visit Near Drumnadrochit
You’re spoilt for choice if you’re looking for places to visit near Drumnadrochit. The village is a great place to base yourself if you’re planning to explore the area around Loch Ness and towards Glen Affric. You’re also just over an hour from Eilean Donan Castle and 1.5 hrs from the magical Isle of Skye.
Abriachan Forest [15 mins]
If you fancy getting in touch with nature then it’s only about a 15 minute drive north of Drumnadrochit to visit the Abriachan Forest Trust. This place is amazing for both kids and adults with clearly marked MTB and walking trails through gorgeous woodland. There are some fantastic structures to discover along the way including tree houses and play installations.
There is an honesty box for eggs and firewood, plus stone built BBQs for a little alfresco dining. But if you prefer someone else to the cooking then head to the campsite cafe to be spoiled with all manner of tasty goodies.
→ To find out more click here.
Corrimony Chambered Cairn [15 mins]
The remains of Corrimony Cairn are located in stunning Glen Urquhart, just off the main road to Cannich from Drumnadrochit. The 4000 year old Cairn features in the Outlander series – if this interests you then watch the episode called ‘An Echo in the Bone’.
In reality it is a ‘Clava’ type of cairn that dates from the bronze age and was thought to be constructed as a burial tomb for an important member of the tribe. Considering the age of the cairn, there is a fair amount still to see, including standing stones, the walls and the cairn-like entrance which you can crawl into. The site is managed by Historic Scotland and entry is free. Parking is located nearby.
→ To learn more about the history click here.
Glen Affric [30-40 mins]
This glen is a true gem in the Highlands for anyone that loves the outdoors. The wild and rugged scenery is just spectacular, in all seasons. In the winter, you will see snow on the surrounding peaks and in the summer, gorgeous purple heather carpets the hillsides.The landscape is a melange of crystal clear lochs, moody moorlands and fairy tale pine woods. It always reminds us of the Canadian wilderness, minus the bears thankfully.
When it comes to fauna, you might see red deer, ospreys and otters. There is a good selection of well marked paths that take you over wooden bridges, next to fast flowing rivers and up into the beautiful Scottish hills. Our favourite is the 18 km walk around Loch Affric that passes close to one of Scotland’s most remote youth hostels. Perfect if you are looking for a quiet night and unique experience. If you are interested in spending a night at the youth hostel click here.
→ To find out more about Glen Affric click here.
Invermoriston [20 mins]
It’s a short drive along the A82 towards Fort Augustus to discover the picture postcard beauty of Invermoriston. There is a stunning river walk that takes in a Victorian summer house and an attractive series of cascades, although the cherry on the cake is the ancient stone bridge that crosses the river Moriston.
Parking isn’t a problem as there is a large area complete with picnic tables next to the village hall. Other facilities in the village also include a general store, a cafe and the superb Glenmoriston Arms Hotel.
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre [30 mins]
Located just 10 minutes from Invermoriston (see above) or 30 minutes from Drumnadrochit on the Skye Road, you’ll find the impressive architect designed Dundreggan Rewilding Centre. On arrival there is a large car park with car charging points.
Outside there is an excellent children’s play park that uses natural materials to create a fun area for active little ones. A pond has been built for aquatic life to thrive in and there is wooden viewing platform complete with a sturdy bench to relax on. If you feel like a little exercise, there are 4 clearly marked walking routes that range from 1km to 4kms, the latter one being quite rocky and steep, but with an incredible view of Binnilidh Bheag.
Inside there is a children’s education area with colouring pens and some hands-on flora and fauna to play with. There are also some really interesting interactive display boards explaining the rewilding concept, which are great for both adults and kids alike. Our favourite part though is the amazing café that serves delicious meals and locally made cakes from Fort Augustus.
If rewilding interests you then I recommend booking an activity or a walking tour to discover more about the nature that surrounds this very special centre.
The centre also has its own accommodation (20 bedrooms), ideal if you are looking for an overnight stay in the area. The rooms are modern and there is excellent communal space to relax in after a tough day hiking in the wild.
Fort Augustus [30 mins]
This lochside village is always bustling with tourists, with many coming to take a monster hunting boat trip or to see the impressive Caledonian Canal system of locks. For such a small place there is a good selection of places to stay, cafes and restaurants. We recommend the gorgeous Lovat Hotel for a touch of luxury. Check here for availibility if you fancy treating yourself to an overnight stay.
There is a large car park with toilets, next to the petrol station as you enter Fort Augustus from the Inverness direction. Then it’s a short walk over a stone bridge to visit the brilliant and informative Canal Centre, which also has a lovely waterside cafe.
It’s fun ‘people watching’ as you walk along next to the canal and out towards the shore of Loch Ness. For the best photo opportunity head towards the boat house restaurant for an amazing view all the way down Loch Ness.
Farm Ness [15 mins]
Just off the A82 and about 15 minutes from Drumnadrochit is a farm shop with a difference. This place is a perfect day out if you have a young family. The owners (who feature on the TV programme ‘This Farming life’), run a nearby farm and so many things you see on the shelves including the meat are from just down the road. I recommend trying the burger van for some proper farm to fork tastiness!
In recent years, the owners have developed the site into a small family friendly farm park, which includes an amazing play area, a food truck and meet the animals area. There is a sand pit, a bale mountain, pedal tractors, a straw pit and a jelly belly. And watch out for special events at halloween, christmas and during the summer holidays.
To find out more click here.
An Talla Restaurant and the Caledonian Canal [15 mins]
In old gaelic, “an talla” means the “gathering place”, a very fitting name for this ever popular tourist hub. In the summer, the Inverness open top tourist bus stops here and the Jacobite cruise boats leave from the lock just outside to visit Urquhart Castle. But don’t worry, there is plenty of space to park and enjoy a wander around this beautiful location.
On site, there is a great restaurant that is very popular for lunch or just coffee and cake. If the weather is kind you can eat alfresco on the classy terrace. And if you are really feeling the heat, then you have to try a delicious ice cream from Mieles Gelateria, an authentic italian ice cream maker.
Adjoining the restaurant is an upmarket gift shop selling many local crafts such as pottery, glassware, textiles and artworks. After a spot of high octane retail therapy, why not enjoy a tranquil walk next to the canal watching the boats slowly pass by. Or soak up the drama of Dochgarroch Lock operating its gates open and close, while boats rise and fall.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our round up of things to do in Drumnadrochit and beyond. As you can see, there’s so much to do in and around this quaint village. Let us know in the comments what your favourite Drumnadrochit attraction is?