Most people generally head to the usual suspects when visiting Loch Ness – Urquhart Castle, the Loch Ness Visitor Centre, Fort Augustus – however, there is so much more to see around this famous expanse of water. We actually live on Loch Ness and so know this area rather well! We will be concentrating on places, walks, historic buildings that are actually located around Loch Ness, let’s call it a Loch Ness Loop. We have other posts for areas close to Loch Ness such as our detailed guide Drumnadrochit, Glen Affric, Fort Augustus and ideas for day trips from Inverness.
So if you’re planning to visit Loch Ness, you could pick and choose a few of the places listed below or you could drive all the way around Loch Ness in one go which would involve two hours driving time plus lots of stops for visits. It really depends on the time you have and on the type of traveller you are. If you don’t fancy driving, we strongly recommend this tour which will take you all the way round Loch Ness or this smaller group tour with Rabbies which will go on a similar circuit.
If you’re a keen walker, you will be absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to walks around Loch Ness – short forest walks, panoramic vistas or longer-distance walks such as Loch Ness 360° (clue is in the name), the Great Glen Way (walk from Fort William to Inverness) or the South Loch Ness Trail (walk from Fort William to Inverness on the south side of Loch Ness). We’ll also cover some of the best places to see Loch Ness. So read on for a comprehensive guide of things to do at Loch Ness.
In This Post You Will Find:
Travelling Anti clockwise from Inverness
For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll work our way around Loch Ness going anti-clockwise from Inverness. We’ve also created a handy map with all the various sites to visit highlighted below. So read on to discover some of our favourite things to do on Loch Ness.
Things to do on North Loch Ness
People refer to the more touristy side of the loch as “North” Loch Ness (although if you check out the map below, it looks more like ‘west’ Loch Ness) and the wilder, more tranquil side as “South” Loch Ness (or ‘east’ Loch Ness). In fact, you may be wondering which side of Loch Ness is best and hopefully after reading this guide, you’ll discover which side appeals more to you as it very much depends on your interests and whether you’re looking for off the beaten track or not. So let’s start off with the ‘north’ side and find out what there is to discover. You may be surprised to find there’s a lot more to it than the main tourist sites.
Cruise of Loch Ness from Dochgarroch Lock or An Talla (Jacobite Cruises)
Although this is not technically ‘on’ Loch Ness, it’s a great place to jump aboard the Jacobite cruise and enjoy a wee sail on the famous Loch. There’s a very large car park, a lovely restaurant and gift shop at An Talla. You can also enjoy a walk along the Caledonian Canal before jumping aboard a cruise boat. We personally think this is a great place to pick up the Jacobite cruise as the parking is very easy compared to other departure points on Loch Ness.
Abriachan Forest Trails
Drive south along the A82 which follows Loch Ness and shortly after the village of “Lochend”, you’ll see a turning for Abriachan. If you’re coming from the south, eg. Fort Augustus, you’ll need to use the turning circle on the opposite side of the road as the turn is too sharp to take otherwise. You will then follow a very steep road up to Abriachan. There’s a large car park once you get there and you’ll find various picnic areas, a fantastic playpark for the little ones and plenty of walking and mountain biking trails. The community bought 540 hectares of forest and land from Forest Enterprise back in 1998 and it has since been managed by the Abriachan Forest Trust. It’s a really lovely spot to spend some time outdoors and in nature and there’s even a small café. The Great Glen Way passes through Abriachan Forest if you’re considering this long-distance walk.
Loch Ness Visitor Centre at Drumnadrochit
Home to the Loch Ness visitor centre, Drumnadrochit, is a small Highland village located about 25 minutes south of Inverness on the A82. Discover all there is to know about the famous Loch Ness monster legend by stopping off at the Loch Ness Visitor Centre. There is of course, more to Drumnadrochit than Nessie. We highly recommend you park up in the town’s main car park and take a wander across to the village green and take in the pleasant holiday atmosphere. There’s always a buzz in the village (except maybe during January and February). There’s the very helpful folk at the Loch Ness Hub, a tourist information centre, a community-owned operation. There’s plenty of options for eating and drinking – we often enjoy lunch at Ness Deli, a wee dram at Fiddler’s and fish & chips at the Loch Ness Inn which is located on your way out of the village (heading towards Urquhart Castle). Check out this post for places to eat in Drumnadrochit.
History at Urquhart Castle
One of the main Loch Ness attractions! Just 2 miles south of the village of Drumnadrochit, you’ll find the iconic Urquhart Castle, the ruins of a 13th century castle. It’s one of the most visited castles in Scotland and sits proudly on a rocky promontory overlooking Loch Ness. You can find out about the history of the castle in the visitor centre. There is a car park just outside the castle that provides ample space for you to park up. You can also reach the castle on foot from Drumnadrochit (about a 30 minute walk). Make sure you read our detailed post full of top tips for visiting Urquhart Castle.
Invermoriston is a cute little village which has some lovely walks by the river or up the hill. Park up at the main car park on your left as you arrive in the village from the north (click here to open up the exact location on googlemaps). From there you can head straight into the woods and walk down to the summer house. You’ll get a stunning view of the river and falls from this enchanting stone house. We love going there in the autumn as the colours are just gorgeous (check out our Instagram post here!). You can carry on for a longer walk from there or you can check out the old stone bridge which was designed by Thomas Telford. You can see the two bridges, old and new, from the summer house. They can easily be reached by rejoining the main road and heading left as though heading out of the village.
Another lovely walk takes you up the hill – join to the left of the Glenmoriston Arms hotel – where you’ll link up with the famous Great Glen Way. It’s a fairly steep ascent but you’ll be rewarded with the most stunning views of Loch Ness. We particularly enjoyed our walk to the Viewcatcher – check it out here!
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre
Veer slightly off course and head 10 minutes inland from Invermoriston to explore the recently opened Dundreggan Rewilding Centre. The impressive architect designed centre has some really interesting interactive display boards explaining the rewilding concept, which are great for both adults and kids alike. There’s also a children’s education area with colouring pens and some hands-on flora and fauna to play with along with some lovely outdoor walks ranging in distance and difficulty (1-4kms). Our favourite part though is the amazing café that serves delicious meals and locally made cakes from Fort Augustus.
If rewilding interests you then we recommend booking an activity or a walking tour to discover more about the nature that surrounds this very special centre.
Allt na Criche Trail
There is a lovely loop walk (around 3kms) in the woods about 10 minutes south of Invermoriston or just a couple of minutes north of Fort Augustus. Once you’ve parked up in the designated car park, follow the posts with white markings and enjoy the Allt na Criche trail. We found this to be a really magical setting with burns, cascades, woods and sweeping views across Loch Ness once you reached the highest point of the trail. You can also join the Great Glen Way from this walking trail if you’re looking to extend your walk.
Cherry Island viewpoint
Cherry Island is the only island on Loch Ness. It’s actually a ‘crannog’, a man-made island dwelling built around 2000 years ago. There is a small parking layby on your left shortly after you leave the Allt na Criche trail (click here to open the exact position on googlemaps). You can park up there to get a view of Cherry Island or you can also walk a short 150 metres to the Cherry Island viewpoint. It was apparently home to a small medieval castle or tower in the 1500s and was on a much larger area of land. Following the building of the Caledonian Canal, the level of Loch Ness rose by around 1m80 thus engulfing a large part of the original ‘island’.
Fort Augustus is a picturesque little town located at the southern tip of Loch Ness. It also links the Caledonian Canal to the loch via 5 locks which you will find right in the town centre. You can park up a short distance from the centre and walk into town. Visitors always enjoy watching boats as they manoeuvre through the 5 locks. You can find out more about the canals by visiting the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre. A trip to Fort Augustus isn’t complete without a selfie at the Loch Ness viewpoint and an icecream from Miele’s! For more ideas of things to see and do in Fort Augustus, make sure you check our detailed guide by clicking here.
Things to do on South Loch Ness
Once you leave Fort Augustus, you will be heading towards south Loch Ness, the ‘other side’ of the loch, back towards Inverness. This side is much more tranquil, wild and generally off the beaten tourist track but just as beautiful. There’s also some fascinating Jacobite history as you’ll discover when you read about General Wade’s military road. We’ve also included a map below which highlights on the places to visit:
Check out Local Hero film location at Loch Tarff
Just a short 8 minute drive (4 miles) north from Fort Augustus and you will reach the Loch Tarff Viewpoint. This spot features in Local Hero when Mac and Oldsen were travelling to Ferness (click here to watch film UK/US). It was filmed on the B862 looking over Loch Tarff. There is a parking area at the north end of the loch and it’s a short walk from there to the filming location. It’s also a lovely place to stop to take in the stunning scenery and even join the south Loch Ness trail if you fancy stretching your legs. Alternatively, simply walk up to the Suidhe Chuimein, the high point on the trail, for some beautiful views.
Panoramic views at Great Glen Ways viewpoint
Shortly after you leave Loch Tarff, you’ll find another area to park (there’s a layby on both sides of the road) which provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding hills and down the B862. It’s known as both the Great Glen Ways viewpoint or the Suidhe viewpoint. It’s well worth walking the short distance (0.5 mile or 0.8km) to the summit to take in this area of outstanding beauty. We think this photo says it all!
Lunch at the Whitebridge Hotel
Stop off at the Whitebridge Hotel and enjoy some fantastic food, the quirky decor as well as a friendly welcome. The rooms look fab if you fancy extending your stay in this former hunting lodge. Have a wander around the small village and admire the old bridge, known as the whitebridge, a high arched bridge which was built under the orders of General Wade in 1732. This was done at the same time as the government troops were creating the military road through the area in order to suppress Jacobite uprisings. You will no doubt notice the reference to the B862 as General Wade’s Military Rd as you drive along this road.
Cameron’s Tearoom & Farmshop
Stop off at the award-winning (Tripadvisor travellers’ choice 2022) tearoom and farmshop for a delicious lunch. This family-run business is located just before you get to the tiny village of Foyers. It has a very large car park so parking shouldn’t be a problem. All the food is home-made using local, fresh produce. You can sit indoors close to the roaring wood burner or in the outdoor covered areas if the weather is warm enough. Best to book ahead if you’re planning to visit during high season or at the week-end. It’s also a favourite spot for cyclists in the area.
Falls of Foyers
Next on our Loch Ness itinerary is the cute little village of Foyers and its spectacular falls. Set in a deep gorge, the Falls of Foyers offer a dramatic 140ft drop and can be reached via a stepped path that winds through the attractive woodland. You can extend the walk by heading down to the lower viewpoint or even all the way down to the shores of Loch Ness. There’s also a lovely café and shop next to the car park. We stayed in a delightful glamping pod at the Loch Ness Shores Campsite and highly recommend it if you’re looking for somewhere to stay nearby.
Walk at Farigaig woods
If you enjoy walking, we recommend you stop off at Farigaig Woods, located just next to Inverfarigaig. There’s a fairly large forestry car park close to the start of the walk as well as some picnic tables and toilets on your right just before the start of the trail. You can choose to do the 3km Lochan Torr an Tuill trail, the red trail, which takes about an hour and is fairly strenuous (steep sections and muddy/rocky parts) or extend it to do the Farigaig circular. You’ll also spot the impressive Dun Dearduil hill to your left which is home to two iron-age forts.
Change house walk
This is a great place to stop as it provides easy access to the loch’s shore (unlike the north side) and offers beautiful views of Urquhart Castle on the opposite bank of the loch. There is space to park as well as some picnic tables overlooking Loch Ness (the area to park is marked as ‘change house picnic spot’ on the map above). There’s a well signposted short trail (0.5 mile or 0.8km) to the Change House. It’s really just a pile of stones, however, the history is interesting. The Change House is where travellers would have stopped to change their horses. There is a useful information board at the site that provides an interesting background to the turbulent history of the area and shows what the Change House might have looked like.
Trekking with the Loch Ness Alpacas
Now for something really unusual! Stop off at Loch Ness Alpacas, just south of Dores, and meet these lovely, furry creatures for a meet-and-greet or opt for the longer alpaca trek which lasts about 50 minutes and involves walking down the shoreline. A truly memorable experience!
We have absolutely fallen in love with this gorgeous beach at the northern end of Loch Ness, about 20 minutes’ drive south from Inverness. You’ll get some of the best views of Loch Ness from here. Park up in the large car park next to the Dores Inn and simply take in the view. Just stunning. You’ll no doubt come across paddleboarders, wild swimmers and canoeists (depending on the time of year). So why not join them or go for a wander along the beach or explore the forest trails at the farthest end of the beach. A pub lunch or a drink at the Dores Inn is a must too. You may also want to pick up a Nessie clay model souvenir from the one and only Nessie hunter. Steve Feltham has been based on the shores of Loch Ness since 1991 to pursue his dream of spotting Nessie.
Walking Trails around Loch Ness
We’ve already covered a number of walks but we can’t leave out a few of the well-known long-distance trails on offer around Loch Ness. You can do them on foot or by bike too.
Great Glen Way (GGW)
This 79 mile (or 126 km) route stretches from Fort William all the way to Inverness. You can easily do small sections of it if you fancy exploring the area surrounding Loch Ness from a different vantage point. In fact, you can even do it on the water! It’s called the Great Glen Canoe Trail. Again, it’s split up into sections which you can lengthen or shorten. You can also do a small stretch which is what we’ve done on a number of occasions. We’ve joined the GGW at Abriachan Forest and also at Invermoriston in order to walk to the Viewcatcher (see image above).
South Loch Ness Trail
As the name suggests, this walking trail takes place on the south side of Loch Ness. Join the trail at Fort Augustus and make your way up to Inverness (Torbreck), covering 36 miles or 58 kms on the quieter, wilder side of Loch Ness.
Loch Ness 360°
As you might have guessed from the name, this walking trail involves getting all the way round Loch Ness, a mere 80 miles or 128 kms. The trail is split into 6 sections but you can shorten or extend it depending on your pace and whether you’re walking or cycling it. You will encounter many stunning landscapes, wildlife, nature and much, much more. Something for your Scottish bucket list! This trail takes in parts of both the Great Glen Way and the south Loch Ness Trail mentioned above.
Etape Loch Ness
If you’re a keen cyclist, you may want to consider signing up for this epic cycle race that takes you all the way round this famous expanse of water. The ride usually takes place in April. Be sure to sign up quickly as spaces run out fast for this popular challenge.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of things to do near Loch Ness! There’s certainly something for everyone, whether you enjoy the great outdoors, nature, walking, sight-seeing, road-trips or historic sites, you won’t be disappointed!