Deep water, Highland cattle and the possibility of a close encounter with the elusive Nessie are just some of the many things that draw people to this uniquely alluring reach of fresh water, lying to the south of Inverness and stretching some 23 miles.
The Loch Ness monster, of course, is the most evocative image associated with the area, but visitors will find plenty of other things to entertain them in this fascinating region.
Where to stay in Loch Ness
Loch Ness Bay Camping is in a great spot for exploring the area, halfway between the Loch Ness Centre and Urquhart Castle. Alternatively, Loch Ness Shores C&CC Site is located on the quieter south shore, near the pretty village of Foyers. Another option is Cannich Woodland Camping, which is just a 20-minute drive away from Loch Ness, in a beautiful setting between the Rivers Glass and Cannich.
If you’re thinking of heading to another part of the country too, our best caravan park in Scotland guide is worth a look, as we share our top campsite picks to stay at.
Loch Ness walking trails
For a start, the loch contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined, and reaches a depth of 230m at its deepest point.
It is also incredibly beautiful, providing fantastic walking and cycling trails, and the opportunity to enjoy an extensive choice of watersports and fishing.
You’ll also be able to observe a wide variety of animals and birds here, with pine martens, otters, red squirrels and several species of deer all in the area. Woodpeckers, black grouse, golden eagles and osprey are among the impressive birdlife.
The 360º walking route around the loch is a great way of appreciating the scale and natural beauty of the lake, and gives you the chance to see the atmospheric ruins of Urquhart Castle, and Cherry Island, an artificial island thought to have been constructed some time during the Iron Age.
Visitors should also be sure to get out on the water, too. There’s no doubt that on a misty morning, on a still day, with only a paddle for company, even a cynic might just wonder if that curious splash was the sound of Nessie raising her head from the water…
Something else you can do is enjoy a spot of fishing – Fish Loch Ness offers four-hour long fishing trips with the chance to catch a variety of trout and salmon species.
You can also take a look at our caravan sites with fishing guide too, where we share our favourite campsites to stay at for anglers.
What to do in Loch Ness on Day 1
9am – Loch Ness 360°
You can now walk the entire way around Loch Ness on an uninterrupted trail – the Loch Ness 360°. This new pathway, which opened in summer 2018, takes you on a loop around the circumference of the loch.
While you won’t have time to do all of it in one day (the trail loop stretches 80 miles), you can walk a good distance over the course of a weekend.
10.30am – Take a cruise
Sail across the depths of Loch Ness on a Jacobite Cruises boat. Your voyage includes a one-hour cruise over the mysterious loch – lots of opportunities for Nessie spotting – and an hour to explore historic Urquhart Castle. Adult tickets cost £26.
1pm – Pub grub
Stop for a spot of lunch at The Dores Inn (open Thursday to Sunday) and enjoy traditional ales and classic dishes, such as braised lamb shank with black pudding mash, and rosemary, thyme and garlic roasted carrots.
3pm – Falls of Foyers
Head south to the inspirational Falls of Foyers, where you can walk off that delicious lunch. The two-hour hike from the car park at Upper Foyers follows a scenic loop around the gorge and the beautiful falls.
7pm – Dinner is served
It’s only a short journey to enjoy traditional Scottish fare at Foyers House, overlooking Loch Ness. Dishes served at this welcoming guesthouse include venison sausage with mashed potatoes, and pan-fried Scottish salmon fillet.
What to do on Day 2
9am – Paddle your canoe
Experience the full beauty of the loch and its landscapes with an early morning paddle in an open canoe, in the company of a qualified guide.
The 2.5-hour trip starts on the shores of Loch Ness at Fort Augustus, and you’ll be able to see Inchnacardoch Bay, Cherry Island, Fort Augustus Abbey and the mouths of the Rivers Tarff and Oich. Tickets cost £45.
11am – An education
Visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, where a hi-tech multimedia presentation leads you through seven themed areas and 500 million years of history, natural mystery and legend, revealing the loch’s unique environment and the origins
of the famous Nessie legend. Adult tickets cost £8.95.
1pm – Café culture
Time for lunch in one of Drumnadrochit’s many cafés, just a few minutes from the Loch Ness Centre on the south side of the River Enrick. And if you fancy an ice cream, don’t miss Nessie’s Gelato Cabin!
2.30pm – Botanic bounty
Head north to the magnificent Inverness Botanic Gardens, where you can enjoy the Tropical and Cactus Houses and marvel at the spectacular gardens. Entry is free.
Head to our Best of British: Weekends Away section for more great touring ideas.
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