The world famous Loch Ness is situated just 20 minutes outside of Inverness in Scotland. It has so much to offer visitors to the area, from fairy tale castles nestled on its banks, to hidden shipwrecks, to a secret cave featured on popular TV series Outlander, to magical Scottish mountains with panoramic views of Loch Ness.
Not to mention its most famous resident, The Loch Ness Monster.
Here are our top 12 free things to do at Loch Ness
1. Stroll on Dores Beach
Dores beach is an excellent spot only 8 miles from Inverness. It is one of the most northerly points on Loch Ness and offers a great view along the Loch’s length. It has a stony beach, and it seems to be a popular spot for dog walkers and wild swimmers brave enough to embrace its cold waters.
The Nessie Hunter (Steve Feltham) is also based on the beach. He has devoted most of his adult life searching for Nessie and holds the world record for ‘the longest continuous vigil hunting for Nessie’. Dores Inn is also situated here. It is very popular with locals and tourist alike and is a good place to enjoy a drink or bite to eat while keeping an eye out for Nessie.
2. Visit Boleskin House & Graveyard
Boleskin house has a long and dark history. Legend has it that it was built on the site of a church that burned down during a service. The house overlooks Boleskin Cemetery and Loch Ness and there is an underground tunnel connecting the house to the cemetery. Notorious occultist Alastair Crowley bought the house in 1899, for its secluded location and a place where he could perform dark magic.
Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy page also owned the house for a period of time from 1971 -1992. In 2015 it suffered a devastating fire which all but destroyed the house. A Scottish charity has now bought the estate and plans are in place to restore the fire damaged roofless shell. Access is not allowed into the grounds of Boleskin House, but you can see the front gate to the house and are allowed to explore the graveyard.
3. Visit Falls of Foyers
Falls of Foyers is a dramatic 62-metre waterfall on River Foyers which feeds Loch Ness. It’s a short walk from the car park in Foyers. From the carpark follow the path down steps and through the forest to reach the two viewpoints. The spectacular waterfall is well worth a visit and makes for a good short walk through stunning woodland. Depending on when you visit, the flow of the waterfall can change dramatically. Check out our contrasting pictures from two separate visits! Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive red squirrels! If you plan on completing this walk here is walkhighlands link.
4. Hunt for Dunbonnet’s Cave
Dun Bonnet’s Cave is also located close to Foyers. The cave is purportedly where the real James Fraser, the 9th of Foyers hid out in for seven years following the battle of Culloden . The cave also features in season 3 of TV Series Outlander where it becomes a refuge for main character, Jamie Fraser. This storyline is based on the real life James Fraser (chief of the Fraser clan) who took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The entrance to the cave is in the picture below. The cave is very well hidden and it is an adventure to try and find it. You can read our blog below to get more details on the cave and its location.
5. Experience the Quaint village of Fort Augustus
Fort Augustus signals the end of Loch Ness. The quaint village is at the heart of the Great Glen and lies between Inverness and Fort William on the 60-mile-long Caledonian Canal. The canal locks attract a lot of boaters, walkers and tourists and is a popular place to visit all year round.
Its location on the most southern tip of Loch Ness offers incredible views. There is a view point you can walk to which is one of the best places to take pictures of Loch Ness. This is a great place to browse the local gift shops in search of that special souvenir.
Lady falls is a great place to visit while in Fort Augustus. The waterfall isnt well known outside of local circles, but its more than worth a visit. You can walk to the waterfall in about an hour from Fort Augustus. The scenic walk is enjoyable and not too arduous. The perfect way to spend an afternoon!
6. Admire Invermoriston falls and the spectacular view from the view-catcher
Invermoriston is on the western edge of Loch Ness. There is a handy car park in Invermoriston just off the road. From here you can visit the beautiful view-catcher, Invermoriston old bridge, and Invermoriston summer house. The double arched stone bridge across the road from the carpark was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1813. The single arched “new bridge” is still in use and you could easily drive over it without a second thought.
If you walk a little further through the woods from the carpark you will come to Invermoriston summer house. The old stone hexagonal building is a fantastic vantage point for the two bridges and an impressive waterfall. It’s a fantastic spot to take in the beauty of your surroundings. and offers a great view of the two bridges together.
Another place worth taking the time to walk to is the dramatic view catcher. This is on the Great Glen Way walking route and is not far from Invermoriston although reaching it requires a short hike. It is worth the climb as you are rewarded with breath-taking views and a fantastic photo opportunity through the circular view-catcher when you reach it.
7. Visit Urquhart Castle
Urquhart castle’s ruins lie on the banks of Loch Ness, two miles south of Drumnadrochit. The castle sits in a picturesque setting, with the loch and mountains as the backdrop to the ruins. The views and picture opportunities are second to none. If you don’t want to pay to enter you still get great views of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness from the carpark above. For a small fee you can explore inside the castle and its grounds. The visitor centre gives you the chance to learn about Urquhart castle’s history and you can enjoy a short video before exploring the castle grounds and ruins. We visited in December and it was closed so we just enjoyed the pretty views of the castle peppered with snow. The castle can be seen from different locations around Loch Ness so if provides lots of good photo opportunities.
8. Climb Meall Fuar – Mhonaidh
Meall Fuar – Mhonaidh Is a mountain on the west side of Loch Ness (It’s not an easy one to pronounce). It is 699m high and is classed as a Graham in Scotland. It has a small car park at the bottom (free parking) and a good path to follow all the way up to the top. Like many of Scotland’s mountains there is a bit of a false summit, so make sure you keep going to get to the true peak. You will be rewarded with unrivalled views of Loch Ness, and you can even see Ben Nevis from the top on a clear day. The walk up and back down takes about 4 hours. We took a picnic and enjoyed it at the top of the hill.
8. Walk to a Shipwreck!
Near to Aldourie Castle on the northern shores of Loch Ness lies not one but two shipwrecks. The boats have clearly been there some time as the loch has gradually reduced them to their wooden shells. Finding the shipwrecks requires a short but beautiful walk through some forest paths. The smell of pine is invigorating as you make your way to the edge of the loch. The wrecks lay stranded at the edge of the loch, next to a small beach area and a couple of tree swings. Finding the shipwrecks is a great way to spend an afternoon!
9. Walk the Abriachan Trails
At Abriachan there is an exciting woodland and moorland walk using the trails laid out by the Abriachan Forest Community Trust. There are a variety of things to see here including a treehouse, a wildlife hide with a view over Loch Laide, a reconstruction of a bronze age hut, a dragonfly pond and a carved bench made out of a tree trunk. Not to mention the views over to Ben Wyvis and the Glen Affric mountains. This is a great place for the whole family to explore. There’s also a track here for mountain bikes called The Abriachan Kelpies Mountain Bike Trails.
10. Tackle a Long Distance Walk!
Loch Ness 360 is long distance route which covers the 80-mile circumference of Loch Ness. This route can be walked, ran or cycled. Another great long distance walk, The Trail of the 7 Lochs. It explores some of the smaller lochs by Loch Ness. It is a 50-mile circular route which can be completed in 2/3 days by foot. If you have the time, I would recommend one of these long distance trails. You can camp or find accommodation on route and will get some of the best views of Loch Ness and surrounding areas. This is a fantastic way to experience the real Loch Ness and immerse yourself in everything the area has to offer.
11. Visit the Alpacas
In 2021 five Alpacas arrived on the shores of Loch Ness. Despite their unique characters they quickly settled into life at “Loch Ness Alpacas” and had the temperament to interact with the public. More Alpacas have since joined the ranks- adding to an already diverse and colourful herd. You will find the Alpacas on the road between Dores and Foyers in a field overlooking Loch Ness. If you manage to find a safe place to park you can have a sneak peek for free. Be mindful not to feed the Alpacas! If you would like a more hands on experience you can pay for a “meet and greet” or a “Trek.” For more information on these fantastic creatures click here.
12. Search for Nessie!
Who hasn’t come to Loch Ness hoping that they might get a peek of the Loch Ness Monster? There have been countless sightings of the beast throughout history and as of April 2021 there have been five sightings this year alone! There are fun excursions and boat trips designed to get a look at this iconic Scottish monster, but spending an afternoon lazing on the banks of Loch Ness with a picnic and a pair of binoculars is a fun way to get immersed in the legend and see what it’s all about for yourself!
If you aren’t lucky enough to spot Nessy on your trip there is still an opportunity for a selfie with Scotland’s most famous beast! The Loch Ness Clansman Hotel has a huge tribute to our elusive monster- perfect for a photo opportunity!
Enjoy your Visit!
Loch Ness has so much to offer the casual tourist, the avid walker, the Nessie enthusiasts, those with a love for Scottish castles, and everyone in-between. Hopefully you have found something on our list above that compels you to visit this famous body of Scottish water. If you have time, you might just end up doing it all!
Remember when visiting Scotland to take only photos and leave only footprints!
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