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 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 11 free things to do at (the real) 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. Explore Foyers
Falls of Foyers is a 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 woodland to reach the two viewpoints. The spectacular waterfall is well worth a visit and makes for a good short walk.
Dun Bonnet’s Cave is also located close to Foyers and features in season 3 of TV Series Outlander. The cave 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. There is enough room for one person to enter at a time. The cave opens up once you have squeezed inside. It’s best to take a map as it can be difficult to find (link below has map).
4. Experience 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.
5. Discover Invermoriston
Invermoriston is on the western edge of Loch Ness. There is a car park here and it is a worthwhile place to stop. You can take a short walk to see the Invermoriston old bridge and waterfalls. The bridge was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1813. 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, but 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.
6. 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 there are lots of good photo opportunities.
7. 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. Don’t Forget Drumnadrochit
Drumnadrochit is a must stop for tourists. You have the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition here which is packed full of information about Loch Ness’s history. There are also boat trips that leave from the pier at Drumnadrochit which can be a great way to see Urquhart castle. I would recommend the Craigmonie and Falls of Divach walk if you have time; it will take roughly 3 hours. You walk uphill, through woodland to a clearing above Drumnadrochit with great views over Loch Ness. You then follow a path to the Falls Of Divach, which has a great viewpoint that allows you to look down on the cascading water. If you want to see highland cows you will pass a field of them on this walk. It is a great spot to take a selfie with Scotland’s favourite hairy beast.
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. 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!
My mum was actually recently featured on “Unexplained” after capturing this footage of the Loch Ness Monster. Have a look at the video below and see what you think! Is Nessie out there?
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!
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