If you’ve followed this blog long enough you’ll know that we’re more than happy to travel to far-flung places, with only the faintest hope of catching a glimpse of an elusive animal.
If you embark on a wildlife trip, in search of a rare animal (like a spirit bear or a pangolin), it’s often best go by the old motto… ‘expect the worst and hope for the best’. Basically, while you should absolutely hope to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat, it’s best to remember that they are wild animals and there is a good chance you won’t. This way you will never be disappointed and you can enjoy all the other amazing aspects of your trip.
Nowhere is this more important than when you’re going in search of the elusive Loch Ness Monster. Your chances of seeing him or her are admittedly pretty low. But don’t let that dissuade you, you’ll still love the chase.
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie as she’s more affectionately known was born around 1933. George Spicer, a visitor to the area from London, saw “the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life, trundling across the road toward the loch with ‘an animal’ in its mouth”. The first photo of Nessie came from December of the same year, and from there the legend was born.
Okay, in all seriousness, whether there is any truth in the stories of the Loch Ness Monster or not, you are visiting a magical part of the world with plenty of things to see… when you’re not scouring the water with your binoculars or setting up a photo with your $20 plush toy purchased from one of the many gift shops.
Best way to see Loch Ness
Loch Ness is 36km long and only 2km wide, giving it a very narrow and long shape. You can get beautiful views all the way up the loch from the southern end at Fort Augustus. But for a more unique viewpoint we recommend something a little different. We believe the best view of Loch Ness is from the top of the Tower House of Urqhart Castle.
Situated halfway up the western side of Loch Ness, Urqhart castle is perfectly situated to give you expansive views of the Loch to the north and south, from a nice elevated vantage point. Add in the fact that you are standing in a rather important part of Scottish history and you’re on to a winner.
The castle itself is also worth an extended visit. The introductory video will give you a nice rundown of the fascinating history in the entire region, and you can easily spend 2-3 hours wandering the ruins and reading the information boards. For an alternative way to approach the castle check out Jacobite Cruises. Their tours cruise up and down the loch and will leave you at the jetty right out in front of the castle. From there you can enjoy a visit to Urqhart before jumping back on the boat to finish your cruise.
Once you’ve enjoyed the castle, and done your best to spot Nessie in the wild, take a trip to Drumnadrochit. This quaint Scottish town is now Nessie central and it is where you will find the Loch Ness Centre. Here you can learn everything you could possibly want to know about the history of the Loch Ness Monster and also pick up a couple of green souvenirs.
Where to stay when visiting Loch Ness
Given the shape of Loch Ness (and the vast distance from top to bottom) you have plenty of different options of where to stay. At the source of the Loch (in the South) is the town Fort Augustus. A small town with a variety of B&B accommodations and some lovely places to eat. As you drive up the western side of the Loch you’ll come across a number of larger lodge-style hotels, especially close to Drumnadrochit. Keep travelling north and as you come to the end of the loch (where the water flows out towards the ocean) you have the city of Inverness. There you’ll find plentiful accommodation options to suit all types of travellers. Our route was taking us north so we opted to spend a day exploring Loch Ness and it’s surrounds before finishing up in Inverness. This worked perfectly and we would definitely recommend doing it this way.
Sat right on the riverfront close to the centre of Inverness, Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel is our recommended place to stay when exploring Loch Ness. The location is fantastic, situated in a beautiful quiet street only minutes’ walk from the town centre. Many of the rooms have river views and our room was spacious and immaculately clean.
Where to eat in Inverness
Glenmoriston also has a restaurant on-site, so after a long days sightseeing we were more than happy to take advantage of this. The restaurant is called Contrast Brasserie and we highly recommend it. Our main courses were beautifully cooked and the dessert (especially the Rocky Road ice cream) would be worth the visit on its own. However, the major plus for this place again comes down to location. If you are fortunate enough to get a nice summer’s evening you can sit outside and the sun will set straight across the river in front of you. Great food, beautiful views, warm summer sun and the afternoon church bell practice created an atmosphere unmatched anywhere in Inverness.