Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle with Loch Ness in the background

Loch Ness is Scotland's (if not the world's) most famous lake (or 'loch' in Scotland). It runs for 23 miles (37 km) along the natural geological cleft that stretches from Fort William in the west of the Scottish Highlands, to Inverness in the north.

About a mile wide at most places it is the purported home of the Loch Ness monster, a possibly mythical creature, which dwells in the Loch and is occasionally spotted by locals and passers-by. The sightings claimed lend credence to the remote possibility of a group of survivors of the long-extinct plesiosaurs (which lived up to around 65 million years ago).

Regions

The Scottish Highlands consist of a plateau dissected by glacier scoured glens (valleys), many of them containing lochs (lakes). Loch Ness, the largest body of water in UK, lies in the geological fault known as Glen Mor or Great Glen. The latter stretches for about 60 miles (97 km). The Caledonian Canal joins four lochs in the Great Glen – Dochfour, Ness, Oich and Lochy – and at each end connects to the sea. It connects to the North Sea at Inverness via the Moray Firth and the Atlantic Ocean at Corpach near Fort William. A series of lock gates in the canal helps to raise or lower ships.

Loch Ness extends from Fort Augustus at one end to Lochend near Inverness at the other. It is 740 feet (226 metres) deep at its deepest point and is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area at 21.8 sq mi (56.4 km2). Loch Lomond is larger with an area of 71 km2. In fact Loch Ness is not the deepest loch either. Loch Morar plunges to over 1,000 ft. And it is not the longest Loch, that record goes to 34 mile Loch Awe. Loch Ness, however, owing to its steep-sided, flat-bottomed side-slip fault line origins is the largest volume of freshwater in the British Isles, containing more water than all the lakes, rivers and reservoirs of England and Wales combined ... room enough for a few mysteries. The A82 road which runs along the western bank of Loch Ness offers stunning views of the loch all along the route. Rugged hills climb steeply from the loch’s dark waters. There are many parking places along the road where vehicles can be parked and the beauty of the surroundings savoured. There are some less used roads on the eastern side of the loch. A complete circuit of the loch covers about 70 miles (110 km). Driving on these roads can be challenging if you are not used to driving on the left. It may be better to take a tour along the loch or see it by boat. See the section on tours below.

Loch Ness near Lochend
Lochend

Cities/Towns/Villages

Apart from A82 several other roads coverge on the city – A9 comes from beyond Aviemore in the south-east and then moves further north-west to Alness and beyond, A 96 comes from the north-east. Smaller roads come from other directions.

Other destinations

Understand

Scotland is a sparsely populated country and only a small proportion of that population lives in the Scottish Highlands. Therefore, it is mostly barren territory. Villages in the highlands are small neat places with a lot of fighting and history behind them. It has been a battle against nature and also amongst human beings for survival and supremacy. Some interesting facts: Number of tourists visiting Scotland annually surpass the population of Scotland and the number of Scots living outside Scotland is many times more than the population of Scotland.

Talk

English is the official language of Scotland and is spoken by more or less everyone. Gaelic is spoken by about 60,000, and many Gaelic words are commonly used. The Scots, like most Britons, generally flourish when they live abroad but at home have rather poor foreign language skills, although those in tourism-related industries generally have better language skills. French, German and Spanish are the most commonly known foreign languages.

Here are some useful Gaelic words:

Get in

You can get into the area from either Inverness in the north or from Fort William and then via Fort Augustus in the south. Both the entry points are well connected by road to all major cities in the area and beyond.

By plane

Inverness Airport (Information Desk Tel: +44 1667 464000) is situated at Dalcross, 9 miles (15 km) east of the city, just off the main A96 trunk road. It connects to Edinburgh, London and a number of other places.

By train

Inverness railway station is located in the centre. There are direct services from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and London.

By bus

A large number of tourists visit the area in coaches from Edinburgh, Fort William or Glasgow. Catch tourist and regional buses at the main bus terminal across Strothers Lane from the Inverness train station.

Get around

Ready for the Loch Ness cruise

Public transport is not the best way to see what this area has to offer. The problem is the infrequency of the buses, which are limited to the main roads like the A82. Instead, it is recommended that you hire a car, or join a tour group. Cruises on the loch leave from Dochfour, or Drumnadrochit. The best way to get to these is to use the cruise companies buses (sometimes complimentary)

By bus Stagecoach 19, 19B, 19C and Citylink bus 919 run between Inverness towards Fort Williams with stops at Fort Augustus, Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit and some bed and breakfast inns. Be aware that Citylink 919 buses only run twice in each direction on Sunday. Stagecoach does not run on Sunday. Scottish Citylink tickets are valid on both West Coast Motors and Stagecoach Highland buses. Be aware that fares are different.


See

Open all year, except on 25th and 26th December. Opens: 9.30 am. Last tickets sold: 3.45 pm (1st October to 31st March), 5.45 pm (1st April to 30th September). Price: Adult £6.50 Child £2.50 Concessions £5.00. Child (ages 5 - 15); Concession (60 years and over and the unemployed).
Lockgates in the Caledonian Canal, near For Augustus

Do

Buy

Eat

The area being one of major tourist attraction, there is no dearth of restaurants. Breakfast is a great attraction and there is so much variety ranging from Big Scottish Breakfast to Whole Day Breakfast. A breakfast is good enough to keep one going for several hours. Food is basically meat-based. Fish is also available. Those who want to avoid both have to look for vegetable sandwiches, croissants and salads.

Drink

It is Scotland and so one need not worry about availability of drinks. Selection may pose a problem, so wide is the range available. One place boasts that it has 100 brands of single malt Scotch whisky.

Sleep

For those who wish to spend a few days in the area, there are places to stay.

In most places the rates vary as per season and winter discounts are available. In summer most places are heavily booked and so try early for a booking.

More accommodation is available in Inverness, Fort William, Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit

Stay safe

Be prepared for the unexpected cold and the rains.

Many hotels and B&B in large European cities allow outgoing guests to keep luggage in the lobby or some room after they check out, in order that they may collect the same later in the day. Tourists should not take it for granted in Scotland. They should check the system beforehand to avoid complications later.

Go next

Most of the coach tours take tourists around the Scottish Highlands along with a visit to Loch Ness. Tourists should check what else they want to see before deciding upon a particular tour. Much of the information is available on the Internet sites (some listed above). Those who want to travel a little farther can plan to visit one or more of the many islands.

Great Glen Way is a 73 mile long footpath from Fort William to Inverness passing along the Loch Ness. It was officially opened in 2002. It is a great venture for those who enjoy walking.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, August 29, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.