Walks around Loch Ness are not only an opportunity to slowly creep up on the Loch Ness Monster or “Nessie” as she is more commonly called, they also take you to a beautiful part of Scotland. Various long-distance hikes lead around the shores of the legendary lake included the famous Great Glen Way. Day hikes are also a perfect excursion in order to get to know this legendary body of water. Find everything you need to know about hiking around Loch Ness here.
Course for Nessie? Photo: Christopher Rusev on Unsplash: License
An amazing lake
- Loch Ness is a lake of astonishing size. With an area of 56 square kilometers (35 miles), Loch Ness is the second largest lake in Scotland after Loch Lomond. Due to its extreme depth (up to 230 meters/755 feet), Loch Ness is also the largest freshwater body of water in Great Britain by volume.
- With a length of 37 kilometers and a width of only 3 kilometers, the shape of the lake is extremely elongated. The Caledonian Canal connects Loch Ness with other lakes all the way to the coast. Thomas Telford created this waterway in 1822, which is still considered a masterpiece of engineering today.
- On the shores of Loch Ness are Fort Augustus to the west and Inverness to the east, with other small towns in between like Abriachan, Invermoriston and Black Ford.
- The size of this lake alone makes hiking around Loch Ness a very special experience. This allow hikers to enjoy enchanting views of the water masses of Loch Ness and the surrounding mountains. The size also means that a circumnavigation takes several days.
- And then of course there is Nessie, the famous monster that is supposed to live in its depths. Despite the doubts about its existence, this mysterious creature is certainly still one of the main tourist draws in Scotland.
Long distance walking trails to Loch Ness
There are three long-distance hiking trails around Loch Ness, either along the north or south side. While the Great Glen Way also includes scenic highlights such as the Caledonia Canal, the South Loch Ness Trail is significantly shorter. As of 2018, a new path was also created to connect them to each other.
# 1 – The Great Glen Way
Total length: 127 kilometers (79 miles)
The Great Glen Way brings hikers to a number of enchanting lakes such as Loch Linhe, Loch Oich and of course Loch Ness. The starting point is Fort William and the destination is Inverness. This means that the final stages of the Great Glen Way run along the entire length of the north side of Loch Ness. It also means that the Great Glen Way is a Coast-to-Coast trail bringing you from one side of Scotland to the other.
There are two variants to choose from between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit. The high route leads over a few climbs to fabulous viewpoints and the valley route takes you into cozy forest areas and along the banks of the loch.
Overall, the Great Glen Way is considered a moderate hike that allows even inexperienced hikers to get to know some of Scotland’s most famous landscapes. Other highlights include the Caledonia Canal, Urquhart Castle and Neptun’s Staircase, the longest staircase lock in Great Britain.
# 2 – Loch Ness 360
Total length: 130 kilometers (81 miles)
The Loch Ness 360 Trail runs completely around the lake and was only inaugurated in 2018. It connects stages of the South Loch Ness Trail with the Great Glen Way. After years of fundraising, the last link was finally built to connect the two main Loch Ness trails and create this option to walk completely around Loch Ness.
Hikers generally hike this circular route within four to six days, depending on their fitness level. The start and end point is Inverness and the recommended route is north to south. The Loch Ness 360 is also suitable for mountain bikers.
# 3 – South Loch Ness Trail
Total length: 58 kilometers (36 miles)
The South Loch Ness Trail runs along the quieter south side of the lake and brings hikers from Fort Augustus to Inverness. This hiking trail is divided into three daily stages and connects the picturesque villages of Foyers, Dores and Torbreck with the diverse natural landscapes around Loch Ness.
Lookout points and waterfalls crown this hiking experience.
Day hikes at Loch Ness
Day trippers have several options to hike Loch Ness. Of course, you can choose a section on one of the long-distance hiking trails. In this case, you will need to plan your return transport to the starting point by bus or taxi. Alternatively, you can choose a circular route such as the Abriachan Trails.
Meall Fuar-mhonaidh is the name of the little-known, highest peak near Loch Ness. The entire route is approximately 9 kilometers long with an ascent of 535 meters. The starting point is behind Drumnadrochit in the parking lot on the road to Bunloit. The way to the summit is signposted, but not on a very well-worn track.
In winter you normally need ice axes and crampons on this route.
The Abriachan Trails are named after the forest of the same name. With a total length of 9 kilometers and an ascent of 261 meters, this hiking trail is definitely family-friendly. Mountain bikers are also welcome here. The starting point is in Abriachan, near Loch Laide.