Explore The Trails Around Stunning Loch Ness

Explore The Trails Around Stunning Loch Ness

Hiking the Great Glen Way: A Monster-Hunting Adventure

Book 2024 trips now while availability lasts! You’ll be hard-pressed to find something more quintessentially Scottish than the Loch Ness monster herself (I’ve always liked to think of it as a she!), so I was excited to hear that I’d be walking the high route of the Great Glen Way this summer. Following the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland’s second-largest loch and famous for all things Scottish, I’d have a clear and unobstructed view of the mysterious and famously dark waters. Maybe I’d catch a glimpse of the big beastie myself?

I decided on the Great Glen Escape, a short version of the Great Glen Way that starts in the beautiful village of Fort Augustus and ends in the vibrant capital of the Highlands – Inverness. At 5 days and 4 nights, it’s perfect for those who are short on time and, in my opinion, encapsulates all the best bits of the Great Glen. We had the high or low route to choose from, and I thought the best option for some great views and maybe a glimpse of Nessie would be the high route, and it did not disappoint!

The Journey Begins in Fort Augustus

The trip starts off in Fort Augustus, a small village located along the Caledonian Canal and famous for its impressive locks. We arrived in the afternoon, just in time to check in to our lovely B&B and head off exploring. We spent some time having a wander through the village and along the canal. While small, there are lots of cafes, pubs, and restaurants to choose from. We made ourselves comfortable with a hot drink on one of the many outdoor seating areas along the canal and watched the boats navigate up and down the levels of locks. Keen to have an early night for our first day, we had an early dinner in the Bothy pub (we opted for Haggis, neeps, and tatties! We felt it apt to start off our adventure with a Scottish classic!).

Day 1: From Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

The following day, I woke up feeling well-rested and excited to start my first day of walking! We were lucky to have a dry and sunny day to start us off, and after a hearty breakfast, we got our boots on and made our way from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston. Taking the high route, we walked 8.9 miles in total and started off with a steep incline through picturesque woodland. We emerged from the forest and were rewarded with the most stunning views of Loch Ness from high above the trees, and with it being the shortest walk of the trip, we were able to take our time and take in the magnificent views. It was really amazing to have our picnic lunch from high above the forest, looking over Loch Ness with not a soul around – I didn’t want to leave! The last few miles were on a well-trodden path through dense forest as we made our descent into Invermoriston.

Exploring Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit

The charming village of Invermoriston is home to a restaurant, a shop, and a village hall. Make sure to book your meal at the Glenmoriston Arms in advance, as it’s the only place to eat and can be very busy! There’s an impressive selection of both pub classics and fancy fare all in a beautifully decorated restaurant and bar. If you’re lucky enough to get some sunny weather, take a seat on one of their ‘Game of Thrones’ chairs in their lovely beer garden.

Day 3 took us from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit, and it’s the longest of the trip at 14.5 miles. This section starts off very similar to day 1, with steep climbs and descents along with magnificent panoramic views over Loch Ness before meeting the low route for some woodland trails. You’ll make your way down into the lovely village of Drumnadrochit. It’s home to a few cafes, a restaurant, and of course, Nessieland! If you didn’t manage to spot Nessie on the way, then why not stop in for a visit? It’s located at the top of the village (just follow the sound of bagpipes!) and is a charming kitsch tribute to ‘oor Nessie’! They have a wonderful screening room where you can take in a presentation with the history and folklore of Nessie through the years. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy some Scottish and Nessie-themed gifts.

The Final Leg: Drumnadrochit to Inverness

The final day of walking will take you from Drumnadrochit to Inverness. The Great Glen Escape itinerary includes a transfer to Loch Laide, turning the 20-mile day into a manageable 12.5. The trail is markedly different on this stretch as we made our way down into Inverness and is mostly flat and easy walking. The first few miles are farm roads, weaving around secluded farmhouses before we head back into woodland to spend the next couple of hours on a forest trail (Keep your eyes peeled for huge cep mushrooms, wild peas, and elderflower!). We emerged from the woodland with a spectacular view over the city of Inverness, and there’s a lovely community garden nearby along with a few benches overlooking the view. We took this opportunity to refuel and look out to the bustling city below us.

After our quick pit stop, we made our way down into Inverness through quiet suburbs and into the city, where we completed the walk at Inverness Castle. Feeling very accomplished and pleased with ourselves, we stopped by the Castle Tavern opposite for a well-deserved beer!

Loch Ness by Boat: A Tranquil Finale

The following day, we were due to head home, but we couldn’t leave without exploring Loch Ness a little more, and what better way to do that than hopping on a boat and sailing alongside the very route we had just walked! (Not to mention this was our last chance to spot Nessie.) We chose the Jacobite boat tour, and it’s a lovely add-on, especially if you fancy an extra day in Inverness. We joined the Jacobite Rebel at Dochgarroch Lock for the contemplation tour and had a lovely 2-hour sail of Loch Ness.

There are lots of options for the trip where you can stop over for an hour or 2 at Urquhart Castle or, if you’re strapped for time, can opt for a shorter trip that bypasses the castle visit. The boat trip was spectacular, and I would recommend it to anyone who has some time to spare in Inverness. You’ll sail to Urquhart Castle and back, and the views were even more amazing from the water – it was a welcome break to relax the legs after a few days of walking! There’s a guide on board who talks you through all the sights of note along the way with some nice history tidbits, and there’s a fully stocked bar and Costa coffee onboard where you can grab a wee dram or a hot chocolate to warm yourself up, especially if you’re sitting on the top deck!

As I made my way back to Glasgow, I felt a huge sense of achievement. I challenged myself and had the best time walking through the beautiful Great Glen while taking in the scenery of Scotland’s most famous loch. The Great Glen Escape is perfect for casual and regular walkers alike. If you enjoy a challenge and are looking for some beautiful views, I’d strongly recommend going with the high route. The only disappointment of the trip was that I didn’t spot the elusive monster of the deep, so if, like me, you’re out of luck and in need of your Nessie fix, I’d stick with Nessieland!

Discover More Hiking Gems Around Loch Ness

While the Great Glen Way is a must-do for any Loch Ness enthusiast, there are plenty of other hiking trails in the area that are worth exploring. Here are a few of our top picks:

Meall Fuar-mhonaidh

Meall Fuar-mhonaidh is the highest hill around Loch Ness, standing at 699 m high. Its prominent shape and position make it a landmark of the area, and on a clear day, the views from the summit are, without question, the best views in the whole area! You can see down the full length of Loch Ness, south to Ben Nevis and Fort William, and north to Inverness and the Moray Firth.

Glen Affric

Often referred to as ‘the most beautiful glen in Scotland’, no visit to the area is complete without at least driving up to the Glen Affric car park and walking up to the lodge. However, for the keen walker, there is a 10-mile circuit (4-6 hours) of Loch Affric that lets you experience the true splendour of the area, with towering snow-capped mountains and the remnants of the ancient Caledonian forest dating back thousands of years.

The South Loch Ness Trail

We couldn’t not talk about the South Loch Ness Trail, given that Loch Ness 360° has been responsible for its development! Parts of this trail afford amazing views over Loch Ness (from the Fair Haired Lads Pass) that are ‘off the beaten track’ (the route up the ‘Corkscrew’), that meander through woodland (Farigaig Forest), and that pass by places for sustenance in Dores and Foyers! To walk the length can easily be done in 2 to 3 days, and with unbelievable views of some of the most remote parts of the Scottish Highlands, it’s easy to see why the South Loch Ness Trail is one of our favourite hiking trails around Inverness and Loch Ness.

Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike, a leisurely stroll, or a chance to spot the elusive Loch Ness Monster, the trails around Loch Ness have something for everyone. So why not plan your next adventure in this stunning corner of the Scottish Highlands?

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