Touring around the
Loch Ness region and The Great Glen, Scotland
Part 1 : Where to Stay, What to
See/Do, and How to Get There
The staircase locks on the
Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus by the foot of Loch Ness.
The Loch Ness and Great
Glen region is full of beauty and interesting sights.
Part of a multi-part series
on the Loch Ness region, see links at the bottom for other
Scotland's Great Glen (or Glen
Mor in Gaelic) is a long valley running northeast/southwest,
with a series of linked lakes (or lochs) and dividing Scotland
into two parts.
Loch Ness and the area close by
is not only the reputed home of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster,
but also boasts some wonderful scenery, spectacular castle
ruins, mysterious stones, and is close to other key parts of a
Whether you just visit Loch
Ness as a day tour from somewhere like Inverness, Beauly or Fort
William, or whether you stay close to Loch Ness, possibly at
Fort Augustus or Drumnadrochit, you'll find plenty to see, do,
and enjoy in the nearby region.
The Loch Ness Region and The
as a land mass, can be considered as being in two halves, with
what is known as 'The Great Glen' marking the transition.
The Great Glen is a low-lying
fault line just over 60 miles in length with a string of long
narrow lakes (or, as they are called in Scotland, lochs) running
along the fault line. It runs from Fort William in the
southwest to Inverness in the northeast.
There are four lochs along the
Great Glen. From south to north, they are Loch Lochy, Loch
Oich, Loch Ness and Loch Darfour.
Loch Ness is the largest of
Due to the glen being
relatively flat, it has long been used as a main route for people
and freight and has been a key strategic element to fortify, as is
shown most notably by the ruins of Urquhart Castle.
Where to Base Yourself to Tour
around Loch Ness
Loch Ness itself is a very
long and narrow lake (or loch as it is called in Scotland), and
runs almost 25 miles from end to end.
At the bottom (south
western) end is the small town of Fort Augustus and halfway up
is the even smaller town of Drumnadrochit. Both places
offer several different accommodation choices.
A bit further north is the
city of Inverness, a mere 8 miles past the north eastern end of
the loch. Inverness is Scotland's 15th largest city (by
population), being slightly bigger than Greenock (part of the
Glasgow metroplex) and slightly smaller than Kilmarnock (about
20 miles southwest of Glasgow), and has a population of about
45,000. This contrasts with Fort Augustus (pop 650) and
Drumnadrochit (population 820) and so obviously Inverness has
the largest range of accommodation choices.
About 13 miles to the north of
Drumnadrochit is a lovely little
town, Beauly, which would make a good base to spend a night or
two in. Beauly (population just under 1000) is well
located for traveling around the Loch Ness and Inverness region.
One last location, for the
sake of completeness, is Fort William. Fort William is a
rather featureless and soulless town, but has a good range of
accommodation choices, and has the special attraction of being
located at one end of the wonderful train journey between there
and the small fishing town of Mallaig; a rail journey made
famous in the Harry Potter movies and with service by a glorious
restored steam train, the Jacobite, in the summer months.
The best place to base
yourself will of course depend on where else you're going to and
where you've come from, and what you want to do during your time
in this region. But most people will probably be best served
by choosing Beauly (rather than Inverness) for a northern base, or
Fort Augustus (rather than Fort William) for a southern base.
If you're staying in Fort
Augustus, the best place is the
This is a lovely family owned and operated hotel, albeit rather
self-consciously over focused on being 'eco-conscious'.
They have a good restaurant and comfortable rooms.
is another good place to stay, and The Caledonian Hotel is
more choice, albeit not quite as nice as the other two.
If you are planning on staying
three or more nights, you could also consider the self catering
apartments at the
former Fort Augustus Abbey for a high quality and distinctive
experience. They have an excellent restaurant on-site, too.
There are two main hotels in
Beauly. Our favorite is the
Lovat Arms (no link to
the Fort Augustus Lovat Arms, merely the same name - the Lovats
being a major clan in the area).
This is a very friendly
hotel and if you're lucky, there might be a caleidh scheduled
for one of the nights in their bar. This is a traditional
Scottish 'party' celebration, where people dance and drink and
generally enjoy themselves.
The other main hotel in town,
on the other side of the road and otherwise close to the Lovat
Arms, is the
Hotel. We feel this to be more modern and institutional,
compared to the Lovat Arms, but it is still comfortable and
acceptable in terms of quality.
Just out of Drumnadrochit is
the pleasant small
House Hotel, which offers very family friendly accommodation
and activities in their rural environment, and can help arrange
horse-riding and fishing in the area.
alternative worth considering is the slightly faded but still grand
Glengarry Castle Hotel, located in Invergarry, about 7 miles
south of Fort Augustus. This is one of the more reasonably
priced stately home/hotel conversions, and is in a beautiful
setting on the shores of Loch Oich.
House, half-way between Beauly and Inverness and on the
shores of Beauly Firth is another nice place to treat yourself
to if you're looking to stay somewhere out of the ordinary.
Parts of the building date back to 1505.
How to Get To the Region
You'll almost certainly choose to have a rental car and drive to
The Great Glen region, and to drive on again from there to
wherever next you travel on to.
Remember that Scotland is not very big, and the roads are seldom
congested. Both Fort William in the south and Inverness in
the north are only half a day's drive from either Glasgow or
However, for a change of travel style, you might choose to take
a train. Inverness is well served by trains from
Edinburgh, and Fort William has four trains a day from Glasgow.
With train service between Edinburgh and Glasgow being virtually
a commuter service, with trains leaving every 15 minutes and
taking about 50 minutes for the journey, it is easy to start or
end your travels in either city.
If you take a train to Fort William or Inverness, you'd probably
want to arrange for a rental car to be waiting for you at the
station for your time traveling around the region.
Inverness also has an airport if you wished to fly in or out.
What to See and Do Around the Great Glen
There are many things to think about for this part of your time
Clearly, a visit to Loch
Ness will be an essential feature of your travels.
A boat trip on Loch Ness
will give you a much better appreciation of Scotland's largest
and deepest loch.
Urquhart Castle on the
shores of Loch Ness is deservedly one of Scotland's most
popular tourist attractions.
You should visit one but
probably not both of the two Loch Ness Monster exhibitions in
A leisurely relaxing time
in Fort Augustus alongside the staircase locks on the
Caledonian Canal is a great way to spend an hour or two.
The Jacobite Steam Train
is a wonderful retreat to the earlier age of steam trains and
beautiful railway journeys.
The Corrimony cairn and
stones and nearby Mony's Stone, the two Clava sites, and the
Windhill Standing Stones are just some of the prehistoric
mysteries you can see in the area.
Just east of Inverness is
the Culloden battlefield, upon which Scotland's last hopes for
independence fell (at least until the last decade or two).
Consider walking some or
all of the Great Glen Way, a walking travel which travels
all the way from Fort William to Inverness, a total distance
of 73 miles.
There are of course
opportunities to play golf, or to go fishing.
Part of a series on the
Loch Ness and Great Glen region, please also see
1. How to get to Loch
Ness and the Great Glen and Where to Stay
2. Loch Ness and Nessie,
the Loch Ness Monster
3. Other things to see
and do in and around Loch Ness and the Great Glen (coming soon)
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11 Mar 2011, last update
30 May 2021
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