There is only one "lake" in Scotland. Otherwise, Scotland doesn't have "lakes" it has "loches" (small streams are also called "burns" here and the hills are "glens"). Loch Ness is the second largest loch in Scotland after Loch Lomond in the south near Glasgow. Loch Ness is in the stunning Scottish Highlands and around 23 miles southwest of the northernmost city of Inverness. This large lake cuts across Scotland and is surrounded by mountains and hills - or glens.


If you visit Loch Ness don't expect to see crystal blue waters as the water is very murky with water visibility exceptionally low. This is due to the rather high peat bog in the soil around the Loch (this adds the legend that something could be down there). Loch Ness is just one of the reasons why Scotland is a dream holiday.

Loch Ness: The Facts

  • Surface Area: 22 Sq Miles or 56 sq km
  • Size: Second Largest In Scotland
  • Deepest Point: 230 meters or 755 feet
  • Largest: Largest By Volume In The British Isles
  • Unfortunately: Not Home To An Aquatic Monster

While this most famous of Scottish Loches may not be home to a singular lonely old aquatic and elusive beast, it is a stunning loch. It is situated in the heart of the Scottish highlands and the area is breathtaking.

It is strange how often stories of monsters like Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot describe a single monster and not a population of them - kinda like King Kong all lonely on Skull Island. But that doesn't mean the loch is denuded of life, there are abundant fish and eels inhabiting the loch, but otherwise, there is little else fishy about this dark body of water.

The famous "Surgeon's photograph" of 1934 has since been shown to be a hoax (if not a popular one) and the loch has even been extensively sonar scanned to put the old matter to rest.

There are of course other things to see and do than chase proverbial red herrings.

Urquhart Castle

The oddly named Urquhart Castle is a stunning ruined castle that sits above the Loch and affords a picturesque view of the loch and the surrounding area. The present ruins of the castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries and were built on earlier fortifications. The castle played roles in different Scottish wars and was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509. It was partially destroyed in 1692 during the Jacobite Rebellion to prevent it from being used by the Jacobite forces. Today it is one of the most visited castles in Scotland.

  • Urquhart Castle: One Of The Most Popular Scottish Castles

Fort Augustus Abbey

Also known as St. Benedict's Abbey, it was a Scottish Benedictine Monastery and is also close to Loch Ness. It was completed in 1880 and started as part of John Crichton-Stuart's desire for the restoration of monasticism in Scotland. In order to be built, the old Fort August had to be dismantled (the fort was built in 1729 and had been built to suppress the same Jacobites). It continued to operate until the 1990s. Today it is one of the more spectacular buildings in the vicinity of Loch Ness.

Related: 10 Completely Free Things To Do In Scotland

Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition

If you are eager to learn about the history of the Loch Ness Monster myth, then check out the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. It has been open for over 30 years now (it will actually be reopening in August 2021 after flood damage has been repaired). The center boasts a comprehensive exhibition with multi-media in 17 different languages. The exhibition explores some 500 million years of history (including natural mystery and legend) surrounding Loch Ness and the stories behind its famous elusive monster - the "Nessie" (as it is called locally).

  • Admission Fee: £8.45 or $11.50 (Adults) / £23.95 or $33.00 (Family)

Cruise On Loch Ness

If you would like to get out on the Loch, then Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition also offers tours out on its vessel the "Deepscan". It's named after the expedition for the Loch Ness Project. The cruise departs every day hourly from the Loch Ness Center. You will get a view of the stunning Urquhart Castle listed above and you will be searching for the fabled Nessie with the vessel's onboard sonar equipment. For those who are hopeful - who knows if you will be the first to find something in the murky watery depths.

Cruises on the Deepscan run between Easter and October and can have up to 12 people aboard. You can't book tickets online so you will need to go directly to the center.

Related: The Best Ways To Plan Your Visit To Bonnie Scotland (For The First Time)

Shopping And Cafe

Of course, there is a great on-site cafe and restaurant for you to relax at in enjoying the Scottish Highlands home to its mystical monsters. The center also comes with a shop. Here you can buy all the requisite Loch Ness Monster nicknacks and souvenirs. But shopping isn't limited to old Nessie. You can choose from a full range of Scotland's finest whiskey as well as must-have Scottish items like kilts.

Loch Ness is one of the largest and most stunning lochs in the Scottish Highlands with or without old Nessie.

Next: Know Before You Go: What To Know About Scotland