Loch Ness 360
This week saw a host of dignitaries gather on the shores of Loch Ness to cut the ribbon on a newly completed 6 km piece of walking trail. This piece of trail includes a new bridge at Glendoe that links Loch Tarf and Fort Augustus and is the final piece of the Loch Ness 360 jigsaw. This will, for the first time, make it easy for walkers, bikers and horse riders to complete a complete circuit of one of Scotland’s biggest tourist attractions. The new route, christened the Loch Ness 360 begins in Inverness and follows the Great Glen Way to Fort Augustus where it links into this new section of trail that then joins up to existing paths and tracks to take you all the way back to Inverness. This loop is over 70 miles and should take 4-5 days for competent hikers but there is really no need to hurry. Walking however is just one way to experience this most majestic of natural attractions. There are a host of other ways to take in the grandeur and history of this magnificent and awe-inspiring destination, here are a few of our favourites.
The most obvious way to see the loch would be from the water. Given the history as a nautical highway carrying goods across the country and the notoriety of the Loch Ness monster legend, it is an atmospheric way to feel close to the spirit of the loch. The Great Glen Canoe Trail runs all the way from Fort William to Inverness and is a major undertaking. Fortunately for those with a little less time on their hands there are a number of companies offering boat trips. Thrill seekers can book a two-hour high-speed rib trip, or alternatively a gentler evening cruise with drinks and nibbles will provide you a great opportunity for that perfect sunset photograph. Glen View Lodge is designed as an upside house to maximise the stunning views from the upstairs living room balcony. Luxurious and pet friendly, it is only a short drive to the north side of Loch Ness and the facilities in Drumnadrochit and also the wilderness of Glen Affric.
Urquhart Castle offers panoramic views across a huge section of the loch. The castle is one of the most scenically located in the country and is a brilliant day out for families. It has a strategic setting on a rocky promontory with an open outlook up and down Loch Ness with unmissable views from its battlements. The building’s history is fascinating and it has been used as a location for numerous films including the most recent James Bond film. During the high season the castle is open late for an even more atmospheric experience. Bearnock Lodge is a 5 star mansion sleeping 16 and is ideal for a celebration with friends. Located in Glen Urquhart which stretches westward from Loch Ness it is luxurious as well as being convenient for accessing all that this area has to offer.
The shores of the south side of Loch Ness are ideal for road biking, quiet, scenic and with loads of cafes and pubs for mid ride refreshment. This is also the route of the annual Loch Ness Marathon, known as one of the best in the country. The popularity of driving on the north shore of the loch means road cycling is not recommended (except for the annual Etape when the roads are closed to traffic) but there is a wealth of mountain biking opportunities there. There are two variations on the Great Glen Way that are suitable for chunky tyres as well as a series of specially constructed trails at Abriachan. No Fuss Events, the company behind 10 Under the Ben are also launching a new Loch Ness 360 event next year that will see runners and bikers take on the challenge in 3 days. Caledonian Retreat sits in a quiet spot on the south of the loch close to the 360 Trail. It’s a brilliant base for exploring the area and has a hot tub for relaxing in after longs days outside.
For many people the best way to experience this iconic landmark is from the dinner table. The shores around the loch are dotted with bars and restaurants with views that stretch for miles. Local produce is the order of the day and there are even two local breweries producing competing Loch Ness themed ales. For fine dining then try The Boathouse in Fort Augustus, for a beer sat outside with uninterrupted views then The Dores Inn can’t be beat. House by the Loch is just a few miles away and is a great destination for a big get together. There is a cinema and games for the kids, fishing on the loch and for large bookings The Dores Inn can even arrange a mini bus to pick you up and drop you off.