To celebrate my 25th birthday Jamie treated me to a long weekend at Loch Ness! Having never been to this area of Scotland before I couldn’t wait to visit. We were booked in to The Lovat hotel in Fort Augustus which is South of Loch Ness, turns out this is a great location if you are planning to visit!
Travelling to Loch Ness takes around 3 hours from Aberdeen, we took the country roads to reach the west of the Loch and then took the loch side road to the hotel. The journey was so beautiful, especially along the shores of the Loch, we saw the castle we would visit the next day, lots of small villages and boat tours out on the water.
We arrived at around 4 and had dinner booked for 7.30 so we went to the room to get settled. Jamie had surprised me by getting the hotel to set up balloons and a birthday card. After a while the staff arrived with my second surprise, a beautiful bouquet of flowers!
We went down to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner and had high hopes after reading reviews online. Thankfully we weren’t disappointed! To start I had a smoked salmon dish which was amazing.
We were given free homemade bread and the staff were friendly and helpful. All of this was followed by a lamb dish which I chose for my main. The food was so good that we didn’t even have room for dessert!
Instead of more food, we had a glass of wine and visited some of the other rooms in the hotel. We loved that there were lots of public areas, one room was filled with bookshelves and knick-knacks. There were even some games like chess to play later in the evening. We settled in the front room which had a piano and fireplace, the perfect end to a lovely day!
Our first full day started early, with a hotel breakfast included, we were ready to go and explore Loch Ness. Firstly, we drove to Urquhart Castle which is an ancient castle on the backs of the Loch. We parked in the carpark which is way above the castle, thankfully you buy tickets at this level and can take easy stairs/a lift down to the castle instead of having to scramble down a steep hill!
We were shown a short introductory video which briefly described how the site became a castle and was besieged multiple times throughout history. Unfortunately the last inhabitants blew up the gateway to prevent invaders using the castle, but there are still plenty of things to see on the site. We walked down past the castle and visited the Loch first (since that’s what the trip was all about!) We sat for a while to appreciate the beautiful views.
Once you enter the castle you can climb down to where ships would arrive and sit on the shore to see more views. We were lucky to get really sunny weather too so we were happy to sit and relax by the water.
Once we had the opportunity to take in the natural beauty, we climbed through the castle and visited all of the areas. It took us around an hour to explore everything and there were lots of ruins to climb through.
We were lucky to visit at this time of year, there were no queues or crowds of people. We didn’t need to wait to climb the towers and we could easily watch the actors who told us about medieval weapons. The castle was one of the most beautiful I have ever visited, I think it’s safe to say it had the most picturesque views too!
Once we had finished at the castle, we decided to visit the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. Now when we first arrived and went inside, we weren’t sure what to expect. The decor was outdated and because we visited before the summer we were the only people in the entrance hall. We decided to go ahead and visit anyway since it was around £7 to enter and we actually didn’t know anything about the history of Loch Ness. If you’re the same, and don’t know much about the Loch, I would recommend the attraction, we walked through different rooms and watched videos which described how the legend of Nessie began and how the Loch Ness Monster was researched by scientists. I don’t want to spoil anything, but we learnt lots. I have to say though, I think Nessie is more imaginary than real!
After stopping off for a snack which we got around the corner from the Exhibition, we decided to stop off at a harbour we passed on the way to our hotel the day before. Although lots of people do visit Loch Ness, there are a few abandoned boats which can be seen if you walk along the shores. We also walked to a small island which is located just off the shores of the Loch.
Since it was such a sunny day, we still hadn’t had enough of exploring. We travelled back to Fort Augustus where our hotel was and walked along the canals which separate Loch Ness from the other Loch’s in the area. We walked for around half an hour until I saw a trail through the woods which could take us down to the parallel river.
Sounds like a good idea right? Walking through the woods to a beautiful river. We even found a bench when we got there, which made us think that the path must have been followed quite often…. But we were wrong! We walked along the river until the grass ran into the river, walked through the trees trying to find a path and spent the following half hour walking through the woods and ended up in running between lodges in a private park!
Although we hadn’t planned the detour, we found some abandoned campsites and spied a few small waterfalls between the trees, so I guess it had been worth it! We decided to walk back along the canal and stop off in a beer garden to end our evening after lots and lots of walking!
For our last full day at the Loch, we decided to visit the east coast and stopped in a small village called Foyers. This area is well known because of the Falls of Foyers which is a tall waterfall and large river which meets Loch Ness. We started to climb down, reached the waterfall relatively easily and felt like we could easily follow the river along to where it meets the Loch.
We started out following a clearly marked path and took in the beautiful views, we could easily follow the river until we reached a road which blocked our views of the river.
What then ensued was a four mile detour in which we couldn’t rejoin our original path! We made a wrong turn and walked into a caravan park, walked back and thankfully somehow managed to walk through a forest to reach the banks of Loch Ness. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip, we still hadn’t found our path, but had found a make shift camp site with tree stump seats, a rope swing and burnt out fires. We had the place all to ourselves and it was one of the most peaceful places in the world (until we decided to try out the rope swing!)
We shamefully ended up using google maps to find our way back to the car after a few miles of walking in the wrong direction! We had to climb up tiny steep paths with overgrown plants. At one point I thought I may die out there in the wilderness (kidding) but we made it back and were looking forward to visiting a tea room we had spotted on our way there.
When we arrived at the tea rooms I immediately fell in love, highland cows, deer, ducks and geese were all living in the surrounding area. A deer with a limp was being nursed to health and we got to see them up close!
Once we had some soup to warm us up again after the weather took a rainy turn when we were walking, we walked out to find these guys waiting for us too!
After being lucky enough to see all of these animals, we took the country roads back to our hotel. We stopped at the top of a hill and were lucky enough to have stopped just as a rainbow had formed.
Although it can’t really be seen in this photo, we we could actually see both ends of the rainbow! Sadly there was no pot of gold but we got to share the most beautiful view together! Just when you think that Loch Ness couldn’t get any prettier, I guess a rainbow has to appear to prove you wrong.
Once back at our hotel, we wanted to take a much needed break from hiking up and down hills. We decided to take a look around Fort Augustus and we found a viewing point at the end of the village harbour.
This was one of my favourite views, the most southern point of Loch Ness, we were able to look between the hills and see miles of the Loch. A duck even decided to photobomb my photo and make it even better too! The village had a few small pubs and cafes, our hotel was on the next road to two of the main pubs. We stopped by there for dinner before heading back to out hotel. I snapped a photo outside before we went back inside for a night cap.
Each night we had been greeted by bunnies on the lawn outside the hotel too, so if you were unsure about staying there, the fact that you can see bunnies every night must sway your opinion!
After a wonderful stay, Jamie had paid for a late check out so we could sleep in on Monday. We were even given cookies for our journey home by the hotel manager. Everything from the hotel to the walks and views were amazing on this trip. I have to say that Loch Ness surpassed all of my expectations, both the loch itself and the surrounding land is the most beautiful I have ever seen. I can’t wait to go back and see more of the countryside, waterfalls and to sunbathe on the shores of the loch again!