Loch Ness is famous worldwide for its monster. But even if Nessie fails to put in an appearance, there is still plenty to see and explore along the shores of Britain’s deepest freshwater loch.
The A82 from Inverness runs alongside the Caledonian Canal for a while before the loch itself begins at Lochend.
The first place you come to after this is Abriachan, just off the main road. There are some interesting walks available around Abriachan Forest, where you can also see a replica of a Bronze Age hut.
The road continues to wind along the shores of the loch, with a number of lay-bys in which you can stop and admire the magnificent scenery.
It then curves slightly inland to the main village along the western shore of the loch, Drumnadrochit.
Here you can visit your choice of exhibition about the Loch Ness Monster. The Loch Ness 2000 centre seeks to provide a scientific understanding of the loch and its environment; and the Original Loch Ness Monster Exhibition has as its slogan ‘We Believe’.
But there’s more to Drumnadrochit than just the monster. There are also a number of other shops and attractions which are worth visiting.
Between the two monster exhibitions is a glass-blowing centre and shop. Art lovers should head to the village gallery, where you can select from a wide range of top quality paintings by local artists.
Horse enthusiasts should visit the Highland Riding Centre at Borlum Farm just outside Drumnadrochit, where you can enjoy rides tailored to all abilities, as well as using the indoor facilities when the weather is not so good.
Drumnadrochit also contains a number of places to stay and eat, making it a good base to explore the rest of the area.
Continuing around the loch, visitors come to historic Urquhart Castle a couple of miles outside the village.
There has been a fortress on this site since at least Pictish times, but the current castle dates from the 13th century.
Between 1297 and 1330, the castle changed hands several times during the Scottish Wars of Independence, between English forces and those loyal to Robert the Bruce.
Later on, it was also the subject of numerous raids by the Lords of the Isles against the Scottish crown and again changed hands on several occasions between the 1390s and 1540s when it was plundered by the western clans.
The castle saw its last action in 1689, when retreating Hanoverian forces blew up the castle following a siege by Jacobite troops.
After a long period of decline in which much of its stone was used in local building works, moves were made to restore the castle in the early 20th century.
It’s now run by Historic Scotland, which has a visitor centre there including an audio-visual display, shop and restaurant.
It’s one of the most visited attractions in Scotland and is also a popular place for Nessie-spotting. The deepest recorded point of the loch is just off shore in Urquhart Bay.
After leaving Urquhart Castle, you’ll discover the John Cobb Memorial Cairn built on the roadside - a tribute to the man who died while attempting to set a new world water speed record on the loch in the 1950s.
A few miles on, the pretty village of Invermoriston contains an old bridge built by Thomas Telford over the River Moriston. Take some time to explore the beauty of the nearby glen.
At the southern end of Loch Ness is the scenic village of Fort Augustus. The Benedictine Abbey was founded here in the 1870s on the site of the fort which gives the village its name.
One of the most impressive sights in Fort Augustus is the flight of locks on the Caledonian Canal.
You can find out more about how the canal was built at the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre in the village.
From Fort Augustus you can choose to follow the canal and explore further down the Great Glen all the way to Fort William. But if you’re just on a day trip, turn back up the eastern shore of the loch.
Luckily there are plenty of places on this quiet road where you can stop and soak up the magnificent views.
The pretty village of Whitebridge has an attractive little Catholic church, an outpost of the former abbey in Fort Augustus, and a perfectly preserved Wade Bridge.
Descend the twisting birch-lined single track road to Foyers. The waterfall thundering down the cliff-side was immortalised by Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns. The village was home to one of the first aluminium smelters.
At Inverfarigaig take advantage of the network of woodland walks which wind up the hill to viewpoints over the loch. Towering above the village is the hilltop vitrified fort of Dun Deardail.
According to legend this is where Deirdre and her lover took their refuge after fleeing from Ulster.
From the beach at Dores, there’s a magnificent view, right down the loch past the towering height of Mealfourvonie on the north side of the loch towards Urquhart Castle and its bay.
This is your final chance to catch a glimpse of Nessie. If she doesn’t appear console yourself with the sights you’ve seen on your trip around the famous Scottish loch.