Lochs in Scotland - where to start? Some, like lochs Ness and Lomond, are large. Some, like lochs Drunkie and Gamhna, are small and some, including Loch Morar and Lochan a' Chladheimh, are mysterious. All are waiting to be explored and are ideal for watersports, shore-side walks, wildlife watching, fishing and much more.
Almost resembling the lungs of Orkney's Mainland, these two beautiful lochs are only separated at their narrowest point by a slender causeway. The views to the horizon seem never-ending and the surrounding area contains arguably the richest Neolithic archaeology in Europe. Don't miss the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. History is still being uncovered at the important Ness of Brodgar site and both lochs are popular with anglers.
One of Scotland's loveliest lochs, this Wester Ross waterway is popular for fishing and wildlife watching. Your first achingly beautiful view of it, heading down Glen Docherty, will stay with you, as the vista takes in the loch, its islands and Slioch rising skywards on the north shore. On the south shore is Beinn Eighe. Established in 1951, this mountain reserve along with Loch Maree Islands, forms the UK's oldest National Nature Reserve. The area is also very popular with hillwalkers.
Take the quiet road from Drumnadrochit to just beyond the secluded village of Cannich, to find this loch and its neighbour Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin. Glen Affric is regarded by many as Scotland's most beautiful glen and this mesmerising wild place is ideal for spotting golden eagles, ospreys, red deer and red squirrels. Hemmed in by mountains, a good track around the loch leads through ancient pinewoods and open land and is ideal for walking and mountain biking. The area is very popular with anglers, paddlers and hillwalkers.
This well-known loch contains more freshwater than all the lakes of England and Wales put together and forms part of the Caledonian Canal. At over 23 miles long and 226 metres deep Loch Ness is a bit of a monster - the biggest loch in Scotland. Talking of monsters, has anyone seen Nessie? Learn about the loch and its infamous beastie at the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition and visit mighty Urquhart Castle. Pull on your boots and admire the scenery from the South Loch Ness Trail or the Great Glen Way, or for the experienced, paddle along the Great Glen Canoe Trail.
Follow the Road to the Isles (Rathad nan Eilean) either by road, or rail aboard the Jacobite Steam Railway, to find the deepest loch in Scotland and the UK. At 310 metres deep and nearly 12 miles long, it's a stunner, and if you're very quiet you might spot Morag - Scotland's other, and less well-known, loch-dwelling monster. If you leave the train at Morar, it's possible to walk a rewarding 9-mile route along the loch to Tarbert on Loch Nevis and take a ferry (book in advance) back to Mallaig.
Pronounced Loch "Mick", this Aberdeenshire loch, south-west of Ballater, has royal connections and lies within the Balmoral Estate. The estate and the loch was beloved by Queen Victoria, who would often stay at the Glas-allt-Shiel lodge on the north shore. The nearby mountain of Lochnagar, with its sheer 200 m cliffs, is a favourite of King Charles. There are several Munros in the area, making it popular with hillwalkers, but an 8-mile lower-level circuit of the loch is also a very rewarding experience.
The Highland Perthshire setting for Loch Tay, Scotland's sixth largest, is simply stunning. There's a long history of settlement around the loch dating back to the Iron Age, when residents lived in man-made "crannogs". More than 20 crannog sites have been identified and a reconstruction was built at the Scottish Crannog Centre* following underwater excavations at Fearnan. Visit the villages of Kenmore and Killin, explore the Falls of Acharn, climb Ben Lawers' seven Munros, take a cruise with Loch Tay Safaris, or visit local chocolatier, Charlotte Flower.
*The Iron Age Crannog was sadly destroyed by a fire and is no longer accessible for public tours. The museum and Iron Age village is still open to visit. Check The Scottish Crannog Centre's website for updates on the new visitor centre which is currently in development.
At 25 miles long, Loch Awe is Scotland's longest loch and a popular spot for trout fishing. Like Loch Tay, many ancient crannog sites have been found in this loch. See the ruins of a castle on Innis Chonnell. Or visit Kilchurn, an iconic Clan Campbell stronghold at the head of the loch. St Conan's Kirk in Lochawe village and Cruachan the Hollow Mountain Visitor Centre at Pass of Brander are also well worth visiting.
Loch Lomond is the largest loch in Scotland and the UK's largest body of freshwater. It's easily accessible from Glasgow and is the jewel in the crown of Scotland's first National Park. A climb to the top of Conic Hill along the West Highland Way, or to the summit of Ben Lomond reveals a remarkable vista of loch, mountains, islands and the Highland Boundary Fault. Take a loch cruise, choose from an array of watersports, enjoy a round of golf or simply relax and absorb the views.
On the west coast, you'll find many spectacular fjord-like sea lochs cutting deep into the Scottish mainland, the longest of which is Loch Fyne. Running 40 miles from the Kyles of Bute to Achadunan, the loch is well known for its bountiful larder. Don't miss Fyne Ales Farm Brewery, Loch Fyne Oysters, Loch Fyne Whiskies, Fyne Preserves and Inver Restaurant. If you're interested in history, then a visit to Inveraray Castle, Inveraray Jail or Auchindrain Township should satisfy your appetite!
This lovely waterway has been Glasgow's main water supply since Victorian times and is a fantastic place for family fun. Take a steamship cruise from Trossachs Pier to Stronachlachar for a loch's-eye view of the scenery. Or take the cruise one way and cycle back along the traffic-free loch-side road. You'll find the Clan MacGregor Burial Ground, opposite Black Island along the way. For incredible views of Loch Katrine, take a short, steep climb up Ben A'an.
Nestling in the shadows of West Lomond and Bishop's Hill, this loch's historical connections include the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots on Castle Island in 1567. Take the excellent, and mainly flat, 13-mile Loch Leven Heritage Trail around the loch to fantastic eateries at Loch Leven's Larder and Loch Leven Lodges. No visit is complete without calling into the RSPB's Loch Leven Visitor Centre, especially during autumn and winter when thousands of migrant birds roost around the loch.Key facilities
- Level Access
- Accessible toilets
- Cafe or Restaurant
Scotland is unquestionably a land of lochs. Well almost! The Lake of Menteith is in fact our only "natural" lake and is sometimes known as Loch Inchmahome. For all you pub-quizzers, other lakes include the Lake of the Hirsel, Pressmennan Lake, Lake Louise and Manxman's Lake, but these are man-made. You'll find Inchmahome Priory on the lake's largest island, where Mary Queen of Scots once sought refuge. The loch is sometimes used for curling bonspiel's as it's shallow and freezes over readily.
This relatively new loch was created in the 1930s as part of the wider Galloway hydro-electric scheme. Clatteringshaws sits within Galloway Forest Park - the UK's largest area of forestry - and the Forestry Commission operates a seasonal visitor centre and café here. It's a tranquil place, ideal for recharging and reconnecting with nature. Enjoy relaxing walks or visit at night for a stellar stargazing experience in the UK's first Dark Sky Park.
Staying in the south-west, Loch Ken is set within a wonderfully scenic and quiet part of southern Scotland and is a great base for an extended holiday. The loch is a haven for an amazing array of watersports - from sailing and stand-up paddleboarding, to windsurfing, water slides and a wobbly waterpark!
Our coasts and waters offer fun activities for all the family, but it's important to stay safe.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution also provides helpful advice and safety tips across a range of pursuits, to ensure you have the best day out.
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