Self Drive Loch Ness Tour – With Fab Views and Cute Cafes

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Most people have heard of Loch Ness. It’s one of the most visited places in the Scottish Highlands.

What many people who visit the area don’t know is that the Eastern side of Loch Ness is much less visited than the Western side but the views are stunning, plus there are plenty of things to see so it is well worth a visit.

Here is an itinerary for your own Loch Ness Tour – a beautiful circular drive that can easily be done in one day from Inverness and back to Inverness.

Take the road less travelled on this complete Loch Ness tour!

The tour can be done in either direction. This itinerary is travelling down the East side and returning along the West side. It’s just under 70 miles all the way giving plenty of time to stop and enjoy the amazing views, walks, refreshments and attractions en route.

Nessie sightings not guaranteed!

Loch Ness Tour Starting Point

Take the B862 from Inverness towards Dores. This road runs from the A8082. You can find the roundabout right beside the Tesco Supermarket, Dores Rd, Inverness IV2 4XT.

Travel South passing through Scaniport.

6.5 miles from Inverness is the village of Dores.

Dores is where the only beach at Loch Ness is located. To reach the beach you need to take a right turn from the main road. The Dores Inn is on the left and the car park is ahead with the beach nearby.

The Dores Inn is a great spot to enjoy a nice meal if you are staying in Inverness too.

Check out their TripAdvisor reviews

At Dores you can stay on the B852, which means bearing right at the junction in Dores or bear left to go onto the B862.

The B862 takes you away from the edge of Loch Ness but goes up higher for some great views.

The B852 follows more closely along the edge of Loch Ness.

Mini Circular Tour Just to Falls of Foyers

  • You could easily do a mini tour and follow the B852 along the edge of Loch Ness to the Falls of Foyers and return along the B862, giving you two different perspectives from the Eastern side of Loch Ness.

This itinerary takes the B862.

B862 Towards Achnabat.

After Dores you will head up and also head in an Easterly direction.

On your left you will see Loch Ness Spirits. They are a Gin and Absinthe distillery with visits by appointment.

16 miles from Inverness is Loch Ruthven. This is an RSPB nature reserve which you will see the signs for from the B862. This could be a pleasant addition to your trip round Loch Ness. There are no facilities as such, other than a car park. The loch has sedge around it making it ideal for divers.

Check out the RSPB page on Loch Ruthven for more information.

As you continue along you will see Loch Mhor appear on your left hand side. You will follow alongside the Loch through Lyne of Gorthleck and Gorthleck.

The road continues on and you leave Loch Mhor behind you.

Falls of Foyers Turning

18.5 miles from the starting point

You will then see a right hand turn to Foyers and the Falls of Foyers.

Turn right at this junction and follow the River Foyers which will be on your right hand side. There are a couple of spots with parking where you can get a good view and photo of the river.

Continue into Foyers passing The Camerons Tea Rooms and Farm Shop on the right hand side.

As you come into Foyers you will see a car park on your right hand side. This is where you park to visit the Falls. It is located next to Foyers Stores and the Waterfall Cafe. The shop has a little souvenir shed at the front and is currently doing takeway snacks and drinks. Hopefully the cafe will be opening again soon.

Check out the reviews of the Waterfall Cafe on Tripadvisor.

Falls of Foyers

The Falls of Foyers are well worth a visit.

You will find a marker stone at the entrance to the falls and some interpretation boards. Entry is through a gate. Take the gate on the left hand side to head down to the falls.

There is a circular walk which will take you right down to Loch Ness and back up through the woods. Walk Highlands say this walk takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.

If you are heading down to view the falls then follow the steps which zig zag down the hill. The steps are uneven and there isn’t a handrail along the way for most of the sections. There are some uneven sections with exposed rocks and roots. It can be a bit slippery but don’t let any of that put you off – it’s still worth the walk.

However, the views are lovely and there are also some great stones with poetry engraved on them which are a lovely addition.

En route there is a tiny waterfall which comes out from underneath the road and can be reached by taking a right turn at the bend of a zig zag in the steps.

Continue down until you reach the viewing area which is reached by squeezing round a larger rock.

As you squeeze round you will see the top of the Falls and then from the edge of the viewing area you can see the full depth of the falls.

The falls are lovely, with a wide area at the top causing the water to fall like a curtain. The setting is lovely too with foliage all around.

(Even my 15 year old nephew was impressed despite not liking going up and down steps!).

We returned via the steps to the car park but plan to return and do the longer walk when the Waterfall Cafe is open again.

Camerons Tea Room

It was wonderful to find this tea room open and doing takeaway’s from the cafe door. What a treat it was to sit outside and enjoy a lovely coffee and a vegan cupcake (which was delicious by the way). In the field were a couple of ponies and behind the cafe were two deer (in pens).

There were lots of tables and we plan to return when the cafe is open so we can enjoy a longer stay and hopefully some lovely produce from the farm shop too.

Back to the B862

We returned back to the B862 and continued heading South.

We passed through Whitebridge.

There is a holiday park on the left as you pass through the village. It’s a Hoseasons holiday park, called Wildside, with a great selection of lodges, including plenty with hot tubs.

After Whitbridge the road straightens out and you will be travellig along a section of General Wade’s military road. These roads were constructed in the 18th Centurty to enable Government troops to quickly move around the Highlands in case there was another Jacobite uprising.

The road climbs up to the Suidhe Viewpoint.

Suidhe Viewpoint

On the day we visited it was snowing at the viewpoint, with quite a lot of snow still laying on the ground. Enough for some snowballs anyway!

There is an interpretation board which shows you what you are looking at as you look towards Inverness. There is also a walk, reached by crossing through the gate, to a higher viewpoint. Due to the weather we didn’t venture that far but will do next time.

There is a layby each side of the road for easy parking. This is definitely worth a stop – the view, even in the snow, was amazing.

It’s 1200′ high or 393m.

Continuing to Loch Tarff

The road heads down from the viewpoint and reaches Loch Tarff on the righ hand side. There is a viewpoint at the start of the Loch.

Down to Fort Augustus

13 miles from Falls of Foyers

As you continue down the hill you will get a great view across the lower part of Loch Ness and to Fort Augustus which sits at the bottom of the Loch.

The road goes around the bottom of Loch Ness and if you are able to safely park there might be the opportunity for a great photo up Loch Ness with the moutains framing the Loch on either side.

Fort Augustus

At the junction with the A82 bear right to head into Fort Augustus.

Fort Augustus is the halfway point on this Loch Ness tour, being at the southern end of the loch.

Cross the swing bridge and continue past the petrol station where you will find a parking area on your left hand side. This is for cars and coaches.

Fort Augustus is well worth a stop. It is small but there are several things worth seeing.

There are several cafes alongside the canal and some gift shops as well. It makes for a pleasant wander and comfort stop if you are travelling around Loch Ness.

Note:

There is a public toilet if you are walking back from the car park to the centre of Fort Augustus. It is a pay toilet and is 50p. It is on the left hand side just after the petrol station.

Caledonian Canal Visitor Centre

Right next to the canal and the swing bridge in the centre of Fort Augustus is the Caledonian Canal visitor centre. It is operated by Scottish canals and the visitor centre includes a shop, some interpretation boards and cafe towards the rear of the building.

The cafe has a nice terrace which overlooks the river.

There is a nice walk alongside the canal which has several locks in Fort Augustus.

Walk to the Scenic Viewpoint

If you cross the A82 near the Calendonian Canal visitor centre and walk towards Loch Ness you can walk out to a scenic viewpoint for a good photo of Loch Ness. There is also an old lighthouse just across the entrance to the canal as well.

Cruise Loch Ness

If you want a different perspective of Loch Ness and to visit the quieter end of the Loch then why not consider taking a trip with Cruise Loch Ness? Their trips depart from Fort Augustus.

They have a 50 minute trip running through the day and a 1 hour evening cruise.

Taking the A82 North

To continue the circular tour take the A82 and head North out of Fort Augustus.

Drive North keeping an eye out for a tiny island on the right hand side called Cherry Island.

Continue alongside Loch Ness.

Invermoriston

7 miles from Fort Augustus

The road turns to the West slightly as you reach Invermoriston. As you bear right you will cross the River Morison. Shortly afterwards on your right you will see a parking area. You can park here and walk back to the bridge for some great photos.

The village hall used to have public toilets but unfortunately these have been closed for a while due to funding issues. Let’s hope they are able to reopen in the future.

In the field behind the car park there was some highland cows for a while, hopefully they will return once there are more visitors to the Highlands. Check out the cute little stone circle in the meantime.

Continue back on the A82 and head North again.

The road follows alongside Loch Ness once again so there is plenty of time to do some Loch Ness monster spotting too.

John Cobb Memorial Cairn

As you get nearer to Drumnadrochit you will come to a straight piece of road and on the right hand side you will see a round small tower – it’s actually a a memorial cairn to John Cobb. He died nearby having crashed his speedboat on Loch Ness when trying to get the fastest recorded speed on water. He had already got the land speed record. His boat hit 200 mph but hit an unexplained wake in the water and disintegrated. The date was 29th of September 1952. The boat remains are still in Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle

12 miles from Invermoriston

Shortly after the John Cobb memorial is Urquhart Castle. From the road you cannot see the castle itself until you are passing the main entrance.

The castle is currently closed so it is a good time to get a photograph. Normally the car park is very busy with lots of coaches and cars so it is sometimes impossible to get a parking space.

Urquhart Castle is set in a very scenic location, but it wasn’t built for decoration. At one time it was the headquarters for everything in the area with the castle being fiercely fought over throughout it’s history due to it’s strategically important location.

The castle is very easy to visit. If visiting by car then you park in the car park and head into the round building at the rear of the car park. Inside there is a ticket office and then there is a lift or a staircase which takes you down to the main visitor centre.

The visitor centre has a gift shop, cafe, interpretation area, toilets and a fantastic film which shows the whole history of the castle in about 12 minutes. At the end of the film there is a great view of the castle too!

To reach the castle remains themselves you walk out of the visitor centre and down the hill via the path.

Once at the castle ruins there are guides to ask questions of. You can climb down to the edge of the loch and also up the highest tower for a great view and photo too.

It is £9.60 per adult to visit the castle.

Note:

You can’t just pop into the cafe or the toilets. Entry is paid before you access these facilities.

Urquhart Castle Boat Trips

You will see a boat dock near the castle ruins. Boats arrive and depart throughout the day. You can take a boat trip from Urquhart Castle or if you want to combine a longer trip you can take a trip from the Clansman Hotel, Dochgarroch or Inverness depending on how long you want to spend cruising and what you want to see. The majority of the larger cruises on the Loch Ness are operated by Jacobite.

Drumnadrochit

Continuing North from Urquhart Castle the road turns West again and heads into Drumnadrochit. There is a Co-operative shop as you enter the lower part of the village.

On the left you pass a games field where they play shinty in the winter months and have Highland games in the summer months.

You then enter the lower part of the village. You will see parking area on the left hand side. This is currently being redeveloped by the local community so hopefully the public toilets will be opening again soon as will the information centre at the front of the building.

Across the road from the parking area is a gift shop with plenty of Loch Ness Monster i.e. Nessie related gifts and items.

There are several cafes and restaurants nearby too. A particularly well known restaurant is Fiddlers which has a particularly fine selection of malt whiskies.

Further along on the right hand side you will see a floral recreation of Urquhart Castle.

Upper Drumnadrochit

As the road continues North it turns Eastward, round to the right. As it does you will see Nessieland on your left hand side and Nessie looking down at you from her elevated position just about the road junction.

As the road continues round to the right you will see the Loch Ness visitor centre on your left. There is some parking outside the front of the building.

This visitor centre has a walk through exhibition where you can learn the history of Loch Ness, about the search for Nessie and much more besides. At the end of the visitor centre there is a large gift shop to walk through.

There is also a self service cafe located on the site which has toilets as well. This is in the round building nearest the road.

Note:

Just beside the car park at the visitor centre, as you head out of the upper part of the village there is a tiny loch on the left hand side where you can find Nessie bobbing about in the water. If the trees haven’t grown up too much you can get a good photo.

Clansman Hotel

Continuing North on the A82 you come to the Clansman Hotel, located just after some lodges on the left hand side of the road. There is parking at the front of the hotel but it is very limited. In summer it can be extremely busy.

The Clansman Hotel has a coffee shop on the ground floor, a large gift shop, toilets just beside reception and a restaurant on the 1st floor with views across Loch Ness.

It is also the starting and finishing point for a number of cruises on Loch Ness. These cruises are operated by Jacobite and there are shorter cruises available, alongwith full day cruises. There is also the option to combine a cruise with a visit to Urquhart Castle.

Cruises from the Clansman Hotel don’t include cruising on the Caledonian Canal generally.

To reach the cruise harbour you follow a small path which goes underneath the main road. It is located in the corner of the car park near the front of the building. There is a Nessie figure there to help you find it.

Note:

Do not cross the road as cars go very fast and there is no easy way down to the boat boarding point.

There is a ticket booth at the boat dock.

Boats generally have toilets and a snack bar on board, indoor and outside seating and sonar displays to show what is happening under the water as you cruise over the water.

Continue North on the A82

As you continue North keep and eye out for a glimpse of Aldourie Castle across the water at the top of Loch Ness. It’s been beautifully restored and is a luxury holiday home.

Loch Dochfour

At the top of Loch Ness the water narrows and becomes Loch Dochfour. This is where the Caledonian Canal and the River Ness flow into, they join at the Northern end of Loch Dochfour and connect the Loch with Inverness itself, 6 miles or 9 kilometres to the North.

From the road the canal is nearest to you.

Caledonian Canal

You may be wondering how the Caledonian Canal can near Inverness and in Fort Augustus, and thinking perhaps the names have been mixed up. The Caledonian Canal is actually a series of canals, built to connect a series of lochs that run through the Great Glen. By connecting these lochs together it was possible to take a boat from the East or West coast without having to sail round the top of Scotland.

The canal was a huge engineering project, led by Thomas Telford, who was truly prolific engineer. The project was designed to enable the navy to move quickly to quell another Jacobite uprising but it was beset by problems. However, it was still an engineering feat.

If you fancy seeing all of the Caledonian Canal why not hire a holiday boat and travel through it all?

Dochgarroch

Just after the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal join Loch Dochfour is Dochgarroch.

If you fancy taking a boat trip through a little bit of the canal and then across into Loch Ness this is the place to join the boat. Boat trips are operated by Jacobite.

There is a small visitor centre with a cafe in Dochgarroch alongwith some nice canalside walks.

Tomnahurich Bridge

Continuing North to Inverness you cross the Caledonian Canal once again, crossing another swing bridge, Tomnahurich Bridge. Down to the right hand side you will see some more boats and this is where Jacobite cruises also depart from.

Boat trips from here including crusing through the upper part of the canal before joining Loch Dochfour.

Back to the Starting Point

16 miles from Drumnadrochit

Once you cross the swing bridge you will come to a roundabout. If you turn right and follow this road round you will come back to the Tesco where you started this circular journey.

If you continue straight on you will head into Inverness.

Scottish Highland Series

I have written a series of articles on the Scottish Highlands which you might find useful;

Check out my Travel Inspiration section if you are looking for more ideas on places to visit

I’ve also got lots of resources on how to travel cheaper (and therefore travel more!)