Scotland’s world-famous lochs are the subject of song and legend.
But who knew that there are more than 30,000 of these beautiful, timeless, freshwater lakes scattered throughout the Highlands?
Many are a short distance from the major cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and Loch Lomond, the largest at 71 sq. km, is just under four hours drive from Newcastle.
Ask a Scotsman which is the most beautiful loch, and you’ll have a heated debate on your hands.
But all would agree that the Scottish Lochs are among the most magical places to visit in the UK.
500,000 visitors each year stay in Loch Ness log cabins, hoping for a glimpse of Nessie. Loch Ness has been a major tourist attraction since the photo of an alleged sighting in 1933. Neverthelessie, Loch Ness, retains its ageless tranquillity. Situated in the Highlands north of Fort William in Glen Mor, Urquhart Castle, cruises and hiking in the surrounding forest are among the attractions. Apart from the monster, the water is freezing, so no swimming!
Breathtakingly beautiful and just an hour’s drive from the city of Glasgow, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are hugely popular with visitors and locals. Fishing, sailing, swimming, water sports are among the activities to enjoy at Loch Lomond. There’s also the chance to spot red deer, red squirrels, and pine martens on the miles of scenic trails around the loch.
Loch Fyne on “Argyll’s Secret Coast” is situated in the Western Highlands, offering outdoor activities including sailing and golf. The abundance of wildlife ensures a haven for nature lovers and photographers. Otters, seals, dolphins, and basking sharks can often be spotted. Known as “Scotland’s Larder”, Loch Fyne´s oyster beds and fresh mussels are world famous. Historic Inverary Castle is a must-see.
Loch Venechar is a smaller loch in Stirlingshire in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. 10km of sparkling waters in an idyllic location, it’s perfect for fishing and sailing, with popular summer events. There´s a network of trails through the forest on the southern shore and spectacular views of Ben Ledi. A secret lochan is hidden amongst the trees, and Queen Victoria spent time at historic Invertrossachs House.
Set on the west coast of Argyll and Bute, unspoilt and still largely unexplored, Loch Awe is Scotland’s longest loch, extending 25 miles through the glorious Highlands. Historic castles, secluded beaches and islands, wooded hillsides and distant snow-capped peaks, Loch Awe´s diversity is breathtaking. Walkers and climbers come for the mountains and glens, anglers for the famous brown trout. St Conan´s Kirk and gardens are a must-see.
Situated on the outskirts of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Loch Rusky is sheltered by the Torrie Forest, with spectacular views towards Ben Ledi and Ben Gullipen. The area feels remote and isolated even though Edinburgh and Glasgow are an hour away. Loch Rusky is home to a variety of wildlife, including ospreys, buzzards, and kites. Rusky Castle was home to Scotland´s notorious traitor, responsible for the capture of William Wallace.
Set in the beautiful Trossachs National Park in the historic county of Perthshire, Loch Katrine has inspired writing, including Sir Walter Scott´s poem, The Lady of the Lake. Sailing, cycling, and walking along the shoreline are some of the many popular activities. For the more adventurous, Ben A´an, which means “the miniature mountain”, and Ben Venue offer a steeper challenge. At the northern end, Glengyle was the birthplace of the heroic outlaw Rob Roy McGregor.
Said to be the most spectacular, inspirational Scottish loch, according to folklore, Loch Coriusk is home to a kelpie or water horse that takes on human form. Situated in the Isle of Skye, between the stunningly beautiful Cuillin Mountains and the sea, you can get there by boat from Elgol or on foot from Sligachan when the weather permits. Loch Coruisk is a magical, unforgettable destination for hikers and nature lovers.
Accessible only by water, Loch Shiel is situated in the northwest Highlands, west of Fort William. The long, narrow loch is sheltered by steep, craggy mountains in unspoilt, wild terrain. The chapel on St. Finnan’s Isle is the traditional burial place of the Macdonald clansmen. You might spot a golden eagle or other rare wildlife. Harry Potter fans will recognise the viaduct at the top of Loch Shiel from The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Located in scenic Glen Etive, Argyll and Bute, Loch Etive flows into the sea at Connel, north of Oban. Considered one of the prettiest lochs, Loch Etive is set in the wild, unspoilt countryside under steep mountains: Ben Cruachan and Ben Starav in the east and Beinn Trilleachan, which towers over the western shores. Popular with climbers and hikers, there are also several places where you can swim and rocky beaches perfect for sunbathing.
Situated west of Pitlochry in Perthshire, Loch Tummel is a 9.6km, narrow stretch of glassy water in an area known locally as “Big Tree Country”. The colours in the landscape change with the seasons making this a wonderful place for walks, cycling and relaxation. Queens View above Loch Tummel offers the most panoramic, breathtaking views in Scotland. There are scenic walking and cycling trails through the Allean Forest, all with magnificent views over the loch.
This freshwater loch, the source of the River Earn, is situated in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, 17 km west of Crieff. The Loch Earn Watersports Centre offers a range of watersports, including kayaking and water-skiing. Ben Vorlich in the south of the loch is a popular destination for hikers and climbers because of the stunning views across the national park.
The deepest freshwater lake in the UK, Loch Morar, is situated on the west coast of Scotland in Lochaber, between Arisaig and Mallaig. The loch is set in woodland surroundings, with stunning views and sunsets, ideal for walking and cycling, and there are several paths and trails. The abundance of wildlife includes red deer, otters, sea and golden eagles and other rare species. There might just be another monster too.
Known as one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, Loch Maree is situated in the “Great Wilderness” of Wester Ross in the north-west Scottish Highlands. Set in an unspoilt landscape under the majestic Slioch mountain, the area teems with wildlife. Oak woodlands and pine forests of the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve offer scenic walks and nature trails featuring rare wildlife, birds, and plants. There are over forty islands dotted across the loch, all covered by ancient natural woodland.
Loch Affric nestles peacefully among the mountains within the Glen Affric nature reserve, 40km from the pretty, historic town of Beauly. Sheltered by ancient Caledonian pine and silver birch woodlands, access to the loch is via a 10-mile, single-track road from Cannich. Loch Affric is home to a variety of rare species, including the Scottish wildcat and the pine marten, and the deep, still waters are popular for trout fishing.
Situated in the central highlands near Kinross and Stirling, Loch Tay is an hour away from Perth and just a couple of hours ‘drive from Edinburgh. Popular for salmon fishing, Loch Tay attracts walkers and climbers to the seven munros, the peaks around its beautiful shores. Ben Lawers is the highest in the group. A stroll from Kenmore leads to the Falls of Acharn in a secluded ravine accessible via a 17th century Hermit´s Cave.
Loch Leven lies to the east of Kinross in Perth, central Scotland. Loch Leven has won conservation awards for the rich ecosystem, which is home to several species of insects, plants, birds, particularly migrating birds and fish. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned on one of the seven islands on Loch Tay, which can be reached by ferry during the summer.
Located in historic Kirkcudbrightshire in Dumfries and Galloway, Loch Ken is a popular destination for watersports, including water skiing, sailing, fishing, and wild swimming. There are excellent walking trails, with stunning panoramic views of the loch and the river Dee and the area is dotted with picturesque villages in a naturally beautiful setting.