There are few places filled with more mystique and wonder in Scotland than the famed Loch Ness. Located just outside of the town of Inverness, many visitors to Scotland don’t necessarily have time to spend in the Gateway to the Highlands and are simply interested in doing a Loch Ness day trip from Edinburgh.
If you want to see one of the most famous attractions in the Scottish highlands without having to spend the night away from the capital city, then you’ve come to the right place.
I’ll outline all of the best ways to get to Scotland’s second-largest loch (Loch Lomond is the first!) and things to do while you’re there.
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How to Get from Edinburgh to Loch Ness
Depending on if you want to visit Loch Ness independently or not, there are several ways you can reach this incredible lake. Whether you’re driving yourself or want to take the planning out of it and get on an organised tour, there are a lot of options from Edinburgh to Loch Ness.
By far the easiest way to reach Loch Ness from Edinburgh (if you’re travelling independently) is by car. Having a car will give you a lot of flexibility (especially to stop off on all of the great sites to on the Edinburgh to Inverness drive) and will allow you to go at your own pace.
The drive from Edinburgh to Loch Ness will take about 3.5 hours all-in, so it is a bit of a distance for one day. The drive does, however, go by several other points of interest that you can take in so you don’t necessarily need only to set your sites on Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.
If you need to hire a car while in Scotland, then we suggest browsing RentalCars.com to book. Here you will be able to compare prices across many major car rental companies.
It’s also worth taking out an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance as it’s usually cheaper than the equivalent insurance from the car hire company.
If you’re not keen on travelling independently, don’t drive or simply do not want to deal with the fuss of lining up train, coach and bus timetables, then going on an organised Loch Ness tour from Edinburgh can be a really good option.
There are lots of options for day tours available, most including stops in other Highland attractions.
This full-day tour or this full-day tour will take you to Loch Ness via Fort William and Glencoe. Your tour guide will pick you up in Edinburgh before taking you to some Highland highlights and onto Loch Ness. You can also opt to include a ticket for Urquhart Castle and a boat tour on the lake in the tour price.
Or, this small-group tour or this day tour from Edinburgh includes Loch Ness, Glencoe, Stirling Castle, Cairngorms National Park and Rannoch Moor and also can include a boat tour on the Loch. It is also a full-day tour that departs and ends in Edinburgh.
You can also choose to book a private tour if you prefer to travel with just your own group.
Many of those travelling in Scotland would like to do so via the train and this is definitely an option, however, it isn’t completely straightforward.
There are no direct trains that go from Edinburgh to Loch Ness and, instead, you will need to get a train to Inverness and then catch a local bus to Loch Ness.
The train journey from Edinburgh to Inverness will take about 3.5 hours and plan for it to take another thirty minutes or so to get from Inverness to the Loch. You can check the latest schedules here.
If you’re looking for a more affordable public transport option then taking a coach is another option.
There are numerous buses that leave from Edinburgh each day, however, you’re not going to find a direct coach to Loch Ness. Instead, like the train, you’re going to need to go to Inverness first and then catch a local bus to Loch Ness from there.
One drawback of taking the bus is that the journey time simply from Edinburgh to Inverness averages about four hours. Adding the time it will take to wait and ride the bus to Loch Ness and you’re going to be spending upwards of nine hours in transit.
If this doesn’t deter you and you’d like to take the bus to get to Loch Ness, then you check the latest schedules here.
Loch Ness Day Trip Itinerary
Now that we’ve discussed how to get to Loch Ness, you’re going to need to know what to do there, as well. This list is by no means exhaustive, however, it is sure to keep you occupied during your time at Loch Ness!
Loch Ness Cruise
No trip to Loch Ness is complete without getting out on the lake, taking in its vastness — it’s the second-largest lake in Scotland by surface and the largest by volume — and maybe even trying to spot the elusive Loch Ness monster!
There are a few Loch Ness cruises on offer – most will last for about 1-3 hours depending on what kind of tour you book and often they include a stop at Urquhart Castle. You will likely have to pay to enter the castle separately.
There is no way that you can truly appreciate how magical this loch is until you get out onto the water and this is truly one of the best things to do on a Loch Ness day trip.
While many day tours include a cruise on Loch Ness, you can also book this 2-hour boat cruise if you’re travelling with your own transport.
Another site that must be on everyone’s one-day trip from Edinburgh to Loch Ness is the iconic Urquhart Castle. Famed for its location on the banks of the loch, this ruined castle was originally built in the 13th Century, however, the site has a history dating back to the 6th Century CE.
You can access the castle via the road from the village of Drumnadrochit or you can opt to include the option of a visit on your Loch Ness cruise.
Entry into the castle is £13 for adults if bought online with children’s and concession pricing available. Keep in mind that opening hours vary by season so be sure to check before you plan a visit.
Falls of Foyers
If the incredible natural scenery of Loch Ness isn’t enough for you, then you’re sure to love a stop at the Falls of Foyers. Located at a halfway point on the southern side of the loch, this is a waterfall on the River Foyers, a small river that feeds into Loch Ness.
The Falls of Foyers are located only a stone’s throw from the banks of Loch Ness and can be seen without a strenuous hike.
However, there are also several walking trails around the falls that will suit those who are looking for a more active time.
Running from Inverness to the town of Fort William, the Caledonian Canal is actually partly made up of Loch Ness, however, you can visit other parts of this beautiful waterway.
The canal itself offers an excellent place to walk around and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere while spotting some boats bobbing along.
The canal is unique among others in the world because the majority of the waterway is natural, with only a handful of manmade parts added to link various lochs together.
You can visit some of the man-made parts of the canal in the town of Fort Augustus, just at the southern end of Loch Ness.
And finally, complete your time on your day trip to Loch Ness in the charming town of Fort Augustus. This town, located at the southern end of Loch Ness, is known for its canal side views and has plenty of cosy pubs, inviting cafes, and cute shops to browse through.
There are a fair amount of things to do in Fort Augustus itself, including visiting the Clansman Centre where you can learn about 17th Century Scottish history, you can play some golf at the Fort Augustus Golf Club or you can even learn about the history of the Caledonian Canal at the Caledonian Canal Centre.
Ending up in Fort Augustus is also a great place to relax in a pub and take the edge off of a long day of exploration.
Where to Stay Near Loch Ness
If you’ve decided that you’d stay longer, then you’re going to need to find a place to stay near the mysterious lake. You could opt to base yourself in Inverness or you could choose to stay somewhere closer to the Loch. If you’re wondering where to stay near Loch Ness, have a look at these suggestions:
Heathmount Hotel – If want a bit of luxury during your trip to Scotland, this hotel in Inverness is an excellent option close to Loch Ness. Located in the city centre, it offers a range of different rooms, including some that can accommodate any kind of traveller. Breakfast is included, free parking is available and there are two bars on site.
Drumbuie Farm B&B – This quaint B&B located close to the banks of the Loch Ness has a range of clean and comfortable rooms and hosts that will ensure you have a pleasant stay. This hotel is ideal for couples looking for a getaway.
Private Rental – If you’d rather have your own place to stay near Loch Ness rather than a hotel, a private rental is a great option. Lodgings like this tranquil cottage close to Loch Ness or even this city-centre flat in Inverness are just some of the offerings available.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Loch Ness hotels!
Planning the perfect Loch Ness day trip from Edinburgh can be a bit of a daunting task when you try to figure out how to put everything together. However, with the right knowledge and advance, you can search for Nessie in the Highlands and be back in Edinburgh by the evening.
Are you planning to spend some time visiting Loch Ness? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!