The Perfect Loch Ness Day Trip from Edinburgh


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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.

Though basing yourself in Inverness or closer to Loch Ness is never a bad idea (there’s so much to explore!), if you’re short on time, then planning a day trip to Loch Ness from Inverness is an excellent option.

So whether you want to go via organised tour or simply want to explore Loch Ness on your own, here 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.

How to Get from Edinburgh to Loch Ness

Depending on if you want to visit Loch Ness independently or not, there are a number of 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.

Edinburgh to Loch Ness by Car

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 a simple day trip. There drive does, however, go by a number of other points of interest that you can take in so you don’t necessarily need to only 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 find great deals 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.

Magical Loch Ness
Magical Loch Ness

Edinburgh to Loch Ness by Tour

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 tour from Edinburgh to Loch Ness can be a really good option.

There are lots of options for day tours to Loch Ness from Edinburgh available, most including stops in other Highland attractions.

This full-day tour will take you to Loch Ness via Fort William and Glencoe. It 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. Click here to check availability.

Alternatively, this full-day tour from Edinburgh takes you to Glencoe, the town of Callander and onto Loch Ness. You’ll have time to visit a few other attractions along the way and explore some villages and sites on your own, as well. Click here to check availability.

Or, this small-group tour includes Loch Ness, Glencoe, and Rannoch Moor and also can include a boat tour on the Loch. It is also a full-day tour that begins and ends in Edinburgh. Click here to check availability.

Glencoe - a popular addition to a Loch Ness day trip!
Glencoe – a popular addition to a Loch Ness day trip!

Edinburgh to Loch Ness by Train

Many of those travelling in Scotland would like to do so via the train and this is definitely an option when heading on an Edinburgh to Loch Ness day trip, 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.

Edinburgh to Loch Ness by Bus

If you’re looking for a more affordable public transport option for your Loch Ness day trip from Edinburgh, 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 simply for a day trip.

If this doesn’t deter you and you’d like to take the bus for your Loch Ness day trip, then you check the latest schedules here.

Edinburgh Skyline
The beautiful city of Edinburgh

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 Loch Ness day trip!

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 Nessie!

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 cruise if you’re travelling with your own transport.

Urquhart Castle

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 £9.60 for adults 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.

Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness

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 a number of walking trails around the falls that will suit those who are looking for a more active time on their Loch Ness day trip.

Falls of Foyers
Falls of Foyers

Caledonian Canal

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 while on your day trip here.

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 other 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.

Caledonian Canal
Caledonian Canal

Fort Augustus

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, invisitng 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.

View of Loch Ness in Fort Augustus
View of Loch Ness in Fort Augustus

Where to Stay Near Loch Ness

If you’ve decided that you’d like to go for more than simply a Loch Ness day trip, 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. Click here to check their availability

Craigmonie Bed & Breakfast – 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 and there are restaurants and bars nearby. Click here to check their availability

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. Click here to browse more Loch Ness private rentals

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Loch Ness hotels!

Beautiful Loch Ness
Beautiful Loch Ness

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.

When travelling in Scotland, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads 

Are you planning a day trip to Loch Ness? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

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