The western side of Scotland, extending down from Loch Ness through to the area of Ben Nevis and Glencoe, has some of the most beautiful landscapes we’ve ever seen. High hills and mountains, and some desolate areas along the A82 southeast of Glencoe, can be spectacular as well as humbling. The land makes you realize how difficult it could have been for some to eke out a living in the Highlands over the centuries. The Scottish are truly a hardy people.
Visiting Loch Ness had always been part of my dream, and on the second day of the Highland Experience bus tour it became reality.
Before heading into the beautiful landscapes south of Drumnadrochit, Day 7 of our UK honeymoon had us up early, enjoying a courtesy breakfast across the road from our lodgings at Fiddler’s. Being early birds, we had some time before the bus pick-up and decided to wander around, exploring the village. Drumnadrochit is beautiful when lit up by morning sunshine on a sunny spring day. If we didn’t have to continue with the tour, I could see myself and Frank taking a long morning walk here to explore the countryside.
The first stop of our tour was visiting Loch Ness itself via a boat ride (additional fare of about £ 20, approx. CAD $31). Despite it being chilly on the water with a light, cool breeze, we were excited to see the beauty of this famous Scottish loch up close. The waters were pitch black, reinforcing the point that this is one, very deep lake. Who knows what lurks below the surface? Perhaps Nessie… although, we didn’t get even a suspicious ripple in the water this time around.
The landscape around Loch Ness is full of green, yellow and almost purple-blue hills, with mountains in the distance. Given that the lake is about 37 km in length, you can’t really see where it ends in the distance. Like a long finger, it slashes through the landscape southwest of Inverness.
Our boat ride included a few extra passengers. Two ducks, who have figured out that they may potentially get a snack, joined us for the cruise. Coming up close, they were unafraid of the passengers.
One of my favourite moments was viewing Urquhart Castle, which is so easily recognizable as belonging to the shores of Loch Ness.
We don’t profess to be great at video-taking, but here’s a short view of what it’s like to tour Loch Ness by boat:
Leaving Drumnadrochit, we drove along the length of Loch Ness. The road hugs the shoreline and is quite narrow at times. You can’t see past the bend, so passing others can be like putting your life in the hands of God if you aren’t the best driver.
The next part of our tour took us through Fort Augustus, located on the most southern tip of Loch Ness. In the 18th century, after the Jacobite uprising, General Wade built a fort here. The name of the village is based on the late 19th century Benedictine abbey – Fort Augustus Abbey – which has passed hands several times since.
Fort Augustus is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. A set of locks at the Caledonian Canal connects Loch Ness with Loch Lochy, and Inverness with Fort William.
Our tour guide let us out for a few minutes to take a short break. We noticed a number of other tourists stopping to take a look at the locks.
We continued on from Fort Augustus, bypassing spectacular mountains, hills and numerous farms. Almost every farm had sheep grazing in the fields, and some had the famous Highland cattle with their distinctive reddish-brown, long hair.
We learned from our tour guide Bob that we would have enough time to head up Aonach Mor – a mountain in the Ben Nevis range. It’s situated right next to Ben Nevis, the tallest Munro (mountain) in the UK.
During the winter Aonach Mor is a ski complex, but in the spring, summer and fall periods it is a hiker’s delight and mountain biker’s exhilarating run.
Before heading outside to view the scenery, we stopped by the lodge where we enjoyed a cafeteria-style lunch. If you are visiting, and they have lasagna on the menu, we recommend selecting it – it’s a hearty, generous and delicious portion.
We couldn’t resist taking one photo of ourselves together at Aonach Mor – as you can see, we were in a fun mood.
We did a two-day Highland Experience Bus Tour which took us from Edinburgh to Loch Ness on our first day – read about it here. To read about our Highland Experience bus tour in Scotland, check out the post about Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Loch Lomond for the second part of this day’s tour through the Scottish Highlands.