Scotland’s most famous lake, Loch Ness, is within stumbling distance of Inverness – one of KLM’s new destinations from 17 May. The western bank of the loch teems with tourists, but the other side still offers quaint villages, unspoilt nature and Scottish tranquillity.
Capital of the Scottish Highlands
As one of Scotland’s most popular attractions, Loch Ness draws around 100,000 visitors each year. Most of these tourist come for a pre-booked Nessie tour, armed with selfie-sticks to shoot those classic snapshots. Those who want to visit the other side of the loch, have to make their own plans. But this isn’t really a challenge, because Loch Ness is within spitting distance of Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Using this compact city as your base camp, you can cycle along the tranquil east bank of the loch and spend a night at a romantic inn, where you’ll be served steaming haggis.
The compact city of Inverness is the base camp for your two-day cycling trip.
Grab a bike!
This route is suitable for cyclists of all levels. Start by renting a mountain bike at “Ticket to Ride” in the centre of Inverness. You then cycle 50 km in two days – from Inverness, past the romantic castle of Aldourie, through the white village of Dores, to spend the night at Foyers. And then on to the magnificent locks on the Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus, where you can catch the Bike Bus shuttle back to Inverness.
At the mouth of the Ness
Your tour begins in the modest and charming city of Inverness, which literally means “Mouth of the Ness”. The 20-kilometre-long river Ness connects Beauly Firth in the north with Loch Ness south of the city. You’ll find comfortable accommodation at the centrally located Craigside Lodge, which overlooks Inverness Castle and serves fresh, made-to-order breakfast. Then hop on your rental bike and head southwards from the castle towards Aldourie. This first stretch takes you 10 kilometres along a straight road over meadow-blanketed hills. Apart from the occasional stray car, you’ll find nothing but peace and tranquillity.
Fairy-tale Aldourie Castle
Located strategically on the northernmost point of Loch Ness, they creamy-walled Aldourie Castle would not look out of place in a fairy tale. The 15th-century castle is not open to the public, unless you rent the place as a super-de-lux holiday home. This will set you back £14,000, but then you could bring along at least a dozen friends. More practically and cheaply, you can admire the castle from the water on a boat trip from Inverness. The village of Aldourie itself is little more than a collection of rolling meadows full of contented cattle and a clutch of stone farmhouses. It’s been fifty shades of green until this point, but suddenly the view opens up, offering a glorious vista of the famous Loch Ness.
Your on-site reporter: Simone Cober in the Scottish Highlands.
The white village of Dores
The Dores Inn offers them most phenomenal view of the loch. It’s popular with the locals, so book a picnic table in advance for a lunch of fish & chips, Scottish steak or freshly-caught fish. Once you’ve washed down your lunch with dram of whisky, head down to the white pebble beach for a stroll. Leave your bike and explore the village of Dores on foot, marvelling at the many white houses. Then hop on your bike again and at the T-junction, don’t take the B852 along the loch, but head up the single-lane B862, which is a leg killer that will take you up 200 metres. The climb takes you through a densely wooded area, but once again you are rewarded with a spectacular view of Loch Ness, almost from a bird’s-eye perspective.
All the houses in Dore are white (Photo: Florian Laguntzaile)
The smell of manure confirms that you’re out in the Scottish countryside. There are sandstone farms and dry-stone walls to keep the sheep from straying. After Loch Duntelchaig, you’re treated to a typical Scottish landscape of lush, green meadows, jagged rocks and decorative boulders, with glistening waters and serrated peaks in the distance. As the road gets ever narrower, the final phase of this leg cuts through a fairy-tale forest full of ferns. Mind you don’t run over reckless squirrels and deer crossing the road, and don’t forget to duck under the overhanging branches. After a series of hairpin bends, you find yourself back at the loch in the gloriously named hamlet of Inverfarigaig.
Watch out for reckless squirrels and sika deer. (Photo: Gavin Hill)
The Falls of Foyers
Four kilometres down the road, you’ll find the Falls of Foyers, cascading down from a height of 62 metres. After 30 kilometres of cycling, the village of Foyers, with its slightly touristy flavour, is an excellent spot for a layover. Spend the night at the Craigdarroch Inn and enjoy one of the local ales, as you gaze out over the water. With the sharp, densely-wooded peaks across Loch Ness, the place is reminiscent of an Alpine glacial lake. One of the locals grows Musselburgh leeks and is more than willing to give the curious visitor a full rundown of the benefits and challenges of this Scottish staple. Or simply sit back and savour the joy of watching local life passing by.
Fort Augustus – end of the line
It’s another 22 kilometres of pedalling along General Wades Military Road to Fort Augustus, taking you up another 400 metres. Frequent breaks are a must, including a wholesome portion of haggis for lunch at the Whitebridge Hotel, where the Suidhe Viewpoint boasts possibly the most superb view of Scotland. In Fort Augustus, you’ll be astounded by the five-lock staircase for ships between the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness. This fascinating and slow-motion spectacle is best viewed over a cup of coffee from the terrace of the Lock Inn. And then there’s just enough time for a boat tour of Loch Ness, before you load your bike and your weary self onto the shuttle bus back to Inverness.
The five-lock staircase at Fort Augustus. (Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo)
- From 17 May, Inverness will be KLM’s 16th destination in the United Kingdom. The daily direct service will be operated with a Fokker 70.
- Bike rental | Ticket to Ride, Bellfield Park, Inverness; mountain bike: £30/day | Transfer Fort Augustus-Inverness: ± £80 |
- Boat trips out of Inverness | Loch Ness by Jacobite: from £14 |
- Craigside Lodge, 4 Gordon Terrace, Inverness: double from £65 |
- The Dores Inn, Dores |
- The Craigdarroch Inn, Lower Foyers: double from £120 |
- Whitebridge Hotel, Whitebridge |
- The Lock Inn, Fort Augustus |
- Boat trips out of Fort Augustus | Cruise Loch Ness: £14 |
As a child, Simone Cober (1988) marvelled at her mother’s exotic tales of Australia, the country of her birth. Nowadays, she publishes her own accounts of her historical travels on her blog “Wander In History”.
This article was written in cooperation with the Netherlands School for Travel Journalism.
What’s your favourite walking, cycling or motoring route in the Scottish Highlands? Let us know in the comments below!