We recently returned to the Whitebridge Hotel Loch Ness for a short break. Back in December we spent a cosy winter weekend there cooried by the fire, listening to vintage vinyls and drinking hot mulled cider. It was blissful. The Whitebridge Hotel stands beside one of General Wade’s famous old military roads in a quiet corner of Loch Ness where it’s still possible to escape from thronging crowds of Nessie hunters. Despite the peaceful location, there’s plenty to see and do in the local area. Foyers, Fort Augustus and Invermoriston are all between ten and thirty minutes away.
You don’t need to drive to explore South Loch Ness either. The roads there are quiet, so they’re perfect for cycling on. And if you prefer exploring on foot, there are miles of hiking trails to discover.
Day one: discover Loch Ness off the beaten track
We arrived in South Loch Ness around midday, which was perfect timing for lunch.
Lunch: Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop
There are a couple of good cafes in Foyers near Whitebridge. We decided to eat at Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop. The food there is always good, but they have have resident Heilan‘ coos and a pair of rescue red deer too, so that swung it for us.
It was snowy the last time we visited the tea room and we warmed ourselves with mugs of hot chocolate. This time we ordered cold drinks, soup and sandwiches. The sandwiches were delicious and the soup (potato and chilli) was too. It packed a fiery punch though that cancelled out any cooling effect our drinks might have had.
After lunch we said hello to the deer and coos, then headed off to find a quiet hiking trail.
Walk: Allt na Criche Trail, near Fort August
We passed through Fort Augustus, which was hooching with visitors. Tourism was definitely bouncing back post pandemic. It was great to see, but we were looking for tranquillity, so didn’t linger in the village.
The Allt na Criche Trail is a short woodland loop (1 3/4 miles) located only a stone’s throw away from Fort Augustus. We parked in the trail car park and set off to walk it in an anti-clockwise direction. The path climbed steeply through mixed birch and pine woodland. It was a lush green landscape peppered with cheery splashes of yellow from the broom that was in bloom.
The sound of running water followed us uphill. It came from the Allt na Criche burn. Allt na Criche means boundary burn in Gaelic. Allt na Criche burn marks the boundary between the Glenurquhart and Glenmoriston estates, so it’s aptly named.
After a short uphill climb, we reached a lovely waterfall.
A little further on we reached a smaller fall, then turned left along a gravel track.
The incline levelled off and the trees thinned out to reveal a bonnie view of Loch Ness.
The final section of the trail led us back downhill through an atmospheric area of dense pinewood.
It was a magical end to a great wee walk and we didn’t meet another soul.
It was now time to head to Whitebridge to check in to the fabulous Whitebridge Hotel – yippee.
Relax: Whitebridge Hotel, South Loch Ness
We’d loved our winter break at the hotel and were really looking forward to experiencing a summer stay there too.
Stepping back inside the Whitebridge Hotel felt like arriving home. Subdued lighting, vintage memorabilia and the cosy interior decor make the hotel feel welcoming and homely.
Then, there’s the delightful quirky touches, like letters from Hogwarts and Harry Potter luggage, to beer barrel urinals decorated with pictures of Oor Wullie and The Broons.
It was so good to be back.
A room with a view
The last time we stayed at Whitebridge Hotel we had a lovely front-facing room with a view of distant mountains. This time we were allocated a gorgeous rear-facing room with a big window and incredible view of woodland, river and mountains – including the rocky peak of Beinn Sgurrach which we’d climbed during our last visit.
With such a cracking view to enjoy, I had a feeling we wouldn’t be switching the TV on during our stay – we didn’t. Mr G popped down to the bar to get us drinks, then we perched ourselves by the window and gazed at the scenery as we blethered over a glass of wine and beer.
A birthday dinner
Later, we headed to the bar for dinner.
We were shown to our table, which was decorated with a birthday banner. There was a bottle of champagne chilling on ice too.
It was my birthday and Mr G had arranged a surprise AND managed to keep it a secret. We’re terrible at keeping secrets from each other.
For dinner, I started with Scottish pudding bon bons, which were filled with locally caught haggis, black pudding and white pudding. They were absolutely delicious.
Mr G had salmon mousse with homemade oatcakes to start. He was delighted with his choice too.
For my main course I added a little spice to the evening with chicken curry, served with basmati rice and naan bread. The sauce was rich and spicy and the chicken melt in the mouth tender. It was braw.
Mr G seldom eats red meat these days, but he was tempted by the steak. It was served with chips and peppercorn sauce. He raved about it, so his gamble paid off.
I finished with a fab sticky toffee pudding and Mr G a baked vanilla cheesecake. Both were amazing.
Full after another delicious Whitebridge Hotel dinner, we retired to the residents lounge with a nightcap to spin some vintage vinyls.
We sang along to Elton John, Paul Simon and other old time bangers, before toddling upstairs to bed.
Day two: discover Loch Ness off the beaten track
We’d gone to sleep with our room curtains open, so woke early the next morning. The nights are short in the Highlands in June and daylight arrived early. Mr G went out for an early morning hike, while I loafed in the room with the boy – snoozing, enjoying the view and reading.
Breakfast: Whitebridge Hotel, South Loch Ness
Later, all three of us headed downstairs to the bar for breakfast.
A doggy bed and biscuits were waiting for the boy at our table, which is all part of the VIP (very important pooch) service when you dine with a canine companion at the Whitebridge Hotel.
We both order a cooked breakfast, toast, fruit juice and a pot of coffee for a morning caffeine boost.
It was the perfect start to the day – now we were ready to explore more of Loch Ness off the beaten track.
Walk: Loch Paiteag, Dell Estate
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to walks in and around Whitebridge. We decided to have a morning ramble in the Dell Estate, directly opposite the Whitebridge Hotel.
We set off along a track that led us into pine woodland.
We’d been walking for a few minutes when the boy started sniffing frantically and staring into woodland to the left of us. He has a fine nose, so we stopped walking and waited. Seconds later a pair of red deer hinds crossed the trail in front of us. We see red deer frequently on our travels, but it’s always lovely to glimpse the magnificent beasts roaming free.
We continued along the trail, before tunrning off to the left and heading downhill. Shortly afterwards we reached Loch Paiteag – a small loch surrounded by pretty Highland scenery.
We pottered around the shore for a bit, hoping to catch a glimpse of more wildlife, but our luck had run out with our earlier deer sighting. Leaving the loch, we retraced our steps back to the hotel.
Now, we were off to visit another gorgeous Highland village near the shore of Loch Ness.
Spotlight on Invermoriston
Thirty minutes later we arrived in Invermoriston. Invermoriston might look sleepy, but there’s actually plenty to see there, including a quirky, hidden gem just outside the village.
Visit: The Invermoriston footprints
In the 1820s a travelling preacher called Finlay Munro stopped near Invermoriston to give a sermon in Gaelic. He drew a crowd, which unfortunately included a couple of hecklers. The preacher was outraged by their rudeness and told them they’d meet an unnatural demise, while his footprints would remain where he stood forever, standing testament to the fact that he was preaching the word of God.
Today, if you visit the spot where that sermon took place, you’ll see a pair of bare patches in the grass that look uncannily like footprints.
Visit: Saint Columbia’s Well
Back in the village we stopped at another of Invermoriston’s hidden gems. Saint Columba’s Well is located by the roadside down a flight of wooden steps. It’s said Saint Columba was in the area on his way to visit the Pictish King Brude, when he stopped at the well and blessed it.
Despite the holy well’s saintly connection the locals avoided it, as they believed the water was poisonous and would cause the skin to break out in painful boils if touched.
We didn’t test their theory.
Visit: Invermoriston Falls
And as if that’s not enough for one wee village, Invermoriston also boasts impressive falls and a couple of fine bridges – one quaint old bridge and a newer one designed by Thomas Telford.
A riverside path in the village follows the course of the River Moriston and offers fine views of the falls and bridges. There’s a lovely old summer house too, where you stop for a rest.
Lunch: Glen Rowan Cafe, Invermoriston
After spending the morning exploring Loch Ness off the beaten track, we were ready for lunch. As luck would have it, Invermoriston also has a great dog friendly cafe. Glen Rowan Cafe was a perfect pit stop for our soup, sandwich and caffeine lunch break. The food was good, the coffee proper coffee. The highlight was the homemade Smarties cookie Mr G and I shared. Oh my goodness – it was worth visiting Invermoriston for the cookie alone, nevermind all the other cool stuff we saw there.
Fun on the water: rowing on Loch Knockie
After lunch we headed back to Whitebridge and popped into the hotel to collect jackets and a set of keys.
We’d be visiting another local estate (Knockie Estate) with a pretty loch (Loch Knockie) in it. The jackets we’d picked up were life jackets and the keys would unlock the hotel’s rowing boat, which is available for guests to hire if they fancy a spot of water based sightseeing, fishing or a water based picnic.
On our way to the jetty I spotted a woodpecker landing on a tree nearby. I stopped in my tracks and shushed Mr G. Soon the woodpecker was joined by another – two for the price of one.
When we reached the jetty we unlocked the Whitebridge Hotel’s rowing boat and stepped in. I took the oars, as try as he might Mr G has been unable to get the hang of rowing. A few years ago he insisted on hiring a rowing boat in Central Park. Ten minutes after hiring it, he still hadn’t managed to row it away from the hire booth. In the end I had to take the oars and row the boat backwards round the boating pond. Against my better judgement, we repeated the experience the following year and he hadn’t improved any.
So off we sailed on Loch Knockie, me knocking my pan in and Mr G sitting there like an idle lord. Overhead, swallows were circling and swooping and below us we kept catching a glimpse of fish jumping in the loch.
Despite me doing all the hard work, it was a nice way to see the scenery of south Loch Ness from a new perspective.
Back at the jetty and against my better judgement, I suggested Mr G try rowing one more time. He reluctantly took the oars and as if by magic, he was suddenly able to row with ease. I was flabbergasted but delighted. Now I could sit and relax – yippee.
General Wade’s Bridge, Whitebridge
Back in Whitebridge we visited the village’s famous bridge before settling down to spend another relaxing night at the hotel. Whitebridge gets its name from a bridge General Wade built there in 1732 to carry one of his military roads over the River Fechlin.
Wade built a network of roads and bridges in the Scottish Highlands. Their purpose was to enable Government troops to mobilise quickly to quell any Jacobite risings, should one occur.
No military boots march over Wade’s these days, but if you visit in summer, you’ll see it covered in gorgeous fairy foxgloves.
Relax: Whitebridge Hotel, South Loch Ness
Back at the Whitebridge Hotel we popped into the bar for drinks, then took them upstairs to drink by our panoramic room window.
Later, we headed back to the bar for dinner. It was Sunday and we’d been excited about dinner all day, because Sunday at the Whitebridge Hotel means awesome roast dinner.
We both started with a trio of Scottish puddings, before tucking into topside of beef, roast tatties, cauliflower cheese, parsnips, broccoli, carrots and Yorkshire pudding, gravy and a dollop of horseradish sauce for good measure.
It was super tasty.
We finished with a lovely dark chocolate parfait served with Arran ice cream, then since it was summer we ordered an Aperol spritz each to enjoy al fresco.
We’re quite partial to an Aperol spritz when the sun’s out, but we usually drink them in Venice, Sorrento or the Italian Lakes. The Italian’s are a dab hand at making Aperol spritz and so are the team at the Whitebridge Hotel.
After our al fresco cocktails we headed upstairs to our room and sat on the bed to watch the window like a TV. It was great viewing – first a beautiful rainbow appeared, then later we spotted bats fluttering around outside.
Breakfast: Whitebridge Hotel, Loch Ness
Before we knew it, we were sitting down to our second breakfast at the Whitebridge Hotel and it was almost time to say goodbye to Lesley, Bella, their amazing team and incredible wee hotel again. It’d been another fantastic stay. Having experienced the hotel in winter and summer, we’ll definitely return to discover what delights spring and autumn hold – besides the legendary Whitebridge Sunday roast which spans all seasons.
We stayed at Whitebridge Hotel on a complimentary dinner, bed and breakfast basis as part of a paid partnership with the hotel, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time ..