Visit Inverness Loch Ness got in touch recently and invited us to explore South Loch Ness. It’s an area we adore, so we jumped at the chance to visit. South Loch Ness could be described as the road less travelled. The loch’s northern shore attracts droves of visitors, drawn to popular attractions like Urquhart Castle. Urquhart Castle is amazing (I’m a Grant, I would say that), but there’s also lots to see and do on Loch Ness’s southern shore.
I’ll be showcasing our South Loch Ness highlights in this blog, and hopefully convincing you to add the area to your Scotland bucket list.
Day one itinerary – visit south Loch Ness
We were so excited about visiting Loch Ness, that we were on the road at the crack of dawn. Well, 6am to be precise. Dawn is a tad early at this time of year in Scotland.
The forecast for our trip was excellent. It’d been a dreich month, but May looked like it would end in a blaze of sunshine – hooray.
We made our first stop of the day a few miles south of Inverness. In a field by the side of the B861, are the remains of a Neolithic cairn and stone circle. Gask cairn measures 88 feet across, and is the largest of a group of cairns in the region, known as the Clava cairns.
The cairn is thought to be a ring cairn, rather than a chambered cairn. Although, a survey of the site in 2011, failed to reach a definite conclusion. A ring cairn is a circular monument made of stones, with a round hollow in the middle. A chambered cairn has a passageway inside, that leads to a chamber. Both types were used for burial rituals.
Ring cairn or chambered cairn – it didn’t matter to me. I love both types.
Buzzing from my history fix, we headed to our next destination.
Dores Beach is a pebble beach located in the village of Dores. It’s a nice place for a wander by the shore of Loch Ness. The beach offers an expansive view of the loch, making it a good spot to look for Nessie.
Full-time Nessie hunter Steve Feltham has lived in a bus on the beach since 1991. He sells models of Nessie to fund his unique lifestyle.
We didn’t spot Nessie, but we did see some swimmers and ducks.
As we strolled along the beach, the scent of coconut filled our nostrils. It was coming from the flowers of gorse bushes fringing the beach.
We were in South Loch Ness, but it felt decidedly tropical.
Walk – Change House
Leaving Dores, we drove west. We didn’t get far, before a walk promising to reveal some hidden history, enticed us to stop.
The ‘change house’ trail is a mile long (there and back). It’s a gorgeous, leafy trail, that follows Loch Ness’s shoreline.
A change house is where travellers went to change their horses.
In 1773 Johnson and Boswell visited the one at South Loch Ness and described it as ‘a wretched little hovel’. All that remains of the change house are some moss covered stones, but with wildflowers blooming around them and the loch within view, there was nothing wretched about the place whatsoever.
Falls of Foyers
It was almost lunchtime, but we had a little more sightseeing to do first. The Falls of Foyers are located in the village of Foyers. They’re reached via a steep path, that zig zags into a wooded gorge. The path leads to a viewing area for the upper falls, before winding deeper into the gorge to the lower falls.
When Robert Burns visited Foyers in 1787, he was so taken by the falls (he had a bit of a thing for waterfalls), that he was compelled to stop and write about them. Today, there are rocks engraved with Burns quotes, dotted along the trail.
As high in air the bursting torrents flow, As deep recoiling surges foam below
There are benches too, which is great if you fancy forest bathing, or a woodland picnic. They’re also handy for catching your breath, as the path back to the village is murderously steep. We powered up it like gladiators, propelled by the thought of lunch.
Lunch – Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop
Luckily, we didn’t have far to travel for lunch. We had a table booked at Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop on the outskirts of Foyers. The cafe is popular with locals and visitors alike. You only have to set foot inside to discover why.
The welcome is warm, the banter friendly and the service efficient. It’s really smart inside too and the menu is fab.
We ordered a cheese and haggis panini and soup each – tattie and leek for me and lentil for Mr G. The food was delicious. After spending a morning on the go, it was good to relax for a while.
Besides, finding great food and a warm welcome at Camerons Tea Room, we met some four-legged friends there too.
Two rescue deer and a fold of Heilan’ coos (Highland cattle) live next to the tea room.
The boy was delighted when one of the deer greeted him. The coos were more aloof, but that didn’t stop him posing for a selfie with them.
Let’s find Nessie with Cruise Loch Ness
After spending much of the day exploring on foot, it was time for us to take to the water to sightsee at a gentler pace. We’ve been on the Cruise Loch Ness scenic tour a couple of times before and loved it, so we were excited to be joining them again.
Their tours operate from Fort Augustus at the western head of Loch Ness.
With the sun shining, we hopped aboard and found a seat on the open deck of the boat. The water was calm, so conditions were perfect for monster hunting.
Designated driver Mr G, treated me to a nip of Bruichladdich from the onboard bar. I settled down with my whisky and trained my eyes on the water.
A spot on the shore was pointed out to us. It’s where Nessie is said to have climbed out of Loch Ness and scarred the landscape. And, as luck would have it, it’s where I spotted a Scottish monster. Nessie? Not quite, it was a golden eagle, soaring high above the loch’s rocky shore.
The boy had initially been keen to look for Nessie too, but soon settled down for a nap.
We admired the bonnie scenery as we were regaled with tales of Jacobite outlaws, saints, myths, legends and more.
And then, as if by magic, the whisky took effect and Nessie appeared.
It’d been another fun tour with Cruise Loch Ness and as always, the crew had been brilliant.
We were now ready to chill.
Accommodation – Foyers Bay Country House
Our home for the night was Foyers Bay Country House, an elegant Victorian villa situated in lovely, mature grounds with a view of Loch Ness. The house was built in 1890 for the manager of the North British Aluminium Company, who had a smelter in the village.
The property has six guest bedrooms, including two that are dog friendly. It also has a residents lounge with a bar, so you can sit with a wee dram and enjoy a view of the loch.
Owners Elly and Chris moved into the house in May 2020, during the first Covid lockdown. Elly was working as a professional photographer and Chris an IT bod, when they decided to move from England to Scotland to try something completely new.
When they were finally able to welcome guests, they recieved fantastic reviews. Confirming, you don’t have to be born and bred in the Highlands to excel at Highland hospitality. Foyers Bay website promises you’ll “arrive as guests, leave as friends’ and it’s true.
Our freshly decorated room was on the ground floor. It had its own private entrance and an enclosed patio. It was a beautiful, sunny room.
We found fluffy robes and slippers waiting in the room for us. Normally, we’d have slipped into them straight away and commenced loafing, but chatting to Elly had left us keen to explore a little more.
Walk – Fraser Memorial
We left our comfy room and walked down to Lower Foyers, heading along tree lined lanes and through a cemetery to reach the shore of Loch Ness.
There, bathed in dappled sunlight, we found a memorial linked to a tragic tale.
In the early 19th century, Jane Fraser of Foyers was engaged to be married to a Grant of Invermorriston (located on the other side of Loch Ness). The couple were deeply in love, and Jane often sat by the shore of Loch Ness, gazing across the loch to where her lover lived.
One day, Jane was visiting her fiancé in Invermorriston, when he climbed a tree to pick some apples and fell (what is it with Grant men and climbing). His injuries proved to be fatal. Jane was heartbroken and afterwards spent hours by the lochside, staring across the water and pining for her lost love.
Her parents sent her to Edinburgh to live, in an attempt to lift her spirits. It did no good. Jane returned to Foyers and married a fellow Fraser. Sadly, her health deteriorated soon afterwards and she died. She was twenty-two-years-old.
Jane’s parents buried her at the bittersweet spot by the shore of Ness, where she’d sat longing for, then grieving for her Clan Grant lover.
We rested a while by the memorial, enjoying the cool shade offered by the trees and blissful tranqility of the spot.
Day two itinerary – visit south Loch Ness
After a relaxing evening and a great night’s sleep, we woke looking forward to breakfast.
Breakfast – Foyers Bay Country House
Breakfast was served in the conservatory, which offered a great view of the garden.
No sooner were we seated, than I spotted a red squirrel outside. They’re such sweet, wee beasties and a joy to watch.
Breakfast was a joy too. We started with a hearty bowl of porridge each – slightly salted and drizzled with honey.
Next, we turned our attention to bacon and egg butties.
It was the perfect way to start the day.
After breakfast, we said goodbye to Elly and Chris and headed off to make the most of our last few hours in the area.
Walk – Suidhe and Loch Tarff Viewpoints
One of our favourite short walks in Scotland is located in South Loch Ness, near Fort Augustus.
The Suidhe Viewpoint is a roadside viewpoint that offers a wonderful 360 degree view of South Loch Ness, taking in mountains, woodland, lochs and the road stretching off into the distance.
Leave the roadside and walk for a while, and the reward is even greater.
A trail from Suidhe viewpoint, leads to a vantage point overlooking Loch Tarff. It’s a view guaranteed to take your breath away.
The last time we visited, it was autumn and the rut was in full swing. The sound of bellowing stags surrounded us. We stood for ages, scanning the landscape and shouting “over there” each time we spotted a stag.
This time, it was the call of the cuckoo we heard as we admired the view. Summer was on its way.
I love how each season in Scotland brings with it new sounds, colours and scents.
Walk – Loch Killin
Our next destination was the epitome of the road less travelled.
Loch Killin is reached via a single track road that branches off from the B862 or General Wade’s Military Road. More on Wade later.
It’s an incredibly scenic drive and teeming with wildlife. In the space of a few minutes I’d spotted red deer, a woodpecker and a cuckoo – result.
Loch Killin is as pretty as a picture. On one side a track hugs the shore, and on the other tree covered mountains rise from the water.
The boy seemed as taken with the place as we were.
We followed the track round the loch for a short distance, before turning to retrace our steps back to the car.
The White Bridge, Whitebridge
Our final stop on South Loch Ness, was the village of Whitebridge. The village gets its name from a bridge built there in 1732, to span the River Fechlin.
The bridge was built as part of a military road, linking Inverness and Fort Augustus.
The man responsible for building the road (and a network of others throughout the Highlands) and bridge was General Wade.
Wade was an officer in the British Army. He oversaw the building of roads and barracks in the Scottish Highlands, during a period of Jacobite unrest. Having barracks in the Highlands meant Government troops could be stationed there. A good road network meant those troops could be mobilised quickly to stamp out any attempted risings.
Today, the bridge is covered in purple fairy foxgloves and the sound of marching boots has gone – the memory of them lives on though.
A fond farewell to South Loch Ness
And there ended our incredible visit to South Loch Ness. It’d been a fun-packed trip. We’d seen and done loads in a short period of time, yet we left with a long list of things we still wanted do – a perfect excuse to return.
Our accommodation, lunch and cruise were provided on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are entirely my own.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog, you may also like this one featuring an autumn visit to the area.
Until next time …