Loch Ness is one of Scotland’s most famous bodies of water, owing to the one we all like to call Nessie. There are plenty of towns and villages around its 56.4 square kilometres, but I heard about Fort Augustus on a recommendation. I didn’t know what to expect, but it surpassed anything I had imagined.
These are my top 5 reasons to visit.
The views are the real reason why any of us want to visit Loch Ness, and you’ll get some corkers around Fort Augustus.
The wide expanse of water stretching out further than you can comprehend, mountains with meandering footpaths, little streams, a canal where visitors can hop into a boat. The icing on the cake for me was visiting in autumn and getting to enjoy the rich and vibrant hues of the trees and shrubs.
The views were spectacular, but don’t take my word for it – here are some pictures.
The Lovat Hotel
I’m not a hotel person, and particularly not a luxury hotel person. Yes, I see the joy in them, but I feel much more at home in an Air BnB, a hostel or a tent.
The Lovat Hotel was different. It’s hard to pinpoint why this beautiful 4-star hotel made me feel so at ease, but it was miles away from the stuffiness I usually associate with luxury accommodation.
The thing that really swung it for me, was that my room was a little outdoor cabin, next to a little cabin that housed my Dad. Each structure had a fenced in area like a front garden, with a table and chairs to relax on and talk about all of the spectacular walks we were going to go on. It felt a bit more private than your average hotel room (although The Lovat does still have these) and each day I’d look forward to time with my Dad outside the cabin, reflecting on our adventures.
On top of the wonderful space, the ethos of The Lovat is fantastic. They are eco-conscious, pet friendly, and as well as standard amenities like fast wifi, a minibar and cosy bath robes, they push the boat out with extras like a Smart TV, underfloor heating and a Bluetooth mirror.
It is a pretty magical base from which to explore Loch Ness and its surroundings.
The Lovat Hotel restaurant
Maybe it’s cheating to give two whole spaces on this short list to The Lovat, but the restaurant certainly needed a heading of its own.
I need to offer special kudos to them, not only for the exquisite quality of the food, but for the effort they made to accommodate a vegan. Finding good vegan fare outside of cities can be a challenge, but The Lovat provided several different options to choose from that were creative and delicious.
My highlight was the appetiser of foraged mushrooms on sourdough, which were seasoned to perfection, and the vegetable tart main course. Often vegan food can leave me still feeling hungry, but I can say with clarity that that wasn’t the case here!
The breakfast was great too – not as many creative vegan choices, but still enough food, with cereal and almond milk, toast and spreads and plenty of fresh fruit.
My Dad, who is a full omnivore, absolutely raved about the smoked salmon and eggs so if you’re that way inclined, you won’t be disappointed.
Fort Augustus is a fantastic spot for some hiking, and the famous Great Glen Way passes through. On an October getaway, I barely saw another soul and felt far from the well-trodden path on the peaceful forest trails that you can truly lose yourself in. (Perhaps the summer is a different story, though as it’s midge season, it may be quiet all year round).
Both the Allt Na Criche route and Inchnacardoch Forest Circular walk left me in awe of the tall, straight trees, the fresh piney smell and the colourful bracken.
It’s hard to imagine, from the point of a city-dweller, what life is like for the people living in the small communities nestled around the forest. The houses look Scandinavian and everyone has huge gardens and outbuildings. It seems like paradise.
The general atmosphere in Fort Augustus is something special. It is largely a tourist town, with people arriving on buses from all over Europe with the hope of catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster. However, unlike many tourist towns, there seems to be an understanding, a respect for the nature of the community.
There is a selection of pubs and cafes, which aren’t particularly remarkable, but that offer comfort and a welcoming space to stop for a midday break. They feel authentically British, and I can imagine some hearty pub food and quality banter from a local establishment goes down a storm with people from overseas.
There is a busy atmosphere around the canal, where boat tours are on offer, or if you’re like me, another its another great spot for walking.
Fort Augustus is about an hour’s drive from Inverness Airport (and what a pretty drive along the Loch it is!)
I was there for about three days, which was a perfect taster of what the area has to offer, but if you have longer, there is plenty more to explore.
If you have visited Loch Ness, Fort Augustus or Inverness-shire, I would love to hear what you thought, so please do leave a comment down below.