Planning a trip to Loch Ness and wondering how to find the best cruise? We found ourselves in the very same position before our recent road trip. Here’s everything you need to know about taking a Loch Ness boat tour in Scotland. From quick Loch Ness tips to booking with Jacobite Cruises, and so much more!
Visiting Loch Ness Scotland
There are a few things to consider before your visit to Loch Ness. First, how long do you plan to be in the area? We spent two nights in Loch Ness and arrived late in the afternoon. This was perfect as it gave us the entire 2nd day to explore the area.
Once you know your days and book a hotel you’ll need to decide how you are getting there. We rented a car so we could freely drive around the Scottish Highlands on our own schedule. Be sure to check out Discover Cars to compare the best prices before your Loch Ness journey.
Also, having a vehicle will allow you to pick Loch Ness cruises of your choice. Know that there are a variety of boat tours and companies which leave from different parts of the loch. We chose Jacobite Cruises as they had multiple locations near where we’d be traveling.
If you don’t have a car then your best option will be to take a guided coach tour that leaves from Inverness. Inverness is considered the gateway to the Highlands and a popular town to visit in itself. There is an airport, train station, and also many buses that connect from here to the rest of Scotland.
Day Trip From Edinburgh or Glasgow
Honestly, this would be our last pick for how to see Loch Ness Scotland. There is so much to see and do in the area so it’s totally worth staying overnight if you can.
Are you short on time? Don’t worry! You can jump on Loch Ness cruises from one of the popular cities by bus. With these tours you’ll not only see Loch Ness, but many include other famous destinations like Glencoe and Pitlochry.
How Long is the Loch Ness Boat Tour?
Loch Ness cruises range from 1 to 3 hours and take you all around the water. Ours was 2 hours (more on this later) and started from the Caledonian Canal.
You should also know that there are early morning and evening cruises available depending on your schedule. Tour guides have a great knowledge of Loch Ness and can tell you about the legend of Nessie!
Where to Stay in Loch Ness Scotland
Renting a car like we did will give you some flexibility for where to stay around Loch Ness. This is also a great thing to figure out before committing to a Loch Ness cruise as they leave from all around the region.
Another thing to be aware of is that we are talking about Scotland’s largest loch by volume! That means if you’re staying in the north it can take almost an hour to get to the southern part of Loch Ness where your boat is departing from.
Keep this in mind particularly when searching for your accommodations. Below are the best areas to stay around Loch Ness Scotland with our own hotel recommendations.
Looking to take a Loch Ness boat tour, but prefer to stay in a small city as well? Then Inverness is probably for you! Inverness City Centre is full of great shops and restaurants to enjoy.
You can easily book a bus tour or drive yourself from here. We highly recommend the Loch Ness cruise that starts in the Caledonian Canal as it’s only a 10 minute drive from Inverness.
Hotels in Inverness
Staying On Loch Ness
We were surprised on our visit that there are only small handful of hotels right on Loch Ness. These are also the accommodations that sell out quickly in the summer months.
Staying on the west side of Loch Ness will give you more options for hotels and restaurants. We stayed at the Loch Ness Clansmen Hotel which is one of the most popular in the area.
It has a great location overlooking Loch Ness and is directly across the street from where one of the Jacobite Cruises leaves from. This is ideal as you can simply walk to the water right from your doorstep and hop on a 1 hour Loch Ness boat tour.
Hotels on Loch Ness
On the most southern end of Loch Ness is the charming town of Fort Augustus. This is a popular place to spend the night or visit on a day trip as we did. Here you can see the 5 tiered loch raising boats all day to get to other parts of the Scottish Highlands.
We will say that there aren’t a ton of accommodations here, especially in the summertime. If you’re interested in Fort Augustus plan to book your hotel as far in advance as possible. Additionally, you’ll want to take your boat tour with the company Loch Ness Cruise from Fort Augustus.
Fort Augustus Hotels
Our Loch Ness Boat Tour With Jacobite Cruises
We ended up going with the Jacobite Cruises and picked the tour that left from the Caledonian Canal. This was a longer boat tour around 2 hours, but we weren’t in any rush since we had the whole day. This is the only departure point for a cruise that goes from the canal side.
We arrived 20 minutes early and we walked over to snap some photos of the highland cows on property. While you may see them everywhere in pictures of Scotland, we actually only came across this unique type of cow twice on our trip.
We were happy got there early as our Loch Ness cruise filled up fast. Luckily, we were able to get awesome seats on the top deck! This is definitely where you’ll want to sit the best views.
If you decide to cruise Loch Ness on this same tour there are also some amazing seats in the front of the boat. However, it can be quite chilly if you get a windy or rainy day.
Speaking of rain, the Loch Ness tours pretty much go out in any weather. The inside of our Jacobite Cruise was very comfortable and had panoramic windows so you won’t miss anything.
Loch Ness Views & Urquhart Castle
We spent most of our time on the top deck taking in the magical Loch Ness scenery. Over the loudspeaker, we learned all about the history of the famous loch, tons of interesting facts, and even had a photo opportunity with Nessie the Loch Ness monster. Well, a small Nessie toy anyway!
Seeing the area from the water was such a cool perspective and we were happy we did it. When we toured the historic Urquhart castle later that day we noticed that some of the boat cruises actually stop here. This will give you limited free time at the castle ruins, but it’s still a fun combination if you want to see both.
Would We Recommend a Loch Ness Cruise?
We absolutely loved our trip with Jacobite Cruises! Instead of taking the cruise that left directly in front of our hotel, we opted to drive a loop around Loch Ness and leave from the canal. If we only had one day we probably would’ve just taken the normal boat tour that didn’t include this section.
As we mentioned, there are also Loch Ness boat tours that stop at Urquhart Castle and include an entry ticket. Either way, be sure to visit these incredible historical ruins on your own or with a Loch Ness cruise.
Quick Loch Ness Boat Tour Tips
Book in Advance: Loch Ness cruises can often sell out in the popular summer months of July and August. If there is a specific boat tour you’re excited about (or time that works best) book your tickets with a company like Jacobite Cruises beforehand to not miss out.
Weather Warning: Even in July we had rain, wind, and cold temperatures during our trip. The sky changed to dark and cloudy with some spots of sunshine along our Loch Ness boat ride. Weather can be unpredictable so make sure to pack for everything. A raincoat and extra warm layers are a must even if it’s not calling for rain.
Arrive Early: Getting there early is the best way to ensure you get a good seat on your Loch Ness cruise. Hopefully, this means you’ll be on the top deck for the best views! However, if it’s a stormy out it won’t be a big deal to go inside.
Rent a Car: As we mentioned, there is so much to see in Loch Ness Scotland after your cruise. While the boat tour is obviously fun, some of our favorite moments were driving around the water and exploring ourselves.
Is a Loch Ness Cruise Worth it?
We definitely think so! The Loch Ness cruise was a fun way to take in the views from a different perspective. Of course, it is beautiful and scenic anywhere you go around the loch.
Yet, getting out on the actual water will make you appreciate the Highlands in a different way. It doesn’t matter if you are passing through, spending the night, or have multiple days, a Loch Ness cruise is something not to miss!
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own experience in Loch Ness Scotland? Let us know in the comments below.
Brigitte & Jake
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Scotland Travel Planning
Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.
Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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