Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and part of what makes it so spectacular is the many beautiful lochs ("loch" means lake) you'll find surrounded by heather-covered mountains. If you're looking for an ideal destination for picture-postcard scenery, here's a guide to three of the most spectacular lochs.
If you're visiting Scotland for the first time, you can't leave without visiting Loch Ness, one of the most talked-about lakes in the world. For those venturing into the Highlands at the north end of the country, Loch Ness is an easy stop, usually reached via the city of Inverness, which sits at the lake's north end.
From Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, it's about a 3.5-hour drive (170 miles) to Loch Ness. Visitors will not only be rewarded with the long, narrow expanse of the famed loch known as the possible home of the Loch Ness monster, but will be treated to views of the picturesque Urquhart Castle that sits on the edge of the lake near the village of Drumnadrochit.
Urquhart Castle is considered the definitive romantic ruin, and it's one of Scotland's most popular attractions. If you take a tour, you'll find easy access to the loch and incredible views. You won't want to miss taking some time to dip your toes in the water and imagining that Nessie herself is swimming somewhere in this impressive loch.
There are also many fine walks around Loch Ness, from gentle strolls to challenging hillwalks ("hillwalking," or hiking, is a national passion in Scotland). Consider exploring a portion of the South Loch Ness trail. It stretches for approximately 28 miles between Loch Tarff near Fort Augustus (at the south end of the lake) to Torbreck on the edge of Inverness via Whitebridge, Foyers, Inverfarigaig and Dore. Hillwalking is a wonderful way to experience the best of Scotland's scenic beauty.
Loch Duich at the entrance to the Isle of Skye
The bridge to the Isle of Skye is just a 75-mile journey west From Loch Ness. It is here that you'll find another legendary lake, Loch Duich, that's been featured in a number of movies. At its edge you'll find one of the most iconic images of Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle, situated in a spot where three lochs meet.
Originally built in the 13th century and rebuilt a few times over the centuries before being fully restored in the 1930s, Eilean Donan is well worth exploring. You can take in the entire panorama of the three sea lochs that meet here, including Loch Duich.
Loch Cuithir and the Isle of Skye
Once you've crossed the Skye Bridge, you'll want to head to the north end of Skye closest near the village of Staffin. For those who want to experience this majestic region up close, hillwalking is the best way to do it.
The Isle of Skye is world renowned for its scenery, including emerald lochs and dramatic sea cliffs. If you can make it to the top of the Black Cuillin, one of the most impressive and distinctive hill ranges in the United Kingdom, you'll be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views on the planet.
Begin by taking the Invertote walk, accessed right off the A855 road, that skirts the edge of the isle's east coast. The route is less than 3 miles and ends at Loch Cuithir, where the trail is overshadowed by Trotternish Ridge.
The route between Invertote and the loch was once a railway line that transported diatomite, an ingredient in dynamite, that was mined from the edge of the loch. The remnants of the processing plant are still visible on the lake's shore.
For those who are up to the challenge, it's well worth the additional trek to the peaks and only adds about an hour to your journey. Once you reach the top, you'll get a birds-eye view of the many lochs, valleys and towering waterfalls that spill to the sea below.
These are just three of many historic lochs throughout Scotland. Visit the Scotland tourism website for information on other possibilities.
by K.C. Dermody
Top: Eilean Donan Castle on Loch Duich is one of Scotland's most iconic images. (Photo by Dennis Hardley Visit Britain)
Right: Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness gives visitors great views of the loch as well as the crumbling castle. (Photo by Britain on View/Visit Britain)