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Where are the most beautiful lochs in Scotland?
If you’re looking for some of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland, then here’s 7 you mustn’t miss! With an abundance of mountains, wildlife, lochs, rivers and unspoiled coastline, the enchanting scenery of the Scottish Highlands makes them one of the most unique places to visit in Europe and one of Europe’s natural wonders. And one of the best ways to explore Scotland (and the 7 lochs listed here) is by doing a campervan road trip. So from the famous waters of Loch Ness to the pretty shores of Loch Morlich and a real hidden gem, here are 7 of the best lochs to visit in Scotland!
1. Lochan an Ais – one of the hidden lochs in Scotland
Located on the west coast of Scotland ~4km southwest of the quaint crofting settlement of Elphin and ~20km northwest of the popular town of Ullapool, Lochan an Ais is one of the prettiest lochs in Scotland. At just under 3km in length, it’s only a small affair and is exactly what it says on the tin (Lochan translates as small loch). But don’t let the size deceive you, as Lochan an Ais is one of the hidden-in-plain-sight lochs in Scotland that is worthy of a visit.
Sitting beneath Knockan Crag on the popular NC500 route (the Route 66 of Scotland), the scenery surrounding Lochan an Ais is truly enchanting. Knockan Crag is a hotspot for geologists, after it became the first site where Peach and Horne (world renowned geologists of the time) began to understand thrust tectonics after it was discovered that old rock was sitting on top of new. But geology aside, Knockan Crag offers one of the best walks in Scotland to enjoy loch views over Lochan an Ais, Assynt, and beyond!
2. Loch Maree – one of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland
Loch Maree is one of the most breathtaking lochs in Scotland given its remote location and awe-inspiring scenery. At 20km wide and 4km long, Loch Maree is the fourth largest freshwater loch in Scotland, and is situated in between the popular coastal town of Gairloch and the quaint mountain village of Kinlochewe. Stretching between these two hotspots and clinging to the edge of Loch Maree’s shores is the A832, along which you can find many pull-ins to enjoy the highland views that surround.
Dotted within Loch Maree itself, there are an abundance of islands – some of which are home to ancient Caledonian Pinewood. On the northern edge of Loch Maree is Slioch – the highest and most intimidating peak on the shores of the loch. And bordering the southern edge of Loch Maree is Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. Britain’s first National Nature Reserve, Beinn Eighe stretches from Loch Maree to the hills of Glen Torridon. Covering an area of 48 square kilometers, woodland, mountains and Highland wildlife are plentiful here, making it a great place to visit to reconnect with nature!
3. Loch Morlich – the prettiest loch in Scotland
Nestled deep in the Glenmore Forest within the stunning Cairngorms National Park, Loch Morlich is a postcard-perfect loch. In a picturesque setting surrounded by ancient forests and an abundance of walking trails, Loch Morlich is one of the best lochs in Scotland for watersports. Situated on the shores is Loch Morlich Watersports, where you can hire equipment or have lessons to try various activities such as kayaking, Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), or mountain biking (if you prefer dry land).
With the odd few ducks frequenting its waters, Loch Morlich is a tranquil paradise located a stone’s throw from the popular mountain town of Aviemore. The Cairngorms National Park covers a vast area of 4,500 square kilometers, and it is a magnet for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike. Loch Morlich is just one of the many scenic lochs you will find here, but there are many others, along with an abundance of high peaks, fairytale-like woodland, and fast-flowing rivers!
4. Loch Ness – the most famous loch in Scotland
Any list of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland wouldn’t be complete without making reference to Loch Ness, because it’s only the most famous loch in the Scottish Highlands (if not in the world)! Home to stories of a long necked wiggly monster called Nessie who (supposedly) looks a bit like a giant water worm, Loch Ness is surrounded with mystery and wonder of what lies beneath the murky depths, and has captured imaginations since the first photograph emerged in 1933.
With more water than all the lakes in England and Wales and at 23 miles (~37km) long, Loch Ness is one of the longest lochs in Scotland and is best explored by going on a Loch Ness cruise. There are various operators who offer sightseeing tours of Nessie’s homeland, but I can vouch for Jacobite. There are various quaint towns and villages which line the shores of Loch Ness that are worthy of a visit too, like Fort Augustus where you will find the Caledonian Canal, Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit (and the castle near Drumnadrochit which is called Urquhart Castle).
Tip: The drive from Inverness to Fort Augustus along the A82 is one of the most scenic drives in Scotland and another of the best ways to see one of the most famous lochs in the Scottish Highlands!
5. Loch Garten – best loch walks in Scotland
Like Loch Morlich, Loch Garten is located deep within the Cairngorms National Park (more specifically, in Abernethy Nature Reserve). On the shores of the loch, you will find the RSPB Loch Garten where there are talks and activities to help you learn more about the nature that surrounds. Loch Garten is also home to an Osprey nest, which is sometimes inhabited between April and August, and the forest that surrounds it is frequented by many Red Squirrels. You’ll find one of the best loch walks in Scotland at Loch Garten, which will guide you through ancient woodland along the shoreline and down to the more secluded Loch Mallachie.
6. Loch Broom – one of the most beautiful sea lochs in Scotland
On the west coast of the Scottish Highlands in the northwestern corner of Ross and Cromarty is one of the most beautiful sea lochs in Scotland – Loch Broom. Here, the high peaks gradually melt into the sea loch and charming cottages which are bound to capture your imagination are dotted along its shores. At the eastern end of Loch Broom is the fishing town of Ullapool which is one of the prettiest places in Scotland. Ullapool has a ferry terminal with connections to the Isle of Lewis, some lovely little shops, a charming esplanade offering distant views down through the loch, and some good Fish and Chip shops! Oh, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for resident seals!
Tip: There is a stunning campsite in Ullapool on the shores of Loch Broom called Broomfield Holiday Park. So if you are on a road trip through the Scottish Highlands, be sure to stop here!
7. Loch Assynt – one of Scotland’s most breathtaking lochs
Located in Sutherland in the north of the Highlands, Loch Assynt is one of the most remote and beautiful lochs in Scotland, situated in what feels like the depths of the wilderness. Loch Assynt is most famous for the ruins of Ardvreck Castle and the nearby Calda House, which are bound to transport you back to a time when Scottish Clans ruled the land. Situated on the A837, Loch Assynt is a stop on the North Coast 500 as it is en route to the charming fishing port of Lochinver, but even if you aren’t following the NC500 it’s still one of the best lochs to visit in Scotland!