Wherever you go in Scotland, north of Glasgow or Edinburgh, you’re never far from a loch. The word means lake, but it is also used for the fjord-like sea lochs to be found all the way up the west coast from Greenock to Cape Wrath. When you’re touring Scotland in a motorhome you’re bound to see plenty of lochs, but here are some of the best.
The most famous Scottish loch is Loch Ness, which runs along the line of the Great Glen, a geological fault-line, from Fort Augustus almost all the way to Inverness. The road along Loch Ness is good for motorhomes, straight and not too busy, and with nothing between you and the views. Who knows, maybe you’ll see the famous Loch Ness monster, Nessie! At Drumnadrochit the beautiful and atmospheric ruins of Urquhart Castle are worth a detour.
There’s still plenty of water once you leave the loch and arrive in Inverness. On the east coast the sea inlets are called firths instead of lochs; Inverness sits at the junction of the Beauly and Moray Firths. The Culloden Battlefield Centre and Fort George, both of which played an important part in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Rising, are close by and worth a visit. If you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins and seals in the Moray Firth, too.
If you turn off the Loch Ness road at Invermoriston or Invergarry and head west, you come to Loch Duich, with the iconic Eilan Donan Castle on its own small island at the junction of Loch Duich, Loch Alsh and Loch Long. Eilan Donan appears on almost every calendar of Scotland. It’s open to the public and, as well as being beautiful and steeped in history, it’s a great place to take photos.
Water sports holidays in Scotland
If you want a more active holiday and you’re a diver or snorkeller, the underwater wildlife in Loch Duich and Loch Alsh is also worth a close look – but you will need a drysuit, especially if you’re diving, as the water is cold.
If you want to stop travelling for a day and see some of Scotland from the water, a cruise on the SS Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine, in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, makes a tranquil, scenic day out. The SS Sir Walter Scott was one of the first steamships in Scotland, and is also one of the last. Booking in advance is advisable at the height of the tourist season – this is a very popular option for people touring Scotland.
Scotland’s other most famous loch gives the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park its name: Loch Lomond, whose bonnie, bonnie banks inspired the song. If you want a watersports holiday, Loch Lomond is a great place to base yourself and park your motorhome for a few days. Sailing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking and fishing are all catered for, or you could land on one of the 38 islands in the loch for a picnic.
You can take your own boat on Loch Lomond without a permit if it doesn’t have a motor. If it has a motor you can still use it, but you need to register it first with the National Park Authority
There are plenty of camping sites in the National Park, some of them close to one or other of the 22 lochs within the Park’s boundaries, so there’s no shortage of places with a great view to stop your campervan for a meal or to spend the night. Some of the roads are quite narrow for a motorhome, so do drive carefully; there are usually lay-bys, some of them with glorious views, where you can pull in briefly to let other vehicles pass.
Fishing on the Scottish lochs
If you enjoy fishing, you can buy a fishing permit for inland lochs and rivers at local Post Offices. You don’t need a permit for sea lochs, so a good place to head for, just over the hill from Loch Lomond, is the other Loch Long and its offshoot, Loch Goil. If you don’t have your own boat, you can hire one on Loch Goil.
Both these lochs have plenty of fish and other underwater life, which also makes them interesting for divers and snorkellers. For those who prefer to stay on land, there’s always a chance to see porpoises and seals.
Just to confuse you, not all lakes in Scotland are called lochs: there is also the Lake of Menteith, an inland lake near Stirling that’s very popular with fishers. You can hire equipment and take fly-fishing lessons here, so it’s a good place to go if you want to try out the sport.
Also in the Lake of Menteith is the island of Inchmahome, site of an ancient monastery that was visited by Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots. You can follow their example between March and September, taking a boat from the Port of Menteith. Don’t forget you camera – there are wonderful views both on the island and of the surrounding loch.
Loch Leven in Perthshire, just off the A90 Edinburgh-Aberdeen road, is another place associated with Mary Queen of Scots. She was held prisoner in 1567 in Loch Leven Castle, which was built on an island in the loch. Part of the loch is now a bird reserve where you can see whooper swans, pink-footed geese, curlews, lapwings and little ringed plover; the last three species are now rare in Britain.
If you’re looking for adventure, there’s a 13-mile (20.8 km) traffic-free cycle trail around the loch, which is also suitable for walkers and wheelchair users. You can hire cycles and mobility scooters in Kinross if you don’t have your own, and there are places around the loch where you can stop to eat, watch birds or just admire the view.
Heading north again, Loch Tay is Scotland’s largest loch and one of her deepest, at 508 ft (153 metres) deep. There’s a cycle route along the southern side of the loch, but the road on the north is much busier, so the best thing to do when you get to the end is turn round and go back the same way – the views will be different! You can hire cycles, kayaks and other boats locally; watersports and fishing are popular on the loch.
But perhaps the most interesting thing to do on Loch Tay is to visit the Scottish Crannog Centre at Kenmore. A crannog was an artificial island on which people lived some 2,500 years ago; there are 18 altogether, one of which was the burial place of Queen Sybilla, wife of Alexander King of Scots, but most of them are now submerged. One has been recreated at the Crannog Centre, so you can see how people lived on the loch in the Iron Age.
Further north again – and requiring a real spirit of adventure to reach in a motorhome – the largest loch north of Loch Ness is Loch Maree in Wester Ross in the north-west Highlands. There are over sixty islands in the loch, one of which has the remains of a Christian chapel, graveyard and holy well on it, and also groups of oak and holly trees that may be connected to the Druid religion. It used to be thought that being immersed in the loch would cure a person of lunacy.
On the largest island in Loch Maree there is another loch with an island in it, which makes it unique in Britain. All the islands are conservation areas, run by Scotland’s National Nature Reserves. They carry the nearest thing to natural woodland left in Britain, a fragment of the original Caledonian Pine Forest; blanket bog and black-throated divers, which breed there, are among the other reasons for protecting the loch.
As you can see, there’s a huge variety among Scottish lochs. There are hundreds, if not thousands, that haven’t been mentioned here for you to discover. Whatever your taste in holidays – whether you want adventure, a peaceful day’s fishing, history, wildlife, fabulous views for photography, or the chance to get wet in a variety of watersports – a motorhome tour of Scotland will allow you to experience it.
Are you ready to arrange your adventure holiday around Scotland’s lochs? Contact us today.