This summer, our family got to spend an entire month in Scotland! We took up a bus up to Inverness for our final weekend, and discovered the best way to explore Loch Ness with Kids.
The Best Way to Explore Loch Ness with Kids
There are a number of wonderful ways to explore Loch Ness. You can drive along the coast, or stay a few nights along the coast. Most of the accommodations options are either not child-friendly, not budget-friendly, or both. Our guide described the car tours a pretty, but windy. We opted for a three-hour boat tour, and it was a truly ideal way to explore Loch Ness with kids! You are right on the water. This, of course, is the best place to spot Nessie!
Read Before You Go
There are loads of fabulous books featuring Nessie the Loch Ness monster available in the UK. Here in the US, there are not nearly as many options. This one is cute and worth reading before you go.
Does the Loch Ness monster exist, or not? In No Such Thing as Nessie! the older sister is the one in need of convincing. In our family, the two younger kids were the cynics.
Touring Loch Ness by Boat
The Loch Ness by Jacobite tour we took had a wonderful boat with plenty of open-air space on top and in the front and sides of the boat. It rains A LOT in Scotland, and the day of our tour was no exception. With drizzly skies and windy seas, we were all grateful for the clean and spacious enclosed cabin. The boat even had NICE bathrooms – another big plus when traveling with littles! They also had a shop with Nessie souvenirs and snacks. The staff gave our kids little bags with activity books that taught them about Nessie as well as local landmarks (more on those below). The tickets are an investment, but children under five are free – another help to families.
Traveling to Loch Ness
It turns out that the town of Inverness is a significant distance from Loch Ness! We caught our boat at Tomnahurich Bridge. We floated down the Thomas Telford‘s Caledonian Canal to the Victorian Lock Gate you see above. Canal locks have always fascinated me, and I created this fun post on how canal locks work when we got home.
The canal opens up into Loch Dochfour. This is where we saw the Loch Darroch weir, with plants growing on it. I knew the word from reading hundreds of books as a child, but I am pretty sure this is the only time I’ve seen one in real life. The Loch Darroch weir carries the River Ness out of Loch Dochfour, and separates the river from the course of the canal.
Finally, we enter Loch Ness. Is that Nessie in the distance??? The kids got pretty excited, until they realized it was a buoy. I’m guessing that whoever was in charge of placing that buoy there had a sense of humor, given its somewhat unusual shape and color.
The water can get pretty choppy in the middle of Loch Ness! Even on our relatively calm day out we did see some whitecaps. This is when ten-year-old Emma and eight-year-old Johnny are convinced they spotted Nessie. Six-year-old Lily told me that one of Mike’s students told her Nessie was under the boat, but she doesn’t believe the student. Three-year-old Anna says, “Nessie was only a picture on dad’s phone.”
What do you think?
Loch Ness Landmarks
We didn’t come close to traveling the length of Loch Ness, even though our cruise was over three hours long. We did see three spectacular landmarks.
Bona Lighthouse is one of only two inland light houses in Scotland. It no longer functions as a lighthouse, and had fallen into a state of ruins. Now renovated, this listed building functions as a self-catering holiday home! If cruising isn’t your thing, or if you want to spend extra time on Loch Ness, this would be a fun place to stay! You can even see that funny green buoy from the grounds.
We love castles, so I was a little disappointed when I realized that our cruise would not be stopping at Urquhart Castle. Some longer cruises do make a stop here, and you can arrive by car as well. We did at least get a pretty incredible view of the ruins from the water!
Aldourie Castle Estate
If you can afford a truly luxurious visit to Loch Ness, Aldourie Castle looks like the place to stay! This five-star castle is straight out of a fairy tale book, and you can reserve the entire estate.
What do you think: is Nessie real?