Things to do in Loch Ness with Kids – This loch captures the imagination of children because, well … it has the Loch Ness Monster! But there’s more to these magical waters than Nessie. It offers attractions for all ages – cruises and castles, hotels and Highland Cows, waterfalls and water sports, clans and cafés. Take your pick.
Meet Highland Cows / Hunt for Nessie / Cruise/Boat Trip / Urquhart Castle / Loch Ness Exhibition Centre / Outdoor Sports / Fort Augustus & the Clansman Centre / Falls of Foyer / Afternoon Tea & Where to Eat / Where to Stay
This post is created in paid partnership with Visit Inverness Loch Ness and contains affiliate links.
One of the few things to compete with the scenery at Loch Ness is a field of Highland Cattle. I know of a few places to see them at relatively close quarters. First up, the boarding point for Jacobite Cruises is Dochgarroch Lock, a five minute drive from Inverness on the way to Drumnadrochit. A small herd of Highland cattle live in the field next to the car park, born ready for photo opportunities.
Next up, Cameron’s Tea Room and Farm Shop, on the south side of the loch (more about this venue below under ‘Take Tea & Places to Eat’). Grab a seat on the decking to spot the farm’s pedigree herd of Highland Cattle. Finally, guests at Loch Ness Glamping can also meet the resident coos (read more under ‘Where to Stay’).
Set sail on the loch to find Nessie. Check out the recommendations below to book a boat trip with sonar so you can hear all the murky goings-on underwater. Next, find a vantage point of the loch to see as far as the eye can see. We can suggest a tall tower at the ruined Urquhart Castle (see below) where you’ve got a fair chance of spotting the monster should she emerge from the deep.
Finally, browse a gift shop packed full of Nessie soft toys, notepads, story books and gift ideas at the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre (see below).
Yes, you can drive around the loch, but going on a cruise is one of the best ways to get a sense of these deep, dark waters, and their sheer sense of scale. We’re talking over twenty miles long and 800 feet deep, holding more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined.
The boat trips on Loch Ness are of good quality, with activity packs provided for youngsters, so browse the itineraries and departure points to discover what suits your tribe. We opted for a Jacobite ‘Freedom’ Cruise, partly because it incorporated entry to the dramatic ruins of Urquhart Castle, but also because its departure point was a short drive from our accommodation.
Jacobite Cruises offers departure points from Inverness Bus Station, plus Clansman Harbour and Dochgarroch Lock – both on the north side of Loch Ness (close to Drumnadrochit and Inverness). Read about our experience and review, consider more Jacobite Cruise options and prices here, and don’t forget those Highland Cows.
Our little ones attacked the atmospheric ruins of Urquhart Castle as part of a cruise, but it’s perfectly possible to visit independently as the property is run by Historic Scotland.
We climbed to the top of Grant Tower to take in views of the loch, and explored the gloomy prison cell, huge trebuchet and Great Hall. This castle was the site of many conflicts so it’s great for mini historians. We discovered that when Government forces abandoned the castle in 1692, the Jacobites destroyed it to ensure the building could be of no further use to their enemy. Admittedly, even as a ruin, it’s exceptionally striking.
Next to these ancient ruins sit a very modern Visitor Centre, café and gift shop, so all up to date amenities are available. (Family ticket, 2 adults, 2 children £28.00.)
The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition in Drumnadrochit is a hive of information about the loch, ideally suited for older children and adults. It objectively charts the people and the projects that have sought the Loch Ness Monster.
It covers Lloyd Scott’s world record for the first underwater marathon, and John Cobb’s water speed record of 1952, travelling at over 200mph on water. And junior geologists can discover that Loch Ness is at the heart of the Great Glen, a geological fault-line known as the Great Glen Fault. Read a detailed review of the LNCE here. Get more info here (a family ticket is £23.95).
LNCE’s gift shop was a delight, stuffed full of Nessie paraphernalia and soft toys that made my children’s jaws drop to the floor.
For active families there’s a lot to do around Loch Ness. In terms of cycling, a gentle route is Fort Augustus to Laggan Locks. Cycling adventures can also be booked for sections of the Loch Ness 360 via 42cycling who will pull together an itinerary to suit the ability and age of your children.
For a more chilled afternoon, drop by the smart town of Fort Augustus to watch the engineering feat of the Caledonian Canal in action. Locks, designed by Thomas Telford, open and close, thereby lifting pleasure boats up and down the water, transporting them from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east, cutting through Loch Oich, Loch Lochy and Loch Ness. The Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre is not only a good place to learn more about the locks on the loch, but also a handy spot to grab a coffee or bite to eat at the café. Dine al fresco to watch the boats go by.
Another Fort Augustus highlight is The Clansmen Centre, which brings to life 18th century clan life through presentations within the recreated interior of a Highland turf house. Visitors learn how clans lived, fought and dressed. Two members of the audience get to wear traditional Highland Dress, and there’s a weapons demonstration featuring the Claymore and Lochaber Axe.
From the clearly marked car park it’s a very easy, quick hike to this scenic waterfall – even a toddler could manage it. It was such a short but beautiful walk, we extended it. Follow these instructions down to the pebbly shores of Loch Ness, past a pyramid-shaped memorial back towards the car park, for a proper hike of around 1.5 hours.
I’d advise printing out the instructions in advance, or bookmarking the webpage on your phone because I didn’t find the route abundantly clear/well signposted on location.
Cameron’s Tea Rooms and Farm Shop are situated near Foyers, so grab a light bite or treat yourself to afternoon tea. This is the café where the Highland Cows were mentioned before, so look out for the big hairy beasts! The Craigdarroch Inn is also worth mentioning, dishing up coffees, cakes and bar meals.
For a cosy family friendly stay on Loch Ness, take a look at the Whitebridge Hotel. Cosy, welcoming, relaxed, with a restaurant dishing up hearty Scottish food, and a bar offering a varied craft beer menu and local gin selection. Consider rates and availability here.
‘Armadilla’ glamping, plus family cottage style accommodation is available at Loch Ness Glamping. Additional facilities include BBQ houses for cooking up a feast, and a heated indoor swimming pool, plus Highland Cattle to brush and lambs to cuddle.
For children aged 12 and over, you could even consider a floating hotel. Book into the Highland Lassie boat hotel, in Dochgarroch near Loch Ness, for a chilled out experience on the water.
Ultimately, there’s so much to see and do on Loch Ness, as well as simply chilling out by the water’s edge. But bear in mind you’re close to Inverness in the north and Fort William further south, plus a host of other lochs and Highland countryside, so make the most of it. For further information on the local area discover more at Visit Inverness Loch Ness.